Unfettering Artists' Productivity and Impact


Rustle Lab

Our name, Rustle Lab, alludes to several ideas: the sound of leaves as a metaphoric indicator of changing seasons; a soft muffled noise like the sometimes quiet work of being an intermediary organization; as well as (oddly enough) the stealing of livestock or for us, the willingness to snatch and replicate good ideas for the benefit of all. We draw meaning from these interpretations and are energized by the challenge to collectively create new social and economic possibilities that arts workers and cultural bearers often help spark.

At Rustle Lab, we recognize artists of all disciplines and sectors as workers whose human, financial, and social conditions require support. When we talk about art and cultural workers we are referring to individuals or groups of individuals who produce art, who shape our collective cultural identities, and who use their artistic and cultural perspectives to shape their environments in ways that lead to thriving communities reflective of our diverse society. 

Our aim is to better understand how tactics, like starting locally owned financial institutions, participating in cooperative land trusts, or experimenting with portable benefits, as just a few examples, enable artsworkers to achieve financial self-determination and more robust support systems. Our Lab’s efforts will primarily focus on artists and culture bearers, but we firmly maintain that because they span many different industries and geographies that the social and economic conditions that will support them are the very same that will support workers in all sectors -- especially those of marginalized communities.

The Lab’s research will continue to go deep, building on CCI’s long-standing track record of issuing critical research on artists, reports such as Arts Workers in California (2021) and Creativity Connects (2016) that highlight who are art workers and the conditions they work within. We also look to CCI’s AmbitioUS initiative, a strategic, time-limited investment and incubation program aimed at increasing economic self-determination for BIPOC cultural communities and its artists.  


Each project spearheaded by the Rustle Lab will have an arc of activities and partnerships stretching far beyond conventional research and advocacy work:

  • Commissioning and producing new empirically based knowledge that allows the public to understand how proposed solutions might work in real world conditions.
  • Identifying, working with, and supporting vision- and values-aligned allies, research centers, policymakers, and movement organizers in systemic change.
  • Participating in non-arts venues where “the arts” often has not been invited to a seat at the table with others working on shared social, economic, legal, and labor issues.
  • Funding with grant support or investments promising entities that offer solutions such as new infrastructure, service providers, and technologies that would allow art and culture workers with mechanisms they need to access capital and assets as well as increased collective power.

As the depth of our Lab’s research grows, we plan to create a separate 501(c)4 entity that will utilize our research to more aggressively advocate for local and national issues that hold promise of systemic change. We also will contract with a lobbying firm that will enable us to be a clearinghouse of important and timely information to activate what we are learning from empirically based research.

Previous CCI-commissioned & supported research is available here. 


Rustle Lab Press Release 


Rustle Lab went from being a dream to a reality with foundational support from: