The Sustainability Project (working title) is a platform for research initiated by interdisciplinary artists, David Thomson and Kate Watson-Wallace, that seeks to create and expand discourse surrounding ideas of financial, artistic, and personal empowerment in the arts community. We view this work as artist activism, as we strongly believe that artists are lacking basic skills, tools, and resources that would empower and strengthen their ability to create work, develop personal stability and envision longevity in a realistic way.

At the heart of this work are larger questions and philosophies around aspects of care, community, and resources that feed and support each artist’s individual ecosystem of sustainability. Inherent in this research are questions around how to create a quality of life, share access to resources, and redefine concepts of success. How is the artist considered within and beyond the production of art? How can we create collaborative and responsive models that take on engagements that are co-designed by artists, curators, and organizations?

The core mission of this project is based on education, engagement, and empowerment for artists. We believe this is part of a cultural mindset that requires deeper dialogues and systemwide acknowledgment to enact change. One of our objectives is to create discussions amongst various stakeholders in the ecosystem (artists, funders, presenters, administrators) to more fully understand the strains on the system and begin having relevant collective conversations. We believe together we can develop flexibility, versatility, and transparency in how artists are engaged and supported. A significant aspect of our work is built on self-reflection, a process of self-actualization – for each of these various stakeholders.

Our interest in this work is not to reinvent the wheel, but rather to analyze what is already working in various realms, and how we can look at models outside the non-profit arts world as guides to create sustainable lives – personally, artistically, and professionally.

In addition, we have developed a curriculum, Strategies for Sustainability, which
proposes a more comprehensive approach to living an artistic life rather than simply creating
an artistic career. Underlying this process are philosophies of care, self-awareness, and reenvisioning relationships influenced by Emergent Strategy, Touchstone Values, and other sources.

The curriculum is designed to address a range of issues:


• Financial Literacy (budget, credit/debt, taxes, savings & retirement)
• Housing | Homeownership
• Personal Wellness & Healthcare
• Conflict Resolution & Negotiation
• Legacy (Living Will, Health Proxy, Power of Attorney, Last Will)
• Artist Statements | Mission
• Fundraising | Grant writing | Residencies
• Artist Advocacy

This awareness and research draw from our mutual and extensive histories of working in the arts in wide-ranging capacities: as performers, creators, advocates, arts administrators, panelists, teachers, and mentors. Kate’s experience as a facilitator for Artists U for the last 10 years, working with artists formally and informally in Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, and Los Angeles; David’s history as an artist advocate, board member, arts administrator, and mentor who has focused on issues of sustainability for many years as well as being a founding member of Dancer’s Forum.

Institutional Relationships

New York Live Arts 
Gibney Dance Center
Movement Research
Performance Space NY
Queer|Art
Lower Manhattan Cultural Council

Academic Relationships

Pratt Institute
Florida State University
Bennington College
New York University