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On the strength of its success with the Performing Americas Program (PAP), the National Performance Network has broadened the scope of its international exchanges to Asia. In 2010 NPN added the NPN/KAMS Exchange, a partnership with the Korea Arts Management Services (KAMS), and in 2011 the Japan Connection, a partnership with the Japan Contemporary Dance Network (JCDN). Currently in their network-building phase, both partnerships follow the PAP model of a systematic cultural exchange program based on reciprocity and knowledge building.
The scope of both projects is to develop the context for a systematic artistic exchange by creating strong connections in Asia and opportunities for all partners involved to travel to other countries to investigate local cultures, the arts, cultural policies, and working methodologies. To this end the NPN International Program has supported annual trips to its partner countries. This fall, the Asia curatorial team – Yolanda Cursach of MCA Chicago, Illinois; F. John Herbert of Legion Arts, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Scott Turner Schofield from Out North, Anchorage, Alaska; and George Lugg, REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA – traveled to Seoul to attend the Performing Arts Market Seoul (PAMS) on October 10-14, 2011, followed by five days in Tokyo to meet with several funders and their Japanese partners as well as see performances at Festival Tokyo. NPN International Program Director Renata Petroni accompanied the Asia delegation to Seoul while MK Wegmann, NPN President and CEO, and Kyoko Yoshida, Executive Director of U.S./Japan Cultural Trade Network and consultant to the Japan Connection project, joined the delegation in Tokyo.
This was the second visit of the U.S. curatorial team to PAMS. The first visit focused on getting to know our South Korean partners, visiting their spaces, seeing a wide range of performances and showcases programmed by PAMS, and learning about the structure of the performing arts in South Korea, which is quite different from ours. In South Korea the arts are supported by the Ministry of Culture and, in few instances, a corporation will build its own art space and fund its programming. In recent years, the South Korean government has poured millions into the infrastructure of the arts without training new leaders or creating programs designed to support the development of contemporary arts. This policy led to the construction or reconstruction of amazing spaces run by government-appointed staff with little or no knowledge of the arts, who program only government-supported companies. To influence change and infuse energy in the independent contemporary arts sector, the Korea Arts Management Services (KAMS), the equivalent of an Arts Council, supports producing venues and independent producers who work with emerging artists, and companies who explore new forms. To strengthen the independent sector, KAMS, inspired by NPN, has been encouraging different venues to form a network capable of presenting and touring guest artists.
This year’s visit was as intense as last year’s. The focus this year was on seeing work, meeting the artists in specially organized sessions and in their studios, deepening our connection with our partners during formal and informal meetings, and learning about Asia. Since 2009, PAMS has moved away from the concept of ‘market’ by placing greater importance on connections among artists, performing arts professionals (presenters, promoters, and producers), as well as sharing information and ideas rather than simply plugging artworks to overseas buyers. To facilitate these connections, PAMS sets its focus on a particular region every year: Europe in 2007, Central and South America in 2008, North America in 2009, and Northern Europe in 2010. The 2011 PAMS highlighted Asia, reflecting the West’s growing interest in the region and the increasing interest of Asian countries in each other. Three interesting panels discussed the social and cultural contexts of Asia’s different regions; one of the most fascinating debates that arose from these discussions was around the existence (or not) of an Asian identity. In addition to the 13 PAMS showcases*, which present the best works in dance, theater, music and multi-disciplinary arts of the previous year, PAMS partnered with the Seoul Performing Theater Festival and SiDance to present Korean artists during the week of the conference. This enabled the U.S. team to see additional performances each evening, including two particularly interesting works: The Inspector, a collaboration between the physical action of Dong Theatre, music by Bulsaechul and installation art by Hong Shi-Ya, and Hiroshima-Hapcheon, the third visual/performance in the Marebito Theater Company’s Hiroshima-Nagasaki series.
The week in Tokyo was less hectic but no less interesting and the U.S. curatorial team was able to steal a few hours to explore this intimidating metropolis of 13 million people where tradition, pop, techno and neon craze live side by side. Disasters and lax planning laws have destroyed most heritage buildings and modern ones mushroom at incredible speed, giving the cityscape an impressive heterogeneous character. Unlike Kyoto, which is built on a grid, Tokyo grew concentrically around Edo Castle maintaining the labyrinthine dimension of medieval city planning. The resulting cityscape is a fantastic mix of old and new.
In between sight-seeing outings, the delegation attended several performances including at the edge of midnight and K by Mum & Gypsy, a theater/dance work written and directed by Takahiro Fujita and produced by Agora Theater, a well-known venue that supports the creation of new work by emerging artists; Asyl, a multi-disciplinary collaboration between choreographer/dancer Misako Terada, musician/singer Fuei Mishimatsu and videographer Naoto Lina produced by the Japan Contemporary Dance Network (JCDN); and two performances programmed by the Festival Tokyo, of which Landscape-Tokyo by Ishinha was of particular interest. The delegation met with several foundations to investigate possibilities of future funding for our Japanese partners in connection to the project. The meetings were encouraging and informative. We learned that the effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami are still felt in unspoken ways. The mood in the country has changed as people, especially in the North and on the East coast, wonder how radiation may have affected them. We heard that the arts are also changing as artists are trying to cope with the senseless devastation and its unknown consequences. Although some artists and arts organizations have participated in the first recovery efforts, much more needs to be done and both funders and our JCDN partners have asked members of the U.S. delegation to share their experiences with the recovery efforts in their cities after natural disasters. MK Wegmann and F. John Herbert have been asked to conduct a session at the next T-PAM conference in February 2012 about the role that artists and arts organizations played in the recovery efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and in Cedar Rapids after the 2008 floods. Discussion between NPN and JCDN will continue at the NPN Annual Meeting in Tampa, December 8-12, 2011.
*PAM Showcases 2011 – * House Number 1-28 Cha-sook (Theatre Nolddang), You Cannot Say I did it (Performance Group TUIDA), The Inspector (DONG theatre company), Killbeth (Playfactory Mabangzen), No Comment (Laboratory Dance Project), Argument (Choe Contemporary Dance Company), Musical Chairs (PDPC), Dancing Grandmothers (Eun-Me Ahn Company), Rhythmic Space: A Pause for Breath, Space Bamboo (GongMyoung), Jeong Ga Ak Hoe Meets World Literature (Jeong Ga Ak Hoe), The Near East Quartet (N.E.Q.), Fire Cliff (Minouk LIM). The International Showcase included Hikky Cancun Tornado by Japan’s hi-bye theater company, and Built This City by Australia’s Polyglot Theatre
The Performing Americas Creative Exchange Program supports cross-cultural residencies between artists and presenters from the Caribbean, Latin America, and the United States.
Guidelines and applications forms for Performing Americas Creative Exchange 2012-2013 will be available in English and Spanish on December 15, 2011 on the NPN website. You can also find there a list of the artists and presenters who have participated during the past three rounds.
The National Performance Network is pleased to have the support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation for this program. The Cultural Affairs Office of the City of Los Angeles is a partner through its support of Los Angeles-based applicants.
by Elizabeth Doud
Every year, two different curators from Latin America come to the United States to see work by U.S. artists, and select companies that can later tour to festivals and presenting organizations in the southern hemisphere through the Performing Americas Program of the National Performance Network. The curators who participate are members of our partner network, La RED (the Network of Cultural Promoters of Latina America and the Caribbean), and come from all parts of the continent.
The two curators selected for 2010 were Marianella Protti from Teatro Punto Cero in Costa Rica and Cuauhtemoc Najera Ruiz from the University of Mexico’s Dance Division in Mexico City, Mexico (UNAM). Both chose work from two distinct U.S. artist companies to travel in the 2011-12 presenting season. Typically, the Latin American curators will travel to the NPN Annual Meeting, and to one other festival or artist presentation in order to see live work by U.S. artists from across the country, getting two separate opportunities to experience contemporary performance and program for their specific community and organization.
The two artist companies selected were Rudi Goblen from Miami, FL, who traveled to Costa Rica, and Miguel Gutierrez from New York City who traveled to Mexico City and Guadalajara, Mexico. Both artists performed their original work for local audiences, and while they had very different performance experiences, the challenges and rewards were similar.
Rudi Goblen took his piece Insanity Isn’t (check out the great trailer on his website to get a taste) to an outdoor festival, TransitArte, in San Juan, Costa Rica, which has a huge city-wide program in outdoor spaces that serves thousands of theater patrons throughout one week in March. Rudi was willing to adapt his piece to an outdoor environment, and took the risk of performing his text and dance-based piece in what can be a complicated outdoor performance setting, and to do it for a non-English speaking audience on top of it. Rudi performed three shows for large audiences who applauded the artist’s unique piece, which was probably, for most, a once-in-a-life-time experience with American hip-hop dance theater. They went on to do two more performances, and then Rudi traveled to two other smaller towns outside of San Jose to give b-boying workshops with youth.
Of the experience, Rudi said doing his show outside and “needing to adjust to the unforeseen circumstances taught us to be quick thinkers and improvise whenever necessary,” and that audience response was so overwhelmingly positive, that they were sure they had made an important impact with the workshops and performances. Rudi spent the next two weeks in Torrealba y Siquierres, giving workshops to kids, which was an amazing experience for both him and the students that got to train with him.
Miguel Gutierrez traveled to Mexico in April with two pieces, and performed in Mexico City and Guadalajara in two different UNAM-sponsored theater venues. UNAM had also organized workshops with students and community members, and had planned to do some post-performance discussions. Najera, the curator who selected the tour, had seen Miguel’s work live in New York City, and was clear he wanted to present the work to audiences in Mexico.
Miguel reported that he definitely felt a certain amount of risk in presenting his pieces Difficult Bodies and Retrospective Exhibitionist to the Mexican UNAM audience. The work is most definitely challenging for a NYC audience, and there is always an ‘unknown factor’ when taking your work to a new city outside of your own country. Although Mexico City is a world capital, there is not necessarily as much access to the same kind of contemporary experimental dance and performance. Since the tour, Najera said that the work was a complete success with audiences, and that there was wide interest in bring Gutierrez back to continue to work with both dance and theater students across the federal university system.
Both companies emphasized how the participant response from workshops was particularly important to the overall success of the tour, and that the tour experiences helped them grow as a company.
Because of the varying cultural, economic and linguistic realities across Latin America, it’s difficult to generalize or define what touring is ‘like’ south of the border, but a very large number of U.S. artists continue to want to break into this market, or build on the travel they have done to select countries. While there is a vast range of touring locales across Latin America — from well-established and soundly-funded annual international festivals to rural community theaters — there is consistently also an amazing amount of work produced and presented for very large audiences, with very few resources. Festivals in all major capitals in every Latin American and Caribbean country create accessible programs, run thousands of varied and well-attended theaters, and seem to be keeping very alive the concept of festival and theater making. On PAP’s curator trips to many of these festivals, we’ve experienced this hospitality and community buy-in first hand, and there is definitely a curiosity and desire to see work by more U.S.-based artists. Often, ideas of planning (read time sensitivity), marketing and audience development are very different from our conventions in the U.S., but there is almost always a jaw-dropping audience turnout and resourcefulness on the part of the producer that seems miraculous.
PAP supports touring and long terms residencies for U.S. artists in Latin American and the Caribbean. For more information on NPN’s International Projects, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on La RED, visit www.laredlatinoamericana.com.
photos are courtesy of Rudi Goblen
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Stanlyn Brevé
Tel. 504/595-8008 x204
NEW ORLEANS, LA (September 29, 2011) – American Express awarded the National Performance Network (NPN) $25,000 to support its Mentorship and Leadership Initiative (MLI). The Mentorship and Leadership Initiative gives artist-centered organizations time and space for personal renewal, resources to support leadership development and succession in a planned and strategic way, and the ability to create a mechanism for quick and easy access to the intellectual capital inherent in artist-centered organizations.
This is NPN’s first grant from American Express Foundation. The funds will support five to seven Mentorship and Leadership Initiative projects over the next year. Recognizing that leadership is exercised in many ways and that people and organizations have diverse learning needs, MLI allows a wide range of projects. In addition to supporting attendance at institutes, workshops or trainings, NPN also honors a traditional journeyman/apprentice model, where long-time, ongoing associations build competency and craft.
Since 2006, NPN has made more than 50 Mentorship and Leadership Initiative Awards to NPN Partner organizations.“ The NPN Mentorship and Leadership Initiative has served as a fulcrum in assisting and moving a talented individual to a core position in our organization,” says Mary Luft, Executive Director of Tigertail Productions in Miami Florida.“ In light of the economy, professional development budgets are the first item to be cut. In order to keep the field moving forward, investment in individual growth is needed more than ever. American Express recognizes that transforming and diversifying the current landscape of non-profit arts organizations begins with the development of leaders.” says Stanlyn Brevé, National Program Director of the National Performance Network.
About the National Performance Network (NPN)
The National Performance Network (NPN) is a group of diverse cultural organizers, including artists, working to create meaningful partnerships and to provide leadership that enables the practice and public experience of the arts in the United States. NPN annually leverages nearly $3,000,000 in financial support for the creation and touring of contemporary performance work. The Forth Fund is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. For more information, visit www.npnweb.org.
About American Express
American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. American Express appreciates the impact that excellent leaders can have on business and society as a whole and dedicates significant resources to attract, develop and retain talented employees with leadership potential. The Company also extends this commitment to leadership development to a broader community. One of American Express’ three platforms for its philanthropy is Developing New Leaders for Tomorrow. Under this giving initiative, American Express is making grants focused on training high potential emerging leaders to tackle important issues in the 21st century. Learn more at americanexpress.com and connect with us on facebook.com/americanexpress, foursquare.com/americanexpress, linkedin.com/companies/american-express, twitter.com/americanexpress, and youtube.com/americanexpress.
The National Performance Network is proud to announce that Steve Bailey has been engaged as Chief Operating Officer, effective September 1, 2011.
Bailey, co-founder and producing director of Jump-Start Performance Co. in San Antonio, has a long relationship with NPN. Jump-Start joined NPN as a Partner in 1994, and Bailey was the board chair right after the critical transition period when NPN was becoming independent from Dance Theatre Workshop. Bailey says, “NPN is one of a very few national organizations that have a strong, consistent concern for artists. Those values really attracted me to work for NPN. They have created – and continue to modify – systems to create, produce and tour new work. I have great respect for its history, its leaders and its potential, and I’m excited to be joining a terrific staff team.”
Trained as a theatre director and lighting designer at Trinity University in San Antonio, while at Jump-Start Bailey directed 75 original productions seen across the U.S. and South America. He will continue his artistic connections with Jump-Start for the near future; he is co-directing the 2011 season opener and will continue his long-time work with Divadlo z Pasaze, a Slovak theatre company for mentally challenged people.
Bailey, 53, is widely recognized nationally as the face of Jump-Start, but he and the company have made a focused effort in the past few years to develop and share leadership across the organization. A new producing director for the company will be named mid-September.
From March 25 to April 1, 2011, NPN staff, Performing Americas Program (PAP) U.S. curatorial team, NPN Partners and members of La Red de Promotores Culturales de Latinoamerica y el Caribe (La RED) executive committee traveled to Brazil to see a dance showcase in São Paulo and the International Theater Festival in Curitiba. This trip, hosted by Celso Curi, the current La RED President, was supported in part by the Association of Arts Presenters (APAP) and the São Paulo State Department of Culture.
São Paulo, the team’s first destination, is a sprawling city of 11 million inhabitants, high-rises, high prices, traffic jams, smog, and crime. It is also the largest metropolis in Brazil and the heart of its financial, economic, commercial and cultural life with explosive energy, artistic creativity and relentless activity. Home to millions of immigrants, São Paulo is one of the most cosmopolitan and diverse cities in the world, reflected in the mix of cuisines, theatres, opera and dance companies.
Founded by Jesuit missionaries in 1554, São Paulo remained dormant until the 19th century when the coffee commerce attracted financial interests and waves of immigrant workers. The city’s urban expansion at the cusp of the 20th century was not regulated by urban planning and today’s landscape is characterized by a rapid dynamic of construction and destruction resulting in a chaotic and eclectic mix of national heritage buildings and modern masterpieces by celebrated architects.
The team was lodged in the historic center of town, half a block from the famous Copan building by Oscar Niemeyer with a roof top café overlooking the city and the Italica building, the tallest in São Paulo and in walking distance from Praça de la Republica and the Municipal Theater, a jewel of baroque architecture. Despite the unforgiving heat and humidity, the presenters took in as much as the city as time permitted by the intense program curated by Celso Curi which offered an interesting and diverse overview of the current dance groups working in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The works ranged from young and upcoming solo hip hop artist Diego Granato who, with charm and humor, improvised pieces for indoor and outdoor spaces, choreographer Marcos Abranches who questions the idealization of the body in dance from his perspective as a person with a disability, and performer/visual artist Michel Groisman who creates dances for the objects he designs, to mid-career choreographers Marcia Milhazes who, in collaboration with visual artist Beatriz Milhazes, creates elegant pieces about Brazilian culture, to icon Angel Vianna who after dancing with Rudolf Nureyev, established a school in Mina Gerais which trained many of the choreographers and dancers on the Brazilian stage today.
As most of the showcases took place in the beautifully renovated cultural center of the State of São Paulo Department of Culture, located in the Jewish neighborhood next to La Luz, the team had the opportunity to visit this area which is undergoing major gentrification and urban transformation. Predominantly inhabited by poor, working class population living in illegally rented dilapidated and over-crowded apartments with shared bathrooms and kitchens, prostitutes, crack addicts and other creators of informal commerce, La Luz has been identified by the City as priority for a political program of urban renewal with the intention of transforming it into a “cultural neighborhood.” The first projects include the renovation or re-utilization of La Luz’ several historic buildings such as the Luz train station which was recently renovated to include the Portuguese Language Museum, the renovated Pinacoteca do Estado, and the partially reutilized, Júlio Prestes train station which includes the Sala São Paulo concert hall, home to the State Symphonic Orchestra. The first housing demolitions are under way, leaving gaping holes waiting for new construction.
In addition to showcases, the team attended full-length productions at various SESC facilities such as Pompeia, a converted factory designed by Italian architects Lina Bo and P.M. Bardi, and Pinheiros, an impressive facility inaugurated in 2004. This gave the team the opportunity to meet Danilo Santos de Miranda, the visionary SESC director, and understand the structure of this unique national non-profit organization which is the largest provider of social and cultural activities in Brazil.
Created in 1946 to “inspire fraternization and bring together mankind,” the Social Service of Commerce (SESC) is funded mainly by Brazilian commerce and service industries through a mandatory tax passed in 1946 which dictates that every company pay 1.5% of its total payroll into the SESC Fund. SESC. São Paulo alone has the highest annual operating budget of US$598 million, with 32 centers, the largest concentration in the country.
After three whirlwind days of meetings, showcases, full productions, museum visits and dinners, the U.S. and La RED teams left São Paulo for Curitiba accompanied by Celso Curi, our host. After a shaky arrival where the team was lead in a treasure hunt for an open restaurant, we were taken to a comfortable hotel to get ready for the opening of the Curitiba International Theater Festival. A Hollywood-style event organized in the spectacular setting of the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, the festival was inaugurated with speeches by the Ministry of Culture, the director of Itaú Bank, the main festival sponsor, the Mayor and the Festival Director, followed by an open air performance of Richard III directed by Gabriel Villela, a well known and respected director, followed by a party for a thousand guests with food, drinks and a dreamy atmosphere.
The following days the team attended the rehearsal of Debra Colker’s Tathyana, a new work commissioned by the festival and based on Evguêni Oniéguin, a novel in verses by Aleksandr Púchkin; Argentinian company Timbre Quatro’s Tercer Cuerpo, a work about loneliness and disfunctionality directed by Claudio Tolcachir with intelligence and wit; Newton Moreno’s The Book, a work about the process of going blind performed with great skill by Eduardo Moscovis, a well-known TV actor; and Cia Atores de Laura’s, Adultery directed by Daniel Herz and inspired by the universe of playwright Luigi Pirandello.
As the shows took place in spaces throughout the city, the team had the opportunity to visit different areas, its parks and museums. After the chaotic experience of São Paulo, the team landed in a oasis of tranquility. The antithesis of São Paulo, Curitiba is the Capital of the state of Paraná (state) with a population of almost two million people. Although it lacks the excitement and energy of São Paulo, according to The Reader’s Digest, it is the best place to live in Brazil. Unlike São Paulo’s uncontrolled urban expansion, pollution and administrative corruption, Curitiba is well organized, clean (in 2007, the city was placed third in a list of “15 Green Cities” in the world, according the U.S. magazine Grist, and is considered an international model of urban planning, transportation and environmental sustainability, boasting 554 sq ft of green space per inhabitant. Curitiba Master Plan was adopted in 1968 and designed by Jaime Lerner, who later became mayor. The plan suggested strict controls on urban sprawl, a reduction of traffic in the downtown area, preservation of Curitiba’s Historic Sector, and a convenient and affordable public transit system. Curitiba was recently recommended by UNESCO as a model for the reconstruction of the cities of Afghanistan after the U.S. invaded in 2001.
These two very different experiences made the trip an enriching experience. The grace, kindness and generosity of our hosts made it memorable.