Artists At Work (AAW)



 Artists At Work, Expanding Nationwide with $3 Million from the Mellon Foundation, Brings Together Artists with Cultural and Community-Based Organizations to Address Deeply Rooted Economic and Social Issues 

8 Cultural Partners Will Host 21 Artists Across Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California, and Texas

THE OFFICE Launches a Program in San Antonio, Texas, with a Grant from The John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation Fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation, to Run Concurrently with the Borderlands Cohort

Participating Cultural Partners, Announced Today, Include Southwest Folklife Alliance, City of Albuquerque Department of Arts and Culture, Border Arts Corridor, Casa Familiar, La Mujer Obrera, The Public Theater of San Antonio, The Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, and Carver Community Cultural Center

THE OFFICE performing arts + film, with $3 million of support from the Mellon Foundation, continues the national scaling-up of its Artists At Work (AAW) initiative, a workforce resilience program inspired by FDR’s Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) and its Federal Project Number One. Today THE OFFICE announces that, through a new partnership with the San Antonio Area Foundation, it is launching Artists At Work in San Antonio alongside the Borderlands activation, and reveals the eight cultural partners, known as Culture Hubs, that will host 21 artists working in locations across Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California, and Texas.  

In the Borderlands, THE OFFICE has worked closely with lead partners Dr. Shelle Sanchez at the City of Albuquerque Department of Arts and Culture in New Mexico and Leia Maahs at the Southwest Folklife Alliance in Tucson, AZ to identify regional Culture Hubs that reflect different facets of the region’s wide-ranging cultural identities, practices, and narratives and are engaged in the deep and meaningful work of leveraging culture in service of the needs of their local communities: Border Arts Corridor, in Douglas, AZ; Casa Familiar, in San Ysidro, CA; La Mujer Obrera in El Paso, TX; the City of Albuquerque Department of Arts and Culture; and Southwest Folklife Alliance. These Culture Hubs will host a total of 15 artists. 

In San Antonio, three Culture Hubs—The Public Theater of San Antonio, The Esperanza Peace and Justice Center and Carver Community Cultural Center—will host six artists between them. The organizations will select the artists and social impact initiatives with which they will soon work. 

“Artists at Work San Antonio honors the communities and artists that have long made San Antonio the cultural heart of our region and we’re excited to support our launch alongside the Borderlands,” said Stephanie LaFroscia, Director of Grants and Community Engagement at the Area Foundation. “AAW San Antonio reflects our commitment to a robust and inclusive cultural landscape and aligns with our role as a collaborative leader, supporting generative partnerships across sectors and recognizing artists and culture-bearers both for their role in sustaining communities and as catalysts for equitable recovery and growth in our regional economy.”

THE OFFICE, in collaboration with the FreshGrass Foundation, conceived AAW early in the COVID-19 pandemic, as artistic communities were ravaged, careers were halted, and dire financial struggles ensued. AAW aims to address an urgent need to reimagine the culture sector and how we value artists’ role in society—a need that the pandemic has starkly revealed, and that will continue as the public health crisis abates. 

Artists At Work is designed to support the health of local communities through artistic civic engagement. The program pays artists to keep making art and to apply their skills and creative thinking in support of their communities; gives support to cultural organizations (called Culture Hubs) and arts workers in that community to host and work with those artists; and connects both artists and cultural organizations to local social impact initiatives or community partners working in areas like child welfare, food and housing security, antiracism, physical and mental health, justice reform, sustainable and equitable development, environmental justice and climate resiliency, and immigration.

Participating artists receive a salary for a period of one year, using the MIT Living Wage Calculator for their respective region as a guide, as well as full healthcare benefits. Following their participation in the program, they are eligible for unemployment benefits, and may continue healthcare coverage under COBRA if they choose. Artists working in any artistic discipline qualify for the program; they must be local to the region, and actively interested in a social practice. 

THE OFFICE Founding Director Rachel Chanoff said, “Artists are workers whose work product is crucial to the health of every society. Communities flourish when artists are woven into the everyday fabric of our lives. The intersections of the Borderlands region include not only the national borders of the United States and Mexico, but those of sovereign tribal nations and indigenous homelands. We are eager to support and connect artists of all kinds through the program, including traditional artists, culture bearers, and cultural practitioners.”  

In each regional activation of AAW, The OFFICE engages a local AAW Field Administrative Fellow to support the implementation and evaluation of the program locally and play a vital role in communicating with regional program participants. Artist and educator Gabriela Yadegari, whose work is largely informed by their upbringing in a multicultural household in Tucson and the larger diverse creative community of Arizona and the surrounding states, will serve in this role in the Borderlands region and work closely with the Field Administrative Fellow in San Antonio to coordinate support service for artists.

In addition to the Borderlands and San Antonio regions, the national expansion of AAW includes an activation in Los Angeles, in partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture; and the Mississippi Delta region, in partnership with the Sipp Culture; and the Greater Chattanooga Thrive region, in partnership with ArtsBuild and the Lyndhurst Foundation.

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