What is an arts service organization?

Definition from the Canada Council for the Arts:

A non-profit organization that furthers the interests of artists, creators, arts organizations and elements of the arts community. The organization’s activities can include policy development, advocacy, provision of professional services, and production of collective projects.

A report by The Boston Foundation waxed poetic on defining what it means to be an Arts Service Organization:

While there is no standard taxonomy, most definitions exclude organizations or individuals that are directly involved in the performance or production of art and include organizations that support those that perform or produce art. In most cases, organizations that preserve, present, and teach art are also excluded.

Support services provided by ASOs generally include information, training, technical assistance, advocacy, or other needed services identified by a particular constituency. Because arts service organizations collaborate and network across sectors, other constituents are often served by and benefit from the work of ASOs.

The Initiative’s definition of an ASO—nonprofits with missions and programs that are substantially focused on serving and enhancing the capacity of individual artists and/or arts and cultural organizations — acknowledged the important service component of more traditionally defined cultural nonprofits.

By definition and by practice, service organizations are defined by who or what they serve. ASOs serve the artists and arts organizations that produce and/or present art. For the Initiative, the artist service population only included working professional artists, thus excluding youth-serving organizations and primarily amateur-focused groups.

This report, studying the impact of Arts Service Organizations on the field, took special care to point out:

Arts service organizations are, in many ways, the unacknowledged gems of the cultural ecosystem. They play an important role in supporting the work of artists and nonprofit agencies and in developing the sector’s cohesion and ability to meet its collective needs.

Much like the Boston Foundation, we prefer not to define C4 Atlanta by what it doesn’t do, but by who we serve, and how we serve them.

First and foremost, C4 Atlanta serves the artists and arts organizations that produce and and present art. As a benefit of our activities, we also aim to serve the entire cultural ecosystem — artists, administrators, funders and patrons.

Post by Joe Winter

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