The art of funds

By Alexandra Kukulka

The lights dim, and on stage, performers are in position to start their dance as an orchestra lifts its instruments in preparation for the conductor to give the cue. As the audience waits in anticipation for what comes next, few stop to think about the show’s expenses, which could be costly.

In an effort to ease the burden on the performing arts, the National Endowment for the Arts recently gave Columbia’s Dance Center and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble grants for different projects. The Dance Center was given $30,000 and the CJE received $10,000.

“It is satisfying and gratifying [to receive a grant from the NEA],” said Phil Reynolds, executive director of the Dance Center. “The NEA is an important funding agency here in the United States, if not for the actual amount of money, but for some of the [recognition].”

According to Reynolds, the Dance Center’s grant will finance three one-week residencies with international contemporary dance companies in the 2012–2013 academic year, including CoisCéim Dance from Ireland, the Delfos Contemporary Dance Company from Mexico and the Yin Mei/Hong Kong Dance Company from China.

The grant money will go toward the fees for the professional artists who are coming to Chicago from around the world, though the NEA grant isn’t the only one the Dance Center received for the project,Reynolds said.

“In each of [these] residencies, there will be series of public performances and also a number of opportunities for the artist to interact with Columbia students,” he said.

According to Reynolds, enhancing the curriculum in the Dance Department, exposing contemporary trends in international dance and strengthening Chicago communities through off-campus events are the goals of the project.

“The $30,000 from the NEA is but a very small slice of the overall pie in terms of the expense on these projects,” he said.

On the other hand, the CJE was granted $10,000 for a project called Brick and Motor Cities. Collaboration with artists in Newark, N.J. and Detroit is the most important aspect of the project, according to Kate Dumbleton, executive director of the CJE.

The creation and development of multimedia programs and other works that exhibit musical narratives and contemporary mediations on the riots in Newark and Detroit during summer 1967 were the inspiration for this project, said Dana Hall, director of the CJE.

Dumbleton and Hall worked together to come up with ideas for potential collaborators who offer multidisciplinary work.

Brick and Motor Cities is a big project that will take 18 months to develop, so it is set up in three phases to keep the audience informed, Dumbleton said.

“One of the things we wanted to do was to make the process open for audiences to be a part of, so that rather than us just going off in a corner and developing this work and then presenting it, all parts of the project would be open to audiences to kind of participate and witness,” Dumbleton said.

According to her, the CJE has not yet decided what the grant will go toward, but it was originally slated to develop a commission and workshops.

“It is not as if [receiving the grant] came as a surprise, or that it was a new source of funding,” Reynolds said. “I don’t take one grant proposal for granted, but we have been recipients of NEA grants for a long time.”