Artists Lead! A New Opportunity for Changemaking Through Art

September 18, 2019

By: Noah Lumbantobing, ioby

This article was originally published by ioby on September 17, 2019.


We’re excited to announce the Artists Lead! match program. ioby has partnered with our friends at ArtPlace America to support artist-led projects that create community change. Through Artists Lead!, artists using their skills to address local community issues can access up to $15,000 in match funds for every dollar raised through their ioby crowdfunding campaign. 

Artists play a critical role in finding creative solutions to community issues. They exist in all our communities, yet they may be overlooked as leaders in a place. At ioby, we know that local leadership spurs positive community change from the ground up, and that artists are a part of that equation. Whatever the medium, artists imagine possibilities where others may only see challenges. What is key is that when artists are using their skills to facilitate change, it is in service to community desires and needs. This unique way of working, sometimes called creative placemaking, is an approach to community change that we at ioby see real value in. 

Take for example, Make Art, Talk Race: a program in Cleveland, Ohio that created spaces to discuss the social, emotional and physical impacts of race and racism on individuals and communities. This initiative came out of a community’s desire to repair relationships among neighbors, and collectively heal from the negative impacts of racism that were symbolized by Interstate 71. One of the projects, A Bridge that Bridges, was led by visual artist and activist Gwen Garth and community organizer Kaela Geschke. Gwen and Kaela used art as a tool to bring together neighbors in adjacent neighborhoods that were divided by the construction of this highway dating back to  the 1960s. 

What is unique about Gwen and Kaela’s approach is that they recognized they could use their skills as listeners and facilitators in service of something that the community needed and was already working on. They also realized that the central element of their project was the act of bringing neighbors together around an issue that community members wanted to address, but didn’t know how. The outcome wasn’t simply about beautifying their neighborhood, but healing it.They were able to raise $2,115 to host meetings of neighbors from both sides of the highway, and then bought materials to co-design and paint a mural on the overpass that connects the two communities over I-71. The mural served as a welcome mat to invite residents from one neighborhood into the other, and physically represented the two communities’ desires for a more equal and integrated future. In fundraising and creating the work, Gwen and Kaela heard from neighbors that this was the first time they had talked to residents of the other community, and it happened because art was able to act as a powerful unifier. Rather than focusing on what divides these neighborhoods, Gwen and Kaela saw the bridge, and it’s what countless artists across the country are doing too. 

What makes ioby different is that we believe community change starts with neighbors, and we’re  beyond excited to support artists who are stepping into their roles as changemakers. We’re here to help you build confidence as a leader, spur some ideas or project development support when you need it, and provide one-on-one coaching to fundraise for your idea.

Let’s try this, together! 


Learn more about the Artists Lead! match opportunity and share your idea with us at

Want to talk to someone about your idea? Drop us a line at hello [at]!