Pittsburgh arts organizations are targeted on empowering native artists with the 2021 VACE Scholarship | Effective arts | Pittsburgh

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The Pittsburgh Arts Coalition, known as VACE or Visual Arts Coalition for Equity, began in 2020 in response to the pandemic. But the program aims to address justice issues in the arts beyond the struggles of COVID-19. The coalition continues its work with a four-month scholarship that shows candidates “the specifics of Pittsburgh small art business models, nonprofit governance, financial structures, programming, administration and core values”.

The 2021 Fellows include Atiya Jones, Karen Lue, Zoe Scruggs, Naomi Chambers, Shannon Thompson and Kemuel Benyehudah. Scruggs, an interdisciplinary artist, thanks you for being part of VACE as a scholarship holder.

“It was helpful to get so many examples of how to structure an organization, create programs, and serve an artist community in general,” says Scruggs.

The scholarship started in September and lasts until December.

VACE is made up of eight small visual arts organizations including Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, BOOM Concepts, Brew House Association, Bunker Projects, Casey Droege Cultural Productions, Nafasi on Center, Silver Eye Center for Photography, and Women of Visions, Inc. VACE Coordinator Dominique Chestand says the organizations have always worked closely together, but it wasn’t until the pandemic made them aware of their collective strengths and ability to weather the crisis together.

“Despite the changes we saw during the pandemic, needs in the arts sector have largely remained the same. Artists and creators often do not have sustainable incomes in their local economy, ”says Chestand. “Our goal has always been to create avenues that will fuel the local arts economy, especially for marginalized people who have little or no access to the resources they have. I think in the middle of the pandemic it became clear how urgent economic sustainability is necessary is.”

She adds that the Arts Equity Reimagined Fund provided financial support to the coalition in its first year of operation.

The VACE scholarship holders are selected by a selection committee consisting of one representative from each of the eight participating organizations. Finalists will be selected based on their previous work and current goals, which align with VACE’s Justice and Economic Sustainability Mission.

“While we provide the fellows with a lot of information about how we work as a coalition and as separate arts organizations, we don’t see our relationship with the VACE fellows as a student-teacher dynamic,” says Chestand. “We see them as accomplices. And we believe that the scholarship holders we selected were the best accomplices for our intended work. ”

Being an accomplice in this sense brings with it the responsibility of learning the philosophies of each VACE member organization, including their attitudes towards leadership and growth, strategic planning, and personal development. The fellows will do this by holding virtual meetings and in-person events, as well as producing independent works of art.

“I’m excited to see what comes out of all of these eight organizations, and the coalition-building that is being practiced between them is inspiring,” says Scruggs.

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