The wonderful Brooklyn Arts Exchange has announced the application for their space grant for parenting artists with kids under 4. Two lucky winners – one choreographer, one theater/performance artist – will receive 50 hours of rehearsal space at BAX HQ as well as $300 toward childcare. The caregiver can even bring the tot to the BAX PlaySpace, free of charge. 50 hours is a lot of hours to develop a work, and depending on the space, might have a four-figure value.
This, of course, is wonderful, but it doesn’t go far enough. Here are the issues:
- $300 is better than no hundred dollars, especially if it’s for the early part of the artistic process that is rarely compensated. But at $15 an hour for a nanny (the rate I’m most frequently quoted), the grant only pays for 20 hours of childcare. Recipients would be on their own for the rest, in addition to travel time.
- Like most grants, it is for creative artists, not interpretive artists. This has long been the case, even as interpretive artists routinely create their own opportunities. Any singer or instrumentalist who wishes to present an existing work will quickly find that grants to individual artists are largely intended for the creation of new work. Of course, new work is important to all the performing arts, but for musicians who want to perform non-commissioned work – even if they have a neat idea for a concert or two – funding is harder to come by.
- With limited space and financial resources, this grant has to be limited in scope. But still, if only two additional artists could receive this kind of grant, they in turn could hire even more artists, thereby broadening the scope.
- Maybe it’s different in dance and theater, but to me, 50 hours is enough for several productions. To put it another way, I couldn’t pay musicians enough to rehearse 50 hours for one program. But that amount of time is not unusual for the administrative work that goes into it: scheduling rehearsal time, planning and designing a communications campaign, press outreach, logistics, and fundraising, which requires as much work as all these responsibilities combined. Perhaps most helpful to a parenting artist would be a staff person to take on just a few of these tasks. In some ways, that’s the impossible stuff to fit in. My kid could potentially watch me rehearse, but she would get mighty bored watching me format photos for MailChimp.
This is not an attack on BAX – I would move to Park Slope just to be close to it – but, respectfully, a wake up call to funders. If musicians are to respond to the call for performer-led initiatives, they will need the supportive infrastructure to do so.