Creating a Living Legacy: Strategies & Outcomes

For more than a decade, the Foundation has worked closely with artists, arts professionals, and legal experts to develop the studio organization, artwork documentation, and legacy planning tools that are now available to the public. To share more about the development of these resources, we compiled a timeline of key program strategies and outcomes.

Composite image of 4 artist portraits in a grid, Mildred Howard, Elemore Morgan, Jr., Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and Freddy Rodriguez
Clockwise from top left: Mildred Howard, Elemore Morgan, Jr., Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and Freddy Rodriguez

2007 – 2017

Direct Support for Artist Legacy Planning and Career Documentation

The Foundation began its work to support artists envisioning the future and planning long-term with four pilot artists over three years: Mildred Howard, Elemore Morgan, Jr., Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and Freddy Rodríguez. Each artist possessed a 40+ year body of work, a strong history of exhibitions, and had careers which varied in media, geography, and institutional relationships.

The pilot enabled case studies for field testing the development of a support program which, over ten years, has combined the use of technology, strategic planning, skills-building, and grant assistance, to empower over 70 artists to take ownership of the documentation and evaluation of their life’s work and personal legacies.

Two legacy specialists working in studio, surrounded by artwork storage furniture and lighting apparatus
Legacy Specialists working with CALL Database in the studio of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, 2012

2007 - 2018

CALL Database

The Foundation developed a custom-built, artist-centered database in the Filemaker platform to offer artist users a way to track their careers by storing and connecting different types of information: artwork inventory, exhibition, history, contacts, bibliography, and other professional information in a relational manner. This work was informed, in part, by the Foundation’s own work to develop a custom database for Joan Mitchell’s artwork.

In a ten-year period, more than 70 artists nationally utilized the software to develop their own databases. In 2018, upgrades and ongoing software support were concluded in recognition of the increase in artist inventorying database software options in the field.

Legacy Specialist Alex Unthank and artist Marcos Dimas looking at slides on a lightbox in a room filled with papers, art supplies and storage.
Legacy Specialist Alex Unthank working with CALL Artist Marcos Dimas in his studio.

2010 - 2015


Lessons learned from the pilot program led the Foundation to develop a Legacy Specialist curriculum, which offered an introductory training on best practices to support artists undertaking in-studio career documentation work, including studio organization, inventory management, and archiving. The training also cultivated a group of knowledgeable and qualified artists who could document their own work and be of service to their peers and the field.

In 2013, the Foundation expanded its scope to include intergenerational mentoring models and foundational job training opportunities in the career documentation process for young adults (18-25), who assisted the Legacy Specialists as Legacy Apprentices.

4 logos for organizations, Artist Trust, Bronx Council on the Arts, Diverse Works, and Space One Eleven

2012 - 2016


Recognizing the importance of preserving the legacies of artists within their own context and communities, in 2012, the Foundation sought to seed CALL programs nationally. Grants were awarded to four artist-centered organizations to help them adapt the CALL model for individual artists in their communities. Artist Trust (Seattle, WA), Bronx Council on the Arts (Bronx, NY), DiverseWorks (Houston, TX), and Space One Eleven (Birmingham, AL) ran local programs between 2012 and 2016, which have collectively supported 30 visual artists as listed below.

Open CALL workbooks, showing text and photographs

2012 – Present

Guides and Workbooks

Acknowledging that planning for the future begins with having access to resources and tools, the Foundation published the CALL Career Documentation Guide in 2012, to make the learnings of the CALL pilot program and Legacy Specialist training accessible to a wider audience. Since that time, we have continued to prioritize accessible, effective, and beneficial tools to create sound estate and legacy plans specific to the unique needs of visual artists.

In 2014, the Foundation in partnership with Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston released its first Estate Planning Workbook for Visual Artists. In 2018, the same partnership released Estate Planning for Visual Artists: A Workbook for Attorneys & Executors, a complementary tool for estate planning attorneys and those designated to carry out an artist’s wishes, who may not know about some of the particular challenges, solutions, and opportunities an artist's career and estate may pose.

Artist Tara Sabharwal talking to Robin Clark in front of an audience, behind them a screen shows Sabharwal's artwork
CALL/VoVA Talk featuring artist Tara Sabharwal, interviewed by Robin Clark at Fales Library & Special Collections, NYU, 2018

2015 – Present

CALL/VoCA Artist Talks

Recognizing the artist's voice as essential to the understanding of their practice and legacy, in 2015 the Foundation partnered with VoCA (Voices in Contemporary Art) to produce an annual series of in-depth interviews with artists who participated in the CALL program. Each talk is presented publicly, with edited video recordings available online and accessibly preserved with full transcripts at the NYU Fales Library. The complete CALL/VoCA library is expected to be complete in 2021.

Current Priorities

In 2019, the Foundation completed a strategic plan for 2020-25 with two core priorities for our continued work to advance artist legacy planning. As we think through the future and ways of sharing our learnings with the field, we are committed to providing artists with information resources developed through the CALL program to encourage, honor, and preserve a lifetime of work through intentional legacy planning.

At the same time, we recognize the importance of galvanizing the field to actively engage in and innovatively support artist legacy planning, particularly for BIPOC artists. For the Foundation, the need to preserve the voices, work, and archives of individual artists is a core priority; we are simply aware that related advocacy and outreach goes beyond our own capacity and requires an expanding network. We will continue to advocate in the field for increased investment in artist legacy planning and stewardship, working to ensure a diversity of artist perspectives in future history.