The roots of the Artist INC seminar can ultimately be traced back to the Culture Wars of the 1990s and the resulting federal funding reductions for American artists. The crisis for artists that followed inspired the Ford Foundation to commission the Urban Institute to study the environment of support mechanisms for artists.
Culminating three years of research, the Urban Institute published its report, Investing In Creativity, in 2003. This report outlined a comprehensive framework for improving the conditions of American artists centered on six domains: 1) validation, 2) demand/markets, 3) material supports, 4) training and professional development, 5) communities and networks, and 6) information.
Building on this research, the Ford Foundation, with subsequent funding from numerous other national arts and culture funders, launched a ten-year initiative in 2003. This initiative, Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC), was a philanthropic experiment to use money, information, strategy and partnerships to build upon the framework outlined in Investing in Creativity and create change in the American support system for artists. In its ten years, 2003 to 2013, LINC invested over $18 million in more than 100 partner organizations in communities across the country. One of those communities was Kansas City.
In 2008, a partnership of the Charlotte Street Foundation, the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City Innovation Center received a LINC Creative Communities grant to establish Artist INC. Artist INC programming was intentionally designed to address four of the Investing in Creativity domains (validation, training and professional development, communities and networks, and information) for artists residing in the Kansas City metropolitan area. The heart of Artist INC programming, its eight-week seminar, was launched in 2009 and has been completed by 347 Kansas City artists in its first decade.
The success of Artist INC participants quickly led to demand for programming outside the Kansas City area, and in 2013 Mid-America Arts Alliance joined the partnership to expand Artist INC programming, fully acquiring the program in 2017.