APAP CONFERENCE: Risk. Opportunity. Now.
The Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) held their annual conference this weekend in New York City. The tagline of this year’s conference was “Risk. Opportunity. Now.” – an interesting triumvirate of concepts that were later fleshed out in the conferences sessions and keynote speakers.
APAP kicked off the weekend with an incredible discussion between newly-appointed NEA chairman Rocco Landesman, Elizabeth Streb of Streb Dance Company, and conductor/musician/DJ Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky). The concept at hand: Risk. Opportunity. Now. And what these words mean to the performing arts.
Elizabeth Streb and Paul Miller were fine examples of risk and opportunity, discussing action movement, action art, and culture as a collage (as exemplified in music sampling). But the main take-aways came from Rocco Landesman and his optimism for the future of our industry. Here are the highlights:
- Art is the most optimistic form, inspiring grandeur, boldness and change. It’s for these reasons that the current administration will be the most arts-supported administration since Roosevelt.
- The NEA’s new goals are to build publicity and a voice in the arts, as well as to establish a stronger arts domestic policy.
- “ART-WORKS” is the new NEA motto manifested in many forms. As a noun, artworks are at the heart of what we do. As a verb, it describes why we do what we do. And as a statement, it declares that the art equals jobs (5.4 million, in fact).
- Once we put arts in a place, art transforms that place. It offers cohesion in the form of civic engagement, less juvenile delinquency and less poverty.
- The NEA may be talking the talk, but it recognizes that we are arts leaders have been walking the walk for a long time, so it’s time that they learn from us. For this reason, the NEA has developed a page on their arts.gov website so that we can say how the arts are working in our communities.
So what are the necessary risks of arts organizations today?
- First, it’s looking to ourselves for leadership – not simply in the bigger institutions.
- It is also provoking an analysis of audience class and what we can address as providers of art.
- Finally, it also means supporting artists directly so that the NEA is not a regulatory institution but a supporting institution.
And what are the opportunities within our field?
- Obviously, we have a great opportunity of keeping our arts viral – thereby instilling community and significance through groundswell.
- More so, there is a chance to learn from example. Yes, we can say that many may look to the Obama family as proponents to the arts, but until we see them at an alternative art venue, do we think that things will fully change? If not, does this mean that we as arts presenters are the leaders?
I love these questions and grand claims about the future. What will it look like? Will things really change? While we don’t actually know about the future, DJ Spooky quoted William Gibson brilliantly: “The future is already here – it’s just unevenly distributed.” In terms of art, economy, society, technology and progress, this quote seems to sum it up perfectly!
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