If you even know what all of these things are (and don’t feel bad if you don’t), you’d be really surprised to know that these terms are now associated with a symphony orchestra, two opera companies, and a Japanese American drumming group, in that order.
Late last year, we re-launched our Exploring Engagement Fund, challenging arts organizations to find creative ideas for how to engage new and diverse participants in the arts. We’re happy to announce our first set of grants – to a collaboration of two opera companies in Modesto and Fresno; to San Jose Taiko; and to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It’s safe to say that these groups took the challenge and ran with it.
For example, the Los Angeles Philharmonic received a $300,000 grant to launch a virtual reality project so that audiences across LA can visit Walt Disney Concert Hall for a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony without leaving their neighborhoods. Using a customized vehicle and cutting edge virtual reality technology, the LA Phil will travel from community to community to let people experience Disney Hall and Beethoven’s legendary work as if they were sitting in the front row. The cleverly named “VAN Beethoven” will open up a new world of artistic experiences for diverse audiences across the county.
In the San Joaquin Valley, two opera companies, Fresno Grand Opera and Townsend Opera in Modesto, received $200,000 to join forces to engage their communities in ways that few opera companies have. Among many other really exciting project components, they are going to collaborate with young adults and low-income people in the community to incorporate the work of local amateur poetry slam artists with a live performance of the work of legendary composer Phillip Glass. By working together, the two opera companies can share costs, expand the reach of the poets’ work, and introduce opera to a younger and more diverse demographic.
Finally, San Jose Taiko will experiment with an inventive way to create new work and reach new audiences. The organization received a $20,000 grant to compose music in public spaces across San Jose by collaborating with regular people they meet along the way. Whereas a composition might usually take five to eight months to create, San Jose Taiko plans to take advantage of the creative juices of the community to accomplish their task in just two weeks. In Silicon Valley, where San Jose Taiko is located, they call this a “hackathon” – a brief, intensive collaboration among a wide group of people. Fans of cooking shows might call this the ultimate “quick-fire challenge.” Whatever you call it, it’s exciting.
While we’re thrilled about these grants, we’re not done yet, and if you have innovative new ways to expand engagement among diverse audiences and participants in your community, we want to hear from you. We will be accepting applications on a rolling basis until December 28.
Finally, we have revised the Exploring Engagement Fund initial application form and instructions based on what we have learned from earlier applications. If your organization has already begun completing a previously downloaded form, please proceed with that application. If your organization is just starting the application process, please download the updated application form and instructions.
Good luck! We look forward to hearing from you.