Helping funders and arts organizations realize their vision since 1996.


Case Study: ArtsForward, A National Funding Program

An Initiative of the Association of Performing Arts Professionals Made Possible by the Mellon Foundation

Thank you, Vicky and Suzanne, from the bottom of my heart for your tireless work and support of all of us artists in the APAP Arts Forward fold. I am propelled by the belief you have in us as creatives. There aren’t enough words to express my gratitude for your energy and patience

—DJ Reborn, partner to 651, Brooklyn, NY 


THANK YOU for your support with this big project, supporting us in helping artists make a living AND aid veterans suffering from PTSD. … We cannot thank ArtsForward enough for your patience, funding, support, and understanding of our position in these difficult times.

—Presenter Marie Olesen, Fairbanks Concert Association, AK, in partnership with artists DeCruit


The administration of this grant and the assistance provided to Wortham for this project was incredible. We greatly appreciate the flexibility and support…. Thank you, APAP!”

—Rae Geoffrey, Wortham Center for the Arts, Asheville, NC 


Thank you, Vicky and Suzanne. You brought us a lot of joy.

—Rhonda Greene, Heritage Works, Detroit, MI

ArtsForward, National Funding Program.
Click to view a short video about the program.

Training and Facilitation
In addition to one-on-one consultation to clients, we have provided numerous trainings and facilitated forums for funders. Read about some of our past speaking engagements and trainings that have complemented our philanthropic services.

In 2021-2023, Callahan Consulting for the Arts helped conceive, design, and manage the Association of Arts Professionals’ (APAP) ArtsForward, a national program that awarded $2,065,000 in support to partnerships between presenting organizations and artists. Made possible with funding from the Mellon Foundation, ArtsForward responded to the needs of artists and presenters as the field emerged from the pandemic. Additional information is available on the APAP website here.

This case study provides ideas for funders who are interested in collaborative program design, building equitable partnerships between artists and presenters, and providing funding in a manner that centers relationship building as the field emerges from the pandemic.

ArtsForward responded to the fallout from COVID-19 on the performing arts field, which prompted a reckoning our field had never experienced. Widespread cancellations during the pandemic resulted in devastating financial loss, particularly for artists. In 2020 and 2021, artists and other groups coalesced out of a desire to name these inequities and identify sustainable and fair ways to work together. Key contributors to this dialogue were Creating New Futures, APAP’s Equitable Partnership Working Group, the Dance/USA Joint Working Group and We See You White American Theater, along with groups formed by other national service organizations. The degree of sharing and brainstorming about solutions in the arts field was unprecedented. CCA culled key findings and directives from artists, presenters and agents, among others, which informed the application design. An advisory committee of artists, presenters and agents finalized the guidelines and design.

ArtsForward offered presenters and artists the chance to collaborate on a project that centered an equitable fee structure. Designed to occur on a short turnaround , a two-phased application limited the amount of information required. Two design aspects distinguish ArtsForward from other funding programs. 1) The equitable fee structure required that at least half of the grant had to go to artists, and that half of that fee had to be paid as soon as the grant started. Artists must be paid for all activities, including those that were virtual. In the event of any cancellation, presenters and artists were to find mutually beneficial alternatives, with the proviso that the artist would never be asked to return any portion of the fee. 2) A new, collaborative application portal was designed to be accessible for artists and presenters, so the artist could view the application and budget before it was submitted. The artist was required to answer several questions so that their voice would be present in the application.

In March 2021, ArtsForward supported 47 collaborations between presenters with grants of $35,000 or $50,000.  

  • Presenters were based in 27 states and the majority of artists were BIPOC.
  • A social media campaign raised visibility for collaborations.
  • Online cohort meetings, using a new design, allowed artists and presenters to connect around mutual interests and fight some of the alienation that the pandemic continued to cause.
  • The program culminated in a well-attended in-person meeting of nearly 100 of the presenters and artists.
  • During the APAP conference, the sessions ArtsForward in Practice:  Lessons and Stories from Partnering in the Pandemic and Equity in Contracting: New Resources and Next Steps, provided an opportunity for Callahan, artists, presenters and agents to share discoveries and experiences of collaborating as the field began to emerge from the pandemic. View recordings of these sessions here

The short video at the left tells the story of the program’s intent and impact.

The work of this program represents one step in a long journey toward a better, more just and sustainable future for the field. ArtsForward realized its vision—in the wake of the pandemic, to nurture relationships, and build momentum toward reopening and working together in more equitable ways.

ArtsForward was run by Suzanne Callahan, senior advisor, Victoria Abrash, program manager, and Shanice Mason, video and social media, as well as CCA assistants Mikaela Hill and Rae Luebbert, in support of APAP staff and leadership.

Above: Delbert Anderson, by Shanice Mason. Courtesy of the Artist and APAP. Philadanco, Courtesy of the Artist and APAP. Ephrat Asherie,  by Shanice Mason. Courtesy of the Artist and APAP.