Bates Dance Festival receives two grants totaling $190,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts | News
The National Endowment for the Arts has announced two major awards at the Bates Dance Festival, including a $150,000 American Rescue Plan award designed to help the festival recover from the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The second prize of $40,000 is for general support of the festival, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, and will be used to support artists.
The $150,000 prize is part of a nearly $58 million aid package that the NEA distributes to 567 arts organizations nationwide. All recipients can use the funding to save jobs, fund operations and facilities, buy health and safety supplies, or use the money to fund marketing and promotional efforts to encourage attendance and participation.
Bates Dance Festival director Shoshona Currier said the American Rescue Plan award would be invaluable as they prepare for the summer festival. Currier learned about the $40,000 grant earlier in January. It is one of 15 awards, totaling $265,000, awarded to Maine bands by the NEA.
Nationally, more than 1,800 organizations have applied for these grants. Currier said the funds will be used for artists’ fees for performances this summer. Some of the artists at the upcoming festival had originally planned projects for 2020 which were postponed due to the pandemic.
“This recognition by the National Endowment for the Arts is welcome and well deserved,” said President Clayton Spencer. “Shoni has provided leadership for the Bates Dance Festival which has been artistically creative and inspired, and remarkably pragmatic in adapting to the difficult realities of producing live shows during the pandemic. This funding is especially timely as we look forward to bringing the in-person festival back to campus this summer, with exciting and varied programs for dance students, performing artists and audiences.
Currier, who took over as festival director in 2017 after longtime director Laura Faure retired, also noted how vulnerable performers were to setbacks from the pandemic. “This pandemic has been especially cruel to artists, gig workers and so many essential participants in our creative industries,” Currier said. “Relief funding for organizations is so critical to creating stability on the ground in the future. And hopefully we’ve learned from those years and create better systems than what was in place before.
After a canceled 2020 season, the festival – with limits on the number of students and performances – returned in 2021. Currier put his creativity to good use, offering alternative venues, indoors and outdoors, to accommodate visitation restrictions on the Bates campus. She turned the side of the Schaeffer Theater into a movie screen to show movies outside. For a performance by land and water protector and justice campaigner Emily Johnson, Currier turned to Kennedy Park in Lewiston.
A interactive video editing at L/A Arts Gallery invited participants, one at a time, for 20-minute interactions. At the Simard Payne Park Amphitheatre, live salsa music inspired audience members to dance and also served as a venue for Vanessa Anspaugh’s interactive audience performance related to climate change “A funeral for the ocean.”
The festival has also commissioned writings from dancers, to provide opportunities while theaters are closed. The next season of The impossible future, an anthology curated by choreographer Raja Feather Kelly for the Bates Dance Festival, will be released this month. The anthology was a project born out of the pandemic, intended to engage dancers while they were physically apart. It features 16 artists responding to prompts in essays, interviews, or other prose over the course of a year.
“We will continue outdoor events and writing projects and find multiple ways to support artists,” Currier said. “But our hope is that we will be mostly back on campus in 2022, where the festival started. Whatever happens, this funding from the NEA will make all the difference. I think it’s safe to say we’re all dancing with joy — and relief — about it.