TAO has the joy of combining the talents of a diverse community of artists in its delivery of outreach programs in the community. Some folks dabble in the arts and others devote their lives to their craft. Art is not a hobby for them; they have decided that following their artistic dreams and passions are important enough to sacrifice the security and stability of ‘a day job.’ Some of them are rewarded handsomely for their artistic output and others less so. I respect them all for their passion, tenacity and courage.
So there’s that appreciation, and then there’s this: When Tidewater Arts Outreach began, the local arts commissions told us they wanted to see artist compensation in our business model. We were glad to steer TAO in that direction. And so, in September 2005, when our annual operating budget was $18,000, we started giving artists stipends for their TAO programs. And we have never looked back.
Our FY13 budget is still meager, but it’s ten times what it was then. In September ’12, we announced we were doubling artist stipends – so now, one artist is paid $60, two artists are paid $90, and three or more receive $120 for their services. It is below the going rate, but it helps significantly for those professionals who choose to devote their time and talent to creating and presenting programs for our clients. And those programs are, quite often, extra-ordinary. Art therapists and graduate art therapy students help children on dialysis at CHKD create art. We engage a drum circle facilitator who has made this his life’s work. A music teacher is engaged through us to help seniors form a singing group at a long-term care facility. Without stipends for these and many other contributors each month, these programs would not exist.
For those artists who don’t need the extra money, or who would rather see these funds go to supporting more TAO programs, we make it easy to reverse some or all of the stipend back to TAO, which we treat as a donation. Or they may choose to collect the income and donate it to another charity. The key element here, I think, is that TAO values its artists by compensating them for their very special services, often a culmination of talents and skills that have been developed over years and years. And our stipend increase comes with the expectation that artists will continue to develop and tailor their programs specifically for TAO clients. To that end, there’s a wealth of material and resources on our website about various special needs populations and how to create effective programming for them. We also help artists on an individual basis, brainstorming and providing guidance so they are able to offer program participants the most effective arts experiences they can.
TAO was started by artists. The medical community is coming around to show their support, and so is the business community, but we need the continued support of the arts community, who has always been so generous to entertain, engage and inspire through a wealth of programs. We’re working to do the right thing for all the artists involved. Our board is focused on getting the resources needed to sustain the momentum of increased financial support. We at TAO have tremendous thanks and appreciation to all the very special and talented artists who, through the years, have contributed considerable talents, enthusiasm, time and energy to fulfilling our mission. Next: why advocacy for the arts is so important.