Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Works In Progress: A New Funding Initiative for Creative Professionals In North Louisiana

The purpose of Works In Progress (WIP) is to provide financial and educational resources directly to creative professionals who live and work in North Louisiana.

This geographic area includes the following parishes in Regions 1 – 4:

Bossier, Bienville, Richland,Caddo, Jackson, Madison,Claiborne, Desoto, LaSalle, 
Lincoln, Natchitoches, Concordia, Morehouse, Winn, East Carroll, Union, Sabine, Catahoula, Webster, Red River, Ouachita, West Carroll, Caldwell, Grant

WIP defines “creative professional" as follows:

Creative professionals are the people and organizations that
transform cultural skills, knowledge, and ideas into goods, services, 
and events. Our core cultural segments include design, performing 
arts, music, entertainment, literary arts and humanities, visual arts, 
and culinary arts.

If North Louisiana’s cultural workers are to thrive, funding and business practices must be in place to support strategies that cultivate artists' careers, enable artistic experimentation, and create income opportunities in the creative professions.

Works In Progress will put cash from non-governmental grants and community donors directly into the hands of North Louisiana’s creative professionals in order to help them become self-sustaining.  WIP will help creative professionals learn how to write grant proposals, set goals, measure outcomes, and plan for future professional success at no cost to the artists.

WIP grantees will be able to answer these key questions:
  • What is my/our organization’s artistic ambition?
  • What is the current business model for supporting my artistic ambitions? Or, how will the artist/organization deliver and support activities through a cost structure and revenue strategy that comprises earned and contributed sources? Is this plan realistic for the next 3-5 years?
  • To achieve the desired future business model and capital structure, what needs to change between now and then?
  • What investments do I/we need to make to attract recurring revenue that will support our business/art career after WIP funds are expended?
  • How will I/we raise that capital - or adjust our plans if we cannot?
  • How will I/our organization measure progress and success during the next 3-5 years?

Once WIP funding is spent, the artist/organization should be able to more fully
cover its future costs with reliable sources of revenue (reliable revenue = an estimate of the amounts of earned and contributed revenue with a track record of recurrence such as ticket sales, memberships or tuition income raised consistently over a sustained period of time).

Image: © Australia Council for the Arts

Controlling funding for arts via quasi-governmental agencies is not beneficial for artists - but it is the general practice in Louisiana.  These bureaucratic “arts councils” are most often run by non-artists, are controlled by the interests of government and large-gift private donors, and have their own political/aesthetic interests and agendas. These organizations also engage in outdated, hierarchical management styles, and do not have a history of significant direct artist support – especially in North Louisiana.  

Cultural and political differences between North and South Louisiana (e.g.: New
Orleans Cajun culture, Baton Rouge-controlled funding, etc.) have negatively affected support for artists in North Louisiana for decades - with the northern half of the state historically receiving less in government allocations and trickle-down grant funding.  

Without dedicated grant writers at their disposal, North Louisiana artists and cultural organizations have few other alternatives for direct support outside of bureaucratic, government-controlled arts councils. 

Needless to say, there is a huge unmet need in North Louisiana (and nationwide) for private, non-profit funding for creative professionals who are seeking start-up support, change capital, and meaningful financial assistance.  WIP will maintain a reliable source of financial support that is accessible to local artists when they need it. 

WIP will enable creative professionals to pursue artistic innovation and experimentation, learn how to manage a business, prepare for the unexpected, and make critical investments in income-generating activity.

Use of WIP funding will be strategically flexible. The funds can be used to support the errors, risk-taking and “re-dos” that are sometimes necessary to achieve a desired final result.

Image: © 2013 Creative Capital

WIP will also organize educational workshops, and offer business consultation and other customized services as needed by North Louisiana’s cultural workforce. 

WIP is utilizing research from the National Endowment for the Arts, Americans for the Arts, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the State of Louisiana Department of
Culture, Recreation and Tourism in order to gain an understanding of the needs/areas for improvement in our cultural community.

During the creation phase of our organization, WIP is working closely with Mr. Kim Mitchell to implement the Purdue University Center for Regional Development's "Strategic Doing" Initiative (http://www.pcrd.purdue.edu/What_We_Do/SD/). This hands-on training will help our Board of Directors build a network/relationship-based foundation, and steer away from outdated hierarchical management models that are not effective when working with creative people.

Copyright © 2012, Purdue University/Ed Morrison

We have based our business plan on the model programs of Craft Emergency Relief Fund, ArtsWave, Grantmakers in the Arts, United States Artists, and Creative Capital.

We are specifically researching unmet needs in our arts sector, application processes, and realistic performance metrics for creative professionals.

Contact Debbie Hollis at 318.751.8540 if you are interested in becoming a community donor, or if you have a project that might qualify for Works In Progress funding.


Works In Progress, WIP, Works In Progress Louisiana, and www.worksinprogresslouisiana.com are the intellectual property of Deborah Lynn Hollis.  WIP's programs and business plan are the intellectual property of Deborah Lynn HollisCopyright 2014.