Springboard for the Arts Asks: How Do Our Artist Selves Change the Organization?

What does it mean to be an organization run by artists? How do our creative skills show up in our work?

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At a recent staff meeting, Springboard for the Arts spent time collaborating on a mind map of the relationship between their artistic and organizational selves. Image: Laura Zabel.

Editor’s note: Laura Zabel (Executive Director of Springboard for the Arts) reached out to us yesterday to share that the Springboard staff created this awesome mindmap (above) in response to our April topic: What can organizations learn from artists? We asked her to share a bit about the story behind it. 

I loved this month’s prompt to consider and share what organizations can learn from artists, and especially the questions: How can an organization embed artistic process into its practice? How can organizations create space for artists?

At Springboard for the Arts, we are an organization made up of artists. Everyone on the staff is an artist. It’s one of our guiding principles:

“Our programs are delivered by artists to artists: The simple act of naming people as artists and giving them responsibility for programs is an important means of empowerment and building artists’ agency. This doesn’t mean that all our services are delivered directly by artists – we tend to leave the medical care to doctors, for example. Everyone who works at Springboard is an artist and we all work one-on-one with our clients.”

Sometimes I describe Springboard as “a community development organization that happens to be run by artists.” So what does that actually mean? How do our artist selves change the organization? How do our creative skills show up in our work?

The easiest way for me to describe it is: At Springboard, our work is made much stronger when we all bring our whole selves to the work. Our artist experiences, processes, and relationships feed our work (and vice versa). And, our work is more effective when we consider the act of building and delivering programs as fundamentally creative.

Mapping it out: How the artistic process impacts our organization

Yesterday, at our staff meeting, we spent some time as a staff collaborating on a mind map of the relationship between our artistic and organizational selves and what that means for the organization. (You can refer to the actual map we created in the photo above.)

Some of the key things I noted on this map are: flexibility (of many kinds); the combination of collaboration and autonomy; a priority on learning; and the importance of relationships and networks.

I’m curious to see what stands out for other people about this map. What is different or the same compared to an organization that doesn’t define itself as “artist-run”?

To learn more about Laura and Springboard for the Arts, watch her Summit Talk.

We encourage you to share your own responses to this month’s set of three research questions. Click here to share your responses with us.

Laura Zabel is Executive Director of Springboard for the Arts, an economic and community development agency based in Minnesota. Springboard provides programs that help artists make a living and a life; and programs that help communities tap into the resource that artists provide.