Arts Mean Business


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The Seattle Arts Commission (SAC) delivered to the City Council on October 9th, 2013, a letter expressing the group’s thoughts on the Mayor’s proposed budget for the Office of Arts & Culture (OAC). The letter includes the following statement: “Targeted grants to arts organizations of all sizes, community cultural groups and individual artists helps fuel the economic engine that is Seattle. Unfortunately, because of the limited availability of funds, many worthy projects of both organizations and individual artists must go unfunded or sorely underfunded.”

SAC’s letter goes on: “The Arts Mean Business (program) was becoming an important economic tool such that the Commission encourages the Council to consider reinstating funds for that program.”

In response, I am proposing to restore the Arts Mean Business program for 2014.

jobsI will recommend that any renewal of the Arts Mean Business program emphasize small organizations and projects that involve communities of color and disadvantaged businesses. SAC Chair Jon Rosen supports this approach while OAC Director Randy Engstrom said that doing so would contribute to his office’s Race and Social Justice Initiative work.

In 2012, the Arts Mean Business program was developed to fund arts jobs crucial to the implementation of sustainable revenue strategies for Seattle arts, cultural and heritage organizations. The program provided one-time funds for positions that would make a difference in each organization’s ability to generate extra revenue to carry out its mission in providing programs and services to the residents of and visitors to Seattle. Guidelines were issued in July 2012 with a September 10 deadline. Applications were designed to encourage staff and board members of arts organizations to develop a strategic plan examining what it would take to become more viable, sustainable businesses. One hundred and eleven applications were received and reviewed by a peer panel. Twenty organizations were selected to receive a total funding amount of $260,211 for arts jobs for the period of December 2012 through November 2013.

There was significant local and national media coverage about the grant, including a National Endowment for the Arts highlight.

The program had three parts: providing direct investments to support jobs in the local arts community; supporting dynamic training opportunities to help the broader arts sector implement practices leading to greater economic resiliency; and convening the City’s arts leaders and creative thinkers to develop new approaches in arts entrepreneurship, innovative arts practices, and greener ways of doing business.

Organizations funded:

Arts Corps, Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA), Duwamish Tribal Services, Flying House Productions (Seattle Men’s Chorus & Seattle Women’s Chorus), Gage Academy of Art, On the Boards, Pottery Northwest, Pratt Fine Arts Center, Ripple Productions (Café Nordo), ROCKiT Community Arts, Sanctuary Arts Center, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra, Shunpike, Simple Measures, SouthEast Effective Development (SEED Arts), Theatre Off Jackson, Unified Outreach, Washington Alliance for Arts Education (ArtsEd Washington) and Washington State Jewish Historical Society.

25% were first-time award recipients through OAC. 20% serve a more diverse demographic than exists in Seattle.

45% of the organizations site their programs and services throughout the City in neighborhoods including Ballard, Downtown, South Park, Wallingford, Mount Baker and Green Lake.

Jobs Created (a sampling):

• A new position with SEEDArts to design and implement new film programs and services that serve South Seattle at SEED’s newly acquired movie theatre space in Columbia City.

• A Program and Social Justice Training Coordinator at Arts Corp to create an arts-based social justice professional development program to train teaching artists through an equity lens.

• Computer lab attendants for Unified Outreach so that more open hours are available for youth to participate in arts and tech job training, music and video production and cartoon animation opportunities

• Print shop manager position at Sanctuary Arts Center, providing a management level position to one of the Center’s alumni who was previously a homeless youth.

• An Education Program Assistant for Seattle Shakespeare Company to expand the outreach of their education programs.

Public Benefits Delivered:

While final reports and measurables on the program are not due until the end of December, 2013, below is information on four organizations that completed their contracts early.

• Unified Outreach provided 720 additional hours in computer labs so underserved youth in West Seattle would have a safe place to go during out-of-school time to develop arts and tech job skills such as music and video production and cartoon animation.

Simple Measures leveraged a Raisbeck capacity-building grant of $15,000 for 3 years, increased individual donations by 34%, and recruited three new board members.

CoCA’s new hire increased memberships by 350% and is developing partnerships with public schools and enhancing existing ones with Seattle Parks and the Carkeek Park Advisory Council. CoCA increased its number of artists served from 35 to 147.

Pratt Fine Arts’ new marketing position provided capacity to create a new website and magazine, which helped increase earned revenues by 12%. 3,500 people attended their Spring Open House, with the majority being new visitors, resulting in $8,000 in new student registrations – the highest amount ever processed at an Open House.

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