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December 14, 2005

The financial landscape

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I really resonate with one of the reader comments (Rachel Feinerman) who said that "We know that innovation in New York isn’t dying. It’s the financial landscape and the desire to build audiences that concerns New York dancers and choreographers." So, the financial landscape. I don't feel like the expert here, since I am not a funder. But I do sometimes feel that the ways dance get funded, and the values that underpin those funding decisions, are not designed to encourage the particular qualities of "risk-taking work" that is associated with a city like New York. This has a trickle-down for the artists who work here and for the organizations that work with them.

Since the culture wars of the late 80s/early 90s, the NEA has maintained funding from congress in part by ensuring that dollars are going to every congressional district in the country, and are not skewed disproportionately to New York City (and the perceived liberal experimentalism happening here). I understand that political expediency dictated this. The NEA also stopped funding individual artists and pulled back from the kind of peer-review panels that existed in the 80s, when artists had important decision-making voices in the way funds were allocated. Artists sitting on panels at that time often advocated for their lesser-known peer artists because they were enthralled by the work itself, no matter what the scale, and they were not concerned with the issues of marketability that Tere referenced earlier.

Interestingly, though they are not bound by the same constraints, many private funding bodies have followed the NEA’s lead in minimizing the voice of “creative New York” on funding panels, and in minimizing the role of artists as decisionmakers when it comes to allocating funds. I know that there are strategies behind these choices, many of them with sound goals. But, we should recognize that these patterns of decision-making when it comes to allocating funds have the effect of reducing investment in the kind of experimentation and investigation (particularly on smaller scales, or that are less easily marketable) that has long had its home in New York City. And that may, in fact, seed the future of the field.

Posted by at December 14, 2005 2:55 PM

COMMENTS

Re: Financial Landscape

I wanted to share this little piece because it's happening right now as we blog.

Two days ago I received DTW's suggestion to write to the Village Voice to protest the loss of space for dance (it was reduced to 1/2 page!). The same day I received a request from the Village Voice for advertising in the dance section. So I wrote back to that person, Joe Holliday, to ask why the paper had reduced the dance section so drastically. THe following is his reply, printed with permission:

"I totally understand your feelings as an artist myself, and, the reason for the cut in the coverage is strictly related to the lack of advertising revenue the Dance Community, overall, has been (or has not been) spending with The Voice. If it were not for advertisers like yourself, we never could have offered the level and commitment we have offered, and conversely, without the continued and increased support of the Dance community, my hands are tied. I could try and convince our Publisher to reinstate the
additional coverage, but I need the help of Dance community to do this. From the sophistication of writing we offer to the amount of listings we print, all come with a price tag. You are aware of this. It's baffling to me to look at other publications that have not provided the level of commitment that we have, and see advertising in it's pages, and we are continually ignored. It's certainly not from a lack of trying on our part.

What would you think of a breakfast or a lunch opportunity where the Dance
community and VV can develop ways to continue work together? Any ideas or
thoughts you can share with me to help turn this situation around would be
most appreciated."

Posted by: Gloria McLean at December 14, 2005 10:42 PM

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