Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"to fail and fail big" In Action

by Jennifer Wright Cook

In keeping with our focus on live arts, over the past six months The Field took “to fail and fail big: a study of mid-career artists, success and failure” from the page to the stage and into action.  As we promised in “to fail” we are aiming to talk with every prong of “the big we” in the arts sector so that we can move the work in “to fail” forward. 

And we are doing it. 

And we want to be über transparent about what we are learning, what we are risking and where we are headed…..So over the next few months we will unveil a few of our most titilating takeaways and ahas.  We will include provocative questions and actionable tactics about what YOU (artist, art-lover, arts administrator, Board member, donor, etc) can do to fail and fail big too.  So here we go….

Who’s hot and who’s not? The Field did a public launch panel at SITI Company on May 1st with artist Okwui Okpokwasili, producer Tommy Kriegsman, funder Moira Brennan and artist Somi - facilitated by the crazy smart Georgiana Pickett of Baryshnikov Arts Center.   An aha moment from an artist in the audience (paraphrased), “I am mid-career and I’ve been somewhat successful but I feel invisible now.  I am not in the ‘it club’ that gets the Doris Duke money, the Genius grants or the European tours.  Do I have to change my work and my self to be in the ‘it club?’”

The question to you, dear reader: What ways do you contort yourself or spin your work so that you get a gig, a grant or a review?  Is it worth it?  Do you end up feeling like you aren’t being honest about your work?  Or is it all just part of the game?  We've started you off with our answer below. Join the conversation with us on our Facebook page.

Our answer: We’ve contorted ourselves at The Field for sure!  Five years ago the “it club” in funding was all about innovation.  We didn’t really do “innovation” per se but we had a big dream for a re-grant program called ERPA.  So we applied to the Rockefeller Foundation Cultural Innovation Fund and amazingly we got two big grants!  We were in the “it club”! 

Now “innovation” is over it seems.  It’s all about creative placemaking.  We don’t do that. And we have no big dream programs that are contort-able to fit into creative placemaking.  So are we out of the “it club”?  What do you do when your work is out of fashion?  Do you contort and spin? Do you let go and wait for the next round?

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