Kiela Smith, Co-founder of Artists Design The Future, had a very rosy update for her organization that gives one hope. Her organization got an influx of funds to move it forward.
Kiela Smith, Co-founder of Artists Design The Future
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In the dynamic and ever-evolving sphere of social justice and community empowerment, Kiela Smith is a beacon of progressive activism and creativity. As the co-founder of Artists Design The Future, Smith has embarked on a journey to envision a brighter future and construct it actively. In a recent interview on “Politics Done Right,” she delved into the remarkable progress her organization has made over the past year, providing insights that are not only valuable but also inspiring.
Artists Design The Future, conceived from a blend of personal inspiration and a recognition of community needs, is a project that transcends conventional boundaries. Smith, driven by the examples her father and other community leaders set, initiated this venture with a vision to integrate social justice with artistic expression. Though initially unfunded and nurtured in the shadows, this endeavor gained substantial momentum through Smith’s relentless efforts and ability to inspire others to join her cause.
The project’s journey from a mere idea to a flourishing enterprise is a testament to the power of determination and collective effort. The Voqal National Fellowship, recognizing the potential of this initiative, awarded a $30,000 grant along with business and storytelling coaching. This funding acted as a catalyst, not only financially but also in terms of providing clarity and direction. Further successes followed, with Smith securing additional fellowships and grants, including a significant contribution from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.
At the core of Artists Design The Future lies the concept of a worker cooperative, a model that resonates deeply with progressive values. The idea is to create mixed-use spaces where artists and creative entrepreneurs can live and work collectively, owning their workspaces cooperatively. This approach challenges traditional development models, prioritizing community engagement and sustainable development over financial returns.
The progress over the last year has been substantial, with the project securing nearly $300,000 in funding. This financial support is channeled into realizing a vision of a building or a series of buildings that not only provide space for artists but also contribute to the cultural and environmental infrastructure of the community. The emphasis is on self-determination and building wealth for individual artists and the community as a whole.
A key aspect of the project is its inclusive and democratic approach. Training sessions are planned to educate potential cooperative members about the principles and history of cooperatives, particularly focusing on African-American cooperatives in the United States. This education is vital to ensure all members share a common understanding and commitment to the cooperative model.
Ownership in the cooperative is not just a financial investment; it’s a commitment to a collective vision. Those who complete the training will have the opportunity to invest and become owners, contributing not just financially but also in terms of ideas and direction. The design of the space, whether a single building or a scattered site development, will be a collective decision, reflecting the needs and aspirations of the members.
Looking forward, Smith envisions Artists Design The Future as a model that can be replicated, demonstrating the viability of cooperative models in fostering inclusive and sustainable community development. The focus remains on ensuring accessibility for all, including artists with disabilities, and creating functional spaces that reflect the community’s cultural identity.
Kiela Smith and Artists Design The Future are at the forefront of a movement that combines art, social justice, and community development. Their progress over the past year is not just a story of financial success but a narrative of empowerment, collaboration, and visionary leadership. As they continue to build on this momentum, their journey offers valuable lessons and inspiration for anyone committed to creating a more equitable and vibrant future.
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