Songs for the Struggling Artist


A Story about Ribbon and Support

For the last couple of years, my company and I have been focusing almost exclusively on one project as part of a concerted effort to both create work more sustainably and work that will sustain us. At each phase, I have expended a great deal of effort to collect a few thousand dollars. Because this is such a small company and project, I have done large swaths of the work for it myself. I wrote the letters, I gathered the things, I put the stamps on the postcards. I went and bought the ribbon ($1 a yard in most places.) There are advantages to having next to no resources. It’s hard to feel them from this angle but I know that there are some.

But I recently learned what one of the advantages of actually having resources can be. Not long ago, I went to Materials for the Arts (a great resource for free materials to non-profit arts and education organizations) and came home with almost all the stuff I needed. One of those things was more ribbon. It was free! I got three bags of ribbon and I felt like a queen presented with a country full of jewels. That sense of abundance was pleasurable enough but the second phase is why I wanted to share it with you. (Not that getting three bags of ribbon in and of itself isn’t amazing.)

Once I got the stuff home and began to organize it to bring to rehearsal, I realized how much ribbon there actually was and I started to wonder. . .what are some other new ways for us to use it? Until now, every ribbon was expressly accounted for and every ribbon was allocated according to its purpose, according to its needs. Suddenly with more than we absolutely needed, I began to think about things we might not need but that might be nice. I got very excited about these new additions. I stayed up too late cutting up ribbon, taping it together, sometimes cracking myself up with some new idea.

And if I’d just gotten a bunch of ideas about stuff to do with ribbons, that would have been the end of the story. But the ideas about ribbons led to other ideas that had nothing to do with ribbon. I thought about new text. I thought about new choreography. Suddenly having an abundance of material to work with unlocked a box that had been shut tight with practical details and struggle. I think this must be what it’s like to have what you need at the start of a process, to know you have a space, to know you have the funding, to be able to create freely and bravely with the things that you need.

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In the conversations around arts funding, there’s sometimes a romanticizing of those of us who make work with nothing and I wonder if sometimes that subconsciously prevents our supporters from funding us.

The bulk of non-profit donation dollars tend to go toward big institutions, because they seem important, they have the resources to ask repeatedly and directly and because they are INSTITUTIONS. In fact, all the resources in the city for non-profits aim to make us more like them, to be more institutionalized. But the odds are good, given the allotment of money there, that your donation dollars to a big fancy non-profit theatre like Roundabout, will go to pay an administrator’s salary or building maintenance fees. When you give your donation dollars to a small company, the odds are good that your dollars are contributing directly to the art in question. And resources like that really do make better more creative art. It could be directly, i.e. your donation of three bags of ribbons might create amazing ribbon art or it could kick off a series of brand new ideas just with that infusion of resources.

So support your smaller companies when you can. We don’t have the resources to ask you for your support as often. We don’t have the manpower or the stationary or the postage of the big companies but that is because we are busy making art.

And listen: If you’re looking for a small company to support, of course, I’d love it to be mine (crowdrise.com/aswelikeitnyc) – but this is bigger than us. Support all of us. Any of us. Whenever you can.

Fundraising Websites - Crowdrise

And other small arts organizations? List yourselves here in the comments. . . just in case readers need more options to support.

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