Today for Monday/Collaborate, Artbux interviews Stefanie Lynx Weber, an action-based artist based in Pittsfield, MA who specializes in dance, movement and performance.
Stefanie is presently developing with collaborating artist Monika Pizzichemi, They Dance For Rain which is an on-going Tap Dance (and Hoop Dance) project in Nairobi, Kenya. Exhibitions of photo work from the project (see above) are slated for various Tap Festivals through the US.
We spoke about an article The Washington Post published in August 2012 claiming that dance is the most successful category on Kickstarter.
AB: What experience do you have using Kickstarter for dance?
SLW: I have used Kickstarter for dance projects twice. The first campaign was to complete a 50-minute live performance piece, habitat (de)fragmentation, and be able to pay the performers for the many hours of rehearsal time needed in order to make something ready for a premiere. I also needed some funding for costumes, props, and video editing. I made it a little beyond my goal of about $2000 with much help from my community and many hours plugging away at it. The second time I used Kickstarter was for bringing that same piece eight months later to the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. I needed to cover expenses of travel, hotels, and performance fees. I reached that goal as well.
I also did two more crowd-funding campaigns on another site, Indiegogo, for my dance project They Dance For Rain in Nairobi, Kenya. (For more info on this and other current projects, please visit Stefanie’s blog: http://fertileuniverse.com/about )
AB: What skills do dance artists practice all the time that might make them more successful than others in this space..?
SLW: There are three things that come to mind. One is that dance artists are often not strangers to taking risks. Launching an online campaign to raise money for your vision as an artist is risky business. To those of us used to falling on the floor and getting back up it becomes just another necessary part of the process.
The next thing that comes to mind is that dancers are used to grinding away at something till it flows. Practicing something over and over. Finding what is working and what is not. Crowd-funding can be a grueling and time-consuming process. Again, we are used to trying again and again to get something just right. And that is what you have to do with something like Kickstarter. You have to show up everyday and be willing to try another way to reach that next person.
Most importantly, many dance artists have to be able to really connect and reach others in order to make their work. If you have other performers in your work, you find out quickly what makes this a different situation from other art forms. Paint does not talk back or have children to feed or need health insurance. Clay is not injured and then not available for 2 weeks or more. I think that dance artists, especially individually-based ones, develop an empathy, understanding and deep view into the human condition make it easier to reach out to others. This makes it more likely that you would even try something like Kickstarter because you have to really appeal to your audience for their support.
You have to create an audience, not only a dance. You have to understand that most people funding you through Kickstarter are going to be people you know, or people they know, and so being connected to them as humans and not just a profile on a screen or a hand with money is invaluable. Most of the people that donated to my campaigns were people who not only believed in my ability to do the work, but worked hard for their living also and saw themselves as becoming a part of the creative process.
Generally speaking, dance artists already have the skills needed to bring people together to make something unique happen.
AB: Does word that dance kicks butt on Kickstarter seem like “news” to you? Why or why not?
SLW: I have not done a lot searching around on Kickstarter so I was not aware of what is working and what is not. I did see a lot of videos, movies, and film-type campaigns being featured often when I was using Kickstarter. I am not surprised at all that individual dance artists (especially), companies and organizations would use a source like this and be successful at it.
Dance is not generally funded broadly and dance artists often use other people to make their art. People need to be paid for their time, skill and energy. And today’s dance artists are often on the edge, coming up with new perspectives and ways to say something that needs to said. Much of this goes over the heads of larger funding sources or doesn’t fit into their antiquated and limiting funding structures. Also, dance artists often don’t want or have the ability to wait for long grant cycles, gain “permission” to carry on, or cater their work to a theme or criteria that does not really support their unique or complex process and vision.
Platforms like Kickstarter give more power and visibility to the many kinds of dance-making processes that exist. Dance art is cutting edge because it always involves bodies. Bodies are and always have been radical forms of expression. It’s nice to hear that individual dance artists (especially) are getting what they need from this community-based source because they certainly are not getting it from any corporate, government or nationally structured funding source. Maybe Kickstarter is helping to make the value of this need in our culture more visible.
AB: What message would you like people to take away from the article?
SLW: Sources like Kickstarter (and Indiegogo, etc) are making it possible for dance artists to bypass the worn out roads to funding their valuable and unique visions by providing a concise template and well-organized platform for reaching out and finding financial support. Dance artists therefore have more of an opportunity to successfully blaze their own trails. This is not a walk in the park, it is hard work! Most dance artists who are actively and consistently putting work out are used to that and will step up to the plate.
MORE BIO ON STEFANIE:
Stefanie Weber has worked with many organizations: Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Barrington Stage Company, Berkshire Opera Company, Simon’s Rock, Williams College, Berkshire Community College, Terpsichore Dance Studio, Lenox Community Center, Hudsons’ Operation Unite, East Harlem Union Settlement Association, Somerville’s ArtBeat, and Cambridge River Festival; as an artist, educator, performer, or choreographer. Presently she is on faculty with Community Access to the Arts, Berkshire Dance Theater, and Kinesphere Movement Arts Studio.
Stefanie is the founder and artistic director of the Creatures Of Habitat Physical Poetry Public Performance Project and Pittsfield City Hoopla. She is a performer and co-director of the performance ensemble Silver Swimmers (USA) , was in the Commonwealth Tap Collective based in Boston and is a performer with Nutshell Playhouse. A dancer with Caryn Heilman’s LiquidBody Dance for six years, Stefanie immersed herself in the the work of movement pioneer Emily Conrad. She collaborates frequently with various local and international artists, musicians and community development enthusiasts. Her work and development has been supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
Stefanie is a certified Gyrotonic instructor, former Americorps Member, graduate of UMASS Amherst with a degree in Environmental Sciences (focus on toxicology), and has taken artistic residency with The Storefront Artist Project (02-06) and Dana Bixby Architecture (07). She is a former board member of Topia Arts Center in Adams, MA.
In Spring of 2007, Stefanie was recognized as a “Young Woman Moving the Berkshires Forward” by the Berkshire Eagle newspaper and awarded certificate as an asset to the community by State Senator Benjamin Downing.