FIELD NOTES | Generative Act

Lisa Funderburke Hoffman
April 9, 2020

"Changing things, it's a generative act" - Tracy K. Smith


Dear Alliance of Artists Communities Network, 

Everyday we hear from residencies around the world about the impact COVID-19 is having on fund development, staffing, and their ability to serve artists. Given the communal nature of residences and the pandemic effect on artist mobility, residencies are facing unprecedented challenges. The initial data is sobering. Three weeks ago, before we began to fully grasp the impact of the economic slowdown, we surveyed a subset of our members and over 70% of organizations reported that they anticipate financial losses and 36% expect to make adjustments to staffing. In addition, more than 80% of programs have canceled or postponed residency sessions. We expect these numbers will grow exponentially in the coming weeks.

I have heard directly from many executive directors that they will have to make difficult decisions. Even organizations that have sizable endowments, cash reserves, or unanticipated savings due to an interruption in programs, acknowledge that they must rethink how they work and serve artists going forward.
There are also stories of artist relief, direct community engagement, courage, and re-imagination. Despite revenue losses and program changes, residencies are finding new ways to show up for their artists and communities. Some programs have refunded all application fees for the year while others are giving a full living stipend to artists whose residencies have been canceled. Several AAC members are partnering with community organizations to donate supplies, offer space for healthcare workers or field clinics, or provide access to tools and resources for making items now hard to come by due to supply chain disruptions.
The poet John O’ Donohue beautifully says, “For every fact, that becomes a fact, there are seven, eight, maybe five hundred possibilities hanging around in the background.”

We know you are inundated with data, facts, and hard realities but we encourage you to consider the possibilities:

  • What programs or decisions can you accelerate to promote “life safety first” for staff, artists, and communities?
  • If you have to make adjustments to staffing, how might you make these changes in the most generous and creative way? 
  • Will staff changes make your organization more cis, white, and able-bodied? If so, what can you do to prevent that?
  • If you have a cash reserve, what are you saving it for? If you are not using it now, then when?
  • How might you support artists in ways that do not require them to be onsite at your facility?


We herald residencies as generative spaces that support the most tender moments of the creative process. How might you bring this same ethos to your practice as a leader and administrator to begin to reimagine possibilities for your organization?

Lisa Funderburke Hoffman
Executive Director