Arts Innovators


ACTIVATE Innovators
2021 applications are now closed. 

Applications Close: Feb. 5, 2021
Applicants Notified: Mar. 5, 2021

ACTIVATE Innovators is a project incubator designed to support arts leaders as they grow an idea into a fully-planned project. The program offers changemakers the opportunity to learn from field leaders, connect with other cross-sector colleagues, and lead the development of a project or program addressing one of Arts for LA’s four issue areas: affordable space, education equity, creative careers, and equitable funding.

This year, Arts for LA is seeking nominations for the 2021 ACTIVATE Innovators cohort from organizations interested in focusing on creative sector jobs. We are looking for candidates from organizations ready to explore the following question:

In LA County, only 26% of the population identifies as white yet this demographic accounts for 59% of the arts workforce. Additionally, it is estimated that about 284,000 creative sector jobs have been lost across California since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. What role do you think your organization can play in creation of living wage jobs that address the underrepresentation of BIPOC communities in the arts + culture workforce?

The ideal candidate will be affiliated (employee, volunteer, consultant, board member) with an organization that believes it has a role to play in addressing this issue. The ACTIVATE Innovators curriculum focuses on the skills and knowledge necessary to drive change through an organization or institution (i.e. a nonprofit, commercial arts organization, small arts + culture business, etc). By the end of the ACTIVATE Innovators program, participants will produce proposals ready for their Sponsoring Organization to implement, scale, or continue developing. Therefore, applicants to this program must have a relationship with a Sponsoring Organization that is supportive of their application.


  • Sponsoring Organization. All applicants must secure the approval of the sponsoring organization (i.e. the organization that would, potentially, implement the project or proposal developed by the Innovator). While Innovators do not need to be employed by the sponsoring organization, each application must include an “organizational point person” from the sponsoring organization who is 1) aware of the project and 2) willing to spend 1-2 hours/per month providing feedback on the Innovator’s evolving project. 

  • Attend Monthly Sessions. The three-hour monthly sessions will take place digitally or in-person - subject to public health guidelines & regulations. 

  • Monthly Meetings with Mentor. Arts Innovators will be responsible for scheduling one monthly meeting with their assigned mentor.

  • Attend Online Events. Arts Innovators may be asked to participate in one online issue training, organizing event, or policy working group - dates TBD.

FAQ for ACTIVATE Innovator: Applicant

  • Do I have to be an employee of the Sponsoring Organization? No, Innovators do not need to be full-time, permanent employees of the Sponsoring Organization. They do need to have an established relationship with the organization - as a volunteer, independent contractor, board member, etc. 
  • Can I self-nominate? Absolutely. We welcome self-nominations so long as the Sponsoring Organization is aware and enthusiastic about the application.
  • I work for a small organization and lead program work. Do I still need an Organizational Point Person (OPP)? If you are in a leadership position at a small organization with the ability to make programmatic decisions, you do not necessarily need an organizational point person. Just be sure to make this clear in your application and designate yourself as the OPP.
  • What is the program’s time commitment? ACTIVATE Innovators should expect to commit 5-7 hours/month for Skills Workshops, mentor meetings, and readings/assignments.

  • Is the program in-person or remote? The program will be entirely remote in accordance with LA County Public Health guidelines. Should the recommendations change, selected events may occur in-person to provide Innovators more opportunities to network. These changes will be made in communication with the selected cohort and only if in-person gatherings can be held in accordance with LA County public health guidelines. 

FAQ for ACTIVATE Innovator: Sponsoring Organization

  • Would the Sponsoring Organization be required to implement the Innovator’s project or proposal?
    No, implementation of the Innovator’s proposal or project is not a requirement for participation. This program is intended to provide the Sponsoring Organization a highly supportive, exploratory space for new program design led by a trusted team member (the ACTIVATE Innovator). The program is designed to support participants in creating a project that is “shovel-ready,” while also serving as valuable professional development for emerging-to-mid career arts professionals seeking to sharpen their program design and fundraising skills. 

  • Does this program offer funding for the Innovator’s project or proposal? Arts for LA cannot offer seed funding at this time, though the program will offer opportunities for participants to network with potential partners and develop fundraising materials.

FAQ for ACTIVATE Innovator: Organizational Point Person (OPP)

  • How much time should I expect to commit as an Organizational Point Person? No more than 1-2 hours/month. Arts for LA will ask ACTIVATE Innovators to schedule time to check-in with their OPP to ensure that proposals and potential projects remain aligned with program goals and remain in the scope of feasibility. 

  • Am I the “mentor” mentioned in the program description and below Key Dates? No. In order to support the Innovators as much as possible through this process, we will be pairing Innovators with additional mentors to help them shape their proposals. With the exception of the Innovators Orientation on March 25, 2021, the Organizational Point Person will not be expected to attend the sessions listed below.

KEY DATES (subject to change)

Innovator Applications Open: Dec 7, 2020
Innovator Applications Close: Feb 5, 2021
2021 Innovator Cohort Announced: March 5, 2021

Innovators Orientation: March 25, 2021 (evening)
Skills Workshop: April 29, 2021 (evening)
Skills Workshop: May 25, 2021 (evening)
Mentor Meeting: TBD w/ Mentor
Skills Workshop: June 10, 2021 (evening)
Mentor Meeting: TBD w/ Mentor
Skills Workshop: July 15, 2021 (evening)
Mentor Meeting : TBD w/ Mentor
Skills Workshop: Aug 12, 2021 (evening)
Mentor Meeting : TBD w/ Mentor

State of the Arts Summit Rehearsal 1: Early October (TBD)
State of the Arts Summit Rehearsal 2: Early October (TBD)
State of the Arts Summit: October 15, 2021

Innovators interested in presenting their proposals as part of Arts for LA’s annual State of the Arts Summit (SOTA) will be asked to attend two rehearsals/feedback sessions in advance of the October convening. Participation in SOTA is not a program requirement.

Don't hesitate to reach out to the Arts for LA team for more information!