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 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 

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 BACKGROUND 

    Click on the images below to read the financial story of VLA DANCE, or click here to read it accessibly via spreadsheet. Continue scrolling for further context, written by Director Victoria L. Awkward.

As I publish this project, I am full of gratitude for how far VLA DANCE has come with the support of incredible dancers, community members, and giving institutions.

I'm also reflective of the arduous road that is being an artist in Boston, a road that often leaves me doubtful. As an individual interested in a full time dance operation, grant-seeking is necessary but not always sustainable. For example, a $10,000 grant is a much-needed stepstool to create a project. However, $10,000 for 10 dancers is only $1,000 per dancer. Say the project is just two months with only 40 hours of work a month - that comes out to $12.50/hour (less than MA minimum wage). This does not include payment for lighting, sound, set designers, marketing or other event logistics. If not supported from another grant or by an organization, these hidden costs - ones that people outside our field may forget about - are usually funded by the director's personal funds. Of course, many decide to work on smaller projects with less artists involved, but with VLA DANCE I am determined to create jobs and opportunities. 

Along with hidden costs there are unexpected costs - the ones that we did not budget for - and of course there is my insistent want to pay people competitive rates - even though often above what we can afford. I have grown and learned to budget tightly, but there is no amount of budgeting that can replace the financial gap between what you have and what you need
 
Transparency is an effective tool for clearly seeing and weeding out the issues within our communities.

Issues such as not enough sustainable funding opportunities for artists within Boston. Often dance is at the bottom of the funding pool, with the least clear pathway to financial gain and the least consistent salaries. As put by Marissa Molinar, Director of Midday Movement Series, ‘often, pathways that do exist heavily rely on educational privilege and social capital, both of which are deeply inequitable requirements.’

Understandably, many artists leave Boston to find cities with a lower cost of living and potentially more artistic support. The artists who leave are not just new artists to the city but also artists who have created impactful companies like the one that reminded me I belong in dance, Ruckus Dance.

 

Imagine a city without art. Who would want to live there? It's not just about entertainment, it's about striving for creative thinking, so that when we face new challenges, like the COVID-19 pandemic, our city is already equipped with creative problem-solving. A city without art loses a cornerstone to its foundation because grassroots initiatives, small businesses, and artists are those who truly think of, protect, and galvanize the community.
 
We are losing our arts spaces, our artists, our creative solutions, and significantly eroding our communities.
 
We need to continually find ways to feed into the baseline of art and dance in Boston so that we can keep building the companies that are here and so that as Callie Chapman, Director of Studio@550, once mentioned to  me, many voices, new and old, of all identities, can have resources instead of just a few.

Marissa Molinar also says, 'additionally, we need to continue to push not only for giving institutions to practice transparency regarding what they expect these funds to cover but also what they do not. We also need to push for institutions to increase their understanding of and responsiveness to dance artists' specific needs so that opportunities are created realistically. It is irresponsible for an organization to offer, for example, a residency with a culminating performance but then not provide essential resources such as a lighting designer or marketing support for the show, or not to provide funds for the artist to handle these areas. It is unjust to fail to mention this lack of support at all, particularly when the expectation is for the artists to cover this logistical gap, paying for services out-of-pocket and uncompensated for their own administrative labor — meanwhile, the artists are oftentimes also juggling day jobs just to cover their regular living expenses. We need organizations to not only increase funding, but to acquire a nuanced understanding and appreciation of the totality of dance artists' work and needs. With more voices speaking to this dynamic, we can create a collective change.'

So is the answer to only stick to smaller performances and projects? No! Large, well-executed, and deeply thoughtful performances can ignite an audience into action, like the performance I saw of Urbanity Dance when I was 14 that made me sign up for my first dance class. Now here I am 11 years later and in a dance career as a change maker.

Although highlighting numbers, I wanted this project to feel welcoming. Caitlin’s hand-drawn infographics not only serve to further emphasize the importance of creative thinking, but every slide Caitlin presented to me reminded me that finances - although often stressful - can also paint a beautiful picture of progress and hope. And I hope this project does the following:

  • Serves as a tool for artists who are looking to continue their own work and entrepreneurship within Boston and Greater Boston communities by highlighting the steps I took to receive more funding and possibility for growth in our cities.

  • Presents a statement to funders and corporations showing the need for arts support in Boston and Greater Boston communities by highlighting our ability to increase our work, earnings, and contributions to our cities with more funding - ultimately keeping more artists/individuals in Boston.

  • Supports the work of creating a better, more equitable dance world ​​​by being transparent with how much we were able to pay as a growing organization and our clear goals of what we want to pay with more funding, while reminding other dance organization to put paying dancers competitive rates at the forefront of their mission. 

VLA DANCE is a sole proprietorship and artists are contracted. We are fiscally sponsored by Boston Dance Alliance

 

As you read, you will see that with more funding VLA DANCE was able to produce more work, pay more people, and present more layered programming. We strive to pay more competitive rates, have more consistent opportunities, and continue to contribute to ethical dance practices! Thus, if you feel called to support, please do so here and read more on our donate page.

- Victoria L. Awkward, Director of VLA DANCE

 CONTEXT 

Thank you to mentors and community friends who have given support and ideas without asking for anything in return:

Thank you to those involved in the VLA DANCE Financial Transparency Project:

  • ​Caitlin Canty for her artwork and labor in this project

  • Michayla Kelly for her financial advising, bookkeeping, and organization

  • Marissa Molinar, Eliza Malecki, Molly Rideout, and Brianna Halpin for their feedback and contributions.

Although we are determined to compensate artists for their time, VLA DANCE is still emerging and growing, and our work has been made possible by the generosity of many people. We appreciate you all.

My choice to start our company with transparency in the foreground is prompted by other artists and arts organizations that have paved the way for me, including:

FINANCIAL TRANSPARENCY PROJECT

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Artwork by Caitlin Canty.

Follow Caitlin's website and instagram!

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Help us raise $2,000 and donate here.

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