Posts Tagged ‘International Summer Fellowship’

Liberty and Egypt I know it’s been a while (comparatively) since I last posted something on the blog but dang, it feels like just yesterday that I left on the 3-day camel trek to get back to SA.  8 hours from DC to Amsterdam, only to wake up and find, despite a working day having gone by, that you are faced with another morning.  Then 12 hours to Cape Town.

Crazy.

DC ended with the inevitable run of goodbyes.  And admittedly, on a *little bit* of a hangover from a Swapping phone numbersfinal night of Fellowship, it might have been slightly more emotional than planned.  The goodbyes started at the hotel where those who weren’t yet leaving (or most of them, at least – Federico!!) came out to wave the first airport shuttle off.  I was in this bus and so, much like last year, my final memory of DC is the stoep of 2424 Penn being awash with hugging and kissing.  (Just for the record, no one cried; we’re very cool and level-headed, us Fellows.)  Luckily I got to travel to the airport with a large group of the Fellows, so it felt more like we were going on an outing than getting ready to leave.  Despite the very long queue to check in at  Dulles Airport, we still had heaps of time to kill Final goodbyes before we all boarded our various flights and so turned to what we do best, besides Arts Management: eating!  We had the choice of two restaurants: The Tequileria or Something-Else-That-I-Can’t-Remember.  We chose the Something-Else as it seemed a little too early for the Tequilaria, even for us hardened folk, and were served by the world’s most unhappy, disinterested, sad waitress – perhaps she too had been saying goodbye to people all morning – until finally the call came for Lukas and Nada to board their flight.  The second round of goodbyes.  That left Zvonimir, Fation, Kheri, George-of-the-Escalating FellowsJungle and myself still with hours to kill.  However Zvonimir and Fation were going to a different boarding gate to the rest of us, waaaaaaaaaay on the other side of the airport.  Croatia and Albania.  Nowhere near South Africa.  So it was goodbye number 3, leaving Kheri, GOTJ and I.  And still we had time to kill.  Done with the shopping, eating, goodbye-ing, we made our way to the boarding gate and waited to board, praying to be able to sleep and sleep and sleep as much as possible in the tin can that is economy class.  Did we manage?  Who knows.  My flight is a haze of Everlast, Tetris and Slumdog Millionaire (finally), laced with a fair amount of discomfort.

Finally we arrived in Amsterdam where we (surprise) got something to eat and wandered around the airport stretching our legs.  Now, Dutch cheese rocks, right?  So, wanted to buy some in the Duty Free at Schiphol Airport.  I asked the Cheese Lady whether I would have any problems at customs on entering SA.  “Oh, no”, she says, almost condescendingly, “everything we sell in this airport can be taken on a plane with no problem”.  (Subtext: I am Dutch and we are very organised so you can trust me.)  I read the subtext and buy great wodges of cheese for people at home.  By the way, I would love to know how shops in Duty Free go about their marketing.  I mean, they have a captive audience who is everything you want them to be: Honkie & Klonkietired, bored and trying to get rid of their foreign currency on gifts they forgot to buy before they left.  It’s genius.  Imagine the money a theatre company could make entertaining bored passengers in transit… Anyway, it then came time for the forth and final goodbye.  Kheri and GOTJ were carrying on together to Nairobi leaving li’l ol’ me and my 12 kgs of cheese to keep each other company.  I had to wonder why the 2 South Africans had been split up.  I’m not sure if Johann would have been more entertaining than the cheese but at least I could have laughed at how none of the airhostesses could work out whether he was asking for the chicken or beef.

So I boarded the plane with a heavy sense of reality that the summer learning, fun and Fellowship was now…officially…over.  Sniff.  Then I passed out.  And the next thing I was conscious of, besides the smells of perfume and toothpaste, was the plane touching down, and I knew I was home.  No matter how good “away” is, there really ain’t no place like home.  Proudly South African, ek sê.

And by the way, you can’t bring cheese into the country, as my lovely customs official pointed out when he opened my bag.  I quoted the Cheese Lady several times; he pointed at the Forbidden Items sign repeatedly.  It was only after much begging and pleading and batting of eyelids that he let me go with my cheese in tow.  Which is a good thing.  One should never come between a tired women and her cheese.  It’s just not clever.

Kennedy Center So here’s to a great summer, a wonderful Fellowship and an exciting year ahead.  And as I look at FTH:K and all that we want to do and achieve in the coming year, I have to remind myself of David’s words:

Do not allow yourself to be overwhelmed.

A big ask but an important one – what good are you to anyone when overwhelmed??  Besides (says Michael):

It does not happen in a day; it does not happen without failure; and it does not happen without discipline.

Here we go, world.  Watch this space for miracles ;-)

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…it’s over!

 4th July - Fellows (smaller)

The classes have ended, the luncheon is finished, the Thank You gifts distributed, the debriefing session over, the last-minute shopping completed, and I find myself sitting quietly in my hotel room contemplating my return to SA.  It’s over.  Much, much faster than last year; much, much faster than I would have liked; and if it wasn’t for how great the programme has been, I would feel cheated.  The 2009 Fellowship has been more challenging than last-year’s programme largely because it has pushed us to be far more independent.  Last year was all about sessions.  We met with every staff member (it felt like) in the Kennedy Center.  Literally!  We were large human sponges sucking up the info that was being thrown at us from all sides, and most of us went home feeing totally overwhelmed.  This year, we had very few formal sessions, almost too few, and we were expected to be a lot more proactive and independent in our work.  I guess I wasn’t expecting this and so it was challenging.  In many ways, this year was about finding ways to apply what we had learnt last year, and as Michael says: the theory is the easy part.  Applying it is where it gets tough.

There are so many things I want to do when I get back.  One of the most important things is to make time for reflection.  To set time aside that can’t be used for meetings and admin and and and…all the things that have to be done on a day-to-day basis to keep the organisation running but that keep you from dreaming new dreams, planning new plans and generally inspiring you to keep going.  You can get so tied up in the daily grind that you lose track of what it is you are trying to do.  You know, head in the reeds and all that.  There’s so much to do when I get back.  Exciting and difficult.  And I want to do everything I can to not fall back into bad habits (obsessively checking my email, procrastinating on the jobs that need doing but that I don’t want to do etc) and really use this time away, this sabbatical, as a chance to click into a new gear.  More.  Focus.  Clearer.  Sharper.  Keener.  And I want to see the difference in FTH:K…am I impatient?  You think?!

And dang, I hope the weather is good to me when I arrive!  To go from hot, humid, lovely summer 8 pm sunsets to freezing cold (relative to the Russian Fellow), rainy Cape Town might just kill me! 

Anyway, the rest of this blog is dedicated to the wonderful Fellows, new and old, that have enriched my DC experience more than they know.  Today, I began getting scared to come back next year, knowing that this time 2010, there will be no “next time”.  The goodbyes will be final.  Kinda like the beginning of the end.  And then, not only will we no longer come back to the KC for this Fellowship, saying goodbye to our unlikely summer family, but we will also be on our own, standing alone, bravely leading our arts industries to new and better places.  And if that ain’t a scary, emotional thought, then I don’t know what is!  Although, that may be a little dramatic.  I don’t think our group of Fellows will ever be “alone”.  We are Kennedy Center Fellows and that means we share common goals, common methodologies and a network that has the potential to be the difference in Arts Management internationally. 

So, to my fellow Fellows, THANK YOU. I love you all.

The Three Musketeers Attentive disciples Denisse & Pavlina with Embassy representative Fation with his Embassy's representative Fation with his Embassy's representative 2 Yvonne with her Embassy's representatives Fation with ISF sponsors Federico & Natalie with Embassy representative Federico, Denisse & friend of the Fellows Fellows enjoy themselves too much too often! George with Big Tom Jiyeon, Patrick, Yvonne & Joyce     Papa Michael Patrick Lukas & Eva  Mohamed insists  My surrogate familyMama Caitlin Joyce with her Embassy's representativeMore discussionsNada with her Embassy's representative Nada with her Embassy's representative 2 Noora, Nada, Reem & the evening's generous sponsor   Patrick & Lucas Patrick, Caitline, Yvonne & TamerKheri & Reem Pavlina & Angela have a chat Pavlina, Denisse & Noora Reem with a friend of the Fellows South African - Palestinian sisters Tamer gives George some pointers Tanya doing what she does best The Czech contingency  Wendy with her Embassy's representative

As you may know – if you have been paying attention – that despite this blog being all from my point of view, there have actually been a number of Fellows around on the programme with me.  None of them as brilliant or amazing, mind you, but what can you do ;-)

Obviously I’m talking rubbish.  Both groups of Fellows selected by the Kennedy Center are amazing people doing amazing things in their various countries.  So, steel yourself for a whole list of awesome…

2008 – 2010 Fellows

NadaNADA MASSOUD (Head of Communication for the Al Bustan Festival; Lebanon; festival@albustan-lb.com)

The Al Bustan Festival is an international festival of music and performing arts that takes place annually during the months of February and March.  It presents a wide range of performances, from symphonic orchestra to chamber music, to operas, contemporary dance, oriental music, sacred music and jazz.  Since its inception in 1994, the Festival has been contributing to the revival of the cultural scene in Lebanon after the Lebanese war, and to date, has invited over 5000 international artists.  Each year the Festival is programmed around a theme, and in 2010 the theme will be Prima la Muzica (Music First).

Noora 2NOORA BAKER (Manager of El-Funoun Dance Troupe; Palestine; noora.baker@el-funoun.org)

El-Funoun Dance Troupe, established in 1979, is an independent non-profit organization that is volunteer-based.  The Troupe aims at developing and promoting contemporary Palestinian dance through reviving Palestinian folklore, deriving from it, building on it and adding to it El-Funoun’s unique dance style.  In 1986, El-Funoun established the Bara’em youth dance group to promote Palestinian-Arab cultural identity and to counter the marginalization and alienation of Palestinian children and youth through music and dance expression.  El-Funoun played a key role in establishing the Popular Art Centre in 1987, a community organization committed to raising awareness about the arts, and opening opportunities for community members to participate in artistic activity and expression.

Wendy WENDY CHUNG (Assistant Public Relations Manager of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts; China; chungwyw@gmail.com)

The Academy is one of the leading institutes of higher arts education in Asia. It offers training in dance, drama, film and television, music, theatre and entertainment arts, as well as Chinese traditional Theatre.

Become a Facebook Fan or watch the official 5-min video on YouTube.

Zvonimir ZVONIMIR DOBROVIC (Program Director and founder of Queer Zagreb and Perforations festivals; Croatia; zvonimir.dobrovic@gmail.com)

The Queer Zagreb Festival deals with challenging norms within a transitional, traditional and generally speaking uniformed post-socialist society by presenting artists, academics and activists from all over the world whose works address these issues. Queer Zagreb has been taking place annually since 2003 in April / May and has become one of the main international festivals in Zagreb.

Perforations is a new festival dedicated to producing new work by Croatian and regionally-established, as well as young and emerging, artists. The first Perforations will take place in Dubrovnik and Zagreb in September 2009 and will present 25 new theatre, dance and live art productions.

Denisse DENISSE FLORES SOMARRIBA (Public Affairs coordinator of Cultura UDG [Cultural and Arts Department of the University of Guadalajara]; Mexico; denisse.flores@redudg.udg.mx)

Cultura UDG optimizes cultural infrastructure conditions, improves and creates cultural and artistic offerings for its student communities and society as a whole in Guadalajara and western Mexico.  It presents national and international performances and exhibitions, produces the International Book Fair of Guadalajara and International Film Festival of Guadalajara, and commissions and produces local Guadalajara artists.  The University of Guadalajara is a leading institution for culture and arts in Mexico.

She is also the co founder of the Female Sessions Festival, a multidiscipline festival that deals with social issues that have affected (and still affect) women throughout history, by presenting work by young female artists as well as artists that are recognized for their long artistic career.  Female Sessions currently takes place in Guadalajara but Denisse plans to develop it into a national project soon.

Johann JOHANN DAVIS (Marketing Manager for Jazzart Dance Theatre; South Africa; johann@jazzart.co.za)

Jazzart Dance Theatre is acknowledged as one of South Africa’s leading dance/theatre performing company with an enormous creative and critical output.  Its roots and philosophies are located in the widest range of cultural experiences available within South Africa. Jazzart has a demonstrated practice of being a politically aware, socially responsible and multi-culturally inclusive performance company since the late 70’s.

Become a Facebook Fan.

Mohammed MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM (Director of Wekalet el Ghouri Arts Center; Egypt; dayem25@yahoo.com)

Wekalet el Ghouri Arts Center it is an architecturally stunning arts center in the Al Azhar area in Central Cairo. The center operates under the Ministry of Culture, and the Cultural Development Fund (CDF). Since finalizing restorations to the building in October 2005, it has become a hot-spot for organizing cultural events, festivals, workshops for children and courses in Arts History.

Katerina KATERINA KOUTNA (Marketing Director of Prague Spring International Music Festival; Czech Republic; koutna@festival.cz)

In its 65th year in 2010, the renowned Prague Spring International Music Festival is a springtime celebration of music.  With dozens of concerts of classical music, jazz and many other musical genres, providing a platform for artists of the highest quality, as well as symphony orchestras and chamber groups with an international standing.  The Prague Spring Festival also has a particular focus in showcasing younger performers.  The Prague Spring International Music Competition was established just one year after the festival itself, and is held each year in various instrumental sections.  Every year from 12 May to the beginning of June it brings over one thousand artists to more than forty thousand concertgoers and thus remains one of the most important cultural events in the Czech Republic.

Become a Facebook Fan or tune into the Festival YouTube channel.

Eva EVA KESSLOVA (Managing Director of the BERG Orchestra; Czech Republic; eva@berg.cz)

BERG Orchestra is a Czech orchestra that concentrates on programming new and 20th century music.  It regularly commissions new works with the best young Czech composers and performs these works at its concerts.  The mission is not only to promote new music but also to attract new audiences to it.  Very often, the concerts mix music with other art forms like dance, theatre, and film. BERG Orchestra performs not only in regular concert halls but it is constantly searching for new spaces to present its music.  Previous performance spaces include an old sewage plant, art cinema and modern art museum.

Angela ANGELA DELGADO VALDIVIA (Director of Cultural Activities at the Peruvian North American Bi National Cultural Center; Perú; cultura@cultural.edu.pe)

Based in Arequipa, this non profit organization is focused on promoting Peruvian and international contemporary art in the visual and performing areas.  It offers well-placed venues within a beautiful colonial house that have an interesting mixture of architectural styles.
This Bi-National Center, known as CULTURAL, also offers English as a second language and has one of the best libraries in town.

GeorgeGEORGE NDIRITU (Project Founder and Manager of Haba na Haba; Kenya; habanahaba@mysakenya.org)

Haba na Haba is a project linking creative arts with social improvement and community development activities.  Our mission is to provide education, and increase participation and appreciation of the arts. Haba na Haba is based in the Eastlands of Nairobi, Kenya, providing artistic activities to over 600 members.  Our activities include, Music, Drama, Dance, Fine arts and Acrobatics, and all activities are free and open to all.  Find out more on YouTube or click here and here.

Tamer TAMER ASSEM ALI (Director of Mahmoud Mokhtar Cultural Center; Egypt; tamer.assem@gmail.com)

Mahmoud Mokhtar Cultural Center was established 2006 in the premises of the great sculptor Mahmoud Mokhtar.  The Center aims to activate dialogue between different artistic media and the spectator through national and international exhibitions, workshops and cultural events.  The Center has 3 main sections: the Nahdet Misr Gallery, the Cultural Garden, and the Museum.  The NAHDET MISR GALLERY hosts various exhibitions, art projects, workshops, and screenings of films, documentaries and video art.  The CULTURAL GARDEN hosts open air events like musical concerts, theatre, performance art, workshops in different media and open air exhibitions.  The MUSEUM of the great sculptor Mahmoud Mokhtar displays a unique variety of the artists’ productions.

Become a Facebook fan

Other 2008 – 2010 Fellows (I’ll update this post as the info comes in) include:

  • Dr Abdullah Hassan Alghaith (Kuwait)
  • Fatjon Dragoshi (Albania; Ministry of Toursim, Culture, Youth and Sports)
  • Jing Zhu (China)
  • Dr Mahmoud Abuhashhash (Palestine; A. M. Qattan Foundation)
  • Pavlina Svatonova (Czech Republic)

2009 – 2011 Fellows

JoyceJOYCE YAO (Programme Manager of The Theatre Practice; Singapore; joyce@practice.org.sg)

At The Theatre Practice we may not be all shine and swanky-polish, but our charm lies in our unwavering commitment to our vision and beliefs.  Born in 1986 and founded by Kuo Pao Kun, we are Singapore’s first bilingual theatre company.  Whether we are young or old, of supple limb or weathered step, our boundless energy springs from our passion for creativity and the arts. And on the road ahead, we will continue to objectively critique life, respectfully entertain audiences, and always explore new uncharted waters.  Follow our blog or become a Facebook Fan.

JudePATRICK-JUDE OTEH (Artistic Director of the Jos Repertory Theatre; Nigeria; josreperthea@yahoo.com)

The Jos Repertory Theatre is based in the city of Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria.  Our mission is to create unforgettable theatre for communities in and around Nigeria and to make Jos a way station for the performing arts in Nigeria.  Patrick-Jude runs the organization with five other colleagues and our core area of business is live theatre performances.  We also do a lot of work in and around communities aimed at education and awareness and we have started a touring program to five states in Nigeria taking in both schools and commercial performances.

The Great Falls & Lukas LUKÁŠ PRŮDEK (Head of Marketing and Production Department of Dejvicke Theater; Czech Republic; Lukas.prudek@dejvickedivadlo.cz)

Dejvicke Theater is a small drama theatre in the Prague district of Dejvice. Dejvicke Theater was founded 17 years ago as a Non-Profit Organisation by its director, Eva Merickova, and among Czech theatres, is considered as one which produces high quality performances with great and well-known Czech artists.

Kheri KHERI A. YUSSUF (Senior Project Administrator of Dhow Countries Music Academy; Zanzibar; admin@zanzibarmusic.org)

The mission of Dhow Countries Music Academy is to “preserve, develop and promote the musical heritage of Zanzibar”.  Its core business is offering access to music training, music agencies, recording studios, and outreach Programmes for schools and villages.  Its geographical scope includes Zanzibar, United Rep of Tanzania (base), East Africa, and Indian Ocean Islands and it has Main Partner Organisations in Egypt, Palestine, Norway, Germany.

Ji Yeon JIYEON PARK (Assistant Manager, Performing Arts Programming and Marketing of Daejeon Culture and Arts Center; Korea; jiyeonpark@gmail.com)

Since its opening in October, 2003, Daejeon Culture and Arts Center, a subsidiary organization of city of Daejeon, has gained its reputation as one of the most vibrant local performing arts organizations in South Korea.  There are four resident performing arts groups in the centre which include Daejeon Philharmonic Orchestra, Daejeon Philharmonic Choir, Daejeon Metropolitan Dance Theatre and Daejeon Civic Youth Choir.  Daejeon Culture and Arts Center generally presents 90 performances from various performing arts genres throughout the year.

Federico FEDERICO BRAUN (Administration Manager of Tate Modern ; Great Britain; federico.braun@tate.org.uk)

The Tate Modern was established to increase public knowledge, understanding and appreciation of British art from the sixteenth century to the present day and of international modern and contemporary art.

Become a Facebook Fan or visit the Tate Modern YouTube Channel.

Other 2009 – 2011 Fellows include:

In a session with Michael yesterday, we were talking about artistic programming and the current state of the arts in the States.  Of course we were.  These are two of his favourite topics.  It’s hard to pick out the “important” points that he makes when he talks because a) they all feed into each other in a most frustratingly symbiotic way, and b) he’s just so damn knowledgeable!!  Anyway, one of the things he said was that many smaller arts organisations are responding to current tough times in the US by reverting to more conservative artistic programming.  Stuff that audiences know and trust.  He sees this as problematic for a number of reasons, one of them being that a smaller organisation putting on Cats is generally not going to be able to compete with a larger organisation putting on the same (kind of) show.  Also, if an experimental theatre group decides to put on a more traditional piece in order to get more bums on seats, chances are they won’t do a particularly good job of it because that’s not what they specialise in.  Let alone the fact that they will disappoint their regular crowd, potentially resulting in even smaller houses.

Makes sense so far.

Then we moved onto a Marketing session with David who was taking us through the year that the Kennedy Center has had since us Summer Fellows were last here, and he noted that at the moment, US ticket-buying seems to be such: people know what they want to see and will only go and see that.  So some shows are doing exceptionally well, while others are doing really badly.  The in-between buyer, the one who is not 100% percent sure that they will enjoy a certain show but buy a ticket anyway, is hibernating.  So tickets are selling for the “sure thing” not the “maybe”. 

Hmmmm…

At first glance, these two comments seem to be contradictory.  On one hand, we are being encouraged not to go for more conservative programming while on the other hand, we are being told that the shows that are selling are the “sure thing”.  (Add to this the fact that FTH:K‘s most recent piece, QUACK!, has to be one of our most experimental yet!) 

So I  mull over this apparent contradiction, trying to work out how these points co-exist and where FTH:K falls into it all.  And I have a moment of clarity.  (Yes, imagine that.)  I realise that Michael is not saying that we should all be making crazy-ass work that explores the inner psychology of chewing gum and that no one understands.  He’s just saying: stand out!  Of all the times to be noticed,  it’s now: when the pie is smaller but the number of people wanting a piece of it hasn’t reduced any.  He’s saying, be noticeably sexier than the rest of the organisations competing for your audience members (and funders).  And David, in his infinite wisdom, is chiming in saying, be the sure thing!  Be the organisation that people know they will have a good experience with, be it conservative or experimental.  There’s an audience for everything, after all.  Just make sure that when your audience is deciding on which piece of conservative/experimental theatre to see tonight, you’re the obvious choice.

When I grow up, I want to be Michael Kitto-Mattson.

Ok, a little dramatic but hey, this is theatre we’re talking about.  And theatre in a tough economic environment, no less.  Doesn’t get much more dramatic than that, does it?!

Kennedy Center

This is Tanya here writing on behalf of FTH:K as I begin the second instalment of my Kennedy Center training.  As I assume you know, I am FTH:K’s Company Manager and was lucky enough to be selected as 1 of 2 South Africans to participate in a 3-year International Summer Fellowship programme at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (KC) from 2008 – 2010.  Lucky?  Ooooh, yes.  If you know FTH:K, and if you have noticed developments in the past year in the way that we are doing things, then you will ultimately have noticed the effect this Fellowship is having on the Company.  If you have only just found out about FTH:K, there’s a good chance that this Programme at the KC is the reason why.  If you have never heard of FTH:K and aren’t actually sure of how you got to this blog, I can’t help you.  Sorry.

Yesterday and today (Day 1 & 2 of the Fellowship) have largely been about orientation and set-up: getting our security badges (the KC is a national monument, after all), being allocated work stations, getting KC internet profiles, remembering where everything is in the KC, and then – the most exciting part – being allocated mentors for our projects.  Last year we attended classes and sessions throughout the 4-week programme, led largely by The Big Three: Michael Kaiser, David Kitto and Marie Mattson and their respective teams.  This year, we were asked to bring 3 projects on which we would like to work while at the KC as we’ll be working alone a lot more, but with the luxury of having access to the wealth of resources at the KC.  We won’t have many formal sessions (bar a few with The Big Three) but will have 3 weeks to be mentored through specific projects.  It’s an awesome opportunity to be able to implement ideas while receiving daily advice and guidance on the ideas we’re implementing.  It’s great great great.  I have been very vocal about what an opportunity this  Fellowship is for any Arts Manager but just in case you missed it, watch this space for the next call for applications and then APPLY!!

Given that The Big Three doesn’t have the time to meet with 18 fellows every day, we have all been assigned mentors according to the project information that we submitted some time back and I am thrilled to have been placed with Dan (the Man) who is going to be helping me devise a Fundraising Calendar that brings together the work of our Development Committee, our Membership Programme and our Artistic Programming.  I’m busy getting information together to send to Dan (the Man) so that we can start working so I don’t have much to tell you about the project itself just yet.  However I’ll be keeping you posted on (hopefully) a daily basis on what I’m doing and how the project is going. 

Until then, as the new Arts Analyst (is that what the official title is, Michael?) for the Huffington Post, this what Michael Kaiser has to say about the current state of the arts in the US.  Sure, he’s talking specifically about arts in the US but I think what he touches on is something that all arts organisations can learn something from in these troubled times.

That’s it from DC for now.  Over and out!