Scaffolding for Practicing Artists (SPA)

Activating our desire to support the inherent dignity, humanity, and worthiness of artists, MAP Fund created Scaffolding for Practicing Artists (SPA).

SPA takes an artist-centered approach that honors the sacredness of process in the often product-driven creative sectors — nonprofit and for-profit alike. Practicing artists encounter few professional spaces that are free of judgment and competition, and to which they can bring their full selves. 

SPA’s goals are to increase artists’ feelings of agency in their artistic work/careers and to build a deeper sense of community and belonging. We pursue these goals by providing artists with two kinds of support:

1. Coaching: one-on-one with an experienced advisor over a period of 12 months (up to 7 sessions)
2. Gathering: a two-day facilitated experience wherein SPA artists coach each other

Since its 2012 launch, co-designed by MAP staff and consultant David Sheingold, SPA has engaged more than 200 artists. In 2019, MAP commissioned an assessment of the program. 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 staff, which continue to inform program improvements.

Currently, we offer SPA participation to a subset of MAP grantees and — through a partnership with the Jerome Foundation — to Jerome Hill Artist Fellows.

ValuesProgram elementsPartnershipshistorycurrent coachesFAQ

The following values animate all of SPA’s work.

Curiosity: Deep listening and posing thoughtful questions are at the heart of our approach. We believe that artists often know how to move through quandaries and toward opportunities, but are socialized to doubt their knowledge and instincts. Through shared inquiry, we unpack assumptions and identify paths forward.

Humility: While SPA coaches bring expertise to the table, they do not presume to have all of the answers to questions that may emerge in a coaching relationship, hence the importance of curiosity. When possible, we point artists toward existing field resources and networks of support.

Intuition: In life, in art, in creative practice, we are required to step into the unknown. SPA embraces that truth and leans into the importance of the many kinds of knowledge that help us navigate the world.

Compassion: Presence. Sincere lovingkindness. Open mindedness and heartfulness. Belief in the inherent worthiness and dignity of every being. 

Shared responsibility: Artists, coaches, and MAP staff are engaged in the shared endeavor of creating the SPA experience. While our structures are flexible, we create explicit agreements to help “protect the playground.”

Ease: Life is stressful enough. We want the containers of the program to cultivate peace, and as such our protocols and practices are crafted with ease in mind. We want just enough structure that we can relax into our practices.

Analysis of structural oppression: We understand the work of artists in the context of intersecting systems of oppression. It’s not random that being an artist is challenging — particularly if you are a person of color, a trans artist, living in a rural place, or moving through the world with other identities or experiences that are marginalized and exploited. Dominant systems are designed this way.

One-on-One Coaching

The coaching process provides artists with a unique opportunity to have an ongoing, advising relationship with an experienced practitioner who is familiar with the arts and culture ecosystem. Rather than a predetermined curriculum, the coaching process begins with each artists’ goals and desires for their creative practice. From there, artists work with their coach to find a flow, pacing, and purpose for the one-on-one coaching engagement. SPA coaches have worked with artists on everything from approaches to touring new works to cultivating institutional partnerships to building sustainable creative careers. Coaching relationships unfold in the course of a year, with up to seven sessions. Each session can last from 45 – 90 minutes, depending on the artist’s preference and in agreement with their coach.

Gathering

Once participating artists have completed a majority of their coaching sessions, they are invited to attend a gathering of peers. These meetings are an opportunity for artists to offer to each other the same deep listening, thoughtful questioning, and compassionate shared problem-solving that they experienced with their coach. Over two days, artists bring to the group their questions, quandaries, and opportunities and are guided through a lightly facilitated process to support each other. These gatherings take place online or in-person and are facilitated by SPA coaches. In addition to clarity on how to move forward in response to their questions, artists leave the gatherings with an expanded cross-disciplinary network of peers who can be advocates, confidants, collaborators, and co-conspirators.

To date, we only offer SPA in combination with direct financial support because we understand that monetary resources can help create the sense of spaciousness that allows artists to optimally benefit from coaching and gathering. This breathing room enables the dreaming, visioning, reflection, long-term planning, and strategic thinking that we believe will help sustain artists’ practices for years to come.

Currently, we offer SPA participation to a subset of MAP grantees and — through a partnership with the Jerome Foundation — to Jerome Hill Artist Fellows. Thanks to our funding partners, we provide SPA at no cost to participants. (In fact, we offer a stipend to artists when they attend a gathering.) 

We continue to look for new partners that will enable us to provide this program to more artists. We are happy to consider ways to bring SPA to existing artist cohorts, as well as help think through new programs for artist support and development. Please contact Ron Ragin, SPA Director, for more information.

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.

Starting in the early 2010’s MAP staff noticed a pattern: artists were more frequently contacting them with concerns about self-production. Fewer large arts institutions were providing comprehensive commissions to support the creation of new work. As a result, individual artists faced 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. These trends continue today.

Co-designed by MAP staff and consultant David Sheingold and launched in 2012, the Scaffolding for Practicing Artists (SPA) Program provides unique forms of support to independent artists and ensembles in response to these dramatic, nationwide shifts in arts sector producing structures over the past decade.

Michele Kumi (久美) Baer is an experienced facilitator, coach, educator, cultural organizer, and grantmaker working in and across the arts and philanthropic fields. Her various work projects include: supporting a variety of organizations and individuals in deepening their racial equity practices, organizing in coalitions to advance racial and cultural justice, and serving as a coach and advisor to artists, arts administrators, and philanthropic practitioners. Michele has worked with a variety of funders, arts service organizations, advocacy groups, and performing arts festivals over the course of their career. A lifelong dancer, Michele’s sensibilities as a mover and choreographer shape how she strategizes, facilitates, and collaborates. People reading this may also enjoy knowing that Michele is a Capricorn Sun, Pisces Moon, and Aries Ascendant.  

Likes to talk to artists about: Their artistic practices and communities; what they are unlearning, undoing, and releasing; how they honor the lineage and ancestry of their art forms and/or selves in their practice; how to build and call in support structures that feed and sustain their visions; how to interrupt racist, ableist, patriarchal, and colonial narratives that permeate the arts field; and what they imagine for the future.

A Doris Duke Performing Artist, Sharon Bridgforth is a writer that creates ritual/jazz theatre. A 2020-2023 Playwrights’ Center Core Member, Sharon has received support from Creative Capital, MAP Fund, the National Performance Network and is a New Dramatists alumnae. Sharon served as a dramaturg for the Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center Initiative’s Choreographic Fellowship program and has been in residence with: Brown University’s MFA Playwriting Program; University of Iowa’s MFA Playwrights Program; The Theatre School at DePaul University; allgo, A Texas Statewide QPOC Organization; and The Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University. Widely published, Sharon author of the Lambda Literary award winning, “the bull-jean stories”, and her performance piece, “delta dandi”, is published in “solo/black/woman: scripts, interviews and essays”.

Likes to talk to artists about: Coffee, Black Mermaids that fly, The Great African-American Migrations, Ancestral Healing, my Mentors, Theatrical Jazz, the Work of Love.

Elizabeth Doud is a Florida-based arts organizer and artist with over 20 years experience as an arts presenter, producer and educator, with an emphasis on international cultural exchange, climate arts and language education. She is known as a tenacious advocate for new performance with a professional mission to facilitate climate arts and eco-justice activism. She has worked widely throughout the U.S. and Latin America and the Caribbean, and co-created Climakaze Miami with FUNDarte in 2015, an annual climate performance and dialogue platform. She led the Performing Americas Program of the National Performance Network from 2005-2018, and was the Artistic Director of the Cultura del Lobo Series at Miami Dade College from 2009-2011. She holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Miami and a Ph.D. in Performing Arts at the Federal University of Bahia, Brazil. In 2019, she became the Curator of Performance at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, FL.

Likes to talk to artists about: Deeply curious about artistic process, finding support and analyzing habits and goals. I’m a fearless dream-tank session partner and pretty darn good at understanding purpose and potential of new projects/initiatives. Favorite pastime: Undoing seriousness while rebuilding the sacred.

Bear Hebert is a theater maker, visual artist and writer who makes their living as a countercultural life coach, social justice educator, and anti-capitalist business consultant. Bear is queer, white, working class, and Southern; Scorpio sun, Sagittarius rising; ENTJ. When not working, Bear spends their days sitting near bodies of water and riding bikes around New Orleans, chasing all the joy they can find.

Likes to talk to artists about: Anti-capitalism, marketing, branding, fundraising, creative practice, non-extractive productivity, the power of queerness, undoing patriarchy, unlearning whiteness, self-love, healing, joy, and more.

Rika lino oversees a trio of Sozo companies: Sozo Artists, a dynamic roster of artists in dance, music, spoken word, new media and film focused on innovation and social justice; Sozo Impact, a non-profit organization dedicated to incubating work by BIPOC artists and creative producers; and Sozo Vision, a consultancy formed with Marc Bamuthi Joseph to help cultural institutions become anti-racist. Rika’s work as producer/manager spans two decades and hundreds of projects with artists and organizations globally. Rika plays an active role in arts advocacy and leadership development across the industry including work with Creative & Independent Producer Alliance, Association for Performing Arts Professionals, and International Society for the Performing Arts. She is the first woman of color to receive the Patrick Hayes Award for transformative leadership in the arts. 

Likes to talk to artists about: Visioning. Positioning. Branding. Strategies. Entrepreneurship.

Georgiana Pickett is currently an independent consultant in art and culture and works with individual artists, philanthropic entities and cultural institutions in the areas of strategic planning, resource development, programming and career stabilization and advancement.

Georgiana was the Executive Director of the Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) from August 2011 through May 2019. BAC, a 501(c)3, fulfills Artistic Director Mikhail Baryshnikov’s vision to support artists at all career stages, and in the development process. 

Georgiana has been a steadfast contributor to the arts on local, national and international levels for 24 years. She was the Artistic Director at Miami-Dade College’s Cultural Affairs Department for 6 years and led a program focused on Latin America and the Caribbean. Following Miami-Dade, Georgiana served for 8 years as the Executive Director of 651 ARTS, a Brooklyn-based internationally recognized presenter and producer of contemporary performing arts from the African Diaspora. She has been a panelist and/or consultant for many national and regionally significant entities including the Ford, Doris Duke Charitable, Mid-Atlantic, and Gerbode Foundations as well as for the National Endowment for the Arts, NYSCA and New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs. She served on the Board of Directors of CEPA Gallery, Tigertail Productions, The Association of Performing Arts Professionals and was a long-term member of the Dean’s Advisory Council for the College of Liberal Arts at SUNY Buffalo, her alma mater. She is a member of the Arts Advisory Board of the Princess Grace Foundation and is a newly appointed trustee of the Merce Cunningham Trust. Georgiana is a proud native of Buffalo, NY but has made Brooklyn her home for the past 17 years.

Likes to talk to artists about: What their current concerns and celebrations are, where they live, where they are from, and how those and other things shape their current practice. Vision, worth, planning, infrastructure and what brings the revolution.

Ron Ragin is a researcher, strategist, organizer, coach, and interdisciplinary artist. He sustains a vibrant performance and creative writing practice, rooted in music of the African Diaspora, improvisation, and cultivation of spiritual technologies. He is ever-curious about the role of sound, and the unamplified human voice in particular, in transforming our environment, our selves, and each other. Alongside his creative work, Ron partners with artists, organizations, and grantmaking institutions to help them move in deeper alignment with their values, goals, and principles. For nearly a decade, he worked in the field of arts and cultural philanthropy, with program officer posts at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Ron makes a mean red velvet cake, and can throw down on some biscuits. 

Likes to talk to artists about: Purpose, vision, creating a sustainable creative life, surviving capitalism, everyday futurism, all things strategy, navigating institutions

Leila Tamari is a multidisciplinary cultural worker, facilitator, and strategist. She is the Founder + Principal of the creative consultancy This Place Works (TPW). At TPW, Leila works at the intersection of moving money with repair, community self-determination, and arts & culture. Her work spans many different scales: from hyper-local to national contexts, and from personal transformation to systems change. Leila’s work in wealth redistribution began as Senior Program Officer at ArtPlace America. There, she led the National Creative Placemaking Fund which distributed $87 million toward equitable cultural community development across 48 states, Puerto Rico, The Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. Leila’s connection to place grew from her ancestral roots, upbringing, and early career roles as a community organizer and cultural producer.”

Likes to talk to artists about: Ancestral legacies, healing from oppression (*coughs* racial capitalism), our creative wet dreams, and real life $h*!

I am an artist who wants to participate in SPA. How can I do that?  

At this time, SPA is available to MAP grantees and Jerome Hill Fellows. Due to significant COVID-related changes to the MAP grant program in 2020 and 2021, new grantee enrollment in SPA was temporarily suspended. We will resume enrollment in the 2022 grant round. Stay tuned for more information when future opportunities are announced. 

How are MAP artists selected to participate in SPA? 

Historically, SPA focused on artists who did not have ongoing institutional relationships, leading them to primarily self-produce their work. We identified these self-producing artists based on MAP staff’s knowledge of their practice — through application materials and other sources — and artists were invited to participate. Through a 2019 program assessment, artists shared their view that any MAP grantee could benefit from the SPA program and that an ever-growing group of artists are now experiencing the need to self-produce, even when they have partnerships with organizations. We are currently developing a more equitable process for selecting which artists will participate, including ways for MAP grantees to indicate their interest in SPA. To learn more about our grantmaking program, click here.  

How much does SPA cost?

Currently, the per-artist cost is $6000 for participation in both one-on-one coaching and a virtual gathering. This amount includes a $1000 stipend that goes directly to artists to support their participation in the gathering. Thanks to our funding partners, SPA participation is offered at no direct cost to artists. 

How does SPA select its coaches?

When looking for coaches, the SPA Program is interested in folks who have worked in the arts, culture, and creative sectors in multiples ways and have specific experience providing advice, guidance, a listening ear, and support to individual working artists. In addition, we want folks whose practice reflects our program values and who bring a structural analysis of oppression, a commitment to justice, and an ability to work with artists across a wide range of identities, experiences, and social and political locations. We are currently in the process of expanding the coaching ensemble. If you are interested in working as a SPA coach, please email info@mapfund.org with more information about you, your coaching practice, and your interest in working with SPA. 

How are artists matched with a coach?

It’s a mix of information and intuition. When artists enroll in SPA we offer them an opportunity to share topics they’d like to discuss with a coach as well as characteristics they are looking for in a coach. Coaches indicate whether they think they might be a good or not-so-good match for each artist based on their review of artists’ responses as well as information artists share about their identities, practices, and desires for their creative work. Ultimately, the SPA program director makes the final pairings based on all of the above. 

How are the one-on-one coaching sessions structured? 

Coaching relationships unfold in the course of a year, with up to seven coaching sessions. Each session can last from 45 to 90 minutes, depending on the artist’s preference and in agreement with their coach.

What are some examples of the kinds of topics artists discuss with their coach?

Some areas of consistent inquiry include: strategizing around a specific creative project (design, troubleshooting, implementation), clarifying one’s purpose and vision, creating sustainable structures for creative work and life, relationship building (networking), and accountability partnership. 

How do coaching sessions occur?

Most coaching sessions happen remotely — via phone or videoconference, based on the agreements between the coach and artist. Occasionally, coaching sessions take place in person, when artists and coaches are in the same location. Like SPA participants, coaches live and work across the country, so in-person sessions may not be feasible. 

Do gatherings happen in-person? Online?

Prior to the SARS-COV2 pandemic, SPA gatherings routinely took place in New York City. Since the pandemic unfolded, we have moved to online gatherings, which have proven to have similar power and impact on participants. Going forward we may offer a mix of in-person or online gathering options, based on public health and safety guidelines as well as participating artists’ preferences. 

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