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CRNY’s Think Tank: Designed by Artists, for Artists

September 28, 2022

This October, Creatives Rebuild New York’s Think Tank will reconvene virtually over a two-day period during which CRNY staff and Think Tank members will reflect on our Artist Employment and Guaranteed Income for Artist programs, share programmatic updates and mid-process learnings, and create space for collective reflection. We’re so looking forward to this reunion with our Think Tank, and we’d therefore like to take a moment to look back on their incredible work and how their dynamic collaboration has led us through the last year and into the fall of 2022.  

But first: what is the Think Tank, and why is it so crucial to CRNY’s existence? The Think Tank—a diverse coalition of New York State artists, scholars, strategists, and activists with wide-ranging identities and lived experiences—convened a year ago, in the fall of 2021. “As a Think Tank member, I was amazed by the diversity of voices and experiences in the Think Tank, includ[ing] artists and artist-serving administrators throughout the state from a variety of walks of life, from a variety of experiences, and from a variety of challenges in being an artist,” said independent cultural producer Prerana Reddy this past March during one of our Information Sessions. “All of those experiences, those challenges, are really reflected in the guidelines and in the application process. I was so heartened to see how [CRNY] managed to take all of [our] input to create a process that holds those values and trust.” 

This group determined the overall direction of both Guaranteed Income for Artists and Artist Employment Programs by providing technical expertise, advising on strategies, and advocating for artists’ work. From September 2021 to January 2022, the group participated in a series of regular meetings to engage in co-learning, strategic conversation, and program design to envision the specific needs and unique challenges that artists face in building a long-term, sustainable livelihood. These meetings were co-designed and co-facilitated with the United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives, and in the spirit of past initiatives. “The Guaranteed Income [program] takes inspiration from economic and racial justice movements of the past as well as [from] numerous examples of pilots and programs that are happening worldwide,” said Think Tank member Ted Berger during another Information Session, co-hosted by CNYArts. “[AEP] takes the spirit of WPA and CETA (the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) and takes it to another level.” 

As co-designers of both CRNY program, Think Tank members were—and continue to be—instrumental in the design, scope, breadth, and spirit of Creatives Rebuild New York. As we prepare for this two-day reunion, we likewise look back on Think Tank members’ crucial insights to program development, artistic labor, solidarity economy frameworks, and the need for financial support for artists. We are hopeful that our programs live up to the thoughtfulness and advocacy of our Think Tank members. “What is exciting is that the scale of this effort, the care and thought that has already gone into these programs […] are going to, in my opinion, make a significant difference in the narrative that we can tell about ourselves and our sector—and our essential workers,” said Berger last February. “I believe that [these programs] will advance policy at the local, state, and national levels. I’ve spent nearly 50 years in this sector working in a variety of ways to get more money to artists and arts organizations and other cultural workers. I think CRNY is really a major step in advancing the kind of systemic changes we all know are needed.” 

We are forever indebted to and thankful for the perspective, knowledge, care, kindness, and collaboration that Think Tank members continue to bring to the CRNY table, and we look forward to continuing to draw from their wisdom as our GI and AEP programs unfold.