When considering where and how to give back as an emerging artist, it’s always important to remember that you can be as creative with your philanthropy as you are in your artistic practice. You may not be able to donate thousands of dollars to charities or start a foundation, but maybe you can work with other contemporary artists and use your artistic talent to help build communities. There are several community building programs for artists across the country that can not only give you creative avenues to give back, but can also help you meet your contemporaries, other like-minded and good-natured emerging artists who can either become your future collaborators or friends. If community building sounds like an area in which you want to get involved, we have identified some programs below to help you get started applying your creative talents in some smart, impactful ways.
Emerging Artists & The Wider Community
Groundswell is a New York City-based art initiative founded in 1996 by New York City artists, educators and activists with the mission of engaging young people in a way that combines arts education, youth development and social justice. The work consists mainly of painting murals, each with a mission behind them that requires intensive research. The process consists of this research, working through ideas and concepts, presenting the ideas to community members for feedback, and then putting the concepts into action for a mural, all of which is done within groups and focused on collaboration. One the pieces are done, they act as a way to open conversation in these communities on different social issues. In it’s over 20 years of operation, over 500 murals have been completed by emerging artists and their collaborators.
Art Start is a program based in New York City begun in 1991 that pairs contemporary artists with underprivileged children to give them daily creative art workshops. The focus at Art Start is as much the art education as it is the instilling of values and building support networks for these young people. Programs give participants a space to explore self-expression while also building their confidence, teaching them that they have something they can give back to the world through their creativity. Art Start has received a ton of accolades, from being featured on the Oprah Winfrey show to appearing in Bravo’s documentary stories of Arts for Change. The community building program has also received numerous awards and accolades including from various government branches, such as the White House, and the National Endowment for the Arts. You can give donations as part of the Metronome program, or you can volunteer and work with the children directly.
Go Overseas is a company with over 14 thousand programs that take emerging artists and creatives to countries across the globe to do internships, high school abroad, teach abroad or volunteer. Volunteering can take you anywhere from Africa to New Zealand to the Caribbean. One of the areas you can volunteer in community building abroad with is the arts. Go Overseas lays out on their website both in what ways in particular you can give back through the arts as well as what parts of the world need it the most, such as sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America. They also lay out what arts organizations to look into, like UNESCO and inSEA. When searching programs through the Go Overseas website, you can lay out what types of projects you’re looking to engage with as an emerging artist, including details such as where you want to go and for what length of time.
Contemporary Artist as Community Leader
Springboard for the Arts is a website providing a variety of tool kits which emerging artists working in community building can use to connect yourself to the art world. If you’re looking to make it as a contemporary artist, you can search the job board, get tax prep help, get healthcare, etc. If you’re looking to connect with artists, you can post a job, become a volunteer attorney, register for trainings, etc. Springboard for the Arts also provides a variety of tool kits centered specifically around community building and community building. One example is Your Idea Here: A Toolkit for Unlocking the Community Potential of Vacant Storefronts, which allows you to work and plan ideas for how to make use of empty retail spaces. Springboard has a variety of options which allows you to explore and find for yourself what you think would be the best place that you can contribute and give back.
C.E.T.T.A. is a program within Groundwork Hudson Valley, a company working to achieve environmental change in urban environments through community based initiatives. They believe in the necessity of arts as a tool to address issues within communities. Their work revolves around connecting contemporary artists with ways to both get involved both artistically and in civic discourse. They believe that art is not just something with aesthetic value, but is a necessary component of opening discussion between opposing sides and arguments, and providing a bridge for conversation on the political and social issues with which we struggle through today. Their goal is to make Yonkers and southern Westchester a regional and national leader in community-based public art projects and community-building education.
There is no one perfect way to give back to your community as an emerging artist, and with how busy things can get with your work, as a contemporary artist sometimes you don’t have the time. At the end of the day, every little bit you can do helps. However, if you want to find more active ways to use your artistic knowledge and talent to give back to community building initiatives, or if you believe in the power of art to shape communities, these are few places to get started. Maybe you even have your own idea, a way you feel you can give back with art that no one else has thought of! These organizations can offer you the launching point you need to start an art-based nonprofit and how to do it successfully. In an age where arts education is being undervalued in public schools across the country, it’s important now more than ever to show the power that the arts hold to transforms the lives of people everywhere, no matter their backgrounds or artistic ability.