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When Arts Presenters and Creative Independent Producers Come Together

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.

Left: Three actors in black with two of them sitting on the ground and looking down. The actor in the center looks up and sits on a higher level. Right: Three actors standing side-by-side.

Production photos from NEVA by Guillermo Calderón (Chile) and The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes by Back to Back Theatre (Australia). For full production teams, see below*

We must maintain our commitment to international cultural engagement while making course corrections to build back better.

After four years marred by escalating xenophobia, including travel bans, border walls, detentions, deportations, isolationism, and withdrawal from international collaborations, alongside the unmitigated impacts of the climate crisis, we are heartened that our country will re-engage globally.

However, there has been a palpable erosion in the infrastructure and resources available to United States–based organizations that are fueling and preserving international networks and the presentation of international performance. IPC demonstrates the determination of collective leadership and action to prioritize and support international cultural engagement in our arts institutions. We call on our peers, government, and philanthropic communities to recognize, celebrate, and provide meaningful financial and thought leadership for the continuation of global cultural engagement.

International cultural exchange and engagement is critical to how we reshape this nation’s narrative within the United States and abroad. Especially in times of duress, it is often through the lenses and perspectives of others that we can better see ourselves. As we emerge from this pandemic and move toward a brighter, more interconnected, and culturally engaged future for our global society, it is imperative that the arts lead the way.

Current IPC steering committee members include Alicia Adams (vice president of international programming of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts), Cathy Edwards (executive director of New England Foundation for the Arts), Chris Lorway (executive director of Stanford Live), Claudia Norman (director and founder of Celebrate Mexico Now Festival), Colleen Jennings-Roggensack (executive director of ASU Gammage), David Dower (executive producer, US Operations of Les 7 Doigts/the 7 Fingers), David Howse (executive director of ArtsEmerson), Diane Ragsdale (independent arts consultant), Edgar Miramontes (deputy executive director and curator of REDCAT), Greg Kastelman (president and founder of Unbound Artists), Ichun Yeh (vice president and director of sales of Sozo Media), Kristy Edmunds (executive and artistic director of UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance), Lane Czaplinski (director of performing arts of Wexner Center for the Arts), Linda Brumbach (founder and director of Pomegranate Arts), Mara Isaacs (founder and executive/creative producer of Octopus Theatricals), Mark Russell (artistic director and producer of Under the Radar at the Public Theater), Mary Lou Aleskie (director of Hopkins Center for Arts), Meiyin Wang (producing director of Perelman Performing Arts Center), Michael Kondziolka (vice president of programming and production of University of Michigan’s University Musical Society), Miranda Wright (executive director and producer of Los Angeles Performance Practice), Olga Garay-English (principal of OMGArtsplus), Pamela Tatge (executive and artistic director of Jacob’s Pillow), Philip Bither (senior curator of performing arts of Walker Arts Center), Ron Berry (co–artistic director of Fusebox Festival), Roya Amirsoleymani (artistic director and director of public engagement of Portland Institute for Contemporary Art), and Susan Feldman (artistic director of St. Ann’s Warehouse).

*NEVA. Cast: Bianca Amato, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Luke Robertson. Writing and Direction: Guillermo Calderón. Translation: Andrea Thome. Production Stage Manager: Buzz Cohen. Costume Design: Susan Hilferty. Music: Tomas Gonzalez. Fight Director: Thomas Schall. Stage Manager and Fight Captain: Matthew Kurtis Lutz.

The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes. Director: Bruce Gladwin. Creative Development Artists: Bruce Gladwin, Mark Deans, Sarah Mainwaring, Scott Price, Simon Laherty, Sonia Teuben & Victoria Marshall. Production Manager: Bao Ghislain Ngouansavanh. Senior Producer: Ally Harvey. Executive Producer: Alice Nash.

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