News and Features

NPN: The Champion of Individual Artists

Guest blogger Vicki Meek is Director of the South Dallas Cultural Center, as well as an artist, educator and writer.

I first learned of the National Performance Network about 20 years ago. A friend had received funding to support a touring work she created and she was hyped about finding a source for money. Over its 25 year history, NPN jump-started the careers of artists like Blue Man Group, Liz Lerman and Blondell Cummings.

Fast forward to 2004 and I am running the South Dallas Cultural Center, (SDCC) an African Centered full service center that is a program of the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs. I took over the management of the SDCC in 1997 and spent the first five years realigning the funding priorities to include commissioning new works from local artists of African descent. Any artist who’s lived in Texas for even a minute knows that finding money for the creation of work is near impossible. The state has no funding program for individual artists except in a roundabout way through its touring and artists in schools programs. So when NPN’s president at the time, Steve Bailey, Director of Jump Start Performance Company came a-calling to see if I would consider having the South Dallas Cultural Center join the Network, I jumped at the offer!

In 2004, SDCC joined NPN as a partner organization, thrusting us into the national arena and allowing us to bring national touring artists to our stage and community. We presented some very provocative work that explored everything from body image to racial stereotypes to writing as a tool for social change. Artists such as Kalamu ya Salaam, Hannibal Lokumbe, the late Jennylin Duany, and Teo Castellanos all spent time in Dallas, working with our artistic community and performing their original works.

Hannibal Lokumbe

The latter two artists came as a part of the Teatro Dallas International Theater Festival, a biennial event SDCC co-sponsors with Teatro Dallas. The NPN funding allows us to participate in this important festival, always adding an Afro-Latino artistic presence to the eclectic mix of performers.
This year, SDCC will host the NPN 25th Anniversary Annual Meeting. Starting on December 9 through 13, 2010, Dallas will be the place where organizations and institutions that support contemporary performing and visual artists come together from around the country, the Caribbean and Latin America to discuss issues around making and presenting work, to share ideas and to watch exciting performances.

As is its practice, NPN always shares this experience with the local arts community where its meeting is held. In September, the NPN board meets in the host city to familiarize itself with the cultural landscape. Oh, did I neglect to mention that I was nominated by the partners to join the board in 2006? Well I was and I serve as Vice Chair; so my commitment to the organization extends far beyond presenting a NPN residency each year!

Anyway, along with holding a board meeting, NPN staff presents a free workshop for artists who are ready to tour, are currently touring but want to extend their reach or who are simply anticipating touring. It’s called “Doin’ It on the Road” and provides some down to earth information that any artist who wants to tour nationally and beyond can use. This year’s workshop will be held at the South Dallas Cultural Center on Friday, Sept. 24 from 4-6 p.m. Registration is limited to 30 because it really is a work not a fluff session.
In addition to this workshop any artist who thinks attending the NPN Annual Meeting can further their career should try for one of the subsidized invitations NPN offers local artists. Interested artists should check out the Jobs & Opportunities section on Art & Seek to see how to apply. Artists can call 214/670-0315 to reserve a spot at the “Doin’ It On the Road” workshop.
Meanwhile, mark your calendars for the public performances NPN will present on Friday and Saturday, December 10-11. Jane Comfort Company, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Promo Afro Homos, Pat Graney and Elia Arce will remount works that were commissioned with NPN Creation Fund monies over the last 25 years. You will not want to miss these shows!

  • http://www.ntbca.org Katherine Wagner

    Thanks Vicki, for bringing NPN and it’s highly relevant program (and programming) to Dallas this year — !