Developing an Effective System for Commissioning and Touring of International Work

A Report to the Rockefeller Foundation

Project director, Douglas DeNatale, Ph.D.; principal investigator, Ann Rosenthal

2000, 52 pages, New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA).

This NEFA study focussed both on inter-related systemic relationships involved in commissioning and touring international work to and in the United States, and also on the players involved in the relationships. The study identifies gaps in capacity at various levels of the system, and recommends how to fill them, not just with money, but also with the knowledge, experience, and influence that a network of individuals and organizations can offer. NEFA relied on a set of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, utilizing case studies (twenty-two projects), four focus groups, a database which included 834 grants to 487 U.S.-based projects between 1993-1999), and 2,379 performances by 539 different international artists in the United States over a seven month period.

The easily downloadable report, with its color charts and maps, provides an opportunity for the reader (those with color printers at least), to see the data displayed graphically while also reading the findings and recommendations. One key set of findings relates to the systemic and relational importance of "for profit" players — the various clubs and the so-called for-profit presenters — in providing fees and economic support. More importantly, however, the report describes the critical, and often undervalued, artistic, economic, logistical, and human services provided by artists' managers, many of whom are not big companies, but rather are individuals or very small businesses or partnerships. In a unique and original way, the report recommends specific steps through which artists' managers, already integral to the international presenting and commissioning process, can be more directly integrated into the system of support by adding them to delegations traveling abroad to see new work, by utilizing their resources to help provide a context for international work to U.S. audiences and by adding information from artist managers into the databases of our public and private arts support systems.

This report is a valuable tool for those looking to examine and develop methods of assistance to support the presentation of international performing arts in the United States.

Review by Jerry Yoshitomi, independent cultural facilitator,