A Blade of Grass nurtures
socially engaged art
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We provide resources to artists who demonstrate artistic excellence and serve as innovative conduits for social change. We evaluate the quality of work in this evolving field by fostering an inclusive, practical discourse about the aesthetics, function, ethics and meaning of socially engaged art that resonates within and outside the contemporary art dialogue.
Board of Directors
A Blade of Grass (ABOG) was founded to support and deepen understanding for socially engaged artists who are enacting social change within a community. Since its founding in 2011 by Shelley Frost Rubin and Deborah Fisher, ABOG has continued to grow out of an ongoing dialogue about the deep importance of art to civic life, and the idea that creativity and art can be a shared resource that concretely and positively changes lives.
In our first year, we established an advisory committee of thought leaders at the intersection of art and social change. And we surveyed almost a thousand artists about how to best support their work. The Committee helped to develop Artist Files, our pilot granting program styled to generate a dialogue with twenty artists about the nature of their work and careers. We also invited honest critiques of power, philanthropy, and systems of support. This inaugural program deployed tactics common to socially engaged art projects. Our intention was to lay the foundation for an institutional understanding of what A Blade of Grass is as an organization, and what we are doing when we say we are nurturing socially engaged art.
The Artist Files granting process was collaboratively co-designed with ABOG Staff, Kalia Brooks, ABOG’s first curatorial fellow, and the artist cohort. Artists were paid an honorarium, and 3 artists each received a grant. The process was not tidy, and was occasionally uncomfortable. But it enabled us to better understand how artists feel they are valued and what this means to individual artists’ economies. Our learning led directly to the creation of the A Blade of Grass Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art.
From 2013 to 2020 we offered this high-profile, nationally recognized opportunity that quickly became a key career milestone for US-based socially engaged artists working across the country and abroad. The Fellowship has supported 57 artists and collectives, generated a large volume of research, print and media content, short films, and engaging programs that share the intimate process and relationship driven nature of socially engaged art. This Fellowship program was sunset in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, A Blade of Grass shifted to the production of a small number of online programs and artists’ projects that meaningfully responded to the constraints and political pressures of the moment. Like many individuals and organizations, the pandemic presented us with an opportunity to evaluate our purpose and impact. As we engaged in dialogue with artists and peers in the field, what remained clear is that there is not enough direct financial support for artists. Especially for artists with community engaged practices. This inspired both of our founders to begin a substantial restructuring process to pass on the governance and leadership of the organization to artists and arts workers with a significant stake in socially engaged art.
Our restructuring and rebuilding is ongoing. Our goal is to evaluate and respond to current challenges and opportunities, and emerge as a strong and values-driven organization—the first artist-governed national funder for ambitious socially engaged art projects. We are turning to a set of key questions about what socially engaged artists need now, and what business model can most sustainably meet those needs. We are working towards developing a long-term vision as we search for our permanent Executive Director. This work is being stewarded by our Board of Directors and Interim Executive Director. We also intend to document what we are learning through this rebuild process, both in service of our commitment to transparency and to share what we are learning and doing with the wider field.
We are grateful for the trust of our community and the relationships we sustained that make this process possible. We look forward to a bright future in which we continue to serve artists who are working accountably in communities at an ambitious scale to enact social change.
Our board is comprised of artists and arts workers with a particularly deep commitment to socially engaged art as well as the practical skill and experience sets necessary for the effective stewardship of an arts nonprofit, including finance, community organizing, group facilitation, arts administration, development, and previous board membership.
Each board member is compensated a $15,000 annual honorarium for their service. This compensation was determined by an independent compensation consultant.
We believe that paying a professional board increases the accountability and proximity of that board to the communities it serves; enables higher quality leadership from the board; and enables a far more diverse group of people to serve.
Partnering With ArtistsMeet Our Fellows
A Blade of Grass Magazine
Published biannually, A Blade of Grass Magazine investigates artists, writers, and activists working at the intersection of art and global social justice. Read, share, and download your free digital copy.View Past Issues
Municipal-Artist Partnerships Guide
A “relationship guide” to forging strong and sustainable creative partnerships between local governments and artists. Created by A Blade of Grass and Animating Democracy, a program of American's for the Arts.Explore the Guide
Short Documentary Films
Our short documentary films explore our Fellows working in the field and the beauty, rigor, and impact of socially engaged art. Produced by the award-winning Rava Films.Watch Our Films
Listening for the Future of Appalachia
Musician and A Blade of Grass Fellow Brian Harnetty brings together Appalachian Ohioans across the political spectrum to build community in resistance to the environmental extraction that has historically harmed the region.