Cash is king. But it's not everything!

Posted to Supporting Today’s Artists by Caitlin Strokosch, executive director, Alliance of Artists Communities

One of the reasons I love serving on Grantmakers in the Arts’ Individual Artists Support Committee is that every conversation centers on how we can do more to support artists. Again and again we ask: What else do artists need (besides more money)?

For the Alliance of Artists Communities—an international coalition of artist residency programs—our currency is time and space. Few artists have in their everyday lives the luxury of concentrated time to dive deep into their work with the focus it deserves, even when granted the funds to develop new work. As such, residencies form a critical part of the artist support ecosystem by offering an environment that combines nobody’s-looking-over-your-shoulder solitude with a community of other artists engaging in the challenging R&D work that occurs during a residency. And while time and space are extraordinary, time+space+money is even better!

That’s why in the past few years we’ve seen more funders and residencies team up to extend the support given to grantees. The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, for example, goes above and beyond their already generous $60,000 Fellowships in the Arts by providing their Fellows with professional development programs, hands-on advising, and now the opportunity to participate in residencies at one of our partner residency sites. Since 2011, this program has provided recent Pew Fellows with opportunities to take sojourns outside of the Philadelphia area, for residencies intended to push their artistic practice and expand their horizons. The Pew Fellows selected for these residencies find themselves in new surroundings—creative communities that nurture artistic expression and exploration, located in California, Alberta, and under the big sky of Wyoming—thanks to a partnership between the Center, the Alliance of Artists Communities, and four North American artist residency programs. The Pew Center’s residency collective has led to a similar partnership between the Alliance and 3Arts, a grantmaker supporting Chicago-area artists of color, women artists, and artists with disabilities. As of 2013, 3Arts Fellows are eligible to apply for a funded residency at one of 3Arts’ residency partners. And in a new program of the Rasmuson Foundation, Alaska artists who have previously received individual artist grants are eligible to apply to residencies in the Lower 48, while those residency partners nominate artists from their communities to participate in residencies in Alaska. Although these three grantmakers are not alone in this approach (the Ohio Arts Council, for example, established out-of-state residency opportunities for its Individual Artist Fellows in 1989) they represent a growing interest in developing a holistic network of support for artists. “Artists often need time, free and clear of day-to-day obligations, to take risks, make work (or just stand back to think about making work), and experiment in their practice,” says 3Arts’ director Esther Grimm. “3Arts Residency Fellowships are designed to help artists have some space to test their mettle, see what happens, and take a breath.”

These new partnerships underscore one of the great strengths of funders of individual artists (particularly those working with a relatively small group of grantees): the ability to go deeper with their support and make a long-term, sustained investment in the creative, professional, and personal development of artists. “As if being awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts wasn’t enough, I then had the opportunity to do my (Soma)tic poetry rituals on a residency,” writes poet CA Conrad. “Nothing has imbued my work and life more in recent years than the ability to explore new terrains. What I produced at the Ucross residency in Wyoming has not only been some of the strongest poetry I’ve ever written in my view, it’s now being reprinted in the 2014 Best American Poetry Anthology and coming out as a book.  If the Pew Fellowship was a catapult, the residency extended my reach, making my tools as a poet the sharpest they have ever been.”

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Photo: 3Arts Residency Fellow David Leggett, at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency (Captiva, FL), December 2013.