Those meetings last week…

When we last left our Atelotorque friends they were gearing up for a crazy week of meetings with the review panel for the Neighborhood Arts Grant and the Laveen Community Council, and then a trip across country to the New England Center for Circus Arts. Things got… intense. Here’s how that went:

  1. The review panel meeting for the grant was… well… I mean… it could have gone better, guys. I gotta be honest. Basically, it was a formal discussion of the merits and drawbacks of our project and proposal as it relates to the intention of the grant itself, and in comparison to the other projects that were submitted. We only stayed for half of the reviews (there were 11 submissions total that met the initial grant requirements), but it’s probably safe to say we were not a “favorite”.

    Honestly, they kind of didn’t get it. They didn’t feel like we had the social impact or cultural value that some of the other projects did. Some of the panel reviewers argued to our credit that it’s not a requirement of the grant that the art activity be free or even targeting lower income populations (we intend to sell tickets, which some of the members didn’t love), and this is true, but when we were placed side by side with projects that had very clear social messages, our concept seemed less meaningful. One of the reviewers actually said, “I mean, I don’t even see how circus can bring a community together. People run away to join the circus.”

    In the moment it was said, the was embarrassing and upsetting to hear, although in hindsight, it feels ignorant and dismissive of our art form. It’s not less valid or more capricious simply because it’s not as understood. People run away to attempt lots of artistic endeavors. An old turn of phrase that’s meant to represent the joy and passion people feel about the traveling circus lifestyle isn’t representative of the culture we’ve come to know and love.

    In my experience, circus arts are a place where many (including myself) find a home. It’s a community in itself composed of creative, hardworking, brave people. But… not everyone on the panel saw it like that. And we weren’t allowed to interact with the discussion. We were only there to observe. Which is ok. It was a lesson in what we need to do in the future to communicate the importance of our art form and our project to people who might not get it.

    Anyway, it was super interesting to hear them speak about what we want to do and understand the grant process a little better. As it stands now, all 11 projects have been scored by the panel, and the grant administration team is currently in the process of ranking them based both on their scores and the amounts they’ve requested, to determine how they will allocate the funds. They could give some money to all 11, or they could only award funds to the top projects. It definitely feels like there’s a chance we will not receive anything. They’ve promised to announce the final awards before Thanksgiving.
  2. On the positive side, we attended the Laveen Community Council’s monthly meeting the same day as the grant panel meeting and that went much better! The LCC was lovely and welcoming and is very excited to have us bring our show to their community. They asked lots of questions and showed a bunch of enthusiasm for the project. I kind of want to move to Laveen now. It’s such a cute small town vibe like right up against a big city. They’re my new best friends.

And then we went to Vermont… which I’m going to leave for it’s own post, because it was just. that. crazy.

This is where we’re at, show-wise:

  1. Waiting to hear if we’ll get anything from the Neighborhood Arts Grant, but with an understanding that we might not have been the perfect fit for this one this time.
  2. I’ve also applied for two other smaller individual grants, and I did get a rejection from one. I think it seemed too much like the money was going toward a group project, which I suppose it is. I’m still waiting on response from the other.
  3. We did hear some positive news yesterday that it’s looking like the ramada structure is potentially strong enough to rig additional points from for our show. We had originally intended to perform all of our air acts from a portable rig inside the ramada, but there are a few beams that would be lovely to use for supplemental performers if it can support our necessary weight requirements. We’re not 100% secure on that, but initial information is looking positive!

Onward we push, one foot in front of the other.

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