Seats Are Open, But So Are The Doors For More Diverse Stories

On Friday one of my colleagues at work is flying to NYC to see Springsteen on Broadway, the show that re-opened earlier than pretty much all the others. She purchased the tickets months ago when they first went on sale.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear most people share her level of optimism. A CNBC story reported that even the most popular titles are seeing very soft sales.

Although tickets have been on sale for months, neither “Wicked” nor “The Lion King” – the top two highest-grossing musicals in history – sold out their first week of performances. “Hamilton,” which historically sold out months of performances within minutes, also has plenty of opening week availability. Between September 14, 2021, and June 5, 2022, only one performance of “Hamilton″ is sold out.

A Forbes article projects some potential doom and gloom for the production of the show Pass Over, which has been getting a lot of great press. In fact, there is a suggestion in a couple articles that they moved up the date of their opening to last Sunday in order to take advantage of the the good press they have received.

This is somewhat unfortunate for the production of Pass Over because in addition to the high quality and expectations, there are a lot of good portents associated with the show. For one, it is the first show by a Black playwright to appear in the August Wilson Theatre since the venue was named for the esteemed Black playwright in 2005. (A lot of “about time” comments on social media noting that it took 15 years for that to happen).

According to a Reuters piece, Pass Over is among a number of upcoming shows which are being supported by first time Black investors.

However, seven new plays have been announced for this fall, all by Black writers. Some are being financed by first-time Broadway investors, including co-founder of television network BET, Sheila Johnson, who is putting money behind the play “Thoughts of a Colored Man.” Johnson and celebrity chef Carla Hall are also investing in a new musical called “Grace” about Black culinary history.

Actor Blair Underwood and former basketball player Renee Montgomery are investing in the stage play “Pass Over”, a modern twist on “Waiting for Godot.”

“There is various new money that is coming into Broadway, and that money is extraordinarily helpful and it is also diverse money, which is also very interesting and new,” said Brian Moreland, producer of “Thoughts of a Colored Man,” opening in October.

Whether we like it or not, money has a big influence in terms of what stories get told so this can be a positive indication for greater representation in whose stories get told and who is involved in telling those stories.

Keep Your Eyes Open For NEA American Rescue Plan Grant Webinars

While everyone is waiting for their Shuttered Venue Operating Grant (SVOG) application to be processed, you should be taking a look at the National Endowment for the Arts American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding. The NEA just held a webinar today about it, but most states and regional arts organizations are having one for their members. Americans for the Arts is having one on July 6.

In a nutshell, the reason why you want to apply for this is because there are far fewer restrictions than usual on the program. The only broad categories that they won’t fund are capital improvements and project grants. Usually all they fund are projects. They still don’t provide funding to individual artists.

They will pay for operational costs like salaries and non-capital equipment.  You can apply even if you have an SVOG grant pending or have received funding from other programs like PPP or EIDL.  You just can’t apply for reimbursement of the same expenses covered by another program. So if other funding covers salaries until December 31, you would need to apply salaries from January 1 onward to the ARP grant. The funding can be applied across two years which allows some time to regain momentum lost during Covid.

They have a PDF prepared with all the information you will be expected to provide. Note that everyone has the deadline of August 12, 2021 to submit a short form application on Grants.gov, but then organizations whose legal identity begins with A-L will apply through the separate NEA applicant portal August 19-25 and those with names beginning M-Z will apply August 27-September 2.

My guess is that they are trying to avoid a lot of the snafus which plagued the SVOG program.

Take a look at the information and find a webinar to attend. As you might imagine there is a ton of interest in these programs. I received an email about 2-3 hours before the webinar started that they had reached capacity with registrations and keep trying to get in if you are initially blocked so I queued up 20 minutes early in the hopes of being admitted.

Arts Incubators Can Offer A Different Type of Education

An article from Oregon Arts Watch about an arts incubator program, Tulatin Valley Creates  rolled across my feed this week. The article inevitably talked about how the program helped artists apply for Covid relief from various entities across the span of the last year.

What I was interested to see was artists talking about how participation in the incubator helped them re-evaluate their work and employ a new approach.

Julian Saporiti who graduated from Berklee School of Music drew a distinction between the training received in degree programs and in the incubator:

“That’s different from education programs that focus on individual virtuosity,” he says. “The incubator classes were very much emboldening participants, with the aim being to spread that collaborative approach to the rest of the community.”

One artist, Emily Miller, said that conversations in the incubator lead her to broaden her approach.

“What I realized during the incubator and looking at it from different perspectives is that I had to keep redirecting conversations away from the same narrative we hear about ocean plastic — whose fault is it? How can we solve it? The incubator helped me get from that point to, ‘OK we understand this problem — now where are we going?’ I want people to focus on creative transformation, and how they can apply it in their own lives — even if they have nothing to do with ocean plastic.” The changes she’s making as a result broaden her project’s relevance to more people.”

Another participant, Jamie Cromier, went in planning to open a gallery but her thinking evolved after recognizing a number of factors:

“…she decided instead to partner with people in the community who were already working in that area, and to focus instead on what she was passionate about: not the administrative work of founding and running a gallery (while raising three children), but instead helping them make art that served mental health. She wound up creating art boxes that would go out to people with mental health issues who could use them to create art.”

I appreciated the fact that the incubator program has a process which is helping people think and reflect on their plans and practice. Hopefully there are other programs out there having similar outcomes.

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program Opens April 8

If you have been looking at the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program information page as I have suggested, you may have seen it says the applications will open in early April,

However, there is a new button on that page that takes you to the application portal which informs you things are scheduled to kick off on April 8. You can sign up there to get additional notifications.

 

 

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to register for a DUNS number (or research what your number is), register for SAM.GOV, and check out any webinars your state arts council, state small business administration resource or trade/discipline service organization may be offering.

There are FAQs and Checklists on the Small Business Administration webpage, but you are gonna have questions.

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