The Arts Meet Coding: Fractured Atlas Fellowship for Tech Training

4/25/14Follow @jpruth

That old cliché about actors waiting tables to eat might get upended by a fellowship in technology.

Local artists could find their future “day jobs” in software development—thanks to Fractured Atlas. This New York-based nonprofit develops cloud-based management platforms for arts organizations and individual artists. Founder Adam Huttler says the fellowship he has introduced will give three New York artists training they need to find jobs in tech.

He sees the program as an alternative to the usual work in restaurants, bartending, or office temp work many in the arts take on. “They’re not earning all of their income from their artistic activities,” Huttler says.

Menial jobs might help folks get by, but he says these are not great fits for working artists. “They don’t pay very well, and they tend to have challenging hours,” he says. Such jobs can require working at night, which often conflicts with shows in the performing arts, he says.

Those who complete the Fractured Atlas program, he says, may have more liberty with their lives, compared with waiting tables. “Working as a freelance software developer, you’re going to make more money,” he says. “You’re going to be able to work from home and set your own hours.”

Before there is a stampede like an open casting call, Huttler say not everyone from the arts community will be a fit for the program. Fractured Atlas is looking for people who have some rudimentary tech skills, but have not yet honed them to a professional grade. “We want you to have experience with HTML and CSS, kind of a basic knowledge of how the Web works and what programming is,” Huttler says.

The window is closing quickly though for this round of fellowships; the deadline is April 30.

Fractured Atlas is still determining how many times per year the fellowship will run.

Those accepted into the three-month program, which starts in June, will learn coding skills from developers at Fractured Atlas. Part of the fellowship will include working on apps and platforms created by the nonprofit for the arts community. Formal training sessions, Huttler says, will introduce the fellows to the Ruby programming language, the Ruby on Rails Web application framework, and the basics of JavaScript.

The fellows will also collaborate on a test project to build a Web app, Huttler says. “They’ll create the front end, the back end, and deal with the database,” he says. “They’re doing all the kinds of things that professional software developers do.”

Huttler ran a pilot version of the fellowship program last fall, which led to Fractured Atlas hiring a software developer (who is also an aspiring theater director.)

The fellowship program was created, Huttler says, to help Fractured Atlas attract and recruit software developers. “It’s really difficult being a nonprofit software developer, especially one that works on hard problems,” he says. “We can’t offer things like stock options, equity, and profit-sharing.” Those are incentives that startups, which Huttler competes with for talent, can dangle in front of prospective hires.

So Fractured Atlas sought a way to build its own pipeline of software developers who understand the arts community, he says. Huttler hopes a significant portion of the fellows who emerge from the program will be eager to join Fractured Atlas as junior developers. “We see it as a unique learning opportunity that also helps with our business,” Huttler says.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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