Since 2002, jazz vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Allan Harris and his wife Pat Harris have been telling the story of Black cowboys in the American West through a musical called "Cross That River.” Harlem-based Allan and Pat Harris wrote the book for the musical, and Allan provided the music and lyrics. "Cross That River" follows Blue, a man who escaped slavery and finds a new life as a cowboy. The Harrises hope to “bring attention to the history of these people of color who helped to settle the West and whose achievements have been deliberately omitted from our history books.”
Fractured Atlas tries to be transparent about How We Work. Especially when it comes to the transition we made to becoming a fully distributed team. Over three years, we slowly wound down the number of people coming into our Manhattan office, and in late 2019, we fully flipped the switch. Here’s what it looked like for us to transition to a virtual team.
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At Fractured Atlas, it’s an understatement to say that we deal with grants a lot.
Huge numbers of artists and creatives are out of work as a result of COVID-19. And while we recognize that grants, fundraisers, and government aid are crucial right now, we know that they aren’t sufficient for us to rebuild our sector. We need systemic change to the ways that we work together, and in the ways that we work with clients and employers. One possible structure to build systemic change is cooperatives, or co-ops. Cooperatives are formed when groups of people pool resources and share in decision-making to share in risk and reward. In co-ops, workers are the owners.
The life of an artist can be a financially precarious one. You might be spending a big chunk of your own personal money buying supplies, traveling for research and then to show your work, or hiring outside help with funds out of your pocket to realize your vision. You might never see that money come back in the form of sales, royalties, or freelance jobs. And in case of emergency, artists are hard-hit. As we’ve seen in the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, when an emergency happens and planned contracts or shows fall through, there aren’t real safety nets for artists. There are very few formal mechanisms to support creatives and freelancers in an economic crisis, even though art has been more crucial than ever in the age of social distancing. We’ve seen tremendous and inspiring work to support artists in emergency. We’ve seen emergency grants, mutual aid funds, and spontaneous organizations of artists sharing resources and supporting each other. But we know that that isn’t enough.
As an artist, you need money to make your work. You might need money to pay someone to build your website, run lights for your play, or purchase the raw materials to make costumes.
In response to massive upheavals in the arts, nonprofit, and social justice sectors as a result of COVID-19, Tim Cynova (Chief Operating Officer at Fractured Atlas) and Lauren Ruffin (Chief External Relations Officer), recognized that we need to be talking to each other. In the arts and nonprofit sectors, we need to hear about how other institutions are managing crises and uncertainty, and how they are envisioning our future. So, they started talking to their colleagues.
Every month, Fractured Atlas provides a list of upcoming grant opportunities for artists and arts-based projects so that you can discover more opportunities to get financial support for your work. As a fiscal sponsor of 4000+ artistic projects, we provide access to grants for artists in every discipline.
For any organization to remain relevant in changing times, you have to be able to change. Organizations need to be able to adapt to uncertain futures, new technologies, new tools, and the changing needs of the communities you serve. You need to build a working environment where teams are able to try new ways of working and to develop new projects, and to not be afraid if an experiment doesn’t work out.
By now, you’ve almost certainly seen the Angela Davis quote that reads “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” We have to do more than share a somber tweet or email to members and donors. Anti-racism is an ongoing commitment and practice. For individuals and organizations, it involves examining the way our organizations operate, who and how we hire, how people are compensated, how meetings are conducted, who receives funding, and other structural considerations.