I have worked with Fractured Atlas for over four years now as its director of membership and program development. Prior to Fractured Atlas, I worked for the NEA – the National Endowment for the Arts (as opposed to the National Education Association, which all of my friends thought was my employer). Due to my work for the government agency, I began to learn about all of these different organizations, oddly titled “arts service organizations,” that had been established throughout the country to provide resources to artists. No one ever taught me about these organizations in college, when I was pursuing a degree in Directing for Theatre & Film. And today, after speaking to thousands of artists across the country in my role at Fractured Atlas, I find that the same thing remains true.
Artists are an interesting bunch. (And I can say that because I am one as well, as are most of my friends.) Some artists want to work on their own – think of the painter who stays isolated in their studio all day. Some artists want to work with others – think of the ensemble theater companies that create and develop work as a group. Some could care less if others appreciate their work – maybe they just create art to maintain their own sanity. And some crave acceptance – they read every review of their work the moment they hit the internet at midnight. But if there is one thing that is consistent amongst all artists and all arts organizations -- from the professional to the amateur, from the Kennedy Center to the community theater down the road -- is that they all have needs.
Whether it’s money, business acumen, patrons, jobs, education, or even shelter (we artists like to call it “space”), we all need something. And, unfortunately, a large part of the U.S. artist community does not know how to go about fulfilling those needs. Whether they went to conservatory schools for their MFA’s or whether they are cultural tradition bearers, no one ever sat them down and said, “By the way, there are organizations out there that want to help you.” The artists that know about arts services organizations (“ASO’s”) either went to school for arts administration or have heard about them through the grapevine. And yes, I will certainly applaud the few professors out there who are doing their due diligence and telling their students about these organizations and their programs. But, why these things aren’t taught in a required course in every arts school in America is beyond me.
Why aren’t artists taught about insurance, mortgages, contracts, 401k’s, 501(c)(3)’s, and 1099’s, from the get-go? (In fact, why aren’t all students, regardless of discipline, taught this from the get-go?!) This is a major problem (among many others) in the U.S. educational system, but it’s one that arts service organizations are helping to solve by making many different resources available to artists across the country.
You, dear blog reader, probably already know about these resources. Heck, you read ARTS North Carolina’s blog! But, you need to tell your artist-friends, and your friends’ artist-friends about them! Spread the word, get involved, and involve others.
I could end there, but I don’t think this post would be as helpful if I did. So, who are the ASO’s in your neighborhood? Well, ARTS NC for one. And ARTS NC might recommend North Carolina Dance Alliance for you dancers. Or they may recommend the North Carolina Arts Council (even with all of the drastic budget cuts that every state is experiencing, each state still maintains a state arts council) or Southern Arts Federation (there is also a regional arts organization for each area of the country). Or how about something more national like The Folk Alliance (if you’re into folk music and dance), Theatre Communications Group (self-explanatory), or Alternate ROOTS (if you create art meant to encourage social action)? Maybe you are a college professor – check out College Art Association. Are you a visual artist? Have you ever heard of CUE Art Foundation?
Let’s revisit that stuff about non-profits. Did you know that you can raise tax-deductible donations for your artistic work without actually spending all of that time and money on paperwork and lawyers to get your own 501(c)(3) non-profit status? I bet you’ve never heard of “fiscal sponsorship.” Many organizations, including Fractured Atlas, have programs like this. Maybe you’ve never heard of it before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a real and viable fundraising tool. You can check out our program here (as an artist, I’ve used it myself!), but you can also check out New York Foundation for the Arts (another national ASO despite the name – one that runs a great resource database called NYFA Source) and The Field. Or, you can look at a whole big list of fiscal sponsors here. Once you’re sponsored (or even if you’re not), you can do some grants research at The Foundation Center. Or, maybe you have a significant annual budget, have been running a company consistently for a few years, and are thinking about actually getting non-profit status. If so, you should Google “Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts,” “Business Volunteers for the Arts,” or “Arts & Business Council” and see if there is one of these groups in your area, as they can provide tremendous assistance. And, once you’ve got your 501(c)(3) status in hand, you should contact those organizations again and ask about developing a Board of Directors (or visit BoardNetUSA to find some interested folks).
And what about all of you arts advocates out there? It’s terrific that you found ARTS NC! If you’re not in North Carolina, you can find your state’s advocacy organization here. And, if you want the folks on Capitol Hill to hear your voice, definitely get involved with Americans for the Arts.
Look at all of these resources I’ve listed, many of which I’m assuming you never even heard of! And if you, someone who is connected to an arts service organization like ARTS NC, is unaware of these organizations and their resources, just think about all of the artists out there who don’t even know what an arts service organization is! Do them a favor and let them know.
Fractured Atlas is a non-profit organization that serves a national community of artists and arts organizations. Their programs and services facilitate the creation of art by offering vital support to the artists who produce it. They help artists and arts organizations function more effectively as businesses by providing access to funding, low-cost insurance, education, and more, all in a context that honors their individuality and independent spirit. By nurturing today's talented but underrepresented voices, they hope to foster a dynamic and diverse cultural landscape of tomorrow. ARTS NC members can access a free Associate Membership to Fractured Atlas. Contact the ARTS NC offices to find out more!
With Fractured Atlas, Adam J. Natale (Director of Membership & Program Development) has created innovative audience development, online education, and arts insurance programs, formed partnerships with over 70 arts organizations, presented at multiple national conferences, and has helped the organization grow immensely, with over 4,000 artists joining in the past year. A graduate of American University with a degree in Directing for Theatre & Film, he is a freelance director, serves on the Board of Directors for Red Bull Theater, and is a member and the immediate past chair of Americans for the Arts' Emerging Leader Council. Formerly, he served the Theater & Musical Theater disciplines at the NEA and worked as an Associate Producer with the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
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