January, APAP|NYC offers an opportunity for over 4,000 arts professionals, performing arts professionals, artists, managers and service/support organizations to gather to plan their seasons and build their tours. Organized by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, this conference also features hundreds of artist showcases. You can sample an incredible range of work, from puppetry to a Chinese jaw harpist—in just one weekend.
This year, I came to APAP|NYC not as a producer with a roster of artists to promote—but as an arts supporter, leading a special interest session for conference attendees on the new Doris Duke Performing Arts Initiative, and more specifically, the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards, which is administered in partnership with Creative Capital. In case you haven’t heard about this unprecedented Initiative from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF): Over the course of 10 years, the Initiative will provide significant awards to 200 artists in contemporary dance, theater, jazz and related interdisciplinary work. The Initiative, which will be administered in partnership with Creative Capital, will also support 50 artist residencies at a range of dance companies, theaters and presenters across the country.
The challenge with any information session is highlighting which information is the most important to retain. A key point of my session involved the Duke Leading Artist Award, for which one cannot apply. To be considered by the peer review panel for the Award, artists must have received national support for at least three different projects over a 10-year period, with at least one project having received support from DDCF-funded creation or commissioning programs. Creative Capital’s grant is just one of the programs that count toward an artist’s potential eligibility and the next grant deadline on March 1 is for artists with projects in Emerging Fields, Literature or Performing Arts. So you can imagine that I urged session participants to “Apply! Apply! Apply!”
I closed the session with a Q & A period. And honestly, the last question caught me off guard—the person wanted to know about my personal investment in this Initiative. The truth: I’ve seen too many performing artists quit the field just as their careers were building momentum. These artists leave because they want to have families or they are just tired of struggling for economic dignity. I grimace when I think how common it is in America, when you say you are a performing artist, that the inevitable follow up question is, “And what else do you do?” As in, “What else do you do to make money?”
I am personally inspired by the goal of the Doris Duke Performing Artist Initiative, which aims to empower, invest in and celebrate the individual performing artist. My hope is that, by the program’s end in 2021, the profession of performing artist will have more legitimacy than it does today. I can vouch that the Initiative is a powerfully motivating reason for me to get out of bed every morning.