In 2020, informed by the coronavirus pandemic and movements for racial justice, a volunteer group of United States performing arts presenters and creative independent producers began to meet digitally to sustain and evolve a commitment to international cultural exchange and engagement. We called ourselves the International Presenting Commons (IPC), which affirms the need for ongoing global engagement during this exceptional period and beyond. Through advocacy, active learning, resource sharing, and collaboration among performing arts presenters, artists, producers, and funders, we do this to build more sustainable policies and funding models for the exchange of work around the world. We have taken on these efforts with the vital administrative support of HowlRound.
We celebrate IPC’s role as part of a global cultural ecosystem. To that end, we have chosen the word “commons” because we are committed to openly sharing cultural, social, and intellectual resources to pursue a thriving global arts ecology. We value the benefits that international cultural exchange and engagement bring to this country’s diverse communities, connecting American audiences to international artists whose perspectives we need, and providing American artists with opportunities and resources to share their artistry with a global audience.
The United States is a pluralistic nation, and performing arts presenters serve diverse communities, including many first-generation immigrants and refugees. We interconnect the local to the global and uphold that they are entwined endeavors that serve and bring meaning to each other. Many of us embrace international cultural exchange as part of our missions to work with, serve, and deeply engage communities of color. Increasingly, our field leaders are also people of color, LGBTQ+, disabled, and otherwise marginalized or otherwise underrepresented. These lived realities must be part of the conversation.
We must maintain our commitment to international cultural engagement while making course corrections to build back better.
The extreme travel restrictions, debilitating shuttering of venues, and losses of performance opportunities and income during the pandemic have caused extreme pain. This moment and these circumstances offer a call to examine existing practices in our field. These include a commitment to climate sustainability as well as a reimagining of contracting norms, particularly exclusivity provisions that can be harmful to individual artists and perpetuate the unique hardships of precarious laborers.