Monday, November 27, 2006


I once read somewhere that real wealth is not about having money, but rather about having time and space. While I don't remember who said that, I'm pretty sure he or she wasn't talking specifically about the arts. In essence, it is what Virginia Woolf was saying in A Room of One's Own, except she mixed in the monetary: a room of one's own and 1000 pounds a year -- which, in essence, buys time. When I read the blogs of many of the theatre artists, this really comes home. Playwrights, directors, actors, designers all need the time to create, and a place to do it in.

It seems like a truism, really, and yet what happens to our idea of fundraising if we shift our focus just that little bit? If, instead of raising money, we went out to try to raise time and space. Many artists work day jobs in order to pay the rent, i.e., they make money to buy space. Artists, what if a patron or foundation offered you, not a grant, but a rent-free apartment for a year -- would this make any difference in your artistic life? What if a grocery chain offered to give you groceries for a year? Or the electric company paid your utilities for a year? How much real estate stands empty while someone seeks a buyer? What if they could get a tax right-off for renting it to you? What if empty warehouses could be leased for a penny a year to artists looking for a place to rehearse, or a place to put together a very basic performance space?

Of course, this is the world of bartering -- I am not having any particularly new and brilliant ideas. But it seems to me that the grantwriting scene has become so professionalized that another approach -- one involving smaller amounts of basic goods -- might lead to more time and space for artists.

So a question to the artists: would any of this make a significant difference to your artistic life?


Jamespeak said...

Would this make a significant difference to my artistic life? I don't know. It would make a significant difference to my producing life, that's for sure. Real estate is so scarce in New York (and it's getting more scarce every year), I'm guessing it couldn't hurt my artistic life if I was offered a large rehearsal/performance space in exchange for a nominal fee or donated for some tax break.

Nosedive's director recently moved to a large studio apartment with wider dimensions than most rehearsal studios, which has helped save the company a substantial amount of money (we're able to rehearse in a space for free as long as we want opposed to paying $15-$20 an hour for a room half the size).

But again, would this change what I write and how I write? I don't know. I'm guessing probably not. Then again, I've always been more of a "shoot first, ask questions later" kinda guy when it comes to writing, anyway.

E. Hunter Spreen said...

A huge amount of my budget goes to space rental so, yes, a truly low-cost rehearsal/performance space would make a significant difference for me. I always imagine that having a "room of my own" where I could work alone or with other artists would eventually change the way I work and what I create. It would allow me the freedom to experiment and fail. It's difficult now not to get locked into the current way theatre is produced and created in this country and yes, of course, the way grants are structured support that system as much as anything else. I'm doing research right now trying to find funding and producing organizations that circumvent the status quo - they're out there, but it's takes a lot of digging to find them.

Freeman said...

Time and treasure, is what the fundraisers say. At least in my industry. Of course, one can help raise the other.

I think it's not so much that we need to stop thinking about money... it's that we need to change our business model. Stop spending so much time on grants and more on small donors.

Either way, if certain spaces were available cheap, they'd be filled up rather quickly and then we'd need to figure out how to find MORE space. In NYC, it's not that there aren't spaces, and that spaces can't be afforded (although some are very hard to afford.) The problem is that the balance gets off so easily. How to commit time and talent to an artist project and raise money OUTSIDE of the money to eat and live and then put time into practical production issues.

I do agree that we should look to other kinds of "goods" in order to alleviate those drains. But either way, it comes back to "resources" and there will always be a need to raise them. No free rides (no matter how generous) will remove that issue overall.

Scott Walters said...

But I am wondering about other types of spaces -- not spaces for rehearsal and performance, necessarily, but living space, groceries. In other words, if your basic housing and food needs were covered, not through a monetary grant but say by being given an apartment rent-free and free access to a cafeteria, would that allow you to stop working a day job, or work fewer hours, and spend the released time focusing on your art?

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Bye for now,
Komedy Kollective Theatre (UK)