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By the SpaceFinder team at the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston
The Boston arts community is bustling with new productions, exhibits, and performances every day, and artists are always looking for a place to create and present their work. But if you’re an artist looking for a place to establish yourself, a theatre company in the market for a new home, or a musician hoping to book another venue, where do you start the search?
The Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston is excited to announce the launch of SpaceFinder Boston, an online service enabling artists and creative spaces to connect with one another. Sponsored by the A&BC, StageSource, Boston Dance Alliance, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, SpaceFinder Boston is the latest platform created by Fractured Atlas, which has already established similar services in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and elsewhere in the United States with great success. Bringing this service to Boston, the A&BC hopes to make communication between artists and rental spaces easier and more efficient with one directory available to all artists and venues, totally free of charge.
SpaceFinder Boston presents an easy, organized way to search for rental space based on your specifications. Interested renters can search through SpaceFinder’s directory based on space usage, availability, discipline, rates, location, size, and more. These filters are designed to help you find a space that best suits your particular needs. Popular venues are included, but lesser-known spaces are not forgotten, and SpaceFinder’s search system gives all listings equal opportunity for visibility. Therefore, SpaceFinder is not only a service for artists but also arts organizations and venues who can use this platform to promote their rental spaces. Furthermore, all types of space listings can find their niche in SpaceFinder – currently there are listings for studio space, performance venues and theaters, event halls, live/work artist housing, and more!
For artistic spaces and organizations, creating a listing on SpaceFinder is simple. Visit http://www.spacefinderboston.org and click “List Your Space” – this link enables you to create your organization profile and space listings. Once these listings are approved, they are taken public and enter the website’s searchable database, where artists and potential renters can find you.
SpaceFinder Boston is the latest service created by the Arts & Business Council to support the creative and logistical needs of local artists and performers. In addition to this new program, the A&BC offers professional development programs such as Essential Training for the Arts (ETA), Artist’s Professional Toolbox (APT), and Musician’s Professional Toolbox (MPT). These programs include workshops, webinars, and courses that provide training for the business challenges of being an artist. Additionally, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts provides roughly $1.5 million dollars in pro bono legal services for artists every year, and our Fiscal Sponsorship program provides legal and tax-exempt status for artists and organizations engaged in activities related to our mission. For more information on our programs, please visit our website at http://www.artsandbusinesscouncil.org.
Three years ago I brought some friends with me to see the T Plays. We had dinner and then walked over to The Factory Theatre. As we walked through the parking lot, and down the stairs, I asked if anyone had been there before. None of them had, but at the end of the evening all of them promised they would be back. That is often how it works in the small and fringe theater world. Once you discover an entry point, you will return. But often discovery is difficult, since the companies themselves have very, very small budgets, and marketing budgets are even smaller. It is a word-of-mouth world made easier when there is a specific location known to support the work. The Factory Theatre is one of those entry points in Boston theater, home to several small and fringe theater companies.
Last week the managers of The Factory Theatre were informed by the owners of the Piano Factory that their lease would not be renewed, and that the theater would be closed as of October 31, 2014. Ed Siegel reported on the closing that day (on WBUR’s ARTery), there was an article in the Boston Globe, and Joyce Kulhawik wrote a letter to the owners which I shared as a blog post. Behind the scenes and on social media there have been rallies of support, emergency meetings, and lots of discussions about what to do immediately to help the companies orphaned by this decision. And orphaned it is. The Factory Theatre has been a theater for years, and its existence is one of the reasons that the small and fringe theater scene has flourished. Small, affordable, and T accessible. Perfect, no, but it was/is still a space where theater is made. And that work, on whatever scale, is vital to the health of the entire theater community, as well as the Boston arts sector.
The current resident companies include Fresh Ink Theatre, Happy Medium Theatre Company, Science Fiction Theatre Company, Heart & Dagger Productions, Vagabond Theatre Group, Sleeping Weazel, Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company, Porpentine Players, and Wax Wings Productions. As there was no suggestion that the theater would cease operation from the owners, most if not all of these theaters have at least one show, if not more, booked into The Factory Theatre this season, through July 2015.
In the short term, these companies need to know where they are performing this coming year. Unlike the world of real estate, which can turn around in 4 months, the world of theater is scheduled a season at a time. While the preference would be for The Factory Theatre to remain a theater, at the minimum, I hope that the owners of the Piano Craft Guild let the theater stay in business through this season. Give these companies time to plan for a move.
Other options are being explored. Brainstorming is happening on many levels, from the mayor’s office to organizations including the Boston Center for the Arts, ArtsEmerson, and the Charlestown Working Theatre, as well as the Small Theatre Alliance of Boston. There are spaces outside of Boston offering assistance, and creative thinking about non-traditional spaces. This scramble is difficult, and time consuming, and stressful, especially for the companies involved.
In the long term, the space conversation is happening on a number of levels. And they need to happen on a number of levels. Because this is more than about finding a replacement space for a 49 seat theater in the city. This conversation goes to the heart of who counts when it comes to conversations about the arts, and access, in our city, our state, our region. These arts organizations have limited budgets and small audiences, since they usually perform in small venues. If we only measure value by economic impact, these companies have little statistical impact. (Though I suspect the businesses around The Factory Theatre will feel the loss of that venue keenly.)
But for the theater sector, and the art? The loss of The Factory Theatre is important. These small and fringe companies serve a number of roles. They operate on another level, and can take risks in their programming. They support new work, and playwrights. They provide access to artists at the beginning of their careers who are learning their crafts. They provide opportunities for mid-career actors interested in exploring directing or playwrighting. They provide theater artists with “day jobs” an opportunity to work avocationally in theater. They provide a home for a specific breed of theater artist. Not every theater artist dreams of “growing” beyond the small or fringe community. In fact, many of these artists thrive in this community. In the past ten years or so, the Boston theater community has come into its own, due in no small part to this part of our ecosystem.
Also, this change in mission for the Piano Craft Guild is troubling. It was created as artist housing, back when that neighborhood was less desirable. Artists coming into a community, being part of the turn-around, and then being priced out of the neighborhood, happens too frequently. This isn’t just a conversation for Boston. It is a conversation for Cambridge, and Somerville, and Arlington and Medford. It is a conversation for Portland, Portsmouth, Bennington, and Providence. It is a conversation for the Gateway cities, and small towns, and colleges and community theaters throughout New England. Arts Matter. All Arts Matter. Even those with small budgets.
The importance of the arts was a conversation during the mayoral campaign in Boston last fall. And electing an arts champion, which I believe Mayor Walsh to be, will help create change in Boston. But this is a complicated issue, and one person, or one administration, can’t do the work alone. Advocacy is the role of the entire community, but it needs to be on behalf of the entire community, not just those with agency. On Tuesday, I will be at the Gubernatorial Arts Forum at the Hanover Theatre, and I look forward to hearing what 6 of the 7 candidates have to say about the role of the arts in their platform, and in their vision of Massachusetts. As a citizen, my voice, and my vote matters. It is time to use them both. Follow the #ArtsMatter hashtag to follow the conversation on Tuesday.
Other conversations/dates/initiatives that I know of as of this writing. I will update this post as more information comes in.
- On Thursday, July 16, we will have a meeting about Organizing and Advocacy at the StageSource offices. The meeting will start at 6pm. Our office is at 15 Channel Center Street, Suite 103, Boston. We are located in the Midway Studios Building.
- The Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston is bringing SpaceFinder to Massachusetts over the next four months. SpaceFinder is the Uber or Open Table for performance and creative spaces and was created by Fractured Atlas in NYC. The Mass site will be the 9th location to have this service. StageSource will be helping to ensure the theater community is fully represented on the site so we need your help to make that happen! The goal is to get as many spaces as possible on the site by the end of August with a soft launch for the fall. The site will only work if there is a robust platform of diverse spaces. If you have a space you would like to list please sign up your space by going to the link and by hitting the bottom “List Your Space”. This is for the region, so don’t hesitate. If you have questions about signing up please contact Scott at the Arts & Business Council at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Small Theatre Alliance of Boston is hosting a conversation on July 26 at 2pm at Hibernian Hall. Details at the link.
- StageSource will also be having a Space Summit soon, and will post details when they are finalized.
Dear Manager of Piano Craft Guild,
By now you have no doubt been bombarded with negative response to your recent decision not to renew the lease for the Factory Theatre. See my colleague Ed Siegel’s recent article.
I am writing not just to join the chorus, but to suggest working with you to find a way to solve the problem with the theater artists who work there and who help enhance the desirability of the area and the building as a location in Boston. In fact, this issue is among the key issues we will be discussing at a statewide gubernatorial forum on ARTS & CULTURE this Tuesday (7/15) which I will be moderating. The Boston Theater Critics Association of which I am president has also honored the Factory Theatre with a special citation and monetary award to support their efforts as a breeding ground for new artists and new work. I have been to the Factory Theater and been impressed by what I have seen, some of the work originating there having gone on to larger venues and longer runs in the city.
Why not give these theater companies a chance to survive– and dare I say it–THRIVE– by working out a mutually beneficial solution to the problem?! How great is it that edgy, award-winning theater companies are located in your building? In fact, “THEATER” is touted on your own website as one of the building’s selling points. At the very least, how about giving these tenants at least a year to work this out so they have a reasonable chance to relocate? The suddenness of the decision is particularly detrimental and strikes me as unusually “tone deaf” for the Piano Craft Guild.
I have always been an arts advocate, but in the past year I have come to realize how important this work is, and the change it can create. Last fall’s mayoral race was thrilling here in Boston because of the role that arts policies had in the race. The forum at the Paramount Center was at capacity, and the buzz was palatable. And do you know what was/is more thrilling? That Mayor Walsh is committed to being a champion of the arts, and his work is supporting that.
The arts aren’t separate from the rest of society, they are an important part of the fabric of our city, our state, and our region. As has been stated before, we aren’t nice, we’re necessary. We get that. But as an arts community, we sometimes separate our roles as citizens and artists. Or we look to others to do our advocacy work for us, not understanding that each one of us has to do the work for ourselves. That can be as simple as signing a petition, or forwarding an action alert. Or it could be more involved than that.
Saturday, June 14 I volunteered for MASSCreative, a non partisan advocacy organization, to work at the Democratic Convention in Worcester. (I missed volunteering at the Republican convention because of a mystery writers’ event.) We were there to let people know about the #CreateTheVote campaign, and to get people to tell us why #ArtsMatter. I heard a lot of great stories from people, but one really stuck out for me. A woman walked by, looked at the sign on our table saying “ArtsMatter”, and said, “they got me through high school”. She told us her stories, sign the petition, and took a button, promising to try and make it to the Hanover Theater on July 15 for the #CreateTheVote forum.
The arts got me through high school as well. They got a lot of us through high school, but not everyone has that same opportunity these days. This is one reason advocacy is so important. One of many.
The arts matter to me, and they likely matter to you, since you are reading this blog. Let’s make sure they also matter to the next governor of Massachusetts, whomever he or she is. On July 15, there is going to be a #CreateTheVote Gubernatorial Forum on Arts, Culture, and Creativity in Worcester, at the Hanover Theatre. It starts at 6pm, but there will be a reception beforehand. Please consider attending–by filling the Hanover we can let the candidates know that the arts matter, and need to be on the agenda of the next governor. You can RSVP here. People are working on making buses available to bring people there, and we will let you know how that effort is going.
I hope to see you there!
Summarized by Joan Lancourt
It’s wonderful when worries prove groundless. Twenty-five people showed up to the first StageSource Gender Parity Task Force meeting. We actually had to move the location from the conference room out into the light filled main space of the StageSource office.
We began by revisiting the current state of data collection. There are pieces of work going on across the country in the Bay Area, in Minneapolis, in LA, at TCG, in DC, internationally in Australia and the UK, and locally at HowlRound and the NE Play Alliance. Unfortunately, each of these efforts is collecting in slightly different ways. As we reviewed these projects, the need for shared definitions and methodologies so that data can be compared was striking. Even definitions of ‘season’ are not the same.
We will create a Google Hangout as a way to promote a shared national conversation related to these concerns. While good data is absolutely key to achieving our goals, there was also a shared sense that this task force is about taking actions that will move us toward our goal. We don’t need the last word in data in order to begin to make the case. We will start with what we have, and keep adding and refining as we go along.
Again, there was general consensus on the overall goal of 50/50 BY 2020, with the acknowledgement that we will need to refine this goal in the near future. Who is included in the 50/50? Is it playwrights? Playwrights and directors? What about actors? Set designers? Production people, etc.? What we’d like to end up with by the end of the summer is an answer to the question, “Where do we want to be in 2 years, what is our strategy for getting there, and what are the tactics that will move us steadily toward that desired outcome?”
The group then turned to review the 20 or so Action Suggestions (tactics) that had been generated at our Saturday Town Hall Meeting at Boston’s Playwrights Theater. In a predictably messy, highly participatory process, we explored the suggested actions, grouped, pruned, regrouped and then ranked them based on which ones people were willing to work on. Throughout the process, themes of empowerment and support were clear and the beginnings of a strategy emerged: we will meet with key decision-makers, work to educate and support their efforts, engage the boards and audiences, point out where more progress is needed, and help identify resources. Collaboration was clearly the preferred mode, but it was also clear that we will not take no for an answer.
The energy in the meeting kept growing and the process distilled the list of tactics into 6 categories: Data Collection; Reaching Decision Makers (Power Mapping, Roundtable, & Presentation to theater Boards); Seal of Approval (in Lobbies/Programs, 50/50 Award, support of existing work); Festivals (Women on Top, city wide, year long festival); Universities; and Workshops for Playwrights. Working groups were formed for each of the 6 categories. Their charters are to meet between now and August and come to the next all task force meeting in August with a plan and a time line for how to move forward on the specifics of their working group. A convener was selected for each group, and each group will meet during June and July.
Anyone interested in joining any of these groups should contact StageSource (email info@StageSource.org), and they will be put in touch with the convener. All are welcome. There can’t be too many of us working on this.
by Joan Lancourt
It’s an old story – too old for the 21st century and getting stale! In a recent HowlRound, they asked, “Where are the women?” Well, there were about 50+ of us at the StageSource sponsored Sat. morning meeting on Gender Parity at the Boston Playwrights’ Theater in Boston, along with a noticeable number of men. There were women of all ages, representing many facets of the theater world. The energy built through the morning, until it was clear that there was a shared commitment to more than just ‘another conversation’.
As we talked, an analysis began to emerge. It’s a systemic problem. Just raising awareness isn’t enough. We have to actually change the status quo. We have to create a new norm.
Creating a new norm means it’s no longer acceptable to have ‘best’ (as in “We choose the best plays.”) defined by men. And it’s not just about numbers, it’s about seeing our stories on stage. So, it’s no longer acceptable to have women included primarily as love or sex objects. Or to have older actresses told “Sorry, we have nothing in your demographic.” And it’s absolutely no longer acceptable to have plays about white men considered universal, while plays about women are considered to have a limited audience. Lee Mikeska Gardner, the new artistic director of The Nora Theatre Company gave lie to that old chestnut. The Nora’s mission for the last 25+ years has been to do plays that give voice to women. They’re still at it, so the audience is clearly not that limited; and their next 3 plays are by women, will be directed by women, and of the 8 roles, 6 are women.
Very quickly, the talked turned to what it would actually take to create a new norm. Changing the status quo is never easy. Talk is cheap; action is hard. It takes grit and determination, and real commitment. My definition of commitment is doing something when it’s not convenient. It’s about making choices of where to put your time and energy when there are conflicting demands. And it’s about organizing to create power. No existing power structure has ever given its power away voluntarily. If we want to be at the so-called ‘table’, if we want to be a representative part of the decision making process in theater institutions of all sizes, if we want gender parity, we will have to organize. Our power lies in our numbers, not individually, but collectively.
There were calls to “fracture the glass ceiling until it no longer exists”; to “mobilize the audiences whose stories are not being told”; to “confront the theaters that have ‘traditional’ seasons”; and “Being nice won’t do it. I haven’t been ‘nice’ in a very long time.” These sentiments captured the sense of urgency that filled the room, but they were supported by dozens of pragmatic ideas about the specific steps and actions that were needed to achieve real gender parity.
The goals of ‘50/50 by 2020’ had a nice ring of simplicity to it. The need for better data was explored in some depth: there are no shared national definitions of what we’re counting, no shared reporting methodologies, no shared language. Are we looking at snap shots or trends? How can we compare fringe, small, midsize and large theaters? And fabulously, thanks to the power of tweeting, one participant piped up –“I just tweeted my husband. He’s a data guru and he volunteered to help us analyze the data we collect.”
And the ideas continued to flow: We need to look at our boards; I carry a list of 10 favorite plays by women so when someone say’s ‘I can’t find good plays by women,’ I just pull out my list; how about crowd sourcing the data collection; how about ‘power mapping’ the decision makers; we need to get the audiences, donors, and boards all pushing for gender parity; let’s identify which theaters are not representing gender parity; how about a 50/50 Award; women are the primary ticket buyers – how do we leverage that; how about a Forum in which each theater has to report its own data on gender parity; what about a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval that theaters could display in their lobby and programs; how about plays being submitted anonymously; let’s run a workshop to encourage male playwrights to write about women; let’s build relationships with other social justice organizations and with groups that are not currently coming to the theater; and don’t forget university theater departments. The possibility of a Roundtable of ED’s and ADs at which we would present an Action Plan garnered a lot of favorable nods.
There were suggestions for individual actions as well: let’s target out state reps; give theater tickets as gifts; carefully choose your monologues when you audition; make sure you go to plays by and about women and take others with you; and get more men involved.
By the end of the meeting, the energy had increased. It was palpable: not angry or bitter but determined, feeling the strength of the moral high ground, and the potential of harnessing the collective power in the room. Nineteen people signed up for the task force that will sift through all the ideas and come up with an action plan. That’s more than 1/3 of the attendees! Even if only ½ of them actually come, that’s a good critical mass. Stay tuned – or better yet, join us. We’re having our first task force meeting on June 2 at 10am at the StageSource office.
Dr. Joan Lancourt is currently Chair of the Underground Railway Theater Board of Directors. Her recent 3-part article, “Why Boards Don’t Need to Be Bored: New Challenges and Best Practices for Not-for-Profit Theater Boards” appeared in HowlRound, ArtsEmerson’s Center for the Theater Commons. Her career spans work in the public, not-for-profit, and corporate worlds. She was an Executive Coach in the Achieving Excellence Executive Development Program at the Kennedy School for 10 years; she has worked at Digital Equipment Corp. and Arthur D. Little as a management and organizational consultant, both in the US and internationally. Prior to that, she held various positions in the pubic, not-for-profit and academic sectors, in health care cost containment, mental health, foster care and public welfare. She has a Ph.D. from the Heller School at Brandeis and an MSW from UCLA. She is a published author of multiple articles and books on community organizing (“Confront or Concede, The Alinsky Citizen Action Organizations”), organizational management and development, and leading organizational change (“Intentional Revolutions, A Seven Point Strategy for Transforming Organizations”). She is a long-time progressive political activist, with hobbies that include photography, travel, antiquing, cooking, and learning about Asian art.
When we announced the Diversity/Inclusion/Gender Parity conversations that StageSource was going to hold in the fall of 2012, a few people asked me why we included gender parity. Pointing to several prominent women in the Boston/New England theater community as examples, the questions was raised–aren’t we doing well enough? Does gender parity really need a separate conversation?
I would answer that question today the same way I did then. No, we aren’t doing well enough. And yes, it needs its own conversation. Because gender parity is an issue in our society, and in the arts.
If you look at the numbers Pat Gabridge gathered around new work, which included the number of plays written by and/or directed by women, you can see that there is a way to go for parity. And the Boston/New England theater community is not alone in this. A conversation with artistic directors in Washington DC set off a series of national conversations, summarized by Ilana Brownstein here, with other resources included in her excellent blog post.
Counting is always tricky. And counting in the arts is trickier. Because numbers also have stories. What are the budget sizes of the theaters doing the work? Does the fringe community tell a different story than the larger theaters do? When/where/how do we start benchmarking where we are? And how do we measure success?
In the Diversity/Inclusion/Gender Parity Task Force report we released last year, we talked about the need to look at these issues on stage (actors and roles), back stage (designers, stage managers, technicians, directors, playwrights), in the offices (administration, front of house), in the audiences, and in the board rooms (and donor bases). How do we have a conversation about gender parity in all of those worlds? A “lack” of women isn’t an issue, so what is holding us back from parity? Might cracking that give us guidance in the other two areas?
The Defining Gender Parity Town Hall has three parts:
Testimony: We are going to have an opportunity for 15 people to sign up and give 2 minutes of testimony about gender parity in our theater community. Why does it matter? What is at stake? How would you measure success? We will also give people an opportunity to send in their written testimony.
Conversation: Rather than an expert panel, we are going to facilitate a conversation in the room. We are inviting some specific people to participate, and will ask for some reflections on the testimony given. But since we are trying to find solutions, thinking as a group will help us with new ideas.
Action Steps: What next? How are we going to start measuring what we are doing? Who is going to be part of the team that helps do that? Is there a different way of measurement that we should know about? This is a community event, a community issue, and the solutions will come from the community.
Please RSVP on our web page. If you can’t be there in person, watch the streamed conversation on Howlround.com.
Sharing the sentiments of members who are not on the social media, but wanted to show their appreciation just the same!
My love of StageSource;
When you need something minor, it’s treated As something major. When you call, you
Know the person who picks up really does
Want to help.
I’ve been working on a book for several
Years, and it’s easy to fall out of the community.
When I feel that way, one of the things I do
Is to go in and volunteer at StageSource.
Familiar faces wander in and out, familiar
Names are on the other end of the phone.
Just being there re-connects me to the
Community I love so much.
The excitement I feel every time my Stage Source emails come, compairs to a kid getting that extra serving of his favorite snack! and often times it feels like a Birthday Cake just for you. I am always happy to get mail from you and I tell every “newbie” I meet, that they need to join StageSource. Thank you for the information, audition calls, job training and library service. (Sometimes I yearn to go to the library there and just read! but live in the center of the state. Any chance of a Worcester small library office in the future. ) and for the events you plan and place in front of us. I think your new space must be just swell. My Best wishes and congratulations.
Gwen Mason Callahan
StageSource is an essential part of the Boston theatre scene. It is the glue that holds together our theatre artists, a resource for everything going on in our community, and the only way to find auditions! As a young actor just beginning my professional career, I used it to scope out opportunities to meet new people, find jobs in the industry, and learn about what was happening around town. More than anything, StageSource was a community. It made me feel a part of the Boston theatre world, and it was because of StageSource that I was able to begin my career in Boston. Without it, I wouldn’t have found the friends, resources, conversation, and jobs I was so grateful to find there.