Commentary: In the theater, use collaboration "to seek a quality of connection"

Matthew Glassman,, 10/16/12

Emerging and professional [theater] artists are gravitating toward the challenges and fulfillments in devising work, collaboration, and the group experience, and wondering in what direction lies virtuous survival. Regional theaters are measuring the risks and benefits of collaboration with ensembles and alternative modes of production. At the recent TCG conference, a young ensemble director asked: what is the process of getting one's ensemble to the point of developing collaborative relationships with larger regional theaters? One panelist offered straightforward advice: invest all into having a successful run of a show in New York City. I would argue for success determined by virtuous, sustainable growth instead of expediency or conquest. The rural context [of Double Edge, the theater company I've worked with since 2000] has taught me something about conditions for growth and to privilege this question: how do we coalesce essential artistic autonomy with survival in a way unique to the group and its community (however it defines it)? This work has taught me that resilience, as an artist, is evolutionary and as important as talent. In the coming months, Double Edge will be in residency in different urban communities (Chicago and Baltimore) to develop our newest indoor performance, before premiering it at Arena Stage -- thanks to NEFA's National Theater Pilot. In addition to the creative autonomy this grant provides to the artist and support for presenting partners, for us, this support is enabling a step in our search for symbiosis in the national theater ecology. Where current modes of production and ethos limit the possibility to experiment with audience engagement, to affect institutional change, or to reimagine the potential of the community, this project is our opportunity and attempt to bring the research we conduct at the Farm to these communities, to seek a quality of connection such as that we discovered in our rural home.


Commentary: For UK music producers, collaboration has long been a way of life

Julia Payne, The Guardian's Culture Professionals Network blog, 10/16/12

For music producers, collaboration has long been a positive choice. It opens up exciting new possibilities: for us, the artists we work with, audiences and -- of course -- the organisations we partner with. Between 2001-2010, my company "the hub" collaborated with fellow producers SoundUK to produce the Fertilizer festival. Neither company could have done it alone - we learned a lot from each other, and continue to reap the rewards of the collaboration. As with any meaningful collaboration it's had a long term impact on the thinking and practice of all concerned. As Ash Chandola from Swaraj Music says: "[Collaboration] develops me as a producer, it develops the artists I work with, and the organisations I work with. It raises the bar for all of us." In addition, these kinds of collaborations often develop new audiences. [P]artnerships with Summer Sundae Weekender and Dartington Arts around our Phrased & Confused music and spoken word programme have yielded 16 new commissions and a new audience of more than 6,500. On the same theme, one curator at a London gallery tells me the gallery's collaborations with music producers bring in audiences who "are so much younger and better looking than our usual crowd." In recent months I've been working with colleagues at the PRS for Music Foundation to select organisations to take part in New Music Plus, a producer development programme we developed and have delivered jointly since 2009. Through the programme, arts organisations collaborate with a music producer for 18 months. The overwhelming interest we've had from arts organisations clearly suggests that in times of recession, many venues see collaboration and new areas of programming as key to their future sustainability. The new audiences they generate have a positive impact on the bottom lines of everyone involved, via higher box office and secondary income, and even additional grant income.


Collaborations among American opera companies are at an all-time high

Russell P. Allen, president/CEO of Virginia Opera in Richmond [VA] Times-Dispatch, 10/17/12

American opera is coming into its own in the 21st century. Opera America, the international service organization, cites American opera companies in the past decade featuring more world premiere operas being produced than in any single decade of the 20th century. Additionally, collaborations between and amongst American opera companies are at an all-time high. Virginia Opera is contracting with Portland Opera a new production of an opera not produced in Richmond in 20 years for its 2014-15 season. Similarly, next season (2013-14) will feature Virginia Opera performing a new production debuted by Opera Theater of St. Louis last year and tweaked by the designers for the Virginia Opera performances. Collaborations will make it possible for more major new productions of standard repertory and new works to be developed than would be able to be independently generated by any one company (excepting the top opera houses in the country).


Commentary: Why ballet companies should collaborate more

Judith Mackrell, The Guardian, 10/21/12

Three of Britain's major ballet companies have just acquired new artistic directors: the Royal, English National Ballet and Scottish Ballet. Not surprisingly, each new director has been delivering ambitious new mission statements. They want, essentially, to be the best. A culture of competition can obviously be healthy for artistic standards, but in recessionary times, these companies are engaged in a more Darwinian battle: competing for diminishing funding and box-office returns. I find myself wondering, in a reckless, Pollyanna-ish way, if there's an alternative to this model of inter-company rivalry. A model of co-operation, perhaps, and of pooled resources. Over the summer, it was instructive to see how much energy was generated when ENB joined forces with Scottish Ballet and the National Dance Company of Wales for their Olympic-themed triple bill. In the US, three companies recently collaborated with equal success on performances of George Balanchine's Jewels. So it's surely worth fantasising, for a moment, about the ways in which such temporary collaborations might develop into longer-term projects. One of the key issues facing British ballet is the difficulty of building audiences for new choreography, especially in smaller towns, where 19th-century classics remain the default option at the box office. Would it be impossible for companies such as ENB, the Royal and Birmingham Royal Ballet to address this by collaborating on limited tours of small-scale, contemporary ballets? Each could donate a few dancers, and a proportion of studio time and money. Their combined marketing machine could be awesome; there might also be scope for co-productions of larger-scale work. The practical complexities may be intractable, from the sharing of copyright to the management of competing performance schedules. But it's time we heard ballet directors making more adventurous claims for their art form -- as well as for the companies they represent.


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FROM TC: Thanks to Ian David Moss at Createquity blog for pointing out these two items:


Commentary: Rethinking collective impact

Emmett D. Carson, CEO of Silicon Valley Community Foundation,, 8/31/12

The concept of collective impact appears to be at a fever pitch throughout the nonprofit sector. Collective impact is center stage at nonprofit and foundation conferences and there are now webinars, seminars and trainings about how to implement this approach. Unfortunately, a close examination of the concept suggests that even under ideal conditions it appears difficult to achieve and, in some cases, may undermine key values of the nonprofit sector. ...[E]very nonprofit organization exists because a group of people fervently believe in its unique vision and mission. While some may want nonprofits to decide strategy based solely on what they may consider objective evidence, the reality is that for nonprofits to agree on a collective impact strategy it must be consistent with the nonprofits' values and beliefs. Different visions and values represent the real strength of the nonprofit sector and explain its growth and diversity. Nonprofits with different value propositions simply cannot abandon their views for the holy grail of collective impact no matter how long they stay involved in the discussion. To do so means nonprofits would risk losing their purpose, supporters and funders. It also should be noted that just because everyone agrees does not mean the resulting consensus is the correct thing to do. Singular dogmas that force ideological homogeneity run counter to diversity, inclusiveness and innovation. While none of these issues are sufficient reason not to at least try collective impact, the nonprofit sector would greatly benefit from developing a practice and comfort with more rigorous and healthy debate about new ideas before rushing to adopt them.


Response to 'Rethinking Collective Impact'

Emily Gorin Malenfant, Foundation Strategy Group's blog, 9/5/2012

Emmett Carson is right to caution against assuming that collective impact is a panacea for all that ills us in the social sector. However, my FSG colleagues and I believe that collective impact, when skillfully managed under the right circumstances, has great potential to achieve greater social progress at scale. [N]othing about collective impact undermines the diversity of approaches in the nonprofit sector. It does require, however, that nonprofit organizations, funders, businesses and government agencies actively work together from a common base of facts and a shared set of goals. Organizations seeking social change can often become convinced of the rightness of their own approach, at the exclusion of all other approaches. We see this as a significant barrier to the sector achieving lasting change at scale.

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