Sharing, Building, Leading

What does the passion for local art look like on a national scale?

What if the sharing economy valued sharing?         

What can we do to connect people to resources that support their creative ideas?

These are the questions that have driven the development of Creative Exchange as a national hub for the local arts movement. In the 16 months since the launch of Creative Exchange, we’ve shared the inspiring work of over 100 artists having an impact in their communities. We’ve shared over 250 toolkits across the country (and the world!) and seen adaptations and replications of those programs. The toolkits have led to new partnerships, new Community Supported Art programs, new micro-grant programs and pop-ups at events and community gatherings. As Jamie Bennett, Executive Director of ArtPlace America, put it in his recent blog post on creative placemaking: “We are talking about community planning and development that is human-centric, comprehensive, and locally informed.”

Perhaps the most edifying and unquantifiable part of this work has been the excited, incredulous reaction of people seeking toolkits, or the excitement of seeing their own community, their friends and neighbors reflected back in stories. They’re talking about me! I can’t believe this exists! Thank you! Much of this work is fundamentally about letting people know that they are not alone – that across the country, there are people who want creative, meaningful lives; that there are tools and structures for new ideas about bringing people together through art; that we can shape the way we want to live in the 21st century.

To that end, Creative Exchange is very excited to announce a new pilot program with five Leading Organizations. These are organizations supporting artists in their communities, creating new opportunities, and acting as bridges and connection points in broader community conversations. Working in different geographies with different-sized communities, they believe, as we do, that artists are a creative force in each neighborhood, and can help us step up and creatively face the challenges of our times. These are organizations that have proven programs, want to strengthen the national movement of local arts and culture, and are good at sharing.

Over the course of a year, we will collaborate to create new toolkits from the powerful programs that these organizations have created, share stories about the artists having an impact in their communities, and highlight the partnerships and working structures that make these organizations effective. We will look for more opportunities to share the work, expand the knowledge, and connect more artists and practitioners to each other. The five Leading Organizations are:

Macon Arts Alliance, Macon, GA — The mission of the Macon Arts Alliance is to foster and support the advancement of arts and culture in Central Georgia. Macon Arts Alliance strives to be an innovative leader of a diverse and thriving arts community as well as a strategic partner in creating an open, inclusive, and vibrant place for artists, arts organizations, residents, businesses, and tourists.

Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, Pittsburgh, PA — The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council drives political, financial, and professional support for the entire Greater Pittsburgh arts community. With the tagline “Arts loud and clear,” the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council serves as the voice for arts and culture across the Greater Pittsburgh region.

Metro Arts, Nashville, TN — Metro Nashville Arts Commission, or Metro Arts, is the arts and cultural division of the city of Nashville. Metro Arts believes that all Nashvillians should participate in a creative life and that arts drive a more vibrant and equitable community. Nashville has a diverse creative ecosystem and Metro Arts is the designated driver and facilitator of programs, policies, and practices that support arts and cultural vibrancy.

MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana, San Jose, CA — MACLA is an inclusive contemporary arts space grounded in the Chicano/Latino experience that incubates new visual, literary and performance art in order to engage people in civic dialogue and community transformation. MACLA produces programming in four core program tracks – visual arts, performing & literary arts, youth arts education, and community arts programs.

Springboard for the Arts, Saint Paul & Fergus Falls, MN — Springboard for the Arts cultivates vibrant communities by connecting artists with the resources they need to make a living and a life. Springboard for the Arts helps communities collaborate with artists to solve local economic, social, and cultural challenges.

This pilot is a continuation of our work in sharing the stories and building the structures to bring artists and their creative power together. Jen Cole, Executive Director of Nashville’s Metro Arts, a Leading Organization, put it so well in a blog post for the National Endowment for the Arts. “Artists can’t thrive if the city doesn’t thrive,” she wrote. “The city can’t thrive if the artists aren’t engaged and safe – safe to live and safe to create. We came to believe that our work wasn’t about giving out grants or installing public art, but about creating the conditions that allow communities and artists to thrive – TOGETHER.”

“Together” is the answer to those questions at the top – we share that passion together, we build value together, share our resources and ideas together. That’s how we have a creative exchange.