Labels: They're pervasive, annoying, and contribute to a certain kind of intellectual laziness. And yet, like it or not, they're critically important, especially in the world of philanthropic arts funding.
Take the distinction between "emerging" and "mid-career" artists and professionals. I have no scientific proof, but anecdotally speaking, I tend to come across more grant opportunities tailored for emerging artists than those of the mid-career variety.
It makes sense. Everyone's looking for the next big thing. There's an inherent sexiness about discovering and funding the next Basquiat. And supporting an emerging artists seems, on the surface, to be a more inherently benevolent act. After all, an emerging artist, the logic goes, most likely lacks the financial resources or connections available to a mid-career counterpart who's been at it for 20 or more years.
Of course, this doesn't mean mid-career artists or professionals don't need assistance. They're a busy lot and while they're putting out fires and running an organization, the world continues to turn. Therefore, the more pressing question is in what capacity do mid-career artists need assistance?
Take the Theatre Communications Group's (TCG) Leadership U[niversity]-Continuing Ed program. Through the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the program provides grants of up to $5,000 to support four mid-career and veteran theatre professionals at TCG Member Theatres for learning opportunities to advance their leadership skills. The goal of this program is to "strengthen the field by developing the individuals who are the core and the future of theatre."
"It can be difficult for mid-career and veteran theatre professionals to create space for new learning opportunities amidst their busy schedules," said Teresa Eyring, executive director of TCG. Hard to argue with that.
The four practitioners that Eyring alludes to are Elizabeth Zurn, audience development associate at Creede Repertory Theatre in Creede, CO; Jennifer Turner, associate director of development at Indiana Repertory Theatre in Indianapolis; Michael Robertson, managing director at Lark Play Development Center in New York City; and Charlotte Devaux Shields, resident associate costume designer at The Old Globe in San Diego.
Winners will embark on educational opportunities that are critical to the success of their respective troupes. According to Eyring, "Leadership U will empower these four practitioners to expand their leadership skills in areas that include costume design, rural audience engagement strategies and equity-based facilitator training." In short, the funding doesn't support programming as much as the critical back-end administrative and knowledge-based activities that take productions to the next level.
For more information on the TGC's multiple avenues of support, for both theatre professionals and organizations, click here.