We have a brochure to answer the big questions about who we are and what we do. Yet, Fresh Arts has evolved so much in the last few years, we felt it might be useful to shed some light on our philosophy and vision.
Who does Fresh Arts serve?
To put it simply? Artists of all disciplines, arts administrators, and arts patrons. .
The bulk of Fresh Arts’ programs and services are tailored for individual artists and the administrators of small to mid-sized arts organizations. However, Fresh Arts believes that a healthy art scene is an ecosystem which tends to the needs of the full spectrum-- from independent artists to world renowned cultural institutions, as well the communities invested in consuming and supporting the arts. Therefore, a lot of Fresh Arts’ programming involves the cultivation of relationships between these different groups.
What are Fresh Arts’ priorities?
Grow, Thrive, Connect, Engage!
In other words, we want:
+ Artists and arts organizations to be better equipped to succeed in the business of art.
+ Artists and arts organizations to have more opportunities to generate income.
+ Increased community between artists and arts organizations.
+ Increased community awareness of and participation in Houston arts and art events.
Everything Fresh Arts does will involve one (or more) of these goals.
Your mission says “bolstering the capacity and professional practice of artists and arts organizations,” and that’s a mouthful! What does that mean?
The easy answer is “survival.” Whether it be a lonely artist in the studio or practice room or a DIY theatre company in its fourth year of production, Fresh Arts wants to help creatives find a sustainable way to continue their work and to move the needle towards their specific career goals. Maybe that goal is to pay your bills with your art; maybe it’s to be well respected in the field; maybe it’s making it to your fifth season; and maybe it’s to make meaningful contributions to the community. Fresh Arts believes professional success can be defined in a variety of ways, but however you define it, we hope to enhance your professional “toolbox.”
Which aspects of the former Spacetaker’s programming is part of the new Fresh Arts?
The bulk of it!
Spacetaker first began as a calendar highlighting art events that fell under the radar. Over the years, the organization shifted to services to the field, but believed it was important to retain a point of contact with the “outside” world via its community arts calendar and event newsletter. (After all, connecting audiences with the art in our community is among our creative community’s biggest needs and challenges.) In addition to the open, user-managed community arts calendar, Fresh Arts will continue the bulk of Spacetaker’s programming like professional development workshops, exhibitions, and networking events.
Which aspects of the former Fresh Arts Coalition’s programming is part of the new Fresh Arts?
Just like Spacetaker, the Fresh Arts Coalition began as a means to cultivate audiences for the best of the underground art scene. This involved not only a website calendar filled with a wealth of unique art events from coalition members, but collaborative advertising opportunities for those members. As Fresh Arts, we are evolving the way we serve our arts organization members to consider individual and symbiotic needs. We’re laying the foundation for this strategic approach with our new M-Lab pilot program, which will help participating organizations define, target and communicate with existing and new audiences. In the future, we may also develop additional programming for arts organizations, and we welcome your feedback on how we can best serve these groups in creating long-term successes.
What are Fresh Arts’ strengths?
We know what it’s like to be an artist/fundraiser/marketer/janitor, and we know that artists and arts administrators are usually time-poor and resource-poor. So, our delivery of programs and services is designed around those challenges. “Big picture” thinking is definitely important, but so many creatives are struggling to survive the next week, next month, next quarter, etc. In our workshops and other professional development programming, we endeavor to balance the 20-thousand feet strategy with a nuts-and-bolts, actionable plan.
We also try to be accessible and responsive. We constantly invite candid feedback in the form of surveys, meetings, and peer-to-peer dialogue. We want to know what challenges artists and arts administrators are facing here and now, and we try to be light enough on our feet that we can respond to those needs and concerns when possible-- whether it be through creating new workshops or compiling research in our resource library. Have an idea? Want to give us feedback? Excellent! Contact us here.
Why is your website user-managed?
Who/What gets featured on your website/newsletter(s)?
Fresh Arts’ newsletters are curated, and artists and organizations may be featured without being members. However, when possible, Fresh Arts makes an effort to feature those who participate in our community and who have a stake in our organization's success. When it comes to featuring events, we realize “quality” is subjective, but we are especially drawn to events that are: dynamic, underground, exceptional (unique or rare), and representative of our city’s diversity.
CHANGES IN PROGRAMMING
What’s different about your exhibition process?
There are several exciting venues for artists in Houston, but what sets Fresh Arts’ exhibition process apart from many others is our focus on professional development. Back in 2011, Fresh Arts started hosting exhibitions in response to an increasing number of resourceful artists producing their own shows and exhibitions and wanting to use our gallery space. We soon recognized ways we could support these efforts by equipping emerging and underrepresented artists with practical tools for independently producing exhibitions and performances-- everything from planning and budgeting to PR and marketing. While an artist is exhibiting with us, we hope to provide a supportive space where artists can experiment, collaborate and take risks, as well as where they can feel empowered professionally.
What happened to the Artist SPEAKeasy events?
We loved the Artist SPEAKeasy salons we hosted in the past. (In fact, it was one of our favorite programs.) While we hope to bring that program back, the Fresh Arts staff had to make some hard decisions about where we invested our time and resources. Since there are a lot of fabulous salon-style events these days (DiverseWorks hosts DWOW every single Wednesday), we have put our regular SPEAKeasy events on hold for now. We will continue to host them occasionally in conjunction with our exhibition series.
What is M-Lab?
Marketing and PR have changed a lot in the last decade. Back then, an advertisement in a newspaper might have been an arts organization’s first tactic to reach new audiences. These days, a targeted social media campaign may be prove more effective than dumping a lot of money into traditional advertising. The key is strategy! M-Lab is a marketing incubator for small to mid-sized arts organizations focused on the creation of data-driven marketing strategies that are creative, cost-effective, and customized for participants’ unique flavors and fans. Read more about M-Lab here.
Why fiscal sponsorship? (And what exactly is it?)
Houston’s “frontier” mentality and entrepreneurial spirit has translated to a significant number of artist-driven collectives and small to mid-sized organizations doing innovative work in the city. Yet, while many of Houston's larger arts organizations have sufficient staff to focus on administrative and financial management, those endeavors require a significant diversion from art-making in smaller operations. Fiscal sponsorship refers to the practice of a non-profit organization offering its legal and tax-exempt status to groups engaged in activities related to the organization's mission, while providing administrative assistance and fiscal oversight.
The case for fiscal sponsorship:
For many, the skillsets and time needed to manage a nonprofit are in constant conflict with the focus required to cultivate artistic talents and create work.
A fiscal sponsor lightens the administrative burden for artist projects by eliminating the need to form a new board of directors, by streamlining processes, and by minimizing overhead costs.
The time and financial resources required to obtain and maintain nonprofit status may be impractical or out of reach. Legal and filing fees can cost thousands of dollars, and status determination can take months, if not longer.
Many funders require 2 years of history as a nonprofit before granting to new organizations. This is severely limiting for time-sensitive projects.
The nonprofit business model is not always conducive to the ebb and flow of creative pursuits.
While there are several national organizations who offer these services-- Fractured Atlas, New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Field are among our favorites-- Fresh Arts believes there are unique advantages to developing a fiscal sponsorship program tailored for the Houston community.
The case for a local fiscal sponsor:
Funding bodies can support innovative artists and projects with the confidence their dollars will be spent responsibly by a familiar and trusted organization.
Many institutional funders in Houston are limited by their own geographic guidelines from supporting projects fiscally sponsored by organizations outside of Houston/Harris County.
While fiscal sponsorship is gaining popularity across the country, it is still relatively unknown and underutilized in Houston. A local fiscal sponsor is ideally positioned to educate and advocate for this alternate business/funding model.
A broad, effectively operating fiscal sponsorship program has the potential to create a whole new class of professional artists in Houston who have: a mechanism to receive support for their work, the freedom to be innovative without excessive administrative burden, and the privilege to focus on their given areas of expertise. To put it simply, a fiscal sponsorship program allows for greater efficiency and specialization.
As we develop our fiscal sponsorship program, we are following the best practices set forth by the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors.
Why Community Supported Art (CSA)?
Just like its farm-centric counterpart (Community Supported Agriculture), the CSA program creates a new, direct pipeline between local artists and patrons. Fresh Arts’ CSA allows us to commission new artwork (putting money in the hands of talented artists), to build relationships between artists and those invested in their well-being, and to provide an unintimidating entry point for budding art collectors. It’s a win any way you slice it!
Why Office Hours?
Sometimes a workshop just doesn’t address everyone’s professional development needs and individual consultation is necessary. But frequently, consultants are out of reach for artists or arts organizations due to costs. And even more frequently, artists and arts organizations are looking for short-term help or answers to specific questions. Borrowing a good idea from our colleagues at New York Foundation for the Arts, Fresh Arts aims to connect arts professionals with the expert advice they need-- from development experts reviewing grants to curators reviewing portfolios to lawyers reviewing contracts and more.
One of the things members of the Fresh Arts Coalition found most valuable was the opportunity to come together and talk shop. We believe that’s important, but not just for marketers-- for us all! In spring of 2015, Fresh Arts will resume hosting regular meetups for both artists and administrators according to roles and functions. These gatherings will be inclusive, but intimate in order to create a safe place for sharing both challenges and successes with one another.
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