Behind the Scenes: Arts Innovator Award Workgroup

Published: March 5, 2021

Categories: Featured | Grants & Fellowships

Our 2021 Arts Innovator Award grant cycle is underway (apply by March 8!), and applicants may have noticed some changes to our process. Last year, we formed the Arts Innovator Award Workgroup, including panelists, finalists, and recipients from the 2020 AIA process and AT staff and board. This group came together over a series of 6 meetings to examine the grant process – 2020’s in particular – and think about long- and short-term changes. 

We spoke with artist and AT board member Mariella Luz about her experience being part of the workgroup, her personal takeaways, and what she’s most hopeful about as we move forward.  

The AIA workgroup was and is part of a larger conversation we’re having at AT about how to work with artists. The topic came up in large part due to behind-the-scenes work the staff had been doing as well as the AIA/Artist Distrust letter. The Board and staff have really been trying to show up and do the work to make AT more equitable for artists and with this in mind, we started these sessions.  

Out of all the changes we’ve made to our grant processes, I’m most excited about the changes in some of the language of the grant. I think language is a very powerful thing and the words we use can exclude folks, whether they mean to or not. Changing a few words can change who applies for this grant (and our other grants!) and I hope it does. The programs team has already been implementing changes that are making the adjudication process more transparent and equitable, as well as a new “study hall” for applicants. I can’t say how impressed I am with all the work they have done over the last few months! I’m also inspired that we keep having conversations about process to make things more equitable – topics like geography, technology, and “professionalism” came up during the workgroup and the board and staff continue to think about how to implement changes to the grants program to create more opportunities for BIPOC artists and up and coming artists who haven’t had the traditional education/network to give them access to funding.   

My personal takeaway from being involved in the workgroup is that Artist Trust shouldn’t hesitate to TRY and become a leader in our field. We might not succeed but doing the work to become a leading anti-racist arts organization that really serves artists is a pretty exciting idea. As a board member, I am reminded that the reason I am here is to show up for artists and hear what they have to say. That even in what we consider to be equitable organizationsBIPOC voices can be silenced and diminished. So, we need to reflect on the ways we are complacent in this hierarchical/institutional culture and how we hide behind that.  

We had several meetings with the AIA workgroup and during every single one, I was inspired to do the work. At our last meeting I was so sad it was ending; I want to start a book club with everyone so I can keep seeing them!

After our community called for change at Artist Trust last summer, we recognized there was a lot of work to be done to ensure our grant processes and other programs are equitable and being developed in partnership with our community. This AIA workgroup was a first step in achieving that goal. We are so thankful for the valuable insight gained from all the participants!

This work is ongoing, and we are continuing to collaborate with artists and community members to create a better Artist Trust. You can read more about our current work in our March newsletter, and see the new guidelines for AIA here