Dani Smotrich-Barr, Photo Editor

Dani Smotrich-Barr, Photo Editor

The University’s Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP) recently received a two-year, $200,000 grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) in an effort to inspire a dialogue about the new economy of the performing arts.

The ICPP is a pilot program created in 2011. According to its website, this institution is the first of its kind, a center that combines the academic study of presentation with the contextualization of contemporary performance.

“The ICPP Program encourages emerging curators to enrich their understanding of intellectually rigorous, innovative and artist-centered curatorial models,” the ICPP website reads. “The mix of instructors—artists, scholars, curators, cultural leaders, writers and theorists—is intended to spark new possibilities and connections both intellectually and professionally. Instructors will provide theoretical and practical tools for students to deepen their research methodologies through reading, writing, viewings and discussion.”

According to the DDCF’s website, their mission is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants that support the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and child well-being, and the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties.

“DDCF’s activities are guided by the will of Doris Duke, who endowed the foundation with financial assets that totaled approximately $1.72 billion as of December 31, 2016,” their website reads. “The foundation regularly evaluates and modifies its allocation of resources from the endowment to support the programs and properties and to respond to fluctuations in portfolio returns.”

The grant they awarded to the ICPP will fund performing artist case studies.

This year, in particular, the funding from DDCF will allow the ICPP to work on a case study model it has been developing via the Entrepreneurial Studies course, and share both the process and their findings with those in the fields of performing arts, cultural policy, and arts philanthropy.

“This project will allow ICPP students and recent graduates to work directly with a performing artist to do a deep dive on their financial life, and create a strategy for moving forward,” ICPP Managing Director Sarah Curran wrote in an email to The Argus. “In this changing performance economy, new methods for artist entrepreneurship are necessary, as are new methods for philanthropic intervention.”

Currently, the plan is to conduct six artist case studies that will be completed in the two-year period between July 2018 and July 2020. The artists will each be paired with an ICPP graduate, and the two will work together for six months. This work will culminate in an analysis of the key issues in each artist’s career path and some possible financial solutions.

“The Case Study structure will allow us to build on the work we do to understand artist development, and using the business school model of a case study, create a published narrative and strategy to share widely at conferences, online, and through printed material,” Curran wrote. “Our hope is to create documents that can be used for future study, as texts for classrooms and conversations about the performing arts economy.”

Though these six artists have yet to be named, Curran said that they will be selected by the ICPP in tandem with input from DDCF. They aim to select a diverse set of artists and consultants.

University President Michael Roth ’78 spoke more to the purpose of these case studies in a Middletown Press article.

“The continued support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation recognizes the impact that the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance has beyond the Wesleyan campus,” said President Michael S. Roth. “These case studies will provide a new assessment of best practices and inventive strategies for the arts.”

As President Roth mentioned, this is not the first time that DDCF has supported the ICPP with scholarship funding.

“We were invited to apply for this funding, laid out our plans and our budget in writing and submitted them, and the board of directors voted to fund the project,” Curran wrote.

Curran described the ICPP as a center for the academic study of the presentation and contextualization of contemporary performance. She elaborated on this concept and the usefulness of the grant from DDCF in her email.

“This project allows us to put the artist at the center of our understanding cultural economies,” she wrote. “With the Duke Performing Arts Case Studies, we can offer students the opportunity to apply their academic learning to real life cases, marrying the classroom with service to artists, invaluable field experience and publication opportunities. As the only graduate program in the country that focuses on performance curation, this allows ICPP and Wesleyan to broadly share the expertise the program can offer with other schools, programs, and practitioners in the field.”


Camille De Beus can be reached at cdebeus@wesleyan.edu and on Twitter @cdebeus.

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