The Unsung Stories of Being an Arts Administrator

Anniversaries give me the permission to look back, something I generally don’t like to indulge in too much. On the occasion of DANCEworks 10th Anniversary, I began to think way back until the beginning of SUMMERDANCE Santa Barbara in 1997, over twenty years ago! At the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing, other than a strong sense of having dance as a lifelong passion and trusting my instincts. Creating a functioning non – profit organization created a very steep learning curve. Some of it was lots of fun and some of it was not so much fun.

A few days ago, I came across this writing from that time in my life. It made me smile.

2002

For those of you who think running a dance festival looks like fun, think again. What looks from a distance like it is nothing but one rock and roll party from beginning to end, can be, in reality, the food for distressing physical and emotional meltdown.

Reserve a beautiful ballroom with a sprung floor for an important performance at the Carrillo Recreation Center and learn a week before the heavily promoted performance, that the person who reserved it neglected to inform the person who runs the center, because the two can’t stand each other and try whenever possible, not to talk to each other. She, therefore, did not know that a church meets in the space regularly at the exact time we reserved it. You suddenly begin to believe in the power of prayer. (It worked!)

Learn not to schedule anything for a Saturday afternoon mid-summer. No one comes.

Try to prepare an important grant before a looming deadline with a development associate who has a splitting migraine and can’t remember where she put anything. It was only after a year of her repeated migraines that I realized the associate was not the right person for the job. The migraines appeared every time a grant was due. She cost me a lot more than anything she helped to raise which was zero.

Have repeated anxiety dreams along the lines of “I dreamt I produced a dance festival and nobody came.” Fortunately, these scenarios remained only bad dreams.

Hire a new grant writer who tells you months later she actually never completed a graduate degree because of a problem she has completing things. Learn not to trust resumés and apparent enthusiasm by applicants for the task at hand.

You are preparing to print the much-anticipated annual SUMMERDANCE Festival Guide when you’re told by the printers that they’ve have lost the disk your graphic designer needs to complete the job.

It’s the year 2001. It’s a week before the festival. You have an international dance company scheduled to arrive, but many of the dancers are having problems getting visas. You must hire a high priced attorney from San Francisco to expedite things. You also have no idea what you will do if the dancers are denied entry into the USA. It finally all worked out a day or two before they travelled.

It’s time to put up 200 posters around town the weekend before the festival. When you look for them around town, the posters are nowhere in sight. The “poster boy” took off with the posters and never did the job. He was never seen again.

Have what you think is a strong verbal contract with a local theater only to find when the theatre is contacted for a written contract, the performance date has been given away. You have no choice but to cancel the performance. Not a happy moment.

On the days before a performance, no one is at the box office of a local theatre to sell tickets or available to answer the phone.

Your bookkeeper tells you that she simply “didn’t have time to do the budget” before an important board meeting and therefore hurriedly produced numbers that made no sense to anyone at all. She was insulted because the board questioned her figures.

One of your lead artists casually inform you a few weeks before the festival that he has no intention of taking the stage during a performance when the main reason you’ve invited his company is that he’s such an amazing performer. You just assumed he would dance. Learn the importance of the maxim,”Never assume anything. It makes an ass out of you.” Still holds true.

Go all out planning a community salsa extravaganza in a historic downtown adobe. See to it that the street is closed, you buy rolls of tickets, and barricades are put up. Hire a terrific salsa band with dancers from LA to kick off the evening. Contain your disappointment when the “local community” figures out they can dance just as well on the closed street outside the barricades without paying the price of admission! Head away from this unfolding financial disaster to get a stiff drink at a local joint across the street.

Have an artist cancel a visit to town the day before you’ve arranged and planned for 35 important supporters to come to my house to meet him and promote his residency.

Get summoned by the UCSB campus police at the end of an SDSB festival to come out to campus immediately because a visiting artist has totally trashed the apartment we rented for him in the most embarrassing way possible before leaving town. You are invited to look at the appalling mess. You’re mildly amused at the way the police force you to look at all the evidence, but sure you’ll never be able to use this resource for housing again. It must have been a hell of a party!

After a terrific performance that contained some mild nudity, you are told by a know-it-all board member that you will NEVER get a grant in this city again. Ignore her as best you can as well as anyone else who makes a habit of bursting your balloon when possible.

Notice that you have a definite proclivity for hiring not – yet – recovering alcoholics.

Now, CELEBRATE the fact that you’ve survived!!!!

Return to Youth with Anti-Ageing?? Get Over It

Can we please eliminate/eradicate the term anti-ageing?

There is no such thing. Anti aging=death. It’s a ridiculous phrase. It’s added as a descriptive term to advertising far too frequently. It’s understood to be undeniably positive, promoting everything from diets to yoga, face cream, lipstick, underwear, to acai berries. Let’s be truthful. Anti aging = anti-nature. Can’t be done. Don’t waste your time or spend you $$$. Or give it credibility.

We all age at different rates. If you’re like I am, you have already looked around at people your own age, wondering how some look so young, or what happened to make others look so old. There’s a wide variation among us. Some things in life accelerate the aging process, but if you have the pleasure (let’s hope) of living a long life, YOU WILL AGE SOONER OR LATER. Better to face it, than to flee.

Just as mid-life provides us with an opportunity to examine our lives and make changes as necessary, ageing provides a similar opportunity if we can jettison all the nonsense that surrounds it that just isn’t worth the dwindling time we have.

The somewhat obvious spin-off of anti-ageing rhetoric is designed to make us dissatisfied with ourselves and our naturally ageing bodies and minds.  It does just that if you don’t have your ears perked up and call it out for what it is.  It’s ultimately anti-life.

I don’t want to be approached by a pretty young thing patronizingly offering me a creme to make me look younger. Fuck off.  I’ve earned my place in life and I’m quite ok thank you very much. I’m not ashamed to look my age although I must admit to being a little too happy when I’m told I look younger than I am!  Old thought patterns don’t let go so easily.

I have zero desire to strut around in very high heels to make my body look better.  I’ve already played that painful game.

Now that I am approaching my late 70’s, I see ageism all around me. In myself too. We are SO culturally conditioned. I don’t like it in myself . I resent it in others . But, I’m becoming more and more aware of it. I’ve decided to become active in identifying it when I see it and calling it out. Others are doing it too. It’s well past time to be realistic, don’t you think?

… the success of the anti-ageing industry that caters to the needs of the elderly, like alternative medicine, it owes much of its success to its fundamental, albeit ambiguous, relationship with science. This particular sector in consumer society is shrouded with an aura of science that is used for the promotion of a variety of goods. It thrives on symbolic uses of science, while passing over its requirements for experimental evidence, peer review and official regulations. The aura and the discourse of science are skilfully applied for product enhancement in response to a fast-growing demand from the ageing public (see McConnel & Turner, page S59).

The anti-ageing market is replete with products: yoghurt cures, enema regimens, cell injections, magnetic devices, skin creams, herbal elixirs, glandular extracts, hormonal therapies, vitamin supplements, fad diets and exercise programmes. They give us anti-oxidants to neutralize oxygen-free radicals; chelators to bind heavy metal ions such as copper and iron; dehydroepiandrosterone to rejuvenate the immune system, improve brain function and relieve stress; growth hormone to increase muscle mass and function; retinoic acid to decrease skin wrinkling, and many more.  EMBO European Molecular Biology Organization

kintsugi?!

One of my pleasures in life is the discovery that one part of my life has unexpectedly overlapped with another. Currently, my work in the world of contemporary dance is aligning with my ongoing love affair with Japan.

Doug Elkins is our 2018 DANCEworks artist-in-residence. Last fall, he accompanied me and my husband to Japan to discover inspiration there for a new work he will create later this summer during his Santa Barbara DW’s residency. As far as I could tell, he spent a lot of his time in Japan and Kyoto wandering around and doing his own personal form of exploration. We’d chat about lots of stuff, enjoy dinners and mornings together. I had no clue until a few weeks ago as to how his Japanese visit would influence him.

doug!doug!doug!doug!doug!

A few weeks ago he made it clear. Kintsugi! I know what it is, but not a lot more. It’s such an interesting concept and so different from the way our own culture regards things that are old and broken, that I want to share it. As a point of departure for a work of dance, I think it will be fascinating. Did I mention that Doug Elkins has a brilliant creative mind that goes where few others can or dare to?

So what is kintsugi? It is the 400-500-year-old art of repairing broken ceramics or other fragile items with lacquer and gold. The repaired item, with its veins of gold, is then regarded as more beautiful and more interesting than the original unbroken item.  Kintsugi was an offshoot of wabi-sabi and like many other pursuits in Japan, it became an art form, studied and perfected.

The repaired item transforms.  What might have ended up in a trash heap, has become a work of art to be treasured and used again.

Is there a personal message here for all of us ?

…and, how will choreographer Doug Elkins create a dance with this theme?

 

The importance of Wabi-sabi in traditional Japanese aesthetics cannot be overstated. According to Wikipedia, In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi (侘寂) is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.[2] The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.” 
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