Unfettering Artists' Productivity and Impact

Mission, History, & Now

The Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI) was founded in 2001 as a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. Its mission is to promote knowledge sharing, networking and financial independence for individual artists and creative entrepreneurs by providing business training, grants, and incubating innovative projects that create new program knowledge, tools and practices for artists in the field.

At the same time that CCI was being launched, a number of private foundations and arts funding agencies were also starting to look at the status and needs of individual artists in the United States.  In 2000, a major study was commissioned by 38 funders nationally, resulting in a 2003 benchmark report produced by the Urban Institute in Washington, DC titled Investing in Creativity: A Study of the Support Structure for U.S. Artists. Click here for a copy of that report.

The Urban Institute study showed, and CCI’s field experience has affirmed, that artists have significant needs in multiple domains, including training and professional development, material supports, access to markets, public validation, information, and participation in larger communities and networks.  Artists across the country are, in short, being woefully underserved.

It was in this context that CCI launched its first test product in 2002 with seed funding from the Small Business Administration - a business training workshop series for artists in Los Angeles called “Only For Artists Who Are Serious About The Business of Art.”  Since that time CCI has gone on to develop and refine a growing suite of training, financial support and networking tools for artists throughout California, and nationally, that we believe enhance their self-sufficiency and, collectively, address a real market need.

Over the years, CCI has become a key infrastructure organization in a number of ways:

  • CCI validates and serves the needs of artists, as well as supports arts administrators and workers. Individuals are at the heart of the arts, and CCI is a conduit for resources and opportunities to flow directly to them rather than by trickling down through institutions.
  • CCI is a partner bringing together funders, artists, researchers, field practitioners and other innovation partners to work on specific problem-solving projects. Many of CCI’s regranting, advocacy, funder collaborative, and research projects are an incubated effort to rise to the challenge of particular problems.
  • CCI is a generator of new knowledge: We commission primary research that expands understanding of artists and their needs. An example of this is our partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts to describe how the environment for artists have changed over the past decade with recommendations for the kinds of support systems that artists need today. This report will be release in late 2016.
  • CCI acts as a leader in the field articulating a vision for the value of supporting artists.

CCI operates with a vision that by linking the natural creativity and tolerance for risk of artists and creative entrepreneurs to the latest business tools and practices, and by helping to connect them to new financial resources, and to one another, CCI can give artists the knowledge and economic independence needed to bring their work and ideas into the marketplace, and establish a new voice for artists based on their collective clout. In addition, CCI unfetters creativity and resources by partnering with investors, researchers, policymakers, and others in ways that generate innovative solutions to the challenges facing artists. This is our vision. Knowledge is power. Personal networks build community. And financial independence supports creative freedom. This is the Center for Cultural Innovation.

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