10 Takeaways from APAP|NYC+ 2022, the Association of Performing Arts Professionals Annual Convening
Performing Arts Professionals Talk Disruption, Community, Transformation, and Sustainability
January 18, 2022 (Washington, DC)---This past weekend, the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) concluded its all-online conference, APAP|NYC+, the world’s leading gathering of performing arts professionals in the presenting, booking and touring industries. The annual gathering, industry marketplace and members conference took place from January 10-15, 2022.
The all-online format lent itself to candid community conversations around major topics facing the performing arts sector including the status of reopening and recovery; navigating uncertainty and transformation; the future of work and workforce challenges in the arts; mental wellness and resilience; recruiting, hiring and retaining BIPOC professionals; ethical and equitable contracting practices; industry advocacy; and the role that arts and culture organizations play in a pandemic.
APAP President and CEO Lisa Richards Toney described the role of arts professionals in her closing remarks "We are not solely arts leaders. We are community leaders and community activists investing in artists for the benefit of people from all facets of the human experience."
Happening alongside APAP's famous EXPO Hall (also online in 2022) and a festival of hundreds of prerecorded performance showcases, industry leaders in conference sessions provided many insights, including these ten takeaways:
1) The return and reopening of the arts will not be the end of disruption and will not be primarily about the pandemic. At the conference's opening plenary, Jerome Foundation President Ben Cameron: "The ultimate impact of these past twenty-two months will be less about COVID than it will be about the other pandemics for which we have no Moderna or Pfizer. The pandemic of misinformation, the pandemic of political polarization and mutual political contempt. ... In this moment, our largest challenges in our society at large, as well as in the arts in particular, may lie not in programming or financing, but in reinventing the ways we relate to one another and live together."
2) Humanity needs live performance and community. Founding Artistic Director of Urban Bush Women Jawole Willa Jo Zollar: "We need live performance. It is part of human culture. The vibratory resonance between audience and performer. It's absolutely essential to our well-being, and if we didn't need it, we would have evolved into something else a long time ago. ... We're in a great unknown. People have persevered through this; you can do this, but you cannot do it alone. You have to do it in community."
3) We need to get uncomfortable professionally and personally and embrace transformation. Performance coach, management consultant, financial advisor, and therapist Dana Fonteneau: "Celebrate asking [yourself] the uncomfortable, disturbing but agitating kind of questions. It doesn't mean something's wrong with you. It doesn't mean you failed. It doesn't mean that you don't have any words, value or talent. It simply means that perhaps the way you've been doing it, or perhaps the people you've been around or perhaps the system you've been in, isn't working for you anymore. That's called transformation. Welcome to growth and evolution."
4) The importance of arts and culture organizations has risen during the pandemic. Jen Benoit-Bryant and Madeline Smith from Slover Linnet Audience Research: "A year into the pandemic, in spring of 2021, more than half of Americans, 56% view arts and culture organizations as important to them personally. That's a sixteen-point rise from what we found early in the pandemic." That said, the vast majority of Americans, and especially BIPOC communities, are looking to arts organizations to evolve. "89% of Americans hoped arts and culture organizations would change to become more relevant and meaningful." (Culture + Community In A Time Of Crisis: A Special Edition)
5) Arts organizations need to transform their workplace cultures to cultures of belonging. Production manager for Disney Parks Live Entertainment David "d'stew" Stewart: "We have to start fixing the culture because there are way too many of these leaders that are talking about Black Lives Matter, but there's no policy and there's no action behind it. So how do we get in a place where we can start going into a culture of belonging? … As in being able to be seen, being able to be heard, and being able to heal within the organization that you are in without having to leave and start over again. … Until these organizations start to fix their cultures, this problem will persist." To which Beatrice Thomas of Authentic Arts & Media adds, "Belonging is truly what we’re after. We have to have mechanisms and accountability to ensure this."
6) Artists: Honor yourself and your artistic practice by saying "no" to contracts that don't serve you. President and Founder of Elsie Management Laura Colby: "We are all so wired to get the gig and never say no and make it work. To what end? That's just soul crushing, so allow yourself a different space to work, and that includes saying no. Look what it can do for you. Look at the peace of mind you can provide yourself. But here's the thing, you really have to mean it. And this goes back to honoring your artistic practice."
7) The percentage of audiences choosing to attend live events continues to increase, and audiences support "vaccinated-only" admittance policies. Steven Wolff and Kristian Otten of AMS Planning and Research: According to the most recent Audience Outlook Monitor study, "62% are currently attending in-person events, although 21% plan to delay their attendance to April or beyond. There is consistent support for vaccinated-only admittance, as it is popular with 70% of respondents."
8) Our collective voice is our strength as a sector on issues of policy. League of American Orchestras Vice President of Advocacy Heather Noonan in a session about international artist mobility and cultural exchange: "When we're talking collectively to the State Department or to DHS (Department of Homeland Security) or anyone else, the message that is most likely to get through is when we can frame the damage done and economic impact when the system doesn't work."
9) Professional success in the arts shouldn't be defined by our ability to endure. OF/BY/FOR ALL CEO Courtney Harge: "The first thing we have to do is stop defining talent with the ability to endure. We position the people who can do the most with the fewest resources and the most turmoil as the most talented." She continues, "Are we treating our capital as a limited resource and our labor as an unlimited resource?"
10) Isn't it ironic? Vu Le, non-profit champion and creator of the "Nonprofit AF" blog speaking to APAP members in a plenary session: "I just want to acknowledge just how awesome you are for hanging on, for creating art and music and poetry and doing everything that has been sustaining, so life sustaining for so many of us. It's been ironic that we've been watching so many TV shows and listening to music to keep ourselves stable during these past couple of years. And yet we do not fund the arts enough and all of the services that you provide."
APAP is a founding partner of JanArtsNYC. Every January in New York City, more than 45,000 performing arts leaders, artists, and enthusiasts from across the globe converge for JanArtsNYC. A partnership among independent multidisciplinary festivals, indispensable industry convenings, international marketplaces and supported by the New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, JanArtsNYC includes events such as the Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival and globalFEST, both incubated at the APAP conference. JanArtsNYC is one of the largest and most influential gatherings of its kind. For more info, visit https://www.janartsnyc.org/. #JanArtsNYC
The Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) is the national service, advocacy and membership organization dedicated to developing and supporting a robust performing arts presenting, booking and touring field and the professionals who work within it. Among its more than 1,600 APAP members are leading performing arts centers, municipal and university performing arts facilities, culturally specific organizations, artist agencies, managers, touring companies, consultants, service organizations, and self-represented artists. To learn more, visit https://www.apap365.org/