Establishing a Strong Foundation

A Letter From Todd Stein

The incredible stories contained within this publication illustrate power—the power of artists to create, to connect communities, to thrive in ways that others cannot.

Artist INC began in Kansas City, MO through the collaborative efforts of the Charlotte Street Foundation, ArtsKC, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City Innovation Center. The founding mission was to help Kansas City artists thrive by providing them with small business development training, tools, resources, and information, with the goal of increasing the number of artists with sustainable careers in the Kansas City area. It was their foresight, wisdom, and the founding philosophy of collaboration that created Artist INC and the same collaborative spirit which led Mid-America Arts Alliance to begin partnering to expand Artist INC to communities throughout our six-state region in 2013. Time and time again, we see the powerful success that comes from fostering artist connections in communities large and small.

When I was first approached about uniting Artist INC and Mid-America Arts Alliance, I saw an incredible opportunity to bring this program to communities all across our region. At Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA), we had seen the program’s success and heard many of the remarkable stories shared by artists about the transformative program. The collaboration was a natural fit, and led to Artist INC becoming a program of M-AAA in July 2017.

In its first ten years, Artist INC has seen growth in the careers of artists and in the program itself. From operating in only one city—Kansas City—Artist INC has now served ten communities (Austin, TX, Houston, TX, Kansas City, MO, Lawrence, KS, Little Rock, AR, Springdale, AR, Omaha, NE, Oklahoma City, OK, Tulsa, OK, and Wichita, KS) with more soon to follow.

Artist INC has been able to affect change not only in the artist community but also in the creative economy. Artists are essential, and the arts mean business. Those are sentiments that we have known for a long time, but this program allows us to meet the needs of both artists and those who rely on their talents for innovation, inspiration, truth telling, and more.

Since 2009, Artist INC has worked with more than 2,000 artists, empowering them to create sustainable practices and achieve creative and career goals. The program has focused on knowledge growth, resource access, peer network development, and mentoring. At the core of the program is artists teaching artists. Through a peer learning environment, these artists share their experience as working artists, connecting Artist INC participants with the resources they have found to be especially helpful. Peer Facilitators understand the business challenges many artists face and lead without judgment. In fact, humility is a Facilitator’s greatest asset; being willing to share personal challenges with their art practice helps strike the right balance of being both an expert and a learner.

We are all grateful to Diane Scott, the principle designer of the program, for her vision. She identified the need and opportunity to bolster artists in their workplaces—studios, performance halls, clubs, and myriad other venues. I want to thank the many financial supporters of this program, including the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation, Sonic, Windgate Foundation, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts and our partnering state arts agencies—Arkansas Arts Council, Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, Missouri Arts Council, Nebraska Arts Council, Oklahoma Arts Council, and Texas Commission on the Arts.

It is fulfilling to see our service to artists build and grow. We know by working together a strong future lies ahead for artists.

In Service,
Todd Stein
President and CEO, Mid-America Arts Alliance