Special Sauce & Agency: Evaluating Work of Art

“I feel like I just got a million dollars worth of guidance!” That’s what one artist commented after downloading the Work of Art toolkit.

Since the Work of Art toolkit launched as a free resource in December 2015, it has been downloaded from Creative Exchange almost 2,000 times. It has been used for workshops at art centers in Hawai’i, business consulting in Boston, to support a creative cohort in Albuquerque. Individual artists are using it as an ongoing reference, and schools are including it in their curriculum. As the goal of the toolkit is to create a flexible, adaptable resource, Work of Art is filling a need for professional development support for artists of all disciplines.

There is excitement around the use of the toolkit and its ability to be easily shared, but Springboard for the Arts has also been delivering the workshop series in and around Minnesota as a direct service for over 15 years. With that history in mind, Springboard recently worked with Bjørn Peterson, Principal at Amplify Strategic Consulting, to begin an investigation about the long term impacts and value of having Work of Art offerings available. A report from the initial steps of this investigation is now available, and can be downloaded here: http://bit.ly/WOAReport

This evaluative report comes from observation of Work of Art classes, discussion with Work of Art instructors and interviews with 20 artists who have gone through the Work of Art training in Minnesota and Iowa. Peterson’s research points to 3 key areas of impact for Work of Art – Agency & Empowerment, Pedagogy & Special Sauce, and Community Economic Development. Investigating the impact of Work of Art in terms of skills, resilience and long-term value shows that Work of Art creates agency among artists to claim that role, hard skills to put their career plans into action, and through the supportive workshop setting, ongoing community bonds and resiliency. As one artist put it:

“[I now have] confidence in not only the comfort level with the logistics of business, but also just with calling myself an artist because I can… It is a journey and it legitimizes me by attending the class because that is a language that other people can understand. A lot of people don’t understand the art process, but when I say, ‘I’ve been, you know, taking these classes’, people say ‘Oh!’ That’s something they can sink their teeth into, and it’s something I can sink my teeth into.”

With more and more artists and organizations across the United States using Work of Art as part of their development plans, this research underscores the importance of the resource to the creative community, and the utility of the curriculum to bring people together and validate their work as artists, dancers, musicians, writers and theatermakers. This research is ongoing, and as Work of Art spreads, so will the investigation.

Work of Art Evaluative Report: http://bit.ly/WOAReport

Work of Art: http://springboardexchange.org/workofart/

Trabajo de Arte: http://springboardexchange.org/trabajo-de-arte/

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