who makes international exchange happen?

Posted in Uncategorized | July 9, 2009 | by cathyz | (9) Comments

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When The Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) recently released the new guidelines for the Cultural Exchange Fund,  we were more than perplexed. The Cultural Exchange Fund (CEF) is a travel subsidy program supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to

assist U.S. based presenters in building partnerships and collaborations with international touring artists, companies and their collaborators and in seeing the work of artists from around the world in its cultural context.

With international travel budgets as one of the first items to hit the chopping block these days, travel subsidy clearly makes sense. The problem is the travel support is available only to presenters, presenting organizations and groups of presenters traveling to see work.  So, what about the rest of the ecology?  The artists, producers, managers, agents who, in addition to presenters, comprise the membership of Arts Presenters?  These cultural practitioners not only provide critical support to presenting organizations as they program their stages, they are often the driving force behind international cultural exchange.

APAP has always defined “presenter” with a more inclusive definition — to mean any of us involved in bringing art and artists to the public, but with this program they are limiting access to one particular sector.   In recognizing only the “presenters among us”, this initiative fails to acknowledge the profound interconnectedness of our field.  

National tours of international artists are labor intensive endeavors, expensive and risky enterprises which more often than not require a tour promoter/producer to organize. In a particularly vexing rationale, the CEF takes this into consideration by stating that a manager, agent or producer is allowed to stand-in for the presenter if the presenter makes the request and provides a letter outlining the scope of the manager/agent/producer’s role.

The guidelines go so far as to say:

The Cultural Exchange Fund does not fund artists that are performing or traveling to meet with international presenters about performance opportunities, nor does it fund managers, agents or producers working to expand business rosters.

While, we don’t believe that Arts Presenters values the business of presenters over the business of its other members, this particular language seems to imply just that.

While they benefit from the CEF travel subsidy, we like to believe that many of our presenter colleagues and friends share our views on this.  Or maybe you think we got it all wrong.  Either way, we’re interested to know what you think.