Monday, September 21, 2009

Public Display of Invention

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Public Display of Invention
Monday, September 21, 7:30-9:30pm
WNYC's The Greene Space

seven unique visions to catalyze and sustain the cultural economy

Presented as part of The Field’s Economic Revitalization for Performing Artists program (ERPA -pronounced ur·pah) made possible by the NYC Cultural Innovation Fund of The Rockefeller Foundation.

ERPA asked “How can artists make new money for their work?” And then ERPA challenged artists to propose inventive, sustainable and replicable models to do this.

Presenters: Kahlil Almustafa, Rachel Chavkin / The T.E.A.M., Nick Brooke, Jon Stancato / Stolen Chair, Connie Hall / Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant, JoAnna Mendl Shaw / The Equus Projects, and Caroline Woolard / Our Goods.

In November 2008, 116 artists and companies applied to The Field’s grassroots search for new economic models. Seven artists with the most feasible, sustainable, innovative and replicable models were selected. Since then, the ERPA 7 as we affectionately call them, have been hard at work planning, testing, and tweaking their unique approaches to financial stability. The Field gave them each $5,000 and a variety of professional development resources to support their planning. In late August 2009 the ERPA 7 applied to The Field for up to $25,000 in implementation funds to take their projects to the next level. STAY TUNED!! We will announce the recipients of the implementation grants in late September.

What is ERPA really? In 2008 (before the economy tanked), The Field received a generous award from The Rockefeller Foundation’s inaugural Cultural Innovation Fund to tackle the debilitating financial instability that many performing artists face every day. True to The Field’s grass roots, we took this project directly to our artists and asked them “what would you do?” This query resulted in two streams of attack: dynamic public dialogues (aka Invention Sessions), and an ambitious entrepreneurial lab (the ERPA 7). Since then, our Invention Sessions have engaged more than 500 artists and cultural stakeholders in topics ranging from alternative fundraising tactics, to the romanticization of the starving artist, to a smackdown exposé on the 'new' economy. (For full audio coverage of past Invention Sessions, please visit the ERPA Blog: The Invention Session held at Joe’s Pub was also featured on WNYC Public Radio. As the economy continues its rocky road, The Field is committed to short- and long-term solutions and micro and macro efforts. We will continue to host Invention Sessions and skill-building programs that help artists revitalize their own economy. In the spring of 2010 we are also launching Economic Revitalization services in East Harlem and the Bronx with support from State Senator José Serrano.

About the ERPA 7

Kahlil Almustafa will bring performance poetry to his hometown of Jamaica, Queens. Through poetry workshops at high schools, performances at theaters, and Living Room Readings, Almustafa will promote poetry as a tool for community engagement.

Rachel Chavkin/The T.E.A.M. will launch American Geographic, an initiative designed to increase national visibility, annual work-weeks for its company members, and forge a country-wide network of audiences and supporters through direct engagement with communities around the nation. With American Geographic, the T.E.A.M. will re-envision itself as a year-round employer and therefore will seek to provide an essential year-round benefit - health insurance - to its part-time employees through corporate sponsorship. The T.E.A.M. hopes to develop a model of engagement between small arts companies and large corporations that will build a mutually beneficial bond between the business and arts community and enable future arts companies to pursue essential benefits for part-time employees.

Nick Brooke composes collages of pop song fragments and sound effects, and then trains live performers to sound like these recordings, while creating intricate theatrical tableaus. He wants to use ERPA to create a ‘micro-commissioning’ program, in which small fragments, songs, or vignettes of a larger work are supported by smaller commissions. These microcommissions will be collaged on the web in an interactive installation, which will let participants converse with the artist, and see their works constantly change.

Jon Stancato/Stolen Chair proposes a way to adapt the business plan followed by most Community Supported Agricultures (CSA). Like the CSA model, Stolen Chair hopes to build a membership community which would provide 'seed' money for the company's development process and then reap a year's worth of theatrical harvests.

Connie Hall/Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant not only generates an abundance of comic material and great food, but also offers an alternative producing model for artist-driven theater. Through the ERPA program, the actor-run theater company will develop a sustainable business model using income generated by the sale of food and beverages to support its artistic work.

JoAnna Mendl Shaw/The Equus Projects will develop their Regional Touring Program to include on-site coordinators in four regional hubs throughout the country, enabling each to advocate on the company's behalf and cultivate performance and workshop participation. This program will build upon The Equus Projects' strong national support base, cultivating effective leadership with a handful of key supporters.

Caroline Woolard/Our Goods proposes an online peer-to-peer network where creative people can trade objects, services, and space with each other. Check out the prototype at There you will find a work dress designed by Caroline waiting to be traded for your skills or artwork!

1 comment:

The Field said...

Last night's Economic Revitalization event was chock full of invention and even some delicious mini pumpkin tartlets with fresh raspberries on top. (Thank you to Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant for feeding us body and soul!)

Numerous great questions and ideas came from the proactive audience including: "What about offering your Living Room readings to corporations?" and "Can non-artists join the barter site too? and barter legal advice for a piece of art?" (yes yes and yes!)

Audio is up for those of you who missed the scintillating event in the glamorous WNYC Greene Space. And in the meanwhile, check out more cross-sector interest in the ERPA artists: a food blog interview for Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant.

-Jennifer Wright Cook, The Field