I devote my life to making theater. In the last 15 years I have spent many thousands of dollars producing the shows that I have directed. These dollars have mainly been earned the slow way, which for me is being paid by the hour to work as a cook or a chef. I have moved halfway around the world to study directing and choreography, and then moved another third of the way around the globe to a city where I thought my work would be well received. I believe that I should be creating theater. But, despite coming from such a base of belief (or perhaps even because of coming from this base of belief), I engage in an intense struggle when it comes to asking for financial support for my work: AKA, Asking People For Money.
Like many of my contemporaries, the relationship between my work and funding is challenging. In the last three years since forming Rapid Descent Physical Performance Company I have done two brunch fundraisers, a showing/dinner fundraiser and a Kickstarter campaign, and I have been lucky enough to get the CA$H Grant and a Zellerbach grant.
When it comes to fundraising I have noticed that I have a distinct ‘us and them’ attitude about funders and artists. I am well aware that this is not useful. Not only does it put control of art into ‘outside hands’ but also it ignores the fact that funding bodies and the people who work in them are organizations and people who care about the arts.
In working on dissolving my ‘us and them’ attitude I am reminded of the hugely positive experience that was the Kickstarter campaign I did for a show I did last year. It was a crazy time, because I couldn’t take much time off from my money job, and I was dashing to rehearsals straight from the kitchen and then staying up till 4am trying to design and execute a publicity campaign. I was feeling very burnt out and not sure why I make work. But, for three weeks of this difficult time the Kickstarter campaign was happening. While I was sitting at my desk trying to frantically design menus and create order sheets before I ran back into the kitchen, I would regularly receive emails telling me that people had supported my work by donating to the campaign. It felt like three weeks of regular glasses of water to the parched artist. The campaign made it past its $2000 goal, with 45 supporters. In some ways the number 45 is the most important one in terms of what I gained from the campaign.
It is nice to look back with rose-colored glasses on my 45 financial supporters. But I also notice how clearly my experience of them demonstrates the deep and in many ways not-useful connection I have between funding and my own legitimacy. I can see how utterly transformed my relationship to money will be when I find a way to move it towards being less desperately loaded. As I find the space to look deeper I discover beliefs like: “No one is funding the kind of work I make,” and, “Society doesn’t value the contribution I want to make,” which lead to, “I am not valued by society.” Unfortunately, a large part of my heart believes these things, and my belief in them creates a world for me to live in where they are true.
I am committed to working to change these beliefs. In looking at my future of making work I have decided to invest in changing the relationship that I have between money and art. I plan to do this by starting a $500 funding award that I will grant later this year. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the Moving Words Grant.
The Moving Words Grant is a one-off grant that will be given to an individual artist or a company to be spent in supporting the creation of live work that uses both movement and text. The application will be simple and two pages long, with no support material required and a cut-off date of October 1, 2012. The grant description–supporting the creation of live work–are words deliberately chosen to include everything from development or research to the creation of a piece, which could be anywhere on the live performance spectrum from performance art, to dance, to theater.
It feels really exciting to move from simply having opinions about what I think should be funded, to actually making (an albeit small) contribution to what is funded. The work that I currently make combines live music, theater and movement and I would love to see more cross-communication between the worlds of theater and dance. This is why the grant is as open in its description as it is. Once the grant has been given I also plan to throw a party in San Francisco for everyone who applied, to create an event where a group of artists who use both movement and words can get together to celebrate the infinite possibilities in our art forms.
It is a fairly big intuitive leap, but I think that by starting the Moving Words Grant and becoming a funder I can start shifting, both within myself and out in the world, notions about the value of making art. So do me a favor and either apply for it yourself or tell someone about it who might want to apply. Deadline October 1 2012.
Megan Finlay is a director and choreographer who has lived and worked in Sydney, London and San Francisco. She is the artistic director of Rapid Descent Physical performance company, with whom she creates work that combines theater with live music and movement.