Artist Communities Alliance Strategic Plan Summary | Living the Aspiration

2021 - 2023
ACA Staff
August 25, 2021

Blog post drafted by Jennifer Shropshire, Consultant at Edward F. Swenson & Associates Inc., for ACA.

Artist Communities Alliance (ACA) (ACA prounounced "Ah-kah") is thrilled to share our 2021-2023 Strategic Plan — a map for how ACA works in support of the artist residency field and the values and questions that anchor this work. This plan was developed in service to the people who power the artist residency field: administrators, artists, and culture bearers of artist residency organizations. It is both a promise for how ACA will show up in support of this network and an invitation to join us on this journey. 


Through nearly 18 months of disruption, tragedy, and pain, the strategic planning process illuminated ways to restore and fuel people and communities. This strategic plan, summarized below, is our roadmap for embodying equitable capacity at ACA and supporting the artist residency field in this work. We encourage you to explore the full plan here

Guiding Principles

ACA’s vision, mission, and values guide implementation of the strategic plan. They both ground decision-making and insist on fluidity, alertness to the changing landscape, and the continual assemblage and integration of many different voices.

Our Vision

An artist residency field that shapes a world where people have the freedom to unleash their full creative potential and prosper in inclusive, just, joyful, and accessible environments.

Our Mission Question

How can ACA unite the people who power residencies and inspire a field?


Four sets of strategies — goals, objectives, and conditions of satisfaction — outline paths towards realizing the identified vision. Still, this is a continuous work in progress; no one conversation, document, or plan will determine all aspects of the future.

For each goal, key themes are lifted up to hint at the wide-ranging yet focused initiatives ACA has started to undertake.

Goal 1: Equitable, Well-Resourced, and Valued Field

Artist Communities Alliance will elevate its support of residencies in creating environments where artists and staff have the resources, knowledge, and perspective to do their best work. With equitable practices at the core, ACA’s research, advocacy, professional development and communication services will help ensure that the field thrives. Towards this goal we will:

  • Build the field’s equitable capacity by providing broad access to resources and information on effective approaches        
  • Implement field-strengthening research and develop resources for assessing and building equitable capacity
  • Foster sustainability of the field by facilitating flexible and supportive funding
  • Illustrate the essential role of artist residencies for individual artists
  • Lead the field in issue-based conversations and concrete action
  • Mobilize meta-residency networks

Goal 2: Generative and Healthy Residency Climates

Artist Communities Alliance will encourage residencies to make organizational change that creates a climate where residency staff and any artist can connect, learn together, experiment, grow, and ignite change. Challenging programs to reimagine their relationships and plans, ACA will support residency leaders in reflection, self-assessment, and concrete action. Towards this goal we will:

  • Build universal practices of reflection, evaluation, and transparency around of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility qualities of their residency climate
  • Foster artist and staff mobility through fair compensation practices and removal of financial barriers
  • Increase transparency of and access to residency profiles
  • Deepen supports for the full spectrum of artist practice and needs
  • Foster practices of land acknowledgement, stewardship of natural resources, and resolution of the implications of environmental change on people

Goal 3: Relevance and Responsiveness to Members

Artist Communities Alliance will increase affordable and accessible opportunities for a varied and growing membership to connect, learn, and exchange with colleagues and affinity programs. Resources for emerging and established residency and other arts-centered programs will deepen learning around better practices and lessons acquired by on-the-ground failures and successes. Towards this goal we will:

  • Spark learning, collaboration, and innovation through year-round peer-to-peer connectivity, exchange, and mentorships
  • Advance artist-centered solutions to common issues in the field through expanded digital content and knowledge sharing
  • Support refinement of organizational processes, policies, and practices for sustainability
  • Encourage ongoing professional development and building leadership pathways 
  • Illuminate the varied typology and context of programs

Goal 4: Aspirational Practice, Execution, and Sustainability

Artist Communities Alliance will create sustainable infrastructure change to support people and the planet across all domains — board, staff, technology, process, and identity. A culture of deep thinking, questioning, and pushing well beyond the norm will help position ACA to realize its full potential. Towards this goal we will:

  • Engage a diverse and inclusive board as active stewards, thought partners, and ambassadors to and from the field
  • Foster staff fulfillment and purpose
  • Sustain a culture of generosity and care
  • Attract resources to support a global membership
  • Build an infrastructure of systems and digital capabilities
  • Clarify ACA’s identity as a connector, knowledge sharer, and advocate
  • Strengthen ACA’s long-term fiscal health 


Living the Aspiration: The Strategic Planning Process

Monday, September 27, 2021 1:00pm - 2:30pm ET


The strategic plan was developed and documented in a spirit of inquiry, interrogation, generosity, and joy. Seeking out and asking the “beautiful question,” as so poetically articulated by David Whyte, became a thread throughout the many, many conversations that led to these aspirations. Key participants in the collaborative process of ideation and value-setting were the member network, ACA’s Board of Directors, ACA’s staff, and leaders in the field.

 Watch the recording of the conversation


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