The MacArthur Foundation selected 18 organizations for a one-time project entitled "Special Initiative on Artists' Colonies, Communities, and Residencies." The project was under the direction of Ken Hope and the MacArthur Fellows Program, and distributed over $2.5 Million to the 18 organizations: Alternative Worksite (now the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts), Atlantic Center for the Arts, Capp Street Project, Centrum, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Fine Arts Work Center, Headlands Center for the Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art (now PS1), Jacob's Pillow, The MacDowell Colony, Mattress Factory, the Millay Colony, Palenville Interarts Colony, Ragdale Foundation, Sculpture Space, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Yaddo, and Yellow Springs Institute.
The participants first met in February 1991 at Atlantic Center for the Arts (New Smyrna Beach, FL). The organizations agreed to pool some money from their MacArthur grants to form a national consortium of artists' communities, with the mission to "cooperate to improve the environment in which we support the creative process."
And so the Alliance was created, to recognize creative process and the exploration of new ideas as essential to human progress.
The consortium's first part-time staff was hired in San Francisco in 1992, and the organization become known as the Alliance of Artists Communities. The Alliance moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1996 and then to Providence, Rhode Island, in 2002.
The Alliance membership now includes more than 250 organizations and individuals, in 43 states and 17 countries, and speaks collectively on behalf of the more than 1,000 residency programs worldwide. Since 2004, the Alliance has provided more than $2 million in direct grant funding to artists and artist residency centers.
As the membership continues to grow and to include more residency models, the Alliance is evolving to meet the needs of the field and to provide a strong voice for the support of artists and the role they play in shaping our world.