Monday, June 23, 2008

Survive vs. Thrive

Town Hall: Economic Revitalization for Performing Artists
Monday, June 23, 2008, 7pm-9pm
The FAR Space

How can artists make their best work and afford to live in New York City without collapsing from exhaustion? How can companies grow when funding is dwindling? Join us for a community discussion with veteran arts leaders. Learn about ERPA: The Field’s two-year entrepreneurial lab and re-grant opportunity that addresses the systemic challenges that stand in the way of the financial health and stability of New York performing artists. Spread the word and let your voice be heard!

Moderated by Jennifer Wright Cook, Executive Director, The Field

Panelists Include:
Alyssa Alpine, Festival Coordinator, Celebrate Mexico Now
June W. Choi, Philanthropy/Nonprofit Management Professional (most recently with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors)
Penelope Dannenberg, Director of Programs, New York Foundation for the Arts
Jaki Levy, Director of New Media, Misnomer Dance Theater
Tamara Greenfield, Executive Director, Fourth Arts Block
Gregory Kandel, Founder and Partner, Management Consultants for the Arts, Inc
Aaron Landsman, Playwright/Actor/Administrator
Virginia P. Louloudes, Executive Director, A.R.T./NY
Edward A. Martenson, Professor (Adjunct) & Chair of Theater Management, Yale University School of Drama

Learn more about ERPA today, including the Guidelines & Application to participate in this paid entrepreneurial lab and a full calendar of inventive public dialogues and information sessions.

ERPA is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation’s 2008 New York City Cultural Innovation Fund.


The following transcription of this public dialogue has been edited for flow, and to make up for poor audio capture. While all attempts have been made to accurately document each person’s comments, please refrain from using this as a bible.

Jennifer Wright Cook: Welcome to each of you tonight, to our fabulous mega-panel, and to each of you, thank you for being here for Survive vs. Thrive – the first public dialogue as part of a new program I am really happy to be part of at The Field, ERPA: Economic Revitalization for Performing Artists…we have a lot of Fieldworkers in the crowd tonight who will be taking notes, so we can come back from tonight and continue to shape ERPA so that we can serve artists in the best way possible. It is very important that this challenge gets tossed back to you, to each and every one of us. Beyond being here to ask what The Field can do for you, I hope that you can take away from this evening some ideas about what you can do differently in your art making and your path to economic stability, and that this evening helps to empower yourself and the artists around you.

ERPA has been made possible by in incredible grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, part of the first year of Cultural Innovation Awards, which are aimed at revitalizing New York’s cultural landscape. Our goal is to host a two year entrepreneurial lab for artists to brainstorm, develop, and implement innovative, sustainable, and hopefully replicable income strategies through their creative work. What this looks like could unfold in a lot of different ways, depending on you…so I’d like to open the floor tonight by discussing the notion of success. What does it mean to be successful as an artist? What ways do you guide yourself to be successful?

Attendee 1: To get to do it. To have the opportunity to perform and to create work.

JWC: To perform. To make the work. Simply that. To have the time and resources to make work, to be able to do that.

Attendee 2: And to have creative possibilities to develop as an artist. For example, I know of this company where this dancer became excited about a project and was able to become an in-house researcher for the same company (paraphrased). Success is helping to bring about development and possibilities for the artist to change…

JWC: Change. Could you say a little bit more about that?

Attendee 2: She danced with them and she got curious about adaptation and preservation of the dance, became interested in the adaptation of the dance work of that company. And instead of leaving the company was given a place within the company to do that development and research. She proposed a project for the company to develop an institute for research and choreography. She didn’t go the traditional route of being a dancer, to choreographer, to teaching, but was instead able to specialize in how choreography is notated, transmitted.

JWC: So in other words, I’m hearing that this is long term, the ability to have a “home” in a company instead of just being a dancing body that dances then leaves, and that’s it…

Penelope Dannenberg: And looking at the members of the company as people and not just bodies who have ideas and thoughts.

Jaki Levy: On the dance and theater side it’s possible to make and show work, but it’s rarely possible to have the development time to make the work that’s in your head. You almost never find a financial fit for the size of the audience and a chance to develop the work long term.

JWC: Right, there’s not enough money around for creative development.

JL: Particularly from a traditional capitalistic model, even if people love the work, it’s not set up that way. So there needs to be a greater societal commitment to supporting creative development to make that happen.

JWC: That’s a humongous topic in and of itself…the capitalistic model…in terms of how artists feel valued and how America values art.

Sara Juli: I think part of being successful is that we work really hard as a community to redefine what success is, which is the point of the question at hand. There’s this idea where - I’m just going to say it - which is that BAM is where we all want to go. It’s about finding new ways of figuring out what success is…if it’s showing work in your living room, or BAM, or simply making new work…from the small stuff to the big stuff. It’s figuring out how to talk about what success means in our community. Success is not just one thing, i.e. being presented by a presenter.

JWC: We automatically think that there is a hierarchy of success, and that everyone is on the same path. And it’s not true. We align ourselves toward the art path, and the non-profit structure and everything that is implied by that. We assume that ‘I’m an artist and so it means I’m going to start a non-profit,’ in the same way we assume that ‘I want to be an artist, so this means I won’t make any money.’ Success doesn’t have to mean grants, etc…

SJ: I created a solo piece called ‘The Money Conversation’ in order to reassess my relationship with money. I cashed out my entire savings account of $5,000 and gave it away to an audience every night. And I would leave at the end of the hour and each audience member has to decide whether to keep or to give it back. So it’s a commentary on whether people keep or give this money back, responding to people’s relationship to money and just letting go of this obsessing with money. If you can take that big of a risk, that kind of reward gives back. Hello, I don’t have that much money. I’ve gotten a lot of press and presenting and by taking a big risk I continue to get so much out of it in return. I’ve been touring it for 2 years. Of the original $5,000, I now have about $3,500 in my savings account. In Australia someone took $1,000 in one night, in New Zealand I lost a little too, but here in New York I actually make money every time!

Attendee 3: I’m at this point struggling with basic survival things because of the pay scale in the non-profit world, and the lack thereof in the art world. I think we have to start thinking of ways that we can house ourselves, not just our work. What’s going on the city is that anyone who is below the $100,000 a year mark is really at risk at this point. We can no longer rely on individuals, or finagle a parent, etc.

JWC: How do we frame our conversation, to get to the right people involved and not just come on as the victim…like, ‘we need your money, how are you going to help up?’ It’s not a one way street and it shouldn’t be one. How do we as artists and art organizations contribute back? How are we adding to the dialogue and giving back to our communities?

JL: I forgot where I read this but, but a study said: As property values go up, crime goes down, and civic contributions increase wherever there is arts education or art organizations presenting work. So it’s just a matter of lobbying to take advantage of that. However, usually lobbying power is fueled by financial contributions to campaigns…so I don’t know if, as a non-rich community, we have the power to lobby to support this argument?

Virginia Louloudes: I’m a registered lobbyist. I was actually going to say that this is an argument that is often used and is very effective with legislators and business people alike. But my argument was going to be one that was more spiritual… I had the privilege of listening to a playwright speak who had written about the Rwandan genocide. He’s doing research for another play and he was back in Rwanda and this woman told him her story about being victimized and tortured. At the very end of her account to him, she said, ‘I’m going to tell you something that I’ve never told anyone: I’m dying of AIDS.’ And he said, ‘Why are you telling me this?’ And she said, ‘Because you’re a playwright and you work in the theater and the theater is about telling the truth.’ So to me our job as artists is to remain relevant. Sometimes we’re ahead of the curve and our work isn’t going to be appreciated until after we’re dead. Sometimes we’re saying things people don’t want to hear, but this is our job, to tell the truths that people don’t want to hear. This is the reason that art has survived since the beginning of time.

JWC: That’s a great question, how are we relevant? We have a great deal of statistics about what art contributes towards the community and there’s the lobbying side of that. And Ginny also spoke truth to power about the spiritual side of things. Of course, it seems that this spiritual case is essentially harder for us to make and support with numbers. It’s hard for us to have a number attached to that for a funder or an investor to understand how important art really is.

VL: And yet when we said it, the room was quiet. When we talked numbers, the room wasn't quiet. When we talk about human life, it’s quite and I so I think we’re afraid, we’ve become told that we need to turn on investment all the time. What about all the children who were going to drop out of school, but then they got an art class and stayed because they discovered they could do something well?

Attendee 4: About the question of relevance… I think one of the main symptoms of our problems about proving how relevant art is, is our own doubts about the relevance of art. And then talking about the emotional part, it’s how we can use our intuition to find solutions to our bitterness and frustrations, and turn these into action…through collaborations, barters, etc. But our main problem is doubt.

JWC: We’ve had many conversations about the psychological barriers that keep us from succeeding and stepping out there and doing something. There’s this romanticized notion of the starving artist. We rely on the touchy feely side of art, but often don’t have the confidence to validate our work and speak directly about the benefits it provides for people.

Attendee 5: I was struck by what Ginny said that reminds me of a quote I once heard that ‘art is less about what we like in life and more about what we lack in life.’ And so art points out what society is missing. For example, societies that are very wealthy often get attracted to pastorals. Relating this back to the money issue…the wealthier a society gets, the more people look to the arts for sacrifice, ironically. Like the starving artist. The more spiritually attuned to the work the artist is, the more they suffer to make it. And the more rich and wealthy, the more perverse this relationship becomes. Those things are oddly related. It’s an inherent tension that the arts community creates this tremendous value, but at the same time the world is looking us not to invest in that value, and to be somehow above it in a spiritual sense…that our art remains pure in that we’re not sullied in the market place of money, but that we trade in the inspiration of the market place of ideas.

June Choi: Part of that comes from the western history of art and how art happens in the west. Back to the earlier conversation…numbers work for some people, but also stories are powerful. We have a lot of powerful, important stories to tell, but the flip side of that is that in order for us to tell these stories, there has to be some kind of interaction. And I think that’s what’s missing. Without this interaction there’s a disconnect, and art becomes this thing where people feel that it should be something that’s passive. If you’re looking for increased revenue from your audiences you’re going to have to find some way to increase the numbers in the audiences, to get them to buy in more, to invest more. And the way to do that is to engage them more. There are a lot of different ways to do that. But we need to re-frame how we’re thinking about this, and we need to make a point of not just putting work out there, but to let the audiences know, ‘don’t just sit there, engage!’

Panelist: Were you saying that this is what artists expect of themselves, or is this what society expects of them? Or a little of both?

Attendee 6: I think it has to be both because our ideas of ourselves are formed to some extent in relation to society and to some extent they’re unique. So to the extent that we’re burdened by the communal due, we suffer for that. And there are some people that break that mold and form a different model. But I think there’s a tremendous tension for the arts. That it faces this view from the outside. I think a lot of this comes from the anagrams from the 80’s.

Attendee 7: This touches on a really basic dichotomy that has been of interest to me for a long time. The general point of view among most artists is that everything is getting harder: it’s harder to get space, to get money, to get rehearsal time. It’s harder to keep creative with the day job, etc. And on the other hand, the arts have become such a big business. It’s just not true that our revenues are declining, that audiences aren’t investing, that funding is going south. In 2005 the total revenues from the non-profit art organizations that reported, not that exist, that reported… $27 billion! So big business on the one hand, but on the other hand this big struggle. One of the questions to address is trying to make sense of the massive contradictions in that.

June Choi: There’s also all these art schools graduating all these artists who expect to come out of school making a living, doing their art. Someone mentioned supply and demand earlier. We have to face the reality that we’re looking at a situation that we may have more artists than we have demand for work. How many orchestras are doing subscriptions series and can’t fill all their subscriptions and that’s not because audiences are dying off, it’s also that there a lot more orchestras.

Attendee 8: Then you’re also talking about education, because people are not getting the arts education to appreciate things like orchestras. Kids are not getting the kind of education they need to then grow up and be art consumers, patrons…or to make their own music. So there’s this problem where the country has this inflated commitment to science funding and not to art. Part of it is that we don’t have the appreciation in the culture which comes from not having the funding for arts education, for like, the past 30 years.

JWC: So, what we appreciate influences where our government puts its support. And that’s about values, and how we value ourselves, and it’s a cycle that’s really complex. But what are we going to do about it? The reality is that despite a $27 billion arts economy there are a lot of people walking into The Field every day saying that they are ready to form a company, and how do they get grants and money. And we try to offer help, and realistic, optimistic avenues, etc.

Greg Kandel: It would be great to hear proposals for ERPA for how to engage organizations in ways that would be more meaningful, and especially more sustainable in the long-term. It’s not as if art organizations aren’t supporting artists. But this support is not usually sustained afterwards. It’s much easier to convince arts organizations of the importance of supporting the audiences than it is the general public. I think a lot of organizations are interested in what they can do, but not in how.

Attendee 9: What organizations are you talking about?

GK: Theaters, the more financially stable dance companies, orchestras, and chamber orchestras. I wasn’t thinking about service organizations, but the ones that are responsible for presenting, producing, and showing the work.

Jonah Bokaer: I want to zero in on the word ‘service.’ There is a relationship to be drawn between what Ginny said…but also talking about artistic services being relevant and remaining relevant, or changing so that they can become more relevant. We should also think about how audiences can feel more relevant and not disposable. So how can these things link up? How can artists and services and audiences all be relevant and maintain relevance? Also we need to zero in on the idea of what we mean by the word ‘sustainability’ because there’s ecological sustainability, financial sustainability, and individual sustainability. Can success be sustained?

GK: My reference to sustainability refers to sustained effort. There are plenty of one-offs. They rehearse, get the show up, and then that’s it. But there needs to be developmental time, and it’s in the presenting organization’s best interest to do that too, over time. So I was thinking of sustained mutual commitment between artists and presenting organizations.

Attendee 10: Going back to the point of lobbying… It’s not so much money that artists need as being loud, and focused, and in the face of elected officials all the time, so that when they’re running for office, we’re really pursuing them, saying, ‘What are you doing to do for us?’ and being a focused, vocal, interest group. One suggestion was starting a political action committee, and getting people together and rousing them up.

VL: The man who said we, artists, aren’t putting ourselves in their face enough, that’s bullshit. We’re out there. The problem is that there are just as many other groups out there that are just as needy. And if the choice is between a starving family from Bangladesh or a dance company, they’ll probably fund the service organization helping the staving family from Bangladesh. It’s very complicated. My suggestion would be, yes keep in their face, but don’t think it’s not about money. He gets a paycheck. And he has to remember that you have to live in an area, paying for that area with paychecks, and that it’s all about votes. I think it’s interesting that we’re in a time where people who have always had security before don’t have security anymore. People are getting pink slips from some of the major investment banks. I have one member on my board whose theater company has 6 out of 15 board members unemployed.

The dance programs and TV shows, we can make fun of them, but people are taking dance classes now because they want to look as good as ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ I want to see a reality show called ’The Real Artists of New York City’ because people just don’t know how it really works. I knew an architect who told me that he went to a dance concert and thought that dancers just came on stage and did what they felt like. He did not know that they rehearsed and he’s a college educated person. If organizations taught their audience members how you do what you do, and make the magic a little less invisible, then I think we might be able to get more buy-in.

Attendee 11: I’m from the New York Innovative Theater Awards and we’re currently running two different typographic studies. When we talk about sustainability we talk about large established performing arts organizations serving smaller ones in need of development. We’re talking about ourselves as our own audience and trying to connect larger, more established theater companies sponsoring smaller opportunities for up and comers. So the idea that there‘s this billion dollar industry…how we can get some more buy-in from the established companies to sponsor smaller companies? In terms of relevance, we as a community are the target audience for a lot of corporations. They have tons of money to spend on marketing, and getting them to see us as a new set of eyes for their marketing, if that’s what gets your art funded, then that’s what gets your art funded. And then using a demographic study like ours can show that the people who are making the art, and the people who are attending the art, these are the people who they want to spend their marketing budget on because of the philanthropic trickle down effect.

JWC: There’s clearly passion around social, psychological myths and ideas about who we are and how we work. In The Field we get a lot of hands on, one-on-one interaction with different artists and there’s a lot of damaged souls out there who’ve really worked hard on how to step up to the plate and do it…dealing directly with this idea of money and new ways to make it. Part of the conversation is about how we can learn from the bigger organizations out there, whether they’re for-profit or non-profit, how do we distill some elements of their successes and failures and implement these lessons into our own artistic paths?

Part of what I was thinking about earlier is the notion that the best way overall for how to survive as an artist is to find the best second job. Maybe that’s not the nice answer, but maybe that’s the true answer, or maybe that means marry the Hedge Fund guy. So what about second jobs? And if having a day job is the most viable model for many, how does one find a second job that’s going to fit your financial needs, your life needs, your flexibility needs, your travel needs, etc. And that is not an easy question at all. Everyone on staff at The Field is a working artist and we are dealing with that all of the time. How do we make is possible for Michael to go on tour to Vienna and Toulouse and still do his work here? How do we make the organization flexible enough for him to do what he needs to do? Or should artists be condemned to waiting tables? Or is it writing grants for someone else? Is it being a personal trainer? How do we do it? This is a very important conversation, but we want to take it a step further… If philanthropy isn’t working for most and other things aren’t working, what are we going to do? Are there other things about corporate money that we aren’t tapping into?

JL: One of the models or themes that I’ve been really looking at is how…well, recently I’ve been doing a lot of web development and putting together sites for artists and creating new initiatives online to build audiences online. And I thought: what is this model of scarcity? The idea that there is never enough time, space or money…and I thought: what if there was a model of abundance? What do we have a bunch of? And that’s self-expression, creativity, innovation. Well, how can we share that? The other question: how do we connect with audiences outside of the single performance that we have? You go in, you do your show, the audience leaves, etc. And that was the question that Chris Elam had before we even came into contact with each other. Chris is the artistic director of Misnomer Dance Theater and we worked together on this issue: how do we continue to engage audiences, artists, communities throughout the year? The other question I pose is: how can we really partner with and connect with technology and these kinds of corporations? People are already putting together a lot of initiatives for businesses to do this, so how can we create these partnerships with small business and developers? How can we bring in money through partnerships within the technology community to sustain the arts?

Attendee 12: I’m just struck by how much we’re concentrating on money being purely the dollar bill thing. And really what money does is create a bartering system for exchanging goods and services. So why aren’t we, as a community, exchanging our goods and services and the things we can provide for ourselves with our own abilities that we already have or with each other and supporting each other through that way?

JWC: How would you practically apply that to someone in this room?

Attendee 12: We all have different jobs, our second jobs, from anywhere from cooks, or administrators, etc. I can’t speak for everyone, but when I talk to someone in the arts I’m always amazed at the other talents they have. Like they’ll have a computer science degree and all of the sudden they want to dance. There’s a vast knowledge out there that we just choose to focus on and we forget that we’re very intelligent people overall. I don’t have a direct application for this but hope that this might start a conversation.

Attendee 13: I have a direct response to this through my experience as a composer and being involved in different phases of production in the theater. Beginning theater companies in particular waste an incredible amount of time, resources, and money just going out to the conventional structures. We have to rent a rehearsal room and then purchase the services of musicians and buy insurance. All of this stuff. Your theater budget becomes this massive thing and you just give up the whole show. The way around that is simply to get a group of people in the room, such as we have here - although that’s not the exact purpose of this evening - to decide: let’s produce something, one thing, whatever we have in common, using practically all the resources that we have in this room. I came to this evening with a specific proposal to do that, it’s written down. And now I have 24 sheets on how to do that for a collective performance company. So, pick them up as you go out or talk to me. It’s a proposal for a collective music, theater, and multi-media company where the resources are exchanged fundamentally.

Attendee 14: The two of us have just started our own dance company recently and we did just that. We went through the Arts and Theater Ensemble and I started a project with them. We collaborated with four other choreographers on a dance that we’re showcasing. We didn’t spend a dime on the space, because we sold out two nights in a row. We even had a waiting list from the amount of community that came together. We allowed ourselves to each present 20 minute pieces. We did it in the Merce Cunningham dance studio, a great space to dance in. That is exactly how, if you really want to start something, it’s great to get a bunch of people who you know together and I will guarantee you will not pay for the space, you’ll not pay for time, and you’ll have all your friends. You’ll have the time because everybody else is doing it with you. You have a deadline, everybody has a deadline, and this is what you do and everyone does it. It was a great way to have our New York experience.

JWC: Let me just pick that apart for a one second and ask very politely: How can that be sustainable and how can that - my impression is that this is great, but a lot of artists have a very clear and individualized artistic vision. So, there have been a lot of cooperatives and collectives and…

JC: The buzz word everywhere is diversity. I think diversity is also a buzz word for how do we approach how we think about how we do our work. I think that’s one aspect of it.

Attendee 14: Yes, it’s new to us. So it’s good to start off…

JC: Right. And it may work for a while or for some people. But I think another thing to look at, one thing that I thought was interesting that you talked about was talking to all the people you know. One thing we need to do in our community more and better is to think about all the people you know. Really extend to the full six degrees of separation. Because that’s the only way we’re going to expand our resources. We all know somebody who actually has money, right? And if we completely extend that out, get them to come to the shows, get them to be on the boards, get all your friends who come regularly to your shows to bring someone who maybe isn’t coming that they know. They may have some classmates who still have jobs.

Tamara Greenfield: I think another big issue is that we talk to ourselves a lot and we don’t talk to other people very much. And it amazes me because I’ve worked outside of the arts field for six years now, how little the arts field knows about all the other things that are happening in a lot of different industries. There are things that are going on in industrial retention that could be relevant for small scale artists…the idea of artists as manufacturers. There are parks and community centers all over the city that could be right for collaboration and partnership. They could provide space. There could be better connections done with committees in these areas, which could also be an audience building endeavor. The buzz word for me is ‘networks.’ We need to be using networks a lot more. And not just networks the way we’re talking about them now, MySpace, etc., which are great, but also networks in communities. We need to be relevant in a lot of these, not just through our voice, which is incredible. People want to hear about what we want to say. It has to be about listening too. Sometimes we think that, ‘I have great things to tell people and they need to listen me.’ That doesn’t usually work for the guy on the street on the box and it doesn’t necessarily work for the artist either. There needs to be some kind of dialogue. Some of it is education, but some of it is something else.

Aaron Landsman: Yeah, just to tag team on that, for me the buzz word is ‘citizenship.’ It’s really important that as artists we become citizens. I used to really enjoy some of the creative, class lingo that - and I think it’s valid. It’s a really useful tool to know how much economic activity we stimulate, but some of that economic activity drives people out of their homes. So I’ve been exploring with a friend of mine, Esther Robinson, who’s a real visionary. She’s starting a thing call Art Homes, which is a first time home buying program for artists. One of the things she found out, she was trying to partner with community development corporations in order to see how artists and low income communities could work together to deal with gentrification, to allow artists more stability, and what she found is that CDC’s didn’t want artists moving in. When artists moved in, then the people who lived there before moved out. So I just want to put it out that there’s this real popular idea, a real popular myth among artists is that we’re exceptional. That what we’re going through is something that other people of low incomes aren’t going through. So, arts education is a huge issue, but so is math education. So is teacher salary, so is wetlands preservation. So there’s a lot of solidarity that I think we’re missing out on that we buy into almost as much as the institutions that we are of service to. Some of those institutions do a great job. I don’t want to target any or make any blanket generalizations, but I do think that the onus is also on us to just participate in society. It’s too desperate in the world right now. We owe it to ourselves and owe it to the people that we are pushing out of their homes to try to make some alliances to that we can stave some of that off. So that we can have a better city for all of us.

JWC: That’s great. I love Aaron. That feels that there’s a lot of conflicting things that we’re all talking about and mentioning. And some of them saying, ‘we’re exceptional,’ and also, ‘no, we’re not exceptional.’ ‘We need more money, who has the money.’ There are just a lot of push and pull things inherent in the world. I think part of our battle is how we clarify all of this. And what Jaki was saying about scarcity and abundance makes me wonder about how the structure of the non-profit itself sets up this hierarchy of, ‘you have something and I need it,’ and it could actually be the reverse. It could be ‘I have something. I have the art or the wetlands and you need me.’ But it’s so twisted that it creates such a strong psychological baggage that holds us down. I agree, it’s an issue of solidarity. So how do we level the playing field or just step into the playing field?

JB: I also hear the words partnership and technology a lot. I want to speak to those. I read about the $27 billion report also, and I would like to see that expand. And if the non-profit sector were to partner with other industries which make up a different portion of the public sector, that could be lucrative. If we take the field of dance and take a look at the way that the body - if we looked at the industry of motion capture, or biomechanics, for example…two potentially different kinds of financial resources, and consider dancers and theater artists as trained professionals in the field of the moving body. This would lead to other streams of income. That would concretize our language about technology. So looking at other channels of income may involve for-profit models; taking the expertise that exists in the non-profit sector to do that.

Doug Fox: I have a blog called One of the things I’ve been doing is looking into the possibilities of reaching new audiences, getting new corporate sponsors in an interdisciplinary way with people in different fields, especially in science and technology, and medicine. I put a collection of videos on my blog of about 10 different instances of where movement and gesture and the body are used to control all these interactive interfaces. I watched these different people control the different medical devices and large screened displays for the new computer games and everyone’s dancing. It looks like there’s tremendous opportunities to cultivate new corporate sponsors and new ways for dancers to contribute to the development of these different tools. So I want to talk about how can we bring some of these dances to the internet and get corporate sponsorship for them and hope to reach new audiences.

June Choi: One of the most critical keys is what’s been said before about dialogue about listening. A lot of corporations aren’t deep or philosophical. If you just ask them they’re going to tell you what they’re interested in. If we want to figure out how to make these partnerships, we must figure out how to contextualize what it is you do for people who don’t do that. When I was young I used to go to parties and people would ask, ‘What do you do?’ And I’d say, ‘I’m a poet,’ and it would stop conversations dead cold, everybody would walk away and I’d be all by myself. I decided I was going to do something different. So if we can figure out different ways of talking about what it is we do, in a way that has resonance for people in their lives. So, what do corporations need to do? They need to increase their bottom line and they need to serve their employees. So if you can talk to the people who have the three children, who may be dying intellectually to have some connection but they have very limited time and very limited energy to do that, and think about how to fit it into there lives, there will be some real interest there.

Alyssa Alpine: I work on a festival and we have sort of an interesting model. But we get a fair amount of money from corporate sponsorship. I also do some work as an independent development consultant. Everyone sees corporate money and we know there’s a lot out there and we want to get at it. I have to say it…it’s really about the bottom line. We have a beer company and they want to know how many people are going to have their product in their hand. We can talk about the art and how great it’s going to be, etc. But really, how many people are going to drink their beer and how many beers are they going to drink that night!?! I read a book a book called Modern Dance in a Postmodern World. It was written at the beginning of the 1990’s, so a lot of things have changed. But I was shocked by how many things haven’t actually changed. She talked a lot about how we’re going into this marketplace mentality and what does that mean for the arts in terms of qualifying things, in terms of numbers. It has had a lot of benefits, but it’s had some drawbacks. The way to get this money is to have these numbers, but it forces you to think in a way that is more antithetical to art than we may want it to be.

Greenfield: Maybe another thing is thinking about the fact that you wear multiple hats as a pro instead of a con, though it’s not always easy to do that. A lot of stuff, in terms of our economy and the things that are happening around the country is that they are starting to recap the way that artists fit into the workforce. And thinking about artists as a really valuable part of what contributes to the employment pictures. A lot of that has to do with the creative industries and fashion and computer design, cooking etc. So that when the State of Louisiana counted that, they found that, they found that artists, the creative industries, were the second biggest industry in their state. And suddenly the discussion was really different and they’re getting all different kinds of money about work development because of these intersections between what artists are doing in all parts of their lives. It’s contributing in a lot of different ways to the economy. That’s part of the picture that we have and sometimes that seems like a negative picture. But in a lot of ways it’s a really exciting picture too.

JWC: We have this program, and part of it is about fostering innovative, sustainable, and replicable projects for long term financial stability. If we take philanthropy off the table, and take audience participation in it’s most pejorative sense off the table, what are other ways we can do it?

There's even more that was said. I doubt you are still reading at this point anyway, but if you are, and want to read more...please contact us and volunteer to edit the rest of the transcript!!! (LOL)

1 comment:

Michael Helland said...

A written transcript of this event is in please stay tuned.