Immigrant Artist Project

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
The New York Foundation for the Arts
City & State:
New York
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

The New York Foundation for the Arts' mission is to empower artists at critical stages in their creative lives.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

For artists all over the world, coming to New York City presents both an opportunity and a challenge. While New York holds the promise of success and a better life, once these artists arrive in the U.S. they may find an environment full of rules and expectations, lists of who to know, and where to go. Tasks that are an integral part of being an artist, such as writing an artist’s statement in English, or creating an online portfolio may be daunting without someone to provide aid and encouragement.

American culture depends on the visions and voices of these new Americans, who keep us seeking creative solutions to problems, shifting perspectives to see new viewpoints, and recognizing beauty in the world around us.

With the assistance of an upgrade to Microsoft Exchange, the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) has been able to expand and strengthen our newest initiative, the Immigrant Artist Project, increasing our ability to provide concrete resources for immigrant artists working in a wide array of disciplines.

In line with NYFA’s mission to support artists at crucial stages in their lives, the Immigrant Artist Project provides four primary services: a bi-monthly online newsletter; a database of resources for Immigrant artists; workshops; and a Mentoring Program for intensive, one-on-one support. The project reaches over 3,000 artists from more than 50 countries and employs dozens of additional artists to teach workshops and seminars. The goal of the program is to ensure the ability of Immigrant artists to build sustainable careers.

One of the most popular features of the Immigrant Artist Project is the Mentoring Program, which pairs established working artists with those who have come to New York City from all corners of the world, including Rwanda, Iran, France, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. Mentors help their Immigrant Mentees to develop professional skills including grant writing, creating a website, mailing list maintenance, publicity, and much more.

This year 150 artists applied for the program, a 160% increase in applications, and 21 artists were selected to participate. This increased applicant pool is primarily due to the launch of an online application, which is compatible with Microsoft Exchange. At the beginning of the Mentoring program, questions flood Immigrant Artist Project coordinator Andreia Davies’ inbox, many e-mails sent from less secure servers abroad. Microsoft Office’s Built-In Protection reduces both spam and the high risk of viruses that NYFA faces. Features of Exchange such as Hosted Filtering Integration and Outlook’s E-Mail Postmark allow a high volume of e-mail correspondence with little risk to NYFA’s many directories. Working with artists from a variety of cultures and various levels of technical expertise often presents a challenge for Davies, but the upgrade to Microsoft Exchange has significantly improved communications for all parties. Throughout the program, Davies and her assistant maintain constant contact via e-mail and text messaging with the Mentors and Mentees. Often spending her days traveling from one end of the city to another, Davies has quickly come to rely on Microsoft Exchange’s anywhere access to the Resource Booking and Calendar Attendants as well as Mobile Messaging. Davies maintains the scheduling for all of the Mentor/Mentee pairs, as well as program meetings, talks, seminars, and exhibitions, and sets up meetings with curators, collectors, and gallerists for the artists. Microsoft Outlook has also supported the program in another way; many of the applicants to the program use English as a second language and need an e-mail and interface that is supported in their own country and language. Microsoft Exchange’s international compatibility eases translation, and for applicants who do not own a personal computer and have not had advanced computer training, Microsoft Exchange’s entire server is intuitive and user-friendly. Through interaction with NYFA and use of the program’s calendar, online schedule, and contact database, program participants gain experience with this technology, which assists their ability to work in the U.S.

Use of this technology also introduces them to NYFA’s online resources, which have been developed to serve their needs. The Immigrant Artist Project’s online database of resources has also grown significantly in the past year. Microsoft Exchange allows easy filing of information from e-mail into fully searchable folders, which allows fast and efficient communication between the Immigrant Artist database and NYFA Source, the nation’s largest online database for artists, which lists over 8,300 up-to-the-moment opportunities for artists such as grants, residencies and calls for work.

In addition, Microsoft Outlook provides efficiency in transferring files within the organization and allowing the Immigrant Artist Project to share resources with NYFA’s other programs. Internally, the Microsoft Exchange server has made program analysis more efficient through the sending out of surveys to participants on their profiles, needs and how the program impacted them, the compilation of participant feedback, lessons learned and success stories through materials such as written quotes, newspaper articles and event invitations.

In its first full year, NYFA has already seen impressive results from this program: of the 15 artists who received mentoring in 2008, 4 were accepted into residency programs, 3 received solo exhibitions, and 2 were just awarded a prestigious Pollock-Krasner Fellowships.

For the New York Foundation for the Arts, Microsoft Exchange is more than a server; it is an enabler of integrated services that have transformed the Immigrant Artist Project into a full support system for Immigrant artists.

Submission Category
Transformations to Maximize Impact