Organizers: Golan Levin and Lauren Lee McCarthy (2018)

Open Source Software Toolkits for the Arts (OSSTA) is an acronym for a new type of open-source tool to assist the field in staying up to date with the human experience of creative technology.

A 2018 OSSTA Convening was organized by Golan Levin and Lauren Lee McCarthy in Minneapolis, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the John S and James L Knight Foundation. Various founders, maintainers, and contributors of essential open-source arts-engineering tools participated in this one-day conversation and an “unconference.”

This Convening provides resources and knowledge assisting the field to stay up-to-date and discusses promoting elements in future development. It gives foundations a direct understanding of social needs and helps guide their funding priorities. 


Participants in this Convening discussed their long-term goals and values and the difficulties involved in creating, maintaining, funding, sustainability, and community management of open-source arts toolkits.

Discussions were grouped into six modules: challenges, development and maintenance, community engagement, funding and sustainability, values, and futures of the field. 

Seven takeaways and suggestions were provided after the meeting:

  1.  Maintenance is essential, wide-ranging, and often undervalued.
  2. Funding is necessary to create a sustainable and inclusive toolkit, which is the largest challenge for most OSSTAs.
  3. A focus on access, diversity, and inclusion is needed.
  4. Documentation is critical but often lacking.
  5. Community is just as important as code for many OSSTAs.
  6. Intentional communication needs to consider content, language, and tools used.
  7. Clarifying leadership structures could offer a path toward long-term sustainability.

The Report on a Convening of OSSTA Contributors summarizes and amplifies the knowledge and the impacts of open-source, artist-generated tools, which can be used to understand and support the work in this field and help generate new opportunities in future development.