Sunday, February 8, 2009

February 08, 2009


Hello everyone.

"And the beat goes on.................."


The San Francisco Dance community - with some 200 separate dance organizations, ranging from the SF Ballet all the way down to mom & pop avant garde dance troupes - needs its own dance venue.

Dance requires certain minimal stage specifications - including size and flooring. Unfortunately, there are really only a few venues that provide what is needed - the Opera House, Yerba Buena, and the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason chief among them. The problem is that these venues are so much in demand, the competition for using the spaces is so intense - both from local arts groups and from those from out of town who include SF on their touring schedule - that far and away most dance organizations are frozen out of any access to them. So they are forced to play at inadequate facilities - inadequate for both their needs and for the needs of their audiences.

What SF (and I suppose many cities) really need is a venue specifically designed with dance and dance audiences in mind; one that is entirely dedicated to the dance discipline and available only to them.

Can SF support that option? Certainly there are enough companies - SF is second only to New York in resident companies. And arguably the audiences are, at least in part, already there. One might argue that "if you build it they will come" as well, and with some justification. And the really good new venues end up as attractions in and of themselves. One shouldn't underestimate the importance of style, comfort and convenience to audiences.

I have thought for some time that one of the old movie theater spaces still left on Market street would be an ideal venue. Close to public transit, could be converted to the right size (+ or - 750 seats), and could be transformed into anything from an art deco revival to new modernism. It could include rehearsal space (also much needed), limited office facilities for the smaller companies as well as a Bay Area wide dance arts service organization. Done right it could be a tourist destination, pump up the local economy, and it could be the savior for scores of local companies. And it would, forever, change the dance community here - and that community is an extraordinary asset. Alas, it is in danger here as well as elsewhere.

Ah, but in this economy, this kind of capital improvement seems impossible you rightly cry out. Yes, perhaps. But with the crash of real estate markets, this might be an excellent time to acquire such a property at bargain basement rates. And while it is obviously difficult right now for arts organizations to even survive, nonetheless there is money out there and this is precisely the kind of enterprise that might appeal to a potential broad based funding coalition of private, foundation and corporate interest. It would, of course, take time, but this might be the time to begin to make such an effort. Conceivably you could tap into the support and the audiences of a hundred plus organizations.

I think the concept should, at least, be explored, and perhaps the dance community might hold its own Summit Meeting, and bring together the leadership of all the city's companies to investigate this idea, and, at the same time, provide a forum for discussion of a wide range of issues facing local dance companies. It doesn't cost anything to talk and often times bold plans - ones that seem "pie-in-the-sky" - emerge and even succeed.

In SF the dance community has long needed its own venue. That's a fact.


I was profoundly saddened, but hardly surprised, at Americans for the Arts email last Friday noting that the arts funding had been cut from the Senate version of Obama's Stimulus Package. Once again, it is clear that we have yet to establish the simple principle that arts jobs are real jobs, the arts sector is a viable and important economic engine, and that the arts field is as needful and deserving of support as any other sector. Let's face it - a majority of elected officials at all levels, much of the media, most of the business community and an awful lot of Americans just don't get it. Still. After well over a decade of Herculean efforts on all our parts (and particularly Americans for the Arts, without whom we would have made little advance) we haven't yet effectively made our case.

Those who know me, know that my mantra is that it isn't all about making the case, some of it is about raw political power, lobbying, AND involvement in the campaigns of those we elect to office. While that kind of involvement is no guarantee of getting what you want (especially in times like these), it does usually insure you get a much better hearing than I think we are getting. The crushing news is that so many of our "so-called" supporters bailed on us. Why is that? Our jobs don't count? Our jobs are just "pretend"? The Senate's capitulation to the minority demands is myopic, stupid and frankly, it's insulting. We should be outraged. We should, finally, make this moment in time the one where we commit to becoming a political powerhouse by forming PACs, raising funds to support AND defeat those who support and oppose us. At least, we should ramp up our lobbying (not advocacy folks, but our lobbying) efforts by digging into our own pockets and raising the funds to support the effort.

What will take before we act in our own self-interest? Our total collapse and demise?

I hope somehow the pittance of $50 million for the support of arts jobs makes it into the final Stimulus
Bill, but I won't hold my breath.

I hope you all have a good week.

Sometimes it's almost impossible, but......Don' Quit. Just don't.