Beginning in the Fall of 2023, the Indiana Arts Commission launched a statewide Artist Needs Assessment. The assessment consists of two core components: (1) Eleven in-person facilitated listening sessions across Indiana with artists of a variety backgrounds and (2) a subsequent public survey based on listening session feedback disseminated statewide. The feedback from the listening sessions and survey will directly inform future services and programs for individual artists in Indiana.
The goals of the Artist Needs Assessment are threefold:
- Create an opportunity for local artists to network, connect, and learn from peers.
- Inform new and refined services and programming for individual artists in Indiana.
- Provide an open forum for artists of a variety of backgrounds to voice opinions, concerns, experiences, and needs connected to their experience as an Indiana creative.
What We’ve Heard So Far
From September to November 2023, the IAC conducted eleven listening sessions in every region of the state with over 150 participants from many different artistic, geographic, and demographic backgrounds. Each listening session was recorded and transcribed producing over 400 pages of anonymized feedback. After analyzing the feedback, five needs emerged consistently across the listening sessions. The needs are: networks and connection, marketing support and education, financial support and education, local investment in local artists, and affordable and accessible space.
Throughout the listening sessions these five needs were framed by the intersection of identity and career as an artist. Artists often referenced the influence of family, access to arts education, and their evolving relationship with their artistic practice as core experiences that inform how they understand and live their career as an artist. Overwhelmingly, artists shared that the greatest fulfillment in their life as artists comes from the joy of engaging in and sharing their creative practice with others in a community that values and recognizes the contribution of artists.
It is important to understand the scope of these needs. These are not definitive statements or conclusions about Indiana artists, nor do they tell the full story of Indiana creatives. This represents the feedback from a sample of Indiana artists. This is a starting point for deeper inquiry and the beginning of ongoing feedback loops to help the IAC provide meaningful services and programs. See below for more details on the five primary needs.
- Networks and Connection
Feedback from artists focused heavily on the desire to build more relationships and connections with other artists, within and beyond their respective disciplines. Artists sought mentors, recurring opportunities to meet other artists, resources to find other local artists, and community hubs dedicated to creatives to spark organic networks and relationships. Networks and connections were seen as vital to career success and the ability to grow locally.
- Marketing Support & Education
Marketing was mentioned as a particular challenge for many artists. Specifically, social media marketing was recognized as a very time-consuming effort that seldom produced a meaningful return in engagement. Additionally, participants noted a lack of local resources, outside of social media, to advertise and champion local artists. Technical assistance and educational resources about marketing emerged as priorities.
- Financial Support & Education
As artists described their life and career, many noted a recurring tension between creativity and financial stability that limited deeper emersion in their artistic work/product. Challenges such as inconsistency of cash flow, health insurance, cost of materials, and time for business planning are key drivers that build tension between creativity and financial stability. The time and stress of running a business as an artist often meant the need for multiple part-time positions or a full-time position to subsidize their artistic career.
- Local Investment in Local Artists
Artists noted that local government and local organizations are critical catalysts for artists’ careers and artist retention. Feedback highlighted how public art, local festivals, and local performing and exhibiting opportunities are essential resources, particularly for young artists, and lay the groundwork for local artist growth, as well as public engagement. Many artists emphasized the importance of government and organizations prioritizing support, resources, and opportunities for artists working locally.
- Affordable and Accessible Space
In all the listening sessions, feedback and discussion about having a “career” as an artist was rooted in identity. Artists often referenced the influence of family, access to arts education, and their evolving relationship with their artistic practice as core experiences that inform how they understand and live their career as an artist. Overwhelmingly, artists shared that the greatest fulfillment in their life as artists comes from the joy of engaging in and sharing their creative practice with others in a community that values the contribution of artists.
The listening sessions were the starting point for artist feedback. Following the listening sessions, a survey was being distributed statewide. Following the closing of the survey, the IAC will analyze the data, share findings with the field, and launch a new program/service directly responding to feedback from artists across the state. See the timeline below for more details.
- Winter 2024: A follow up survey, based on listening session feedback, is open statewide for artists in Indiana to share feedback on their experience as artists.
- Spring 2024: A final report detailing findings from both the listening session and the survey will be shared.
- Summer/Fall 2024: Introduction of a new program/service based on data gathered and analyzed through all parts of the Artist Needs Assessment