Solidifying A Long-Term Relationship, Mid-America Arts Alliance Acquires Artist INC

Aug 24, 2017

Lisa Cordes, who ran Artist INC, is now director of artists' services at Mid-America Arts Alliance.
Credit Courtesy Lisa Cordes

Cementing the relationship between two Kansas City organizations that have worked together to help artists develop their careers, the Mid-America Arts Alliance announced on Thursday that it had acquired Artist INC.

From its headquarters in Kansas City's Crossroads Arts District, Mid-America Arts Alliance serves six states: Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. Besides managing touring exhibits for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the organization distributes federal and state grants to artists and arts organizations, and runs programs to help artists develop the professional aspects of their careers.

Since 2013, that professional training outside of Kansas City has been through Artist INC's eight-week seminars, which have been unexpectedly successful, said Lisa Cordes, who ran Artist INC and is now with Mid-America Arts Alliance.

Operating at the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Innovation Center, Artist INC began putting on career-training seminars for Kansas City artists a decade ago. Four years ago, it offered two seminars outside of town, in Oklahoma City and Little Rock, Arkansas.

"The idea was we would do one seminar, and then move on to other communities," Cordes said. "But before the first seminar in those those communities was even over, they said they wanted to do it again."

Now the training is offered in 13 cities.

"Going into the coming year, two-thirds of the activity of Artist INC is happening outside the region through a contract with Mid-America Arts Alliance," Cordes said. "So we were delivering services for them and that was continuing to grow."

"During our most recently completed fiscal year, 795 artists went through Artist INC across the region outside of Kansas City," said Mid-America Arts Alliance CEO Todd Stein. "We've been paying a portion of the cost to carry that out on a regional basis. By bringing it over to Mid-America Arts Alliance, we won’t have to cover overhead at UMKC and other expenses, so we can do it in a more cost-efficient way."

Cordes emphasized that despite that regional growth, the program would still serve artists in Kansas City.

"After this fall, we'll have tapped almost 400 artists in Kansas City," she said, "and we're really going to continue to use Kansas City as a laboratory to develop new programming."

Cordes said she'd seen a "sea change" in recent years when it comes to funders' interest in helping artists develop their careers.

"There's a lot of national work going on right now for individual artists, all kinds of programs and training to serve artists directly that did not exist 20 years ago," she said, "from private funders to local communities to state arts agencies and even the federal cultural agencies."

Which means that in the future, she said, Artist INC training will be one of many tools for artists to learn how to grow their careers.

C.J. Janovy is an arts reporter for KCUR 89.3. You can find her on Twitter, @cjjanovy.