Fractured Atlas Puts 'Biz' In Show Business

Fractured Atlas founder and Executive Director Adam Huttler never intended to create an arts service organization. As a freshly minted Sarah Lawrence graduate, Huttler moved to New York City to start his own theater company and put on plays.

"That lasted for about one show," Huttler admits. "I realized I was OK as a director but really better at the business side of things."

So Huttler transformed his company into a not-for-profit that teaches arts organizations to function better as businesses. Eight years later, Fractured Atlas boasts a $4.5 million budget and supports 7,500 arts organizations and individual artists nationwide. It helps with low-cost health insurance, fiscal sponsorship, professional development, technical assistance and liability insurance.

"We try to help [artists] be in a position to focus more exclusively on making art," Huttler explains.

Fractured Atlas' services helped the Catalyst Theater Company in Washington, D.C., obtain unemployment insurance for its part-time actors and staff. Artistic Director Scott Fortier says he plans to take advantage of Fractured Atlas' free online classes in fundraising and accounting, especially during a moment of declining donations across the arts world.

"Once you start actually acting like a business, I think that your donors are happy, your board is definitely happy. It gives us a grown-up feel," he observes.

Most Fractured Atlas members are individual artists. They can get basic memberships free or pay $75 a year for more programs and services. For example, Fractured Atlas can help documentary filmmakers get errors and omissions coverage that protects them if they are sued by their subjects — and is crucial for scoring distribution deals.

Another Fractured Atlas member, Christian Oh, helps run the DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival, which annually brings over 80 independent movies to Washington. Oh says Fractured Atlas helped his organization expand to the extent that he may not renew his membership: He says the film festival has learned how to take care of itself.

"It's almost like a parent and child," he says. "You know, we've been a child of theirs for a while and we realize that we're growing up and we need to move on."

Huttler says that means he is doing his job. The recession has not hurt Fractured Atlas' membership. In fact, Huttler says that since October, it has gained about 300 new members a month.

"Artists will keep making art, no matter what," Huttler says.

And, he adds, they might as well have health insurance while they do it.

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