4Culture is a part of a unique collaboration with Artist Trust and the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture called ARTISTS UP. It started in 2012 from a conversation between Irene Gomez, Marcia Iwasaki, Miquel Guillén, and myself, managers of grant and commissioning programs for artists. Since our organizations provide some of the only funding that go directly to artists in Washington State, we want to make sure our funding and services are accessible to the artists living in the regions we serve. We want to improve the way we do business to better support artists creative careers.
Many foundations are grappling with similar questions, “How do make sure you reach the broadest audience possible to serve your mission goals? How do you reach new applicants? How do you reach artists who may not know about your services? What are the barriers they face in applying for a grant?” We wanted to move beyond the conversation and try to do something about it.
We met frequently and worked with AdvisArts to conduct research an formulate a plan. In July 2013 we launched a pilot project consisting of two workshop and a focus group to reach Latino artists. The goal was to reach artists new to our programs, engage them in an informal conversation, provide networking and mentoring opportunities, and find out their issues and concerns so we can make our programs better. We reached more than 30 Latino artists who are new to our agencies.
One of the things that we learned is that there is no true hub for Latino artists to share and connect with each other. We received strong feedback that this cultural home-base should be separate from social service agencies that serve Latinos, because there is the perception that if one is taking funding and resources for art, you may be taking funding and resources away from Latino families. We also learned personal connections with other artists and mentor opportunities are critical to creative growth. As program managers, we want to evolve our work so it fits the needs of working artists. Check out our report on our pilot year.
So what’s next for ARTISTS UP in 2014? We just hosted a terrific event with La Sala and Dia de los Muertos Committee at Fulgencio Lazo’s studio, to bring Latino artists together for more conversation. We are currently planning events by and for the Asian/Asian American artists this summer and the African/African American artists this fall. Stay tuned for dates and details. We’ll be posting here and on Artists Up’s site as well as on Artists Up’s Facebook page. We’re listening, we’re learning. Join us!