We’ve been excited to see a number of new funding and support opportunities for Boston/New England artists announced recently. Here’s a brief rundown.
New England Dance Fund
The New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) announced its New England Dance Fund, which awards “small, catalytic grants directly to choreographers who identify and articulate a critical opportunity that will significantly advance their career in dance.” The program, which aims to strengthen the dance sector in the region, is in addition to NEFA’s existent portfolio of support for dance artists. The next deadline to apply is September 26, 2016.
Assets for Artists in Boston Assets for Artists is a unique program that offers financial and entrepreneurial training to artists as well as an innovative matched savings grant program. It’s administered by MASS MoCA with a host of partnering and sponsoring orgs (including us). This year, the City of Boston joins as a partner, providing dedicated funding for 10 matched savings grants (from $1,000 – $2,000 each) for Boston-based artists, and financial and business workshops to strengthen the professional skills of those 10 artists and others. Deadline to apply is September 30, 2016.
The Boston Foundation’s Next Steps for Boston Dance The Next Steps for Boston Dance program aims to support Greater Boston choreographers with access to rehearsal space, consulting meetings with expert advisors, cohort/collaborator meetings, and $5,000 in funding. The deadline to apply is October 24, 2016, 5 PM EST.
The Boston Foundation’s Live Arts Boston (LAB) The Live Arts Boston (LAB) program will provide up to $15,000 in flexible, project-specific support to artists in dance, theater, spoken word, performance art, circus arts, some music genres, and inter- or multi-disciplinary combinations. Priority will be given to projects that emphasize new work, culturally-specific work, unique and interdisciplinary partnerships/collaborations, or risk-taking and innovative programming. The launch date is September 30, 2016, and the deadline will be November 15, 2016, 5 PM EST.
The Boston Cultural Council’s Opportunity Fund The Opportunity Fund is designed to support individual artists living or working in Boston to “share their work with the public or teach others, continue professional development, and hone their skills.” Applications for grants up to $1,000 will be accepted on a monthly basis. Artists can apply here, and grants will be distributed every month except October and April, when other Boston Cultural Council grants applications are due.
If you have a program to benefit Massachusetts artists that you’d like us to share, we’re all ears.
Media: excerpt from CLOTHESLINE AS LIVE INSTRUMENT by Dahlia Nayar (Choreography Fellow ’16), a past recipient of support from NEFA’s dance initiatives.
Roughly once a month, we pose a question to artists about an issue they face in their work and lives.
Often, creative work defies easy categorization. We asked a group of artists working in intriguing ways, What challenges do you face when asked to name a category for your work?
Liz Nofziger, site-specific installation artist
My work doesn’t fit neatly in any category. “Site-specific installation” captures the majority of it quite well, but if the person I’m speaking to isn’t familiar with the genre, this doesn’t help. I use a broad range of materials and practices to suit each specific project, most of which are short-lived. I find that I end up describing the process of making the work, and the physical/personal experience of the work. The end product is most commonly not tangible or fixed as it varies based on individual experience and interaction with the work. I think the most honest thing I can say about my work is that it is impractical, but I can’t help myself.
Kirk Amaral Snow, sculptor
The most important thing in my mind is to use a term that creates the right relationships. Intermedia and Interdisciplinary are terms that I use, but they are pretty nondescript. They lead to discussions that are about Art Practice rather than describing the work. These days I reserve them for my bio.
I have decided for most purposes that the work is Sculpture; it is materials in space, even if one of the materials is sometimes the body. This allows the pieces to engage the conceptual conversations that interest me (the shifting meaning and value of materials; the visual language of building and construction) without getting too bogged down in the minutia of categorization. Maybe the term simplifies the work, but I am all for a bit more modesty in the way art is written about!
Halsey Burgund, sound artist
The biggest challenge for me as a sound artist is not so much which category to choose but rather how to explain what that category means. As far as I can tell, sound art isn’t clearly or consistently defined (how is it different from music? can it be combined with visual/sculptural elements without becoming something else? etc) and more importantly, it is less well-understood by the public.
When having a conversation with someone, writing a description as part of a proposal or giving a talk, I often have to spend a significant amount of time establishing a baseline contextual understanding of the genre before launching into the fun part which is to describe what I do specifically, how I do it and what my motivations and hopes are for the work. If I was a painter, I could say “I make paintings” and then move on to the more interesting discussions immediately, but unfortunately, I find myself using up valuable time/focus/word-count on basic explanations first.
I will admit, however, that despite the frustrations, being forced into these sorts of descriptions and conversations often lets me see my own work in different ways that are enlightening, so as with most things, there are two sides.
D.K. McCutchen, writer
It’s challenging to articulate an “Elevator Pitch;” to quickly categorize my work in a fast-paced world that won’t wait around while I fumble to describe how multiple genres intertwine.
I’m fascinated by creative nonfiction (CNF), but don’t interpret it as simply using fictional concepts to tell a “true” story. I don’t really believe in truth. I do believe in Points of View, and everyone’s differ. That’s one soapbox.
Another conflation of genres, in my work, is science and experimental fiction. I did a CNF thesis for a Fiction MFA, with experimental writer/mentor John Edgar Wideman. I wrote experimental CNF and published The Whale Road, after repeatedly hearing from publishers: “Love the idea, love the writing, but why did you write it that way?” I still get that.
Now I’ve added speculative fiction into the mix. I teach science writing and keep up on the latest research. I write to imagine our world in the near future. As we remove species, add climate change, and stir, who will we be? I experiment with language, science and worlds. We lose language as we lose species. If cats are long-gone, what happens when Sandburg’s “… fog comes on little cat feet?” Everything’s connected.
Recently my pitch became: “my work is sometimes-erotic, post-apocalyptic, gender-bender, speculative fiction.” But then a prospective editor suggested it might also be categorized as YA….
Deb Todd Wheeler, sculptor, inventor, and media artist
So I guess the question I ask back is: who is doing the asking? If it’s me asking myself, which I often do, I tend to get caught up in the “expertise to enthusiasm” ratio. My projects lead me into arenas I feel I have no business sticking my nose or hand into, like say, photography (MCC finalist 2011), but once an idea takes hold, I can’t help but become as much of a sponge as I can, bothering friends and friends of friends for advice or collaboration, and let myself enjoy discovering the material. I suppose that puts me more in the category of Life Long Learner, with the acknowledgement that I will never really have any solid expertise. But if it’s a question about which grant to apply for, or which box to check, that’s a bit tricky. I imagine organizations need to keep the categories pretty general so that artists can be evaluated based on the relation they have to others working in a similar vein. For me, the challenge really is to stay on top of the conversation my work is engaged in, and leave the job of defining it for when I am at my desk and not at my workbench!
Halsey Burgund (halseyburgund.com) is a sound artist, musician, and installation artist. His work was recently included in the group exhibition Twelve Nights at Boston Sculptors Gallery, and his audio accompaniment for Water Stories (with paintings by Anne Neely) is on display at the Museum of Science Boston.
Roughly once a month, we pose questions to artists about their work and lives. We recently asked a group of artists, What do you strive to capture when documenting your work? (And how do you so?)
Dug North, automata maker
My sculptures are interactive and kinetic. It is difficult to capture the essence of a piece unless you actually operate it yourself. The best I can do is show the stages of creation and a video of the piece in action.
When documenting pieces for my website, I include some of my initial pencil sketches, photographs of mechanical prototypes, and in-progress shots of the finished piece. Together with some descriptive text, I hope this set of images conveys that each piece is an involved process – an artistic and engineering challenge.
When documenting my art on video, I work with a talented videographer. We try to show the piece overall, then close-ups of the hand-cranked mechanism. This is followed by close-up shots of the figures animated by the mechanism. The aim is to show how the machine works and the level of detail I strive to include in each piece. We select music for the video to help convey the tone of piece. Quite often, a waltz seems to capture the mood, tempo, and time period represented by my work.
Jennifer Polins, choreographer
As video technologies become more accessible to the artist, capturing work on video is an evolving process and a new frontier physically shaping concert dance.
I was just visiting old friends in Zurich, where I lived from 1993-1998. We reminisced and watched our work from 20 years ago, digitized from old tapes, remembering the video equipment back then was almost the size of an elephant! Editing programs were in an infancy stage and cumbersome, transferring materials to computers was not happening, there was no vimeo! Promoters preferred wide single shots, there was little reason for creative editing and video dance. DV8 Physical Theater and Rosas was on the forefront of integrated dance for video.
For me, the final goal frames the strategies and focus of the video process. Similar to 1993, documenting work to submit to grants and residencies calls for a high quality wide shot with limited edits that represents the work in its entirety. For artistic/promotional trailers, the goal is to create a fast, seductive product that gives a feeling of the theme of the work and makes people want to see more. I tend to choose material from a variety of perspectives; rehearsal-performance, zooms, durations, textures, and images that are not in the final work but support the theme. I collect video material in process, capturing a rehearsal or integrating a camera in the rehearsal for alternate perspectives. For dance films, I use rehearsal materials, and set up shoots based on a storyboard. My favorite use of video is still real time projections during live performance. I am forever fascinated by multiple and alternate perspectives. I use time-lapse technologies, projecting trace from a half an hour prior to a few moments back. This live projected work is captured during the show and then used as materials for projects.
At the moment I am at the Ponderosa TanzLand Festival outside of Berlin. We will capture daily events and post edited clips on our facebook page weekly. Although it is an exciting endeavor, I question if it is of service to our ephemeral and personal dance form to make this unique place with its smells and feels so accessible globally on a flat screen.
Watch Matthew Mazzotta’s OPEN HOUSE
Matthew Mazzotta, conceptual artist
When I make a video I try to hit three different types of ways people perceive the world – experiential, mass culture, academic. I want to make sure that if someone is seeing the work with no understanding of art that they can still find something intriguing and captivating about it. And for those that view the work from a more academic or art-knowledgeable point of view, I want to make sure that there is something in there that also allows for this type of reading or entry point into the work. It is very much how I think about making the actual work that I create for public spaces, knowing that there are people from many different backgrounds seeing the work and it should be accessible to as many as possible on as many levels as possible – one point of entry, many interpretations.
As for collecting footage for my videos, I have a somewhat nice DSLR camera for stop-motion animations and stills, but it is too cumbersome and a hassle to have hanging on me all the time while I am working, so I actually shoot most of it with a little point and shoot camera that I can just pull out of my pocket and flip open and shoot with one hand. This way if I am in a tree, on top of a house, or just anywhere that a nice shot appears, I can just capture it.
In terms of how I structure the video, it is much like a thesis; right up front I want to give a great visual sequence of what will unfold and main point, that way if someone clicks on the video they don’t have to wait to find out what the video is about. Since we are inundated with so much media now, I think it is important to use this technique so that people don’t lose interest right away and move to something else. Then the rest of the video gets to more of the details for those who want to a deeper understanding of work.
Ariel Kotker, sculpture/installation artist
My project is best seen and touched in person, but of course I can’t invite everyone for a studio visit. So I keep a blog, to tell how I’m writing a story in sculpture.
I aim to present the different ways I write the story. Some sculptures are cut and colored paper, with stenciled or drawn words. These I show in photos, and post links to running drafts of the text. Some pieces portray, say, a rabbit’s foot on a chain, but made of gilded clay, malleable plastic, milkweed and wire. These I show step-by-step, from armature to finished “fur.” Sometimes (but not very often) people mistake my sculpture for found objects, so it’s helpful to share how my work is constructed. I want folks to know that all the items are handmade.
His Room As He Left It is a work in progress, and a blog is handy for documentation and marking time. I add artist statements, inspirations, pieces in-process and done, or video of my work “in action” (e.g., me reading from Drey’s diary; a rolling toy car; pants which I can fold and unfold). I often revisit what I’ve posted when looking for a spark-plug to get myself working more devotedly.
Chris Fitch, sculptor and inventor
We contemporary artists can’t just make art anymore. The art itself is only the first step. Then we have to document it; then we have to have a website to document the documentation; and then we have to draw attention to the work by getting other people to document it by dragging it around from show to show… In the age of digital media it’s as if the artwork is really a vehicle for documentary evidence of itself, rather than a thing in its own right. So I try to treat the evidence, too, on its own terms. Because much of my sculpture is kinetic and video is my documentary medium of choice, I also have to be a filmmaker. The video becomes a second artwork, with its own soundtrack which has nothing to do with the original sculpture. I have to make still images of everything as well. There it is mostly a matter of getting the lighting right and finding informative angles. Again, a photograph is never just a document. It had better show the piece (literally) in the best light, but it also exists on its own as an image and must function accordingly. For my own reference I also document the process of making a piece so I know how to fix it when it breaks. Most people assume that an artist’s job is just to make art, but it is sooo much more work than that!
Dug North is an automata maker and kinetic sculptor. He currently has work in The Arts League of Lowell Gallery‘s exhibition “All Creatures, Real & Imagined” which runs through July 13th. Additional work is on display in his antique clock repair shop located in Studio 411 at 307 Market Street, Lowell, MA. One of his automata was recently featured on BoingBoing.net, and he will be profiled in the upcoming issue of MAKE magazine.
Jennifer Polins is a choreographer, dance artist, and performance artist. With Saliq Savage, she codirects Wire Monkey Dance, which has presented work at Jacob’s Pillow, DTW, Lincoln Center, Saratoga Arts Festival, Macua Fringe Festival, Ponderosa TanzLand Festival and Boston Center for the Arts, Cyclorama.
Images and Media: video of MEKANIKOS VS. THE MINOTAUR by Dug North, videography by Bob Quinn; still from RE, choreography by Jennifer Polins (pictured, with Saliq Savage); video the OPEN HOUSE project by Matthew Mazzotta; handmade pants and shoes from HIS ROOM AS HE LEFT IT by Ariel Kotker; photo of SPRING (2010) by Chris Fitch, wood, formica, aluminum, garolite, brass, hardware, 97x25x92 in.