Small Independent Bronx Arts Organizations Form Coalition

Arts and Entertainment

August 10, 2017

From: En Foco

Small Independent Bronx Arts Organizations Form Coalition To Assess And Empower Artists
Bronx, NY - As the Bronx continues to transform under assiduous development and economic pressures, a group of diverse independent arts organizations have formed the Urban Arts Cooperative with the goal of advocating as one collective voice for local artists.Launched by five small community-based arts organizations: BronxArtSpace, Dominican York Proyecto GRAFICA, En Foco, Inc., Literary Freedom Project, and Puerto Rican Institute for Development of the Arts, the Urban Arts Cooperative has developed a strategically localized advocacy initiative that will enhance the members organizational capacity to serve artists and grassroots cultural interests and to effectively leverage human and capital-based resources (financial and in-kind) on behalf of artists. Independently, each Cooperative member is continuously undercapitalized, with budgets under $100,000, and managed by unsalaried leadership. Collectively, through a diligent commitment to the arts, UAC will bridge many communities and remain steadfast in assuring the financial well-being of artists they benefit and employ, while also collectively addressing the lack of cultural equity for the artists and communities of color that we primarily serve.
The Cooperative's goals:

Design and implement a survey of the artists we serve to ascertain the impact of our programming and services and their access to funding, resources, work spaces, etc; awareness of advocacy efforts and strategies.Assess the survey's responses and schedule focus groups with artists and the communities to determine our member's best practices.Design and implement a long-term advocacy plan with extensive and sustainable social media methods for our cooperative, artists, and other like-minded groups.Assess the potential impact of the advocacy strategy on the cooperative's members.Convene planning sessions based on the survey to design cost effective community-based artist funding models that reflect our artist's priorities and concerns.  Ultimately, there will be regular advisories on advocacy issues sent to artists.

Providing funds as a management mechanism for artists will be one of the functions of the Cooperative.  The initial assessment will help develop a funding-advocacy model to present to private foundations and institutions, and government-based funders, i.e., New York State Council on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs, etc. The goal is to build a financially viable alternative to the existing local arts council and institute strategies for arts support that does not rely on the traditional 501(c) nonprofit model while meeting accountability standards set by funders. Acknowledging there is a need to develop a new model, the Urban Arts Cooperative has received seed funding from the New York City Cultural Agenda Fund in The New York Community Trust. This new model will ultimately act as intermediary providing funds directly to artists -particularly those who reside in The Bronx, Harlem, and Washington Heights.
Historically, better-funded nonprofits have led a prescriptive cultural dialogue at the expense of artists and smaller cultural organizations, effectively creating a two-tier support system. One in which new artists/arts orgs, which are not adept at grantsmanship and fundraising, have diminished agency. UAC will be able to nimbly identify needs and create a platform for advocacy for the estimated 4,500 artists we continue to serve-digitally and tangibly-through direct engagement, employment, professional development, and public programs, building a network to address needs and common issues.Further, UAC expects and would welcome additional like-minded collectives, small-budgeted arts organizations, and networks within our geographic area to join the Cooperative. We are also hopeful that we can begin to develop a younger cohort of arts managers and artists to assume the mantel of arts advocacy leadership.