Annual Report FY23
More Art for More People
Here’s how M-AAA helped strengthen, celebrate, and elevate creativity in the heartland and across the nation in FY 2023.
From Our Leadership
Thank you for championing arts, culture, and creativity—and for being an indispensable part of our region’s vibrant artistic community. We are delighted and honored to share the results of your investment in our region with this year’s impact report.
It’s been a remarkable journey this past year as Mid-America Arts Alliance has grown our staff, our board, our programs, and our reach—as you’ll see and read in the stories below. We’ve forged new partnerships, launched new programs, and supported truly transformational projects that reflect the culture, care, community, and collaboration that defines the heartland.
It always fills us with immense pride to witness the transformative power of the arts as we work to strengthen and support artists, cultural organizations, and communities across the region and beyond.
As we continue this journey, let us remember that art and creativity are not luxuries and they don’t exist in isolation. They are necessities, tools that we can leverage to build empathy, provide solace, promote healing, channel creative expression, foster innovation, and fuel economic growth.
|Todd SteinPresident and CEO
|Holbrook LawsonBoard Chair
invested in the arts since 1972
Our National Reach
Through such national initiatives as Creative Forces Community Engagement Grants for military-connected projects, Artist INC’s career development workshops, Engage’s organizational capacity workshops, and ExhibitsUSA traveling exhibitions, among others, M-AAA is ensuring more art reaches more people, all across the country.
Our Regional Impact
M-AAA specifically serves the states in the heartland—Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas. Each fiscal year, we provide grants and professional development opportunities to artists and arts organizations, tour artists across the region, and share resources and opportunities that promote and elevate creativity.
Impact in 2023
All of Mid-America
Data reflects activities and investment from July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023.
Stories from Our Region
Art & Community
Art is the soul of a community.
Prints and passion revive community art in quarantine
Take nine Nebraska artists and add one medium most of them don’t utilize regularly. Install murals in nine areas not known for public art. Throw in one steamroller—yes, really. The result? An art project that engaged a community and rolled over obstacles.
Those are the ingredients that came together to create Nine Nebraska Artists: Woodcut Print Mural Project, a public art project in Lincoln, Nebraska, supported this past year by M-AAA’s Artistic Innovations Grant Program.
The project, developed by LUX Center for the Arts, invited creators to extend their printmaking skills with Karen Kunc, a renowned printmaker and owner of Constellation Studios, and to install large-scale murals around the city of Lincoln.
Funding for Artistic Innovations comes from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Bridging cultural differences
Building a community of artists
Advocating for the arts
Community photography credits, from top, left to right: Artist Toan Vuong with his work from Nine Nebraska Artists: Woodcut Print Mural Project. Photography courtesy of the Lux Center for the Arts. | Judy Gelles, Pass Fourth Grade, Nicaragua, Public School, 2016; digital print on Diabond; 25 x 20 inches, Courtesy of Pentimenti Gallery, Philadelphia. | Artist Leadership Fellows Spring 2023. | Board members and guests at the National WWI Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, Missouri. Photography by Amanda Julia Steinback.
Art & Health
Art helps us heal.
Art gives us hope.
Veterans find hope and healing with The Modern Warrior Experience
“Putting yourself out there helps heal.”
That was veteran David Bellis’s reaction after he shared his story onstage during The Modern Warrior Experience. “Creative Forces has absolutely helped . . . coming off of the stage and having done that, it feels like a weight has been lifted.”
Seeking to engage the Kansas veteran community, the Lied Center presented Modern Warrior Live, an immersive narrative and music experience that chronicles one veteran’s journey of war.
Alongside the performance, the Creative Forces grant funded The Modern Warrior Experience, empowering local veterans to address mental health in a therapeutic storytelling process and then share their stories onstage.
The Creative Forces Community Engagement Grant is a program of the NEA in partnership with M-AAA.
Healing a community
Confronting a stigma
Health photography credits, from top, left to right: The Modern Warrior Experience at Lied Center of Kansas. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling Snell. | The Uvalde Love Project. Photography by Community Arts. | Joe Wallace, Rene Perkins, 2021; ink on paper, 24 x 36 inches (framed, approximate); Courtesy of the artist.
Art & Education
Art invites us to listen, learn—and understand.
Away from Home confronts a thorny chapter of U.S. history
At the end of traveling exhibition Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories, visitors are invited to leave their comments after learning about the U.S. government’s attempts to educate and assimilate American Indians into “civilized” society.
One young visitor wrote: “I’m so sorry that you had to be forced to be taken away from your parents. I’m also sorry that you got everything taken away from you. I should be more grateful for what I have.”
Exhibitions like these from M-AAA’s ExhibitsUSA invite us to not only confront a difficult chapter in our history but to respect the struggles of those who lived through it and to share the responsibility for our collective future.
Away from Home was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, with funding for the extended tour provided by the Chickasaw Nation.
The traveling exhibitions of M‑AAA’s ExhibitsUSA have reached nearly 1,000 communities and 13 million people nationwide.
Promoting a sense of belonging
Education photography credits, from top, left to right: Sioux children on their first day of school, 1897; photograph, variable size; Courtesy of Library of Congress. | Museum visitors view ExhibitsUSA exhibition Nature’s Blueprints: Biomimicry in Art and Design. Photo courtesy of Turtle Bay Exploration Park. | Still from ARt Connect MUSIC MOVES video by Creative Arkansas Community Hub & Exchange (CACHE).
Art & Entrepreneurship
All artists are entrepreneurs.
Catalyze prioritizes artists’ practice over projects
The newly launched Catalyze program for central Arkansas funds artists based on practice, instead of projects. Artists can choose what will best fuel their creative practice, even if that means using the grant to fund childcare or rent.
Dazzmin Murry, a North Little Rock-based performing artist and composer, was one of first 25 artists accepted into the program that provides grant awards of $10,000 along with career mentorship. For her, the program speaks to M-AAA’s “willingness to not only see and listen to the needs of artists, but to offer support to us in ways that have historically been neglected.”
Catalyze is funded in part by the Windgate Foundation.
Supporting artists’ careers
Empowering artists’ practice
This year, Artists 360 awarded $214,000 to 26 artists in northwest Arkansas, including the Creative Impact Award to Kholoud Sawaf.
More Music for More People
Entrepreneurship photography credits, from top, left to right: Catalyze FY23 Community Engagement grantee Dazzmin Murry. Photo courtesy of the artist. | Artist INC Express image, photography by Jared Sorrells. | Artists 360 Creative Impact Award 2022 recipient Kholoud Sawaf. Photography by Jared Sorrells. | Arkansas singer/songwriter Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster performs at the Artists 360 Full Circle Alumni Showcase. Photography by Jared Sorrells.
Art & Collaboration
Collaboration is a catalyst for impactful change.
Arts Connect Houston: All children should have access to the arts
“Children and teenagers have so little control over their lives,” says Jack McBride, executive director of Arts Connect Houston (ACH). “But with art, there’s no right or wrong answer. With art, they are empowered.”
ACH, an organization committed to ensuring all students have access to arts education as part of a complete education, began partnering with M-AAA as a supporting organization in January. The partnership preserves ACH’s assets for its programs and grantmaking and allows ACH and M-AAA to explore how to expand support for art education throughout the region.
“Art, and an arts education, gives children agency,” McBride continues. “And that’s something our children can take with them and remember forever.”
Building resiliency for arts organizations
Partnering to advance creativity in the heartland
Collaborating for impact
Collaboration photography credits, from top, left to right: Arts Connect Houston staff. Photos courtesy of Arts Connect Houston staff. | Houston Skyline. | Still from M-AAA: Arts Organizations (2023) video. Videography by GeerD Up Films, LLC. | ARt Connect Final Convening in July 2022. Photography by Cynthia Tran.
Art & Place
Art connects us to people, time—and to place.
Palette. Paper. A healthy wariness of rattlesnakes.
“Paddling, you know, roughly 2300 miles from Montana to St. Louis, living out of a tent paddling 8 to 14 hours a day . . . just following a line from point A to B and staying alive, painting, trying to make art—that’s life. The serendipity of meeting people all along the way and sharing my story and my art was one of the best parts of this project for me.”
Steve Snell’s Artistic Innovations project canoeing the entire Missouri River draws attention to our country’s landscape and the river’s underrated beauty and history. Through his journey, he aims to create appreciation for this precious water source while challenging and pushing the boundaries of his art.”
Protecting and preserving our planet
Celebrating the land
Supporting sustainable agriculture
Place photography credits, from top, left to right: M-AAA Artistic Innovations grantee Steve Snell’s Adventure Art on the Mighty Mo’. River footage courtesy of Steve Snell. Videography by GeerD Up Films, LLC. | Helen Glazer, Canada Glacier, Lake Hoare Field Camp, Antarctica, 2015/2017; photograph, 14 1/2 x 22 3/4 inches; Courtesy of the artist. | Still from ARt Connect MOUNT SEQUOYAH CENTER video by Creative Arkansas Community Hub & Exchange (CACHE). | The Sankara Seed Project by artist and 2021 Interchange Fellow Ryan Tennery. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Our Strategic Plan
Ensure a Thriving Arts Sector
Strengthen artists and organizations in their ability to create and serve their constituents
Celebrate the Region’s Creative Assets
Elevate and support the vibrancy of the arts in the Mid-America region
Demonstrate our commitment to diversity and equity through policies, practices, programs, and services
Strengthen M-AAA’s Internal Capacity
Strengthen Mid-America’s internal capacity to effectively deliver its programs and services
Thank you to all those who make our work possible.
M-AAA’s 2023 Impact Report reflects activity across our region, across our programs, and across the nation from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023.
Marian Andersen* (In Memoriam)
Celeste Guzmán Mendoza
Donald A. Johnston
Kym Koch Thompson
Don Munro* (In Memoriam)
DeMarcus Akeem Suggs
James Tolbert III