From here on out I’m going to update you on progress as things happen, but I need to catch you up to current first. I think the relevant questions are:
How did this start? and What have we done so far?
Well, it all started from the sort of conversations friends with common interests have when they’re frustrated.
I just feel like I don’t have anything to work toward. No goals. It’s bumming me out.
I know, same. I don’t have any kind of an act in progress. I’m a little over burlesque. And the travel competitions thing was fun, but ultimately not real fulfilling.
Agreed. And I do wish we had more local opportunities to be part of a cohesive production. Not all of us are young and unencumbered enough to move to Vegas and be a circus rat.
It sucks because they totally have s*** like that in other places. Portland has an awesome show they do in a park annually. I went once, it was so cool. Like cirque but intimate and not quite as death-defying.
Yeah, Flagstaff has that production company, too. They do wall dancing. I saw their last show and it was so amazing. I sobbed. We should do a show.
WE SHOULD DO A SHOW.
It’s the kind of thing people say all the time. But also? It does feel like for the fifth largest city in the country, Phoenix has a weird void in terms of creative collaboration. Why should we just sit around and complain about our lack of opportunities instead of making the thing we want to be part of?
So we did. We started with a team. We assembled a coalition of four passionate, creative, dedicated, and detail-oriented aerialists with an interest in creating a larger work, but who each also has a day job and ties to the metro-Phoenix community.
And then? Well… then we weren’t sure what to do. We knew things were going to cost money. But… where would that money come from? Our own pockets? This seemed problematic. Especially to those of us with children in college, or who already spend our extraneous dollars on training. We got to discussing what raising funds could potentially look like and one of the team members mentioned “grants”. Specifically, it was discussed that Dark Sky Aerial in Flagstaff funded some of their amazing wall and crane equipment using government arts grants. This was… interesting, almost exciting.
After our team’s first financial discussion, I began researching grants. As I knew exactly zero about this thing called grants, this consisted of me googling things like, “I want to do a show please give me money grants Arizona performing”. This is apparently the proper technique, because after a few hours of following links and reading up on things like non-profit status and fiscal sponsors, I started to find some actual grant programs we could potentially apply for. It turns out there are people who will GIVE YOU MONEY if you can adequately convince them you want to do a cool thing and will follow through. Did you guys know this? Because I did not. It was pretty mind blowing.
The more research about procuring of funds I did, the more questions I had. How much does putting on a show actually cost? And how likely is it they’ll give us money if we apply? How realistic is it that we’ll be able to sell out our proposed shows? Luckily, people are awesome and I was put in touch with the grant writer for Dark Sky, Carrie Gaydos.
Carrie is a professional grant writer by trade (not just for her own aerial company) and a lovely human being. She diligently and in great detail answered all of my questions and was an open book about the experiences, successes, and challenges Dark Sky has been through. She encouraged me to apply for anything we seemed qualified for, but let me know they had been most successful with local government grants, and less so with national privately foundational ones. She also said they had filled in gaps in their funding with sponsors, and advised me that we just needed to persevere. She ended the phone call with an instigation to just move forward. Keep searching, get a little avant-garde, maybe even ask for forgiveness instead of permission if we need to! She is a doll.
We took her advice to heart. We brainstormed a basic structure to a show and put together a budget. We determined we want this first show to be performed outdoors and visited several possible sites:
We debated the feasibility and function of various locales vs. the beauty and interest they could add to our concept. All the while I combed grant opportunities and tried to determine which matched with our goals.
While we were researching funding and locations, we also brainstormed names for our production company. We landed on Atelotorque, which is a composite word meaning a never-ending, or imperfect spin. Things were starting to get serious.
Eventually I came up with a list of grant contenders to potentially apply for, and found one that sounded like a really good possibility. This particular grant was through the City of Phoenix and required the partnership of an arts group and a neighborhood group with a vested interest in bringing an arts experience to a Phoenix city park.
After contacting the grants administrator and attending a workshop she provided to help possible grant applicants, I set out to find this “neighborhood group” component to allow us to apply for this grant. It seemed like such a simple thing. We just needed a “group” of people who lived in a common neighborhood near a cool park, who would agree to sign their names to our grant as interested parties. We would raise the funds, plan, and produce the event. We didn’t even need them to do anything, except reap the benefits of our producing a show near to their house. We were basically handing them an awesome art thing! They should be knocking down our door to partner with us. Is… what we thought.
But it actually went more like this:
Me – Hi, is this Karen Rogers, the president of the block watch?
Karen – … maybe, who is this?
Me – This is Elizabeth Newlin, of Atelotorque. I’m an aerial artist with an interesting producing a show at your local park and in order to apply for a grant I’ve found, I need a neighborhood group to agree to partner with me. Your block watch was listed on the city website for neighborhood groups and would work for this grant.
Karen – I don’t want to purchase any of your essential oils.
Me – Oh, no, I’m not actually trying to sell you anything.
Karen – I already donated to the police union at the office.
Me – It’s really not about money. I just want to bring a cool show to your park.
Karen – My political and religious affiliations prohibit me from supporting your candidate.
Me – NO BUT REALLY WE JUST NEED YOU TO WANT A FUN THING.
Karen – *click*
They just… didn’t get it and were totally suspicious of my motives. I exhausted the list of neighborhood groups, brainstormed solutions that didn’t work, and bothered parks representatives until I’m pretty sure my name was listed as “that yappy aerialist chick” in every cell phone of a City of Phoenix employee.
When we were one week away from the grant deadline, I was given both an additional week reprieve and a new lead. The grants administrator sent me the contact info for the Deputy Director of the City of Phoenix, Esther Avila. By then I was discouraged by the amount of rejection and total lack of responses I’d gotten, but I decided I could do nothing but push forward until all leads were exhausted. And then, if I couldn’t apply for this grant, I would move on to another or figure out another angle. So I reached out to her. Amazingly! Fantastically! She responded!
Esther liked our concept and had both ideas for a neighborhood group AND a corresponding park.
She directed me to a gorgeous ramada in Cesar Chavez Park and put me in touch with the Laveen Community Council.
This next part was super dramatic, but as this is already an incredibly long story, I’ll summarize it as such:
Me – YOU GUYS WE FOUND THE PERFECT LOCATION AND ALSO A GROUP TO PARTNER WITH!!!!
The Rest of Atelotorque – YAYYYYYYYY!
Laveen Community Council – Sure. Probably. Sounds cool we think.
Me – That is so great!!!! I’ll spend the next two days writing the grant and get a draft to you!
LCC – Cool.
Me – Here it is!!!
LCC – Yeah, about that. We had a meeting last night that we didn’t invite you to, but also it turns out you kinda needed to be there and now the rest of the team thinks you’re trying to sell us essential oils so… I don’t think we can do it.
Me – *silent scream of anguish* I’m sorry what did you say?
LCC – Are you crying? Cause, it’s not THAT big of a deal, but maybe next time.
Me – *rends garments, claws at own face* But like, it IS a big deal, can you maybe reconsider?
LCC – *silence*
Me – *sends 500 begging emails, calls, texts, Facebook friends every committee member I can find*
LCC – *silence*
Me – *gives up. resigns self to a life of emptiness and a meaningless existence*
LCC (24 hours before the grant application deadline) – Ok, we reconsidered. You can do it. But you have to come to our NEXT meeting, k?
Me – *blinks. faints. wakes up and submits grant application*
So yeah. That was a whole thing. But we have officially submitted an application for the Neighborhood Arts Grant, which is actually a grant obtained by the City of Phoenix from the National Endowment for the Arts. The maximum amount we can receive for this grant isn’t even half of the budget we need to put on the event, but it would allow us to lock in our location, cement our partnership with the Laveen Community Council, and give our project some legitimacy to go forward and solicit other sponsors with.
Since then I have applied for two other grants, both with The Arizona Commission on the Arts. One is an artist opportunity grant, and the other is an artist research and development grant.
In the interim, we’ve been meeting to discuss logistical details, work on a creative plan, brainstorm music choices, and also take in other productions and take note of things we think were successful or not successful in other shows. We have also been trying to determine the structural support of the ramada to see if we could rig additional points from the structure itself, instead of just our portable rig inside the ramada.
And now… we wait. With fingers crossed. And we try not to read too much into emails from the grants admin asking for more information on our budget, and then letting us know that while our email response was quite well thought out and detailed, they would not be able to present that information to the committee awarding the grant.
The producer life is nothing if not infinitely nail biting… I’ll keep you posted.