The arts sector is facing a challenging time—closures of our art institutions, cancellations of our visual and performing arts, lost wages for artists.

Americans for the Arts (AFTA) has been focused on advancing the arts and arts education in the United States for over 50 years. The nonprofit organization conducts research, creates resources, and enables networking and collaboration—all in an effort to serve the diverse networks of organizations and individuals who cultivate the arts.

Whether you’re an artist, a representative of an arts organization, or an advocate for the arts, AFTA has something for you. Their website is seemingly endless with research, programs and services.

Some tools, like their Art Services Directories and webinar platform, ArtsU, are only accessible for their membership, but they also have free toolkits, an ARTSblog and events (which are quickly becoming virtual). 

We’ve broken down all of their opportunities so you can easily find resources to help you during this time. They are grouped as following:

  • Policy and advocacy

  • Professional networks

  • Interdisciplinary initiatives

  • Professional development


Policy and Advocacy 

AFTA focuses on integrating the arts into national issues to bring about innovation and change. 

Through rigorous research and collaboration, AFTA provides potent arguments and actionable steps towards integrating the arts into our nation’s domestic and foreign policy. Interested? The nonprofit fosters civic engagement through programs like the Arts Mobilization Center.

You can help create change with the following initiatives. 

Animating Democracy, a program of AFTA

Americans for the Arts’ Animating Democracy program strengthens the role of artists and cultural organizations as leaders and partners in civic engagement and social change. Animating Democracy focuses its work in four areas: opportunities and resources, research and evaluation, messaging and case-making, and strategic alliance. 

Want to get involved? You can find their publications, workshops and consulting services, convenings, and e-news here.

Arts Action Fund

The mission of the Arts Action Fund is to enlist and mobilize one million citizen activists to advance the arts and arts education at the federal, state and local levels.

Cultural Equity

Americans for the Arts recognizes that many existing systems of power grant privilege and access unequally, and that equity is crucial to the long-term viability of both the arts and culture sector and communities-at-large. The nonprofit is working to ensure that everyone has equal access to a full, vibrant creative life. They've compiled a list of definitions, created tools and templates, listed programs and services including equity training consultants. Find it all here. 

Cultural Planning Resources

Cultural planning is instrumental in establishing the arts in our local communities. If you’re interested in starting a cultural facility, or a larger strategic plan for your community, AFTA has tips for getting started here

Americans for the Arts also provides a National Cultural Districts Exchange Toolkit to help guide the development and advancement of Cultural Districts in your community. 

Disaster Preparedness

Is your arts agency, organization or studio prepared for emergencies and disasters? Both natural and man-made disasters have increased in the United States over the past few years. AFTA encourages you to be prepared so that you can support your community during these tough times— “Often, the arts are one of the first things people turn to in times of need.” Read why we need arts in the time of crisis. 

Check out their checklists for individuals and arts organizations to help guide emergency and disaster planning. Then check out Artwork Archive's tutorials on how to prepare for natural disasters.

National Arts Action Summit

This multi-day event gives you the opportunity to receive advocacy training from experts in the field. What will you get out of the summit?

  • Network with fellow arts advocates.
  • Learn the latest research facts and figures on the arts to help make your case.
  • Strategize on how best to make your case for the arts and arts education to your Members of Congress.


City of Dreams/River of History by Richard Wyatt, Jr. in Los Angeles Union Station. Photo courtesy of LA Metro.


Professional Networks & Councils

Americans for the Arts has 12 different networks like the Rural Arts Network and Emerging Leaders Network. We’re highlighting a few below.  

Public Art Network 

“Americans for the Arts Public Art Network (PAN) provides an opportunity for practitioners, artists and other field experts to engage in dialogue about current trends and issues facing the field as well as provide insight and resources to each other as we all continue to build public art programming and projects in communities across the  United States. PAN allows for open connection between anyone who is interested in making public art happen in their community.”  Patricia Walsh, Public Art and Civic Design Senior Program Manager

PAN offers the following: 

  • The Public Art Resource Center (PARC) is an online portal for professionals and artists to find information and tools tailored for your role in the public art field.

  • Listserv: Artwork Archive is on this email list and we value the knowledge-share from professionals around the US.

  • PAN Year in Review and Database: Jurors select the best public art projects annually, and they are listed in this Online Database.

  • PAN pre-conference: A day and a half for the public art community to convene, converse, and collaborate. 

  • Webinars: Artwork Archive had the opportunity to participate in a virtual conversation hosted by PAN. 

Local Arts Network

The Local Arts Network (LAN) provides a forum for members to discuss the successes and challenges that local arts agencies face across the nation. They address a variety of topics like community development, cultural diversity, disaster preparedness, local arts policy, and grantmaking. 

Arts and Culture Leaders of Color Network

Launched in 2018, the Arts & Culture Leaders of Color Network provides Americans for the Arts members who identify as leaders of color with a community of shared learning and practice. It incorporates an advisory committee as well as a dedicated listserv. The Network also has an Arts & Culture Leaders of Color Fellowship and a retreat.  

Arts Education Network

Arts education is an integral part of all students’ lives. 

The Arts Education Network brings together a wide variety of stakeholders in the arts education ecosystem to provide and secure more resources and support for arts education as a field.

Private Sector Network

According to AFTA, business partnerships with the arts strengthen the vitality of our communities all across the nation. This network of Arts & Business Council affiliates, Business Committee for the Arts affiliates, United Arts Fund affiliates, and Local Arts Agencies work together with Americans for the Arts to build private-sector support for the arts in their local communities. Learn more.


Interdisciplinary Initiatives 

Americans for the Arts collaborates with other sectors to help create and sustain thriving communities. These integrations include business, the military and healthcare to name a few.

Arts and Business

An entire article could be written about how Americans for the Arts strengthens partnerships between the arts and businesses and foundations. With billions in arts funding, businesses play a key role in ensuring the health and vitality of the nation’s arts sector. The arts also benefit businesses—giving them a competitive advantage—as demonstrated by the Business Contributions to the Arts Survey.

AFTA launched the pARTnership Movement to provide businesses and arts organizations with the tools they need to create meaningful partnerships.

Americans for the Arts conducts many studies, and one of their cornerstone studies is on the impact of arts and culture on the community. You can read their fifth study—the Arts and Economic Prosperity Report 5

Arts and military

Americans for the Arts is the co-lead of the National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military. The National Initiative advances the arts in healthcare, healing, and well-being for military service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers. Learn more

Arts and healing 

The integration of any art form into healthcare has proven to benefit patients, their families, and their caregivers. AFTA is exploring the potential of the arts in healthcare settings. Learn more here

“The country is so wounded, bleeding, and hurt right now. The country needs to be healed—it's not going to be healed from the top, politically. How are we going to heal? Art is the healing force.” Robert Redford, National Arts Policy Roundtable 2012

Don't miss Artwork Archive's free e-guide on how the arts contribute to health and wellbeing. 

Photo courtesy of Michigan Medicine's Gifts of Art program.


Professional Development

Americans for the Arts offers training and professional development opportunities at many of their annual events. Here is a list:

  • The Annual Convention offers networking, connection, and community with the arts industry field. This year’s event is a virtual convening from June 23-25, 2020. The convention has pre-conferences for the Public Art Network and Local Arts Network.

  • Arts Advocacy Day brings together a broad cross-section of America's cultural and civic organizations, along with more than 700 grassroots advocates from across the country. This event is open to anyone who cares about advocating for increased national funding for the arts and culture in the United States—from local arts leaders, students to individual artists.

  • The National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) Conference, hosted in November, provides information, tools, and strategies to help local arts marketing professionals across the country design high-quality, cost-effective marketing programs that strengthen arts organizations.

  • Local Arts Agency Executive Leadership Forum is a high-level leadership program designed for CEOs, executive directors, and senior staff of local arts agencies. They host two forums that offer retreat, reflection, and long-term planning.

  • Leaders of Color Forum is for leaders of color who are manager level and above, working in the arts and culture field, looking for intellectually demanding, creative, and open-ended learning. It is a day and a half retreat that offers intensive leadership development. 


How individual artists can benefit

If you’re an independent artist looking for funding and professional development resources and to connect with other artists locally and nationally, Americans for the Arts can help.

They encourage artists to get in touch with their local arts agency via their Art Services Directory. Many state and local arts agencies will provide grants to artists directly or to organizations to connect with local artists and help fund their projects. 

Looking for Housing? Health Insurance? Funding for Community Projects? These organizations, listed on their Animating Democracy website, help support an artist’s lifestyle, work, and greater community in a variety of ways.


Helping the arts during COVID

AFTA is working to understand the long-term effect of Coronavirus on arts and culture activities while tracking local arts response to the virus. Their Coronavirus resource and response center offers tools you can use to plan and prepare, prevention best practices, and more.

Check out more ways that artists and the arts can be supported during COVID19.