Arts Nonprofit A Blade of Grass to Restructure, Relinquishing Staff and Fellowship Program

Christel Deskins

Brooklyn-based arts nonprofit A Blade of Grass has announced that it is restructuring amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. All five of the organization’s full-time employees will be laid off in mid-October, and executive director Deborah Fisher will take a pay cut as the nonprofit seeks new avenues of providing support […]

Brooklyn-based arts nonprofit A Blade of Grass has announced that it is restructuring amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. All five of the organization’s full-time employees will be laid off in mid-October, and executive director Deborah Fisher will take a pay cut as the nonprofit seeks new avenues of providing support to its artists. The organization expects to hire one full-time associate following the restructuring: The position has been offered to current staff.

Founded in 2011, A Blade of Grass for nearly a decade sought to nurture socially engaged art through direct funding to artists via eight annually $20,000 fellowships and through a program that included events, partnerships, research, documentary films, and a biannual publication.

With the advent of Covid-19, A Blade of Grass found itself, like many arts organizations large and small, faced with a severely diminished fundraising landscape, which in its case resulted in a $300,000 shortfall in its annual $1 million budget. Because the organization relied heavily on events, trips, and experiences to fundraise for a form of art that is not easily categorized, Fisher and the board of trustees took the decision to dismantle and rebuild the nonprofit around its core mission, which will remain the promotion of socially engaged art.

The organization will sunset its fellowships, with the last batch awarded in March 2020 receiving full monies and support for their projects going forward. For the fiscal year 2021, A Blade of Grass plans to shift to a commissioning model, in which it will take a more active and collaborative role, focusing on a smaller number of projects and the attendant content development and public programs necessary to support those projects. The organization, which acknowledges that its efforts will temporarily be more localized owing to the pandemic, additionally plans to conduct listening sessions with artists to determine their needs.

“A Blade of Grass was founded on the belief that art is everywhere and for everybody, and that artists are essential to creating healthier, more just, and sustainable communities,” said Fisher in a statement. “This is a challenging moment, and it is demanding that we ask big picture questions about why we all need art, where it needs to be right now, and how we might best support and amplify the important work artists are doing to share the creative process within communities. . . . Our success depends entirely on being open to an unknown future, and on remaining in service to the important work artists are doing.”

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