SPA PROGRAM

OVERVIEW

Co-designed by MAP staff and consultant David Sheingold and launched in 2012, MAP’s Scaffolding for Practicing Artists (SPA) envisions a new method of providing support to independent artists and ensembles by considering dramatically shifting producing structures in the national arts sector over the past decade. 

While there are many nuances to the changing landscape of arts production, it’s generally true that fewer large arts institutions are providing comprehensive commission to support the creation of new work. As a result, individual artists face increasing pressure to secure funding from multiple sources, identify development residencies, manage collaborating creative staff, and contribute to the technical production and marketing elements of bringing a new work to life. While this redistribution of labor can result in much sought creative control for independent artists, it also demands a skill set artists are not always trained in, or inclined to develop. 

SPA supports artists in their endeavors to carefully consider this new landscape and make thoughtful decisions about how to navigate it. SPA does not make assumptions about how an artist might want to produce their work. It is fundamentally about making space for artists to create their own solutions. 

Historically, SPA has served selected self-producing MAP grantees only. In 2019, through a partnership with the Jerome Foundation, SPA expanded to serve the inaugural Jerome Hill Fellow cohort, including artists working in performance, film, and literature. As the program continues to grow, we look forward to making SPA available to grantee and non-grantee artists alike, across all disciplines and regions of the United States. 

PROGRAM KEY FEATURES

  • One Size Does Not Fit All: MAP created a model of support that does not teach a predetermined curriculum, since the artists we serve are typically creating new forms that resist inherited ways of working. Rather, SPA creates the conditions for artists to consider, invent and co-devise solutions tailored to their specific practice and aesthetic ambitions.
  • Multi-tiered Participation: 
    • TIER ONE: artists receive 8-hours of one-on-one meeting time with a knowledgeable consultant over a period of up to 18 months. This is a space for artists to engage in open dialogue about whatever challenges they could use support thinking through, which may include work/life balance, budget/fundraising, staff or collaborator management, or any other aspect of the complex work of arts production. 
    • TIER TWO: MAP hosts a two-day, live gathering for artists who have completed their one-on-one sessions. The gathering provides a community learning space where artists introduce their practice and share a current challenge, which the wider group considers and advises on. With this lightly structured setup (which mirrors the generative, empathic approach of the consultancy), SPA is creating networks of empowered self-producing artists, who are both givers and receivers of knowledge. Shared brainstorm sessions exponentially expand the solution pool and engender solidarity in what can otherwise be an isolating, competitive producing landscape.

To date, SPA has served over 100 artists. 

EVALUATION & IMPACT

In 2019, MAP commissioned an evaluation of the program from consultant Ron Ragin, working with the support of Jalisa Roberts. The report indicates that participation in the program has a strong, positive impact on the lives and work of artists. It also includes many valuable takeaways for MAP and SPA staff, which will be used to improve the program moving forward. 

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