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A Digital Year, A Digital Artist INC

A grid of four artists, including a printmaker, jewelry maker, guitarist and painter, working on their art.

Artist INC continues to grow and adapt to the needs of individual artists.

Artist INC gets its strong foundations and continuing momentum from its community: more than 1,500 Fellows, staff leadership made up of program veterans, and most importantly, an invested and dynamic group of peer artist Facilitators. The Artist INC community began in Kansas City and has developed throughout the region, building on its identity of bringing artists together to learn from one another. But what happens when community can’t happen in person? Through extensive artist surveys at different points through the pandemic, M-AAA learned a lot about what individual artists needed and worked to meet those needs. Digital trainings became not only a place for artists to learn, but also a convening space to reaffirm their creative identities.

Artist INC Live occurred in four communities: Des Moines, Northwest Arkansas, Topeka, and Kansas City. The Artist Services team had to move quickly to reconstruct existing content to fit the new online delivery model with Zoom. Out of a time of real isolation, the team found a hunger for community that made participants flexible and forthcoming. While digital trainings presented challenges up front, they also revealed advantages in accessibility: a greater field of participants, an ability to quickly provide closed captioning and archived recordings, and the option for artists to participate both on video and in written chats. These surprise advantages lent a different feeling to trainings. “When you’re in person, there is an inherent hierarchy: within the way the room is set up, speakers talking, people sitting down. With Zoom, everyone has equal real estate and is equally seen. It gives us an awareness of how we present ourselves, an opportunity for new self-awareness and broken-down structures of hierarchy,” said David Wayne Reed, M-AAA’s constituent engagement specialist.

These new advantages applied to Artist INC Express as well, allowing M-AAA to serve populations of Kansas, Arkansas, and Nebraska that had not previously been reached by the program. In addition to rural communities that didn’t have the capacity for the eight-week Live trainings, the weekend Express trainings saw a model in Kansas designed specifically for military populations and their families. With the dissolution of geographically based communities via online trainings, Artist INC was able to reach many new artists. Reed says, “We were able to expand as a direct result of our contraction.” As a new year begins, the program will serve artists by creating communities that meet their needs.

Watch Kansas City artist Karla Deel and Des Moines artist Amee Ellis present their end-of-training WorkShares in the digital space.

Learn more about Artist INC artist surveys.

Learn about Topeka, Kansas Artist INC Facilitator Huascar Medina being nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as a member of the National Council on the Arts.

Learn more about all of Artist INC’s programming on its website, artistinc.art