Our Goals

Work related to building inclusive creative economies across the country takes shape in many ways across Americans for the Arts. We strive to help communities build awareness of their cultural assets and how to equitably strengthen, value, and utilize them. Our work aims to guide local communities and national entities to establish and strengthen partnerships between the creative industries, nonprofit arts and culture, and government sectors to increase an equitable flow of resources for the creative economy. We will continue to support equitable policies that bolster the economic activity generated by creative goods and services that drive holistic economic returns and prepare individuals, businesses, and governments for a more just future.

Central to this vision are two primary and long-term goals:

  1. In concert with Americans for the Arts’ cultural equity work, resource local leaders with tools, research, and skills, and build awareness to build interconnected community networks of partners, practitioners, advocates, and policymakers that cultivate and strengthen inclusive creative economies across the country.

  2. Work nationally to bridge the for- and nonprofit arts sectors in partnership to imagine, align, and drive equitable policy creation and resource sharing that builds an inclusive creative economy in the United States.

Read more about our full multi-year plan and its strategies in this post.

How do we define the creative economy?

While there isn’t one single definition, Americans for the Arts uses these four to describe different aspects of the creative economy, and the aspiration of an inclusive creative economy. Click each term to read the full definition and explore our glossary under the “Knowledge” tab for more information.

The creative economy is an economic ecosystem of for-profit and nonprofit creative industries, artists and artist workforce, educators, entrepreneurs, vendors, policy makers and funders that produce and distribute creativity- and artistic-based goods and services.

The creative economy consists of economic activity that depends on individuals and organizations using their creativity to drive jobs, revenue, community resources, and cultural engagement.

We define an inclusive creative economy as one that centers marginalized individuals in the pursuit of economic and restorative justice using creativity and the arts as the vehicle to reach individual and community potential.

Creative economy practices are activities or methods used in policy, research, programmatic, academic, or funding spaces that are designed to amplify and advance the inclusive creative economy in local communities, as is applicable to the uniqueness of each community.

Definitions & Language Bank

We recognize the need for clear language and transparent definitions and offer the glossary below to create consistency in how we talk about inclusive creative economies and related subjects. By compiling this language bank, we strive to acknowledge the full scope of where arts, culture, and creativity happens; create shared language for the creative economy and its practitioners; and encourage fluency for leaders to be able to navigate a variety of spaces and sectors.

Acknowledging that Americans for the Arts is one organization working in this space, we seek to uplift, circulate and support the language, concepts, and definitions used by organizations, individuals, and entities working with frontline communities to create equitable, restorative, and regenerative creative economies. The glossary below draws from our long history serving the local arts agency field, and from the dedicated work of thought leaders, partners, and practitioners across the country. Many of these terms are linked and nested within one another or are used separately by different communities and practitioners. Our aim is that this language provides an inclusiveness into the broad manifestations of creative economy, while acknowledging the aspirational quality of some of these terms and the work we must do together to realize them. This glossary is also dynamic and we welcome feedback and additions. Please email [email protected] for editions, suggestions, and/or feedback. 

Click one of the glossary section headings below to expand that section's full list of defintions.

  • Creative Sector – The aggregate umbrella of the underlying creative industries. Multiple industries make up the creative sector. Individual artists and creative workers can and do participate in single or multiple industries but are all part of the creative sector. The creative sector sits within the full creative economy as a pillar of the ecosystem, alongside the consumers, educators, and resource managers. For example, the creative sector might include design as an industry pillar. Design would include sub-sectors such as industrial and graphic design. Individual creative workers hold creative occupations in those industries but may also find work in other sub-sectors.
  • Creative Industry – A conglomerate or category of business and/or businesses that pertain to the production or distribution of the arts or are driven by creativity outputs (see “Creative Goods and Services”) and roll up into the creative sector. Creative Industries are composed of arts-centric businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies, and theaters to for-profit film, architecture, and advertising companies. We have guarded against overstatement of the sector by excluding industries such as computer programming and scientific research—both creative, but not focused on the arts. Nationally, 673,656 businesses are involved in the creation or distribution of the arts, and they employ 3.48 million people. (Americans for the Arts definition as related to the Creative Industries: Business Employment in the Arts Study)
  • Creative entity – Any combination of people working together for shared creative, artistic and/or cultural pursuits. Any creative entity can be considered a cultural asset. A creative entity is not defined by tax status or business model.
  • For-Profit Arts – For the purposes of this initiative, for-profit arts entities (a subset of the creative industries) refer specifically to those industries that produce goods and services based in the production of arts and culture for a profit, and who do not fall under the tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status of the Internal Revenue Service. Namely, Americans for the Arts will initially prioritize its efforts on these primary entertainment industries, including for-profit music, theater, film, and media (including digital media).
  • Nonprofit Arts – For the purposes of the work of Americans for the Arts, nonprofit arts refer specifically to those organizations incorporated under the 501(c)(3) tax status of the Internal Revenue Service. This definition is not intended to imply a particular way of doing work or incorporate models outside of the 501(c)(3) tax status.
  • Local Arts Agencies – The nation’s 4,500 Local Arts Agencies (LAAs) promote, support, and develop the arts at the local level ensuring a vital presence for the arts throughout America’s communities. LAAs are diverse in their makeup—they have many different names and embrace a spectrum of artistic disciplines—but each works to sustain the health and vitality of the arts and artists locally and to make the arts accessible to all members of a community. Each LAA in America is unique to the community that it serves, and each evolves within its community. (Source: Americans for the Arts)
  • Economic development agencies – An agency or organization whose goal is to help develop and support economic growth and prosperity of the community it serves, generally a specified city, region, or state.
  • Community Organizations – Community organizations sit at the intersection between the various components of a community—the community members, the public sector, the private sector, the educational institutions, the creative workers, and the arts organizations—and facilitate the role of arts, culture, and creativity in making those communities healthier, more vibrant, more equitable places. These organizations can take a variety of forms. The most prevalent in the arts is the local arts agency, but they can also be state arts agencies, educational institutions, community or youth development organizations, arts service organizations, community foundations, non-arts government agencies, presenting or producing institutions, churches, union halls, or something else entirely. The unifying factor is that these organizations sit at the intersection of arts, culture, and community life. (Source: Americans for the Arts)

  • Creative worker – An individual earning income from creative, cultural, or artistic-based pursuits, whether they earn that income independently or via an employer, and can work in a creative entity or as a creative working in a non-creative entity. Creative, cultural, or artistic-based pursuits are those that use the unique human quality of individual expression to produce ideas, content, goods, and services. We view creative workers as participating in the creative economy in any context.
  • Artist – We define an artist as someone who uses their imagination and creative process to manifest something original, regardless of the medium, type of practice, purpose, or outcome of that creation. Believing that creative expression is a uniquely human quality, our broad definition aims to include individuals–whether working independently, commercially, or in community–as a critical part of shaping, commenting on, critiquing, developing, and evolving the community, cultural practice, and economy in which they live.
  • Culture Bearer – A person who is recognized to possess the skills and techniques in doing a particular art or craft, and/or who plays an active role in the preservation of their culture. (Source: Kurt Paul Gacoscos Bagayao)
  • Creative entrepreneur – An individual who takes an idea and uses their creativity to come up with a product or service.
  • Creative Occupation – Work that is centered on producing/distributing a creative good or service (see Creative Goods and Services below), either in a creative entity or in a non-creativity-based business. For example, a designer who works in financial services would hold a creative occupation.
  • Talent Developers – "The educators, organizations, administrators, faith leaders, human resource managers, etc. who support and sustain the development and expansion of the creative workforce." (Source: District of Columbia Office of Creative Affairs)
  • Resource Managers – The policy makers, government agencies, private foundations, public/private entities, investors and businesses who maintain and develop the physical and financial resources that support creative workers, creative entities and industries, talent developers, consumers, and participants in the creative economy. (Source: District of Columbia Office of Creative Affairs)
  • Cultural Asset – Something of value to a particular population, community, or group because of its unique contribution to the cultural, artistic, creative, economic, historic, and/or social expressions and fabric of that community. Cultural assets can be tangible such as cultural or heritage sites, products, or facilities. Intangible cultural assets could include events, activities, expertise, support networks, community and cultural knowledge, and heritage, language, organizations, and icons. (Sources: Cultural Asset Mapping Project, City of Austin; PlannersWeb.com, Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s Arts & Culture Department)
  • Financial Self-Determination – The ability to move from a reliance on extractive financial systems in order to generate economic activity, to supporting pathways for individuals or as defined by the collective community to reach their full potential; free from reliance on restrictive funding mechanisms that deviate from financial independence.

  • Creative Goods and Services – A product, service, or output generated by artistic and/or creative processes that are valued by trade, revenue generated, or intellectual property rights. Outputs can be tangible such as instruments, art, craft, furniture etc; or intangible such as content, design, music etc.
  • Quality Jobs/Careers/Employment – The notion of quality jobs and pathways promotes the notion that livability and dignity takes priority over basic job growth. A quality job offers sufficient wages to cover basic living expenses, a stable/predictable income, opportunities to build assets, safe working conditions, predictable hours and benefits that facilitate a healthy, stable life (Source: Aspen Institute). 
  • Non-Extractive Financial Terms – Seed Commons defines the conceptual framework for non-extractive financial terms, "is that the returns to the lender, known as the cost of capital, can never be greater to the borrower than the benefits of the loan to the borrower." Read the full terms and how they work in practice. (Source: Seed Commons Non-Extractive Financial Terms)
  • Front-line communities – We view front-line communities and the artists, culture-bearers, and creatives within them, as those who are often the most harmed and marginalized by the existing economic system; and who are prevented from achieving their full potential through self-determination because of the mechanisms of systemic racism, xenophobia, classism, ableism, gender discrimination, geography, and exposure to climate and food injustice.
  • Community Wealth Building – A people-centered approach and framework to economic development that keeps capitol, resources, and jobs inside a community, building loyalty to the people who live where businesses are located. Community wealth building prioritizes collaboration, localized investment, the unique cultural heritage of a community, and local ownership. For artists and creative workers, community wealth building creates a stronger foundation of economic activity that is generated and maintained within the community in which they live and work. By reducing and mitigating absentee or consolidated ownership, prioritizing labor over profits, and by investing locally, wealth is generated broadly rather than by a few.
  • Restorative Economics – “Restorative Economics centers on healing and restoration of vulnerable communities who have been marginalized and oppressed by a polluting and extractive economy, by investing in strategies that create shared prosperity and self-determination for a just transition to the next economy. An investment in strategies that generate community wealth, produce governance structures that benefit the whole, and build community power is key to build the next economy—one rooted in equity, regeneration, and interdependence. Restorative Economics is an invitation for communities to come together and form relationships that allow them to reimagine a new way of being grounded in cooperation instead of competition, inclusion instead of exclusion, and abundance instead of scarcity. With a Restorative Economics approach, neighbors can come out from behind their fences and gather in the streets to make decisions about how to invest in and transform a blighted empty lot or create a climate resilient energy microgrid. Restorative Economics places the wellbeing of the community directly into the hands of the community. The methodology of Restorative Economics leverages community-owned and community-governed projects to bring residents together to create shared prosperity and self-determination and in turn build collective political power. Restorative Economics fosters cultural, economic and political power for impacted communities through the design, process and outcomes.” (Source: Nwamaka Agbo Restorative Economics for People and the Planet: https://www.nwamakaagbo.com/restorative-economics)
  • Regenerative Economy - “Based on ecological restoration, community protection, equitable partnerships, justice, and full and fair participatory processes. Rather than extract from the land and each other, this approach is consistent with the Rights of Nature, valuing the health and well-being of Mother Earth by producing, consuming, and redistributing resources in harmony with the planet. A Regenerative Economy values the dignity of work and humanity and prioritizes community governance and ownership of work and resources, instead of oppressive systems that devalue people and their labor through violent hoarding by a few. Rather than limit people’s ability to fully shape democracy and decisions that impact our communities, a Regenerative Economy supports collective and inclusive participatory governance. It requires re-localization and democratization of how we produce and consume goods, and ensures all have full access to healthy food, renewable energy, clean air and water, good jobs, and healthy living environments. A Regenerative Economy requires an explicit anti-racist, anti-poverty, feminist, and living approach that is intersectional and eschews top-down, patriarchal, classist, xenophobic, and racist ideology.” (Source: The People’s Orientation to a Regenerative Economy: https://climatejusticealliance.org/regenerativeeconomy/ )
  • Extractive Economy - “An Extractive Economy is a capitalist system of exploitation and oppression that values consumerism, colonialism, and money over people and the planet. The extractive economy perpetuates the enclosure of wealth and power for a few through predatory financing, expropriation from land and commonly accessed goods/services, and the exploitation of human labor. An extractive economy views natural resources as commodities—expanding the free-market logic into all cycles and functions of the Earth with an oppressor mentality—which places a price on nature and creates new derivative markets that will only increase inequality and expedite the destruction of nature—to dig, burn, and dump with no regard for its impact on communities and utilizes oppressive force to undermine democracy, community, and workers.” (Source: The People’s Orientation to a Regenerative Economy: https://climatejusticealliance.org/regenerativeeconomy/ )
  • Solidarity Economy - “The solidarity economy is a global movement to build a just and sustainable economy where we prioritize people and the planet over endless profit and growth. Growing out of social movements in Latin America and the Global South, the solidarity economy provides real alternatives to capitalism, where communities govern themselves through participatory democracy, cooperative and public ownership, and a culture of solidarity and respect for the earth.” (Source: New Economy Coalition: https://neweconomy.net/solidarity-economy/)
  • Just Transition - “A framework for a fair shift to an economy that is ecologically sustainable, equitable and just for all its members. Just Transition strategies were first forged by labor unions and environmental justice groups who saw the need to phase out the industries that were harming workers, community health and the planet, while also providing just pathways for workers into new livelihoods. Building on that history, Just Transition represents a set of aligned strategies to transition whole communities toward thriving economies that provide dignified, productive and ecologically sustainable livelihoods that are governed directly by workers and communities.” (Source: Movement Generation: https://movementgeneration.org/justtransition/)
  • Equitable Economic Development - “Equitable economic development unlocks the full potential of the local economy by dismantling barriers and expanding opportunities for low- income people and communities of color. Through accountable public action and investment, it grows quality jobs and increases entrepreneurship, ownership, and wealth.” (Source: PolicyLink: Equitable Economic Development: The Why and the How)

Understanding our current economic system is key to building the future equitable and inclusive economy we seek. The New Economy Coalition recommends the following definitions to describe our current paradigm.

  • Systems-change: addresses root causes rather than symptoms and thus tends to take a multidisciplinary, long-term approach that requires transforming policies, practices, relationships, and power dynamics.
  • Racial capitalism: refers to the ways in which racialized subjects made (and make) capitalism possible, including slavery, violence, imperialism, and genocide.
  • Neoliberalism: An economic philosophy which entails a belief that private markets will solve all problems and a corresponding defunding of state and public sector services and has likewise eviscerated public arts funding.
  • Philanthropic Racial Equity: Grantmakers in the Arts defines racial equity in philanthropy as “the investment of social and financial resources in policies, practices, and actions that produce equitable access, power, and outcomes for Black, Indigineous and People of Color."




COVID-19 Impact on the Creative Economy

Nonprofit arts sector has most severe job losses. Research by Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies shows nonprofit “Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation” jobs were down 34.7% between February 2020 and February 2021—nearly 5x more than the entire nonprofit sector (-7.4%) and significantly more than other subsectors: education (-14.6%), social assistance (-7.5%), and health care (-3.7%).

Pandemic impact on the arts. The arts sector is one of the most severely affected segments of the nation’s economy. Research by Americans for the Arts on the human and financial impacts of the pandemic show that 63% of the nation’s artists and creative workers became fully unemployed and virtually every nonprofit arts organization has had to cancel events—a loss of $15.7 billion and 489 million admissions (March 2021). Research published by the Brookings Institution reports that, just between April to July 2020, the “fine and performing arts” (both nonprofit and commercial) have incurred losses of $42.5 billion and 1.4 million jobs—a whopping 50% of all fine and performing arts jobs.

COVID-19 Impact on the California Creative Economy. Otis College of Art & Design’s annual report shows California lost $140.6 billion in creative output and 507,100 jobs were impacted just in California in 2020.

Research and Resources on Cultural Asset Mapping & Identification

*The research above related to cultural asset mapping and identification was compiled and provided by rootoftwo. 

Foundational Research on the Creative Economy & Creative Workforce

America's Creative Economy: A Study of Recent Conceptions, Definitions, and Approaches to Measurement Across the USA. This 2013 research study project was designed to profile and analyze how the creative economy is currently being defined, segmented, and quantified throughout the United States of America. Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Arts Workers in California: Creating a More Inclusive Social Contract to Meet Arts Workers’ and Other Independent Contractors’ Needs (January 2021). The Center for Cultural Innovation, with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, commissioned a new report to help arts advocates, labor advocates, and policy makers create more inclusive systems that expand protections and benefits for all types of workers.

Artists in the U.S. Workforce 2006-2020. As counted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 2.6 million artists in the U.S. workforce—1.6% of all workers. The unemployment rate for artists grew from 3.7% in 2019 to 10.3% in 2020.

Arts & Cultural Production Satellite Account (2019 data). According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, arts and culture contributed $919.7 billion to the nation’s economy in 2019. This represents 4.3% of the GDP—a larger share of the economy than transportation, agriculture, and construction.

Creative Industries: Business & Employment in the Arts. In 2017, there were 673,656 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts. They employed 3.48 million people. This represents 4% of all businesses and 2% of all employees in the U.S.

Creativity Connects This report, produced by the Center for Cultural Innovation and the National Endowment for the Arts, describes significant changes that alter definitions of artists, how they sustain their practice, and yet-unrealized potential to contribute positively to social issues and apply creativity throughout all sectors.

The Creative Economy: A New Definition, 2007. Published by the New England Foundation for the Arts, this report presents a creative economy research definiton, which seeks to provide a common framework that will assist states, communities and individual researchers in developing analysis that is consistent and comparable, but also flexible enough to account for local variations in order to reliably inform public policy.

Defining the Creative Economy: Industry and Occupational Approaches. Published in Economic Development Quarterly, this seminal 2008 paper reviews conceptual and operational issues in defining the creative sector and its arts and cultural core.

The Jobs in New England's Creative Economy and Why They Matter, 2017. In partnership with the Economic and Public Policy Research group of the UMass Donahue Institute (UMDI), the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) works to answer a few important questions. What are New England’s creative enterprises? Who are New England’s creative workers? How do they overlap? How do they vary by state and what role are they playing in the overall economy? By finding data on and accounting for creative sector employment, income, demographics, and socioeconomic attributes, this report aims to provide a full story of creative work and workers in New England.

Taking Root: The Growth of America’s New Creative Economy, 2019. The Re:Create Coalition’s second annual report reveals that more than 16.9 million independent, American creators earned a baseline of $6.8 billion from posting their music, videos, art, crafts, and other works online in 2017.


Arts, Business, Creativity, and Innovation Research

Private Sector Philanthropy. Giving to the arts by individuals, foundations, and corporations grew 12.6% to $21.64 billion in 2019 (+10.6% when adjusted for inflation) and represented 4.8% of all charitable giving.

Creativity in Your Job Means More Success in Your Work Place. More than half of employed American adults agree that their job requires them to be creative, and an even greater proportion believe the more creative and innovative they are at their job, the more successful they are in the workplace.

Arts Spark Creativity and Innovation. Creativity is among the top five applied skills sought by business leaders—per the Conference Board’s Ready to Innovate report—with 72% saying creativity is of “high importance” when hiring.

Arts Accelerate Economic Recovery. The arts are economic catalysts. They do not just reflect the state and local economy, but accelerate economic recovery. A growth in arts employment has a positive and causal effect on overall state employment.

Business Support for the Arts 2021. With billions in arts funding, businesses play a key role in ensuring the health and vitality of the nation’s arts sector.  Business support for the arts is driven less by a charitable focus than it is targeted on how the arts impact the communities in which their employees live and work. Corporate sponsorship of the arts exceeded $1 billion in 2018.

Thought Leadership & Deeper Learning

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the creative economy provides $919.7 billion in value add, supports 5.2 million jobs, and represents 4.3% of the nation’s economy. The arts remain a larger share of GDP than powerhouse sectors such as construction, agriculture, and transportation. Learn more about how you can advocate for pro-creative economy and pro-creative worker policies, as well as participate in upcoming training and events.

Policy & Advocacy

Putting Creative Workers to Work

The Putting Creative Workers to Work proposals were arrived at by a consortium of over 100 partner creative organizations, and have been endorsed by over 2,300 creative businesses and creative workers in all 50 states. For more detail on the policy proposals outlined below, please visit CreativeWorkers.net.

COVID-19 & CARES Act Policy

The Americans for the Arts Action Fund provides free and comprehensive legislative and regulatory updates as well as up-to-the-minute technical assistance of all COVID-19 federal economic resources to support arts organizations and artists. ArtsActionFund.org/COVID19Resources

Shuttered Venue Operating Grant - Small Business Administration (SBA)

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program was established through the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act and amended by the American Rescue Plan Act to provide over $16 billion in economic relief to target industries. The SVOG application opened April 8, 2021. You can learn more about SVOG and get your questions answered at the Arts Action Fund COVID-19 Resources page.


The Comprehensive Resources for Entrepreneurs in the Arts to Transform the Economy Act is written to strengthen federal support for our nation’s creative economy. It was introduced by (now retired) Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI). The bill included provisions directing the Economic Development Administration and Rural Development Administration to ensure that traditional economic development tools, such as incubators and grant programs, support the arts industry. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) are revising the legislation for introduction in 2021.

Read the CREATE Act issue brief as part of the full Congressional Arts Handbook


The Promoting Local Arts and Creative Economy Workforce (PLACE) Act, introduced by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) in January 2020, is a Senate bill that includes 11 provisions, some similar to the CREATE Act, and others further expanding the federal government’s support of the creative economy workforce specifically.

This Senate bill (there is not a House bill as of May 2020), aims to secure the future well-being of individuals, families, communities, and the nation by addressing federal workforce policies that will increase support for the creative economy. The PLACE Act was introduced to support the nation’s diversity, rich traditions, and vast creative talents. The United States needs to engage workers from around the country to develop, hone, and share expressions of their cultural heritage, creative collaborations, and artistic skills.


The Creative Economy Revitalization Act (CERA) was introduced on Friday, August 13, 2021, by U.S. Reps. Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM) and Jay Obernolte (R-CA) (co-leads) along with Ted Lieu (D-CA), Rosa Delauro (D-CT), and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) (original co-sponsors). 

CERA, a bipartisan bill, was introduced with over 175 endorsements from interest groups including the arts-related unions within the AFL-CIO, the American Planning Association, Transportation for America/SmartGrowth America, the National Alliance of Community and Economic Development Associations, the Freelancers Union, the Creative Economy Coalition, the Get Creative Workers Working Coalition, and Americans for the Arts.

It authorizes $300 million via a new granting program that will mitigate creative worker displacement, stimulate local creative workforce growth, strengthen connections for local creative small businesses and networks, create a pipeline for new creative jobs, enrich communities, increase access to culture, and invest in creative workers and local economies harmed by COVID-19. Advocates can contact their members of Congress via this E-alert to request they join the effort as a co-sponsor of the legislation. 

ArtsVote 2020 Platform

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and heightened awareness of social and racial injustice, we believe our nation needs to capitalize on the abundance of under-employed yet talented creative and racially underrepresented workers in America to aid in the recovery, unity, and healing of our nation’s communities and economy.  As federal efforts are considered to rebuild and grow the nation's economy, we urge targeted federal policies to tap creative workers, nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, and arts-related businesses and minority-run organizations to be featured in any infrastructure, workforce development, economic, and education efforts. Read the full ArtsVote 2020 Platform


Biden/Harris Arts Support Petition

The petition to congratulate President Biden and VP Harris and urge them to boldly support the arts has been sent to the White House! Read the petition and view signatories.

Training & Events

Americans for the Arts offers ongoing virtual education to learn about an inclusive creative economy, policy and advocacy opportunities, and more. Please visit the ArtsU Creative Economy page to view all upcoming and past programs available on-demand. 

Training on ArtsU

Exploring Inclusive Creative Economy Concepts and Definitions, Parts 1 & 2

Understanding and creating shared language is critical if we are to do our work thoughtfully and with intention. Talking about the “creative economy” can mean many things to people. As Americans for the Arts launches a multi-year effort to support the continued development of local creative economies, we begin with the basics of exploring the language we use and how it can translate across communities. These two-part webinars will delve into foundational concepts and definitions related to what an ‘inclusive creative economy’ means when it comes to talking about individuals, institutions, and economic systems. These programs will focus on a few terms, offer examples of how they can be applied, how other organizations and practitioners may use different language in different contexts, and provide space for discussion and questions. In this two-part webinar, practitioners will gain knowledge of equity-based terms and concepts for the purpose of working as informed community partners in the development of their local inclusive creative economy. 

The original dates for these webinars were March 19 and April 20, 2021. Please visit ArtsU to watch the recordings

Exploring Local and State Creative Workforce Recovery Programs

As communities begin the process of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic fallout, the creative economies in those communities must be part of the plan—both because there can be no recovery without a strong creative engine and because millions of creative workers are out of work and ready to do their part. In this webinar, learn about creative workforce initiatives from across the country, including doing deep-dives into two city-based initiatives in Seattle and Sacramento. Dig into the “how” of funding, structure, timing, and more, and come away with good ideas about how you can encourage your own city or state to utilize relief and recovery funding to put creative workers to work as part of the national, state, and local recovery process.

This webinar was originally held on March 31, 2021. Please visit ArtsU to watch the recording.

Local Arts Agencies & Creatives in Support of Black- and New American-Owned Businesses: Two Economic Recovery Models 

How can artists, Local Arts Agencies, and nexus organizations boost economic development and recovery for Black-owned, refugee-, and New American-owned businesses?  In this Member EX(change), peers learned about two creative models that offered ideas and strategies to support neighborhood businesses while putting creatives to work.   

This Member EX(change) was originally held on December 14, 2020. Please visit ArtsU to watch the recording

Creative Economy Programming at the Annual Convention

The 2021 Annual Convention, held virtually, will offer multiple opportunities to explore, learn and dialogue about the creative economy. A few sessions of note include: 

Exploring How We Define the Creative Economy

As local arts leaders endeavor to make the case for their full and inclusive creative economy, often times the very notion of creating a community-specific definition in order to make that case can present a challenge. What’s “in” and what’s “out,” and how can this process be inclusive rather than exclusive? In this session, presenters Cezanne Charles, principal at rootoftwo, and Dee Schneidman, senior program director research and creative economy will dialogue the contrasting poles of defining through economic jobs data and defining through identifying unique community cultural assets. Attendees will hear about considerations in each approach, and how the two can be complimentary while centering those who are often left out and marginalized. Participants will explore definitions related to talking about the creative economy, and how presenters are using them in their methods to create definitions.

Where We Are, Where We’re Going: A Conversation About Our Current and Future Creative Economy

Many agree that our current economic systems aren’t working for most people. We know that our country and economy face big structural challenges and that bold solutions are needed to heal trauma, repair injustices, create real equity and establish pathways to quality jobs for all people. The arts and culture sector isn’t immune to this. But can we name exactly where we want to go and how to get to there?

In this lively field conversation, we offer space to explicitly name our current economic situation, with the intention of collectively understanding where we are, so that we can explicitly name the vision and economic frame to which we aspire. This conversation will explore language related to naming our existing system, such as racialized capitalism and neoliberalism, and establishing understanding of the goal of a solidarity economy, restorative economics, and Just Transition; and how these terms can come to life in arts and culture.

Read more and register for the Annual Convention today

We are not the only ones doing this work; nor do we intend to be. We recognize, however, the strength of the local, state, regional, and national network we have served over the last 60 years. In addition to providing specific services to the local arts field of practitioners and advocates, our intention is to align, support, and amplify the many voices, people, and organizations who are already building inclusive creative economies, particularly those working with frontline creative communities.

Advisory Groups

Since 2019, Americans for the Arts has convened several advisory groups represented by the sectors and professions in which we are both currently and aspiring to effect change. These sectors include the for- and nonprofit arts (including entertainment); local, state, and federal government; labor; research; academia; and new economy and restorative economics work. Advisors are a key element for Americans for the Arts to continually listen, learn, and adjust strategies as they evolve. Please contact [email protected] if you’re interested in serving in an advisory capacity or would like to share feedback about our efforts.

2022 Cultural Asset Mapping & Identification Advisory Group

Torrie Allen

President & CEO

Arts Midwest

Minneapolis, MN

Sam Bowler



New Orleans, LA

Jonathon Glus

Executive Director for Arts & Culture

City of San Diego

San Diego, CA

Stephanie Johnson-Cunningham

Executive Director

HueArts NYC

New York, NY

Gülgün Kayim

Director of Arts, Culture & the Creative Economy

City of Minneapolis

Minneapolis, MN

Amy Kitchener

Co-Founder & Executive Director

Alliance of California Traditional Arts

Fresno, CA

Michelle LaFlamme-Childs

Executive Director

New Mexico Arts

Santa Fe, NM

Mario Mesquita

Manager of Advocacy and Engagement

Regional Arts & Culture Council

Portland, OR

Patricia Walsh

Director, Creative Community Advancement

Americans for the Arts

Poughkeepsie, NY

Rosten Woo

Artist, Designer, Educator


Los Angeles, CA

2020-2021 Inclusive Creative Economy Advisory Group

Erin Butler

Executive Director

WYO Performing Arts & Education Center

Sheridan, WY

Cezanne Charles



Ann Arbor, MI

Althea Erickson

Vice President,
Global Public Policy & Impact


New York, NY

Rafael Espinal

Executive Director

Freelancers Union

New York, NY

Stephanie Gutierrez


Hope Nation

New Haven, MO

Monica Haslip

Founder & Exec Director

Little Black Pearl

Chicago, IL

Patton Hindle

Head of Arts


Brooklyn, NY

David Holland

Director of Impact and Public Policy


Denver, CO

Meia Johnson

Arts Education Program Manager

LA County

Los Angeles, CA

Justin Kantor


Le Poisson Rouge/
National Independent Venue Association (NIVA)

New York, NY


Natalia Linares

Communications Manager

New Economy Coalition

Cambridge, MA

Maryann Lombardi

Director, Office of Creative Affairs

City of DC

Washington, DC

abdiel lópez

Program Officer

AmbitioUS (Center for Cultural Innovation)

Los Angeles, CA

Bob Reeder

Program Director

Rural LISC

Columbia, SC

Cara Rose Defabio

Special Initiatives Director

Economic Security Project

San Francisco, CA

Kristin Sakoda


LA County Arts & Culture

Los Angeles, CA

Dee Schniedman

Senior Director,
Research & Creative Economy

New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA)

Boston, MA


George Tzougros

Executive Director

Wisconsin Arts Board

Madison, WI

2019 Creative Economy Advisory Group

Kerry Adams Hapner

Director of Cultural Affairs, Deputy Director of Economic Development

City of San Jose

San Jose, CA

Siddhartha Aneja

Director of Economic Research


Washington, DC

Michelle Boone

Chief Program and
Civic Engagement Officer

Navy Pier Inc

Chicago, IL

Cezanne Charles


rootoftwo, LLC

Ann Arbor, MI

John Davis

Bush Fellow, Senior Policy Fellow, RUPRI

Lanesboro, MN

Elisabeth Dorman

State and Local Government
Affairs Manager

Americans for the Arts

Washington, DC

Randy Engstrom

Director, Office of Arts & Culture

City of Seattle

Seattle, WA

Jonathon Glus

Executive Director

City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture

San Diego, CA

Christine Harris


Christine Harris Connections

Milwaukee, WI

Samuel Hoi


Maryland Institute
College of Art

Baltimore, MD

David Holland

Director of Public Policy

Western States Arts Federation

Denver, CO

Margaret Hunt

Executive Director,
Office of Creative Industries

Governor's Office of Economic Development & International Trade

Denver, CO

Maryann Lombardi

Chief Creative Economy Officer, Government of the District of Columbia

Office of Cable TV, Film, Music and Entertainment (OCTFME)

Washington, DC

Ruby Lopez Harper

Director of Local Arts Services

Americans for the Arts

Washington, DC

Clay Lord

Vice President of
Local Arts Advancement

Americans for the Arts

Washington, DC

Alejandra Montoya-Boyer

Associate Program Director,
Community & Economic Development

National Association of Counties (NACo)

Washington, DC

Libby Reder

Fellow, Future of Work Initiative

Aspen Institute

San Francisco, CA

Narric Rome

Vice President of
Government Affairs and Arts Education

Americans for the Arts

Washington, DC

Axel Santana


Policy Link

Oakland, CA

Dee Schneidman

Program Director,
Research & Creative Economy

New England Foundation for the Arts

Boston, MA

Susan Soroko

Director of Creative Economy

Arlington Economic Development

Arlington, VA

Jim Speirs

Executive Director

Arts South Dakota

Sioux Falls, SD

Jessica Stern

Private Sector Initiatives
Program Manager

Americans for the Arts

New York, NY

Sarah Triplett

Deputy Chief of Staff

Michigan Department of State

Lansing, MI

George Tzougros

Executive Director

Wisconsin Arts Board

Madison, WI

Mara Walker

Chief Operating Officer

Americans for the Arts

Washington, DC

Amy Webb

Director of Business Partnerships
and Programs

Americans for the Arts

New York, NY


Creative Industry & Entertainment

The National Independent Venue Association is mission is to preserve and nurture the ecosystem of independent venues and promoters throughout the United States. These entertainment hubs are critical to their local economies and tax bases as employers, tourism destinations, and revenue generators for neighboring businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and retail. Independent venues exist in every state across the country; they were the first to be closed, they will be the last to open. The economic recovery process will extend past just reopening the front doors, requiring solutions unique to the industry.

Culture@3 is a large coalition of cultural organizations in New York City that came into existence at the onset of the pandemic to tackle the challenges and impact of COVID-19 on the city’s cultural sector. The coalition began daily calls at 3pm on March 10, 2020 (first instigated by Taryn Sacramone, Executive Director of Queens Theatre and the acting Chair of the Cultural Institutions group) with 34 members of the New York City cultural community to discuss the impact of COVID on their organizations. Culture@3 is co-led by Sacramone, Sade Lythcott of the National Black Theatre, and Lucy Sexton from New Yorkers for Culture & Arts, and now is comprised of more than 700 cultural leaders representing hundreds of institutions of all sizes disciplines, across all five boroughs, with an average 150 participants per call. Their dialogues and working groups range from highly practical and immediate topics like insurance and reopening procedures to longer-term efforts around city and state policy and advocacy.

Creative Workers

Get Creative Workers Working is a coalition open to anyone within the creative economy who would like to join. The coalition meets once a month, and is focused on local, state, tribal, regional, and federal policy and practice solutions that will (1) incorporate creative workers into recovery efforts and put creative workers to work, (2) center equity and prioritize populations that have been systemically discriminated against and/or have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and (3) address the full breadth of the creative economy, from solo entrepreneurs to national companies, non-profit to for-profit, and educational to commercial, and everything in between.

Be An #ArtsHero/Arts Workers United is an intersectional grassroots campaign comprised of arts & culture workers, unions, and institutions in the United States pushing the Senate to allocate proportionate relief to the arts & culture sector of the American economy. 

Music Workers Alliance (MWA} is an organization of, by, and for independent music workers. We came together because we are fed up with unfair treatment and lack of benefits, contracts, and representation. MWA’s shared purpose is to activate our power as music workers to create a community where music is valued financially and culturally, and music workers benefit and achieve dignity in our lives by engaging in collective action. Any self-identified music worker who supports the mission of MWA may apply to join MWA as a member.

Freelancers Union is the largest and fastest-growing organization representing the 56.7 million independent workers across the country. We provide our 500,000+ members a powerful support system and voice through policy advocacy, benefits, resources and community. Membership is free and open to freelancers of all kinds, from graphic designers and contractors to entrepreneurs and moonlighters. Freelancers Union was founded by Sara Horowitz in 1995, and, since its founding, has fought for and won protections for freelance workers, including Unincorporated Business Tax reform, and has successfully advocated for new healthcare models.


Work We Admire

People and organizations across the country are engaged in inspiring and meaningful work to create inclusive creative economies. Here are some we admire and who are leading the work for systemic change. This is by no means a conclusive list.