Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Unveil! the new A.O. Model

My friends, we've reached the NOWtime.
As i mentioned in my last post, it's the time of unveiling. We've got SO MUCH about to happen, coming from both the AOMC and A.O. PRO(+ductions), as well as right here at UA. And i mean SO MUCH as in "major revolution of structure mind body and spirit", not just "a list with more than three things on it", although; the list does have more than five things on it. But before we can get to the list, let's get to the structures behind the list. It'l make more sense that way. Bear with me, we'll get to the end and then you can yell out some questions.

the AOMC was founded in 2006 as a summer intensive for pre-professional dancers and choreographers to extend their art-making and gain experience in the business side of the profession. As we grew the company and program, over the summers of my years at Sarah Lawrence, i was able to figure out more and more about what the company was really for, what type of work i wanted to be making, etc. My senior year at SLC I realized that the media and theory components of what i was doing might be better housed in separate (yet related) entities, so i "founded" (read: said "this is now a thing!") two more companies: Urgent Artist (the blog aspect of the theory work) and A.O.PRO(+ductions) which was to be a home for the media and newmedia work of the AOMC. But, maybe you already know all this. That was the THENtime.

In the year that we've been here working and making work, many things have answered and revealed themselves (many of those things being new questions to be answered) and many have redefined or changed themselves, making problematic what i once thought to be obvious. As I tried to learn as much as i could as an artist and an arts administrator, I also attempted to strike a balance for the AOMC, PRO, and UA - define and proliferate as much as possible, to start existing, and making, and being known, but also understand that i'm learning so much, that things will need to change and be re-solidified within a year or so. It's tricky - know that you don't know enough, and the only way to know is to do, so do to re-do.

And now we're at a year. At the NOWtime.
And with that brief history, I now give you the new way we exist, the new yes, the new A.O. Entity:

Here's how it works. There's the A.O. Movement Collective, which is home to my/our creative, artistic, and widely defined as "movement based" work. Most everything about the AOMC is staying the same in terms of function and structure - we still make dances, for screen and stage, we still post video on UA, we still are interested in generally the same things that we're interested in now, aesthetically and viscerally and structurally. Of course we're re-defining and honing language and branding and focus, but it's still us. I'll post our new and improved mission statement after this is done so you can see specifics (and sure, we'd always love feedback), but our old tagline "intricacy, wreckage, compassion, and mess" gives way to "Anti-Ephemeral PoMo Humanism - ie: hot mess". So really, the AOMC stays the AOMC.

A.O. PRO gets the big re-haul.
A.O. PRO(+ductions) is now the second company in the A.O. Entity - a freelancing collective that provides low cost and barter option freelancing services in arts administration (design, media work, management, consulting, etc) for emerging and generally "starving" artists (ie: all of them). So far I'm the one working most of the jobs, in collaboration on the web work with the genius and always lovely Emily Sharp, although the response has been so strong already (both in terms of the work coming in, and the people interested in providing services) that we'll be expanding very rapidly in the very near future. Here's how it works:

I know how to do a multitude of arts admin jobs, because i've been doing it for four years now for the AOMC, and because it's what i love to do. A large number of my friends and dancers also have these skills, because it's what they love to do. Everyone needs these skills, everyone can't really afford these skills for the most part, or is afraid about investing in them while still being an "emerging artist" because of the high cost, when really that's exactly what you need need need to do to get somewhere (see above comment about learning by doing and then doing to re-do). So the point of A.O. PRO is that we bring these skills to you (the emerging artist) not only to bring you a product, but to also educate you into a business-savvy artist as you make your way in life.

Let's say you need some basics - we'll use my friend A who i'm doing work for now as an example - she had a show but couldn't really afford to have someone film it, even though that's a vastly necessary and basic need for a working artist. So she called me and asked if I would be willing to do it on the cheap, and maybe throw some bartering in as well. She does neuro-muscular body work, so we ended up agreeing on $100 and two sessions of personal training (valued at $100 each) rather than the would-be $300 cost. But here's where it gets great, here's where this idea of a new company model comes in - I then take that $100, and that goes to pay me as the videographer. But then i take the two hours of body work, and that goes to the AOMC. Any of my dancers (or myself) can then take that hour of body work and use it on their own terms to supplement their pay. This transaction (and, when we expand to the bigger view and take into account that PRO works with about ten clients at a time) allows a number of things:

  1. A gets the services she needs
  2. A and I (as A.O. PRO) are now networked as business partners - hopefully she will send business my way, and I will give her exposure and connections
  3. My dancers, who lordbabyjesus knows will never be paid enough for their hard work, know have access to goods and services that are actually valuable to them (such as bodywork, classes, home-cooked meals, etc)to supplement (but not replace) their pay
  4. I have services available to the AOMC from clients who can't provide services (such as researching grant opps, volunteering for us, etc)
  5. A and my dancer who has taken the hour of body work are now networked, and may continue to work with each other after the "free" hour has been used
  6. the AOMC and PRO functioning together ensure that the AOMC becomes more self-sustainable, and is therefore more able to focus on making and presenting work
  7. all artists involved have taken a step against the supposition that it's all right for anyone to work for free, or to not be compensated for their work.

Thus, PRO becomes both a business in it's own right, and a more fleshed-out part of the A.O. family. Right now I'm branding it as being for "artists who want to focus on their art". I've just finished the design phase of the website, and now it's in Emily's hands - we'll let you know when we're going to do the big release - I'm so excited for it! But there's still something missing, yes? How does this little guy fit in?

Urgent Artist is the third part of the entity, and the one that (in my mind) really makes this a viable business model, and not just a dance company with a day-job associated with it. Though UA has been a blog, both for the AOMC and for other artists to write on, for the past year and a half or so, it hasn't really fulfilled it's vision as a community hub. My plans for UA involve a little re-definition and re-design on our part, though perhaps more subtle than the PRO shift. UA is going to become the community-hub of both the AOMC and PRO. While it will still function as the AOMC's official blog, i'd really like to expand it to include other writers, more topics, and more community action. When it started, it was more of a place just for me to unload my meta, but i think that there's value in to redefining that impulse a little - making it a place where people (dance community and non-dancers alike) can come for insight into the dancemaking process and dance community, as well as resources, dialogue, and interaction. Urgent Artist will be a home for:

the meta/in process end of the AOMC:

  1. the AOMC's video work and footage from rehearsals
  2. meta from the AOMC about the piece(s) we're working on
  3. updates from the AOMC about shows and events (both ours and that of others)

resources for the arts community:

  1. the AOMC's grant and performance applications with comments on what we think worked well and what didn't, our sample budgets, contracts, and language, etc
  2. articles about the business of dancemaking that we find interesting and helpful
  3. "inspiration" - posts of about images, video, articles, etc. that we find interesting


  1. Reviews and discussions of shows, films, events we've seen (all open for commenting and further discussion, of course)
  2. Broader meta-arts questions open for the community to discuss


  1. live discussion groups and meet-ups (such as our CHURCH arts-discussion group, that’s been on summer hiatus but is returning soon!)
  2. coordination of show attendances, so we can all go see things together
  3. (and this one is farther down the line, but hopefully eventually possible) seminars and workshops on everything from making a good press kit to alignment to arts activism.

as you can see, it’s quite an expansion, an part of that expansion depends on both growing the readership and the pool of contributors. So we’ll see how that goes – we have to start somewhere. One of the first steps of the expansion will actually be transferring over from blogger to wordpress (sorry blogger, you’ve been great, but Emily deems it to be so…) and getting some solid new design up in here. Another will be adding to our team of writers, and getting in the habit of posting posting posting. That being said, you’re the readers, so let us know what YOU want. It’s on my to-do list to create an online-survey to send your way about what you’d like to see more or less of, or suggestions about where to expand to next. In the meantime though, if you have suggestions or ideas, send them my way!

So that’s that, kiddies! The NOWtime!

The AOMC makes dances and explores, PRO offers freelancing and supports the AOMC, and the UA serves as a communicator through which the AOMC and PRO can interact and give back to the greater community as a whole. There are certainly flaws in the plan, and those will reveal themselves as we go, but it feels like the right thing to be doing right now: enough complaining about “sustainable dancemaking within our lifetimes” and time to start doing.

So that’s our new company model, our experiment, our family. Questions, ideas, protests, and dialogue always always welcome.

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