Scaffolding for Practicing Artists (SPA)

OVERVIEW

Co-designed by MAP staff and consultant David Sheingold and launched in 2012, MAP’s Scaffolding for Practicing Artists (SPA) provides unique forms of support to independent artists and ensembles in response to dramatic, nationwide shifts in arts sector producing structures 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 commissions 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 to carefully consider this evolving 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. Rather, it makes space for artists to create their own solutions. 

Historically, SPA has only served selected, self-producing MAP grantees. 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: SPA does not teach a predetermined curriculum. The artists we serve are typically creating new forms that resist inherited ways of working. 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 long-term, individualized support encourages artists to engage in open dialogue about wide-ranging challenges, 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 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 creates networks of increasingly empowered self-producing artists, expanding the solution pool and engendering solidarity in what can otherwise be an isolating, competitive producing landscape.

To date, SPA has served nearly 150 artists. 

ASSESSING SPA’S IMPACT

In 2019, MAP commissioned an assessment 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. 

This program is supported in part by the Jerome Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Banner: MAP 2020 grantee Fires of Varanasi by Ranee Ramaswamy & Aparna Ramaswamy. Photography by Dilip Barman.