Artists are what defines any arts agency, be it an arts council, commission, or board.
Artists are the reason you exist.
Artists can be your best advocates or your biggest critics.
To ensure the artists are on your side . . .
Explain Your Position
Explain your mission clearly to local artists. But first make sure it's the right mission and that it doesn't compete with the for-profit entities in your area.
Does your mission acknowledge the role – specifically – of artists in your area?
Everyone on your staff should be on board with your mission before you expect the same from those outside your organization.
Work hard to articulate your purpose to the artists of your community and to make sure they buy into it.
Formalize the Relationship
Form an advisory board of local artists. Listen to them. (More on that below.)
Ask for feedback from artists outside of your advisory board – the ones who benefit from your programs as well as those who don't.
Just because you've always done something one way, doesn't mean it's the best way for today.
And when every agency is doing the same thing, don't you think it's time to distinguish yourself?
Change. Adapt. Expand.
Listen First, Then Explain
Listen to the feedback. Don't get defensive. Listen. Absorb. Discuss.
You can't act on every idea recommended by your community of artists.
Ultimately, you must decide how to best implement your mission. But . . . listen. After listening, you can explain your actions.
Listening shows you care.
Listening proves that you care more about the arts and artists than you do about your own agenda.