In December I was at the culminating event of an exciting new project that I want to bring to the attention of our readership. This past fall the Santa Fe Art Institute pioneered SFAI Works, a new social entrepreneurship incubator focused on creative thinking, business acumen, community engagement, and leadership skills. SFAI Works is unique in that it focuses on mentoring artists and creative professionals whose work is committed to creating tangible social change. The Fellows in the inaugural cohort were a diverse group of innovative leaders including the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, a non-profit that provides free legal services to immigrant youth; Curators without Borders who partners with museums and international aid organizations to create culturally based learning experiences; and Tall Foods, a local ostrich farm start up dedicated to local, environmentally friendly, sustainable farming. Collaborating with local partners as faculty and mentors, SFAI Works developed a 3-month curriculum to expand the Fellows’ reach and impact. The culminating pitch event clearly demonstrated the value in investing in creative entrepreneurs to meaningfully contribute to a community’s economic, social, and environmental health.
In 2016, the Works program will be incorporated into SFAI’s highly regarded residency program and offered twice a year. Chosen through a jury process, selection criteria will focus on artistic excellence, social and environmental merit, financial viability, community engagement, and expected impact. Works Fellows will receive a free residency, participation in the intensive Works curriculum, and the opportunity to present their project to potential funders and community partners at a culminating “pitch” event. Each Works cohort is in residence with other local, national, and international artists participating in SFAI’s thematic residency program, which encourages collaboration and creative problem solving, and exposes Fellows to the powerful exchanges that happen when a group of diverse people come together around a common interest or issue.