Reports from the ED and AD
for the Ninth Board of Directors Meeting
of the Art Monastery Project
cultivating personal and cultural transformation
through world-class art, community, and contemplation
July 29, 2012
Report from the Executive Director
How is the Art Monastery Project doing overall?
Fertile. Explosive. Breakthrough. These are the words that come to mind when I back up and think about the project overall. It feels like we’re always in a bit of a transition, but the growing pains are feeling more and more worth it. The substance and actuality of the project are coming to fruition. This summer’s programming is beginning to feel the way the Artmonk Retreat has felt, but this is truly, uniquely our own.
What was the biggest challenge since our last meeting?
We’ve faced some challenges with the chaos that is working in Italy. Despite heroic and consistent action by Liz to inform our local authorities and collaborators and solicit approval on our programming since December of last year, we have faced last-minute changes to the availability of rehearsal space and housing for the artists as well as monumental changes in what we are allowed to perform. This instability around facilities and the content and arc of our art production has provided me with new clarity on how much time and energy are spent managing our situation here. The gift that comes from this challenge is that I see that it is becoming more and more imperative, not for the survival of the organization but for the soul of the organization, to find and purchase our own monastery. Because of our dependence on the locals and looking at the time and effort that Liz and I are putting into managing those relationships, it would be far more in line with the vision of the Project (not to mention more satisfying) to put those efforts into development and fundraising to support and further our artistic goals.
The biggest challenge I see moving forward is a major paradigm shift in our income. In the next few years, we want to see our income increase by a few decimal places. In the short-term (next 12 months), we need to acquire a new vehicle. In the mid-term (next five years), we need to purchase a property. In order to get there, we need to hire a dedicated development person.
What am I most excited about looking forward?
This summer is without a doubt a breakthrough for the project. The Artmonks-in-Residence are thrilled and the work we are producing together is impressive. This summer demonstrates to me the leaps and bounds in progress we’ve made toward what we’ve always talked about. This summer fills me with hope and possibility for the Project as a whole and with these particular individuals.
Artistically, we’ve got a dynamite group of high-level artists, three of whom have their own theater companies (in the US and Germany) but left those companies for the summer for the opportunity to work with us. We’ve made a clearer distinction this year regarding which performances we do to create income and to satisfy the hotel (mostly music concerts and fire-spinning performances), as opposed to the deep work we’re doing for the Ad Mortem show, which is more challenging and abstract. The Artistic Council is a highly successful experiment and has offered lively and useful discussions and support.
Communally, our group of 13 (artists, staff, volunteer, and chef) is cohesive, harmonious, and dedicated. At our daily morning checkins, everyone shows up (on time!); everyone shares problems and poses solutions; and there is a palpable shared sense of responsibility and an active gratitude practice. The vibrant sense of community is, I believe, deeply linked to the active (and diverse) spiritual practices individuals have arrived with, shared, and co-developed while here.
Spiritually, the class of AM Italia 2012 is a relief. The question, but what is monastic about us? no longer plagues me because of the plethora of answers available. Here are the first that come to my mind: Artmonk Vows, morning & evening sitting meditations, nightly Gregorian chant, the temple we built, reading or moment of silence at daily checkin, weekly meal in silence. In the US, the SF Sangha continues to flourish under Nathan’s guidance.
I’d also like to welcome to our newest Board member, Karen Gifford! We are delighted to have her experience in negotiation, litigation, and meditation. Here’s her bio:
Karen Gifford, J.D. Yale Law School, A.B. Vassar College ~ Director since 2012 ~ San Francisco, California ~ Meditation teacher based in the San Francisco Bay area with over ten years of experience studying and practicing meditation in a yoga tradition. Former New York City lawyer and consultant to banks and other financial institutions, and ran a business briefly with her husband, importing eco-friendly furniture from East Africa to the US.
Congratulations all around! We surpassed our $7,000 IndieGoGo goal by more than $500! Thank you so much to Leah Hofkin and Karen Gifford, who were two of the very first donors to the campaign. Thank you to Nadine Kano, whose donation took us across the finish line! Thank you to Pierre Theodore, whose donation came in after we’d achieved the goal and carried us far beyond!
We are planning a fundraising event on 10.11.12 in San Francisco. Venue is T.B.A. Great live music lined up. Chef services lined up. Three local artists lined up to organize the silent art auction donations. I need someone to be in charge of acquiring raffle prizes. I also need help on getting people in the door.
Report from the Artistic Director
Spring and Summer Programming
Our two visiting performance artists this spring (Joel Frederiksen and Cirque en Déroute) gave wonderful performances at the Colle di Costa that were both really in line with the vision of the Project and pleasing to the local community (the locals continue to ask about when the circus is coming back; I would venture to say it was our most “crowd-pleasing” performance in Labro).
The summer show, Ad Mortem, is in its final days of development. I believe that the show is a big success and victory for the Project in that it is a genuine collaboration and a true meeting of many diverse artists; it has really given each artist here a chance to explore the theme deeply and intentionally and put their ideas into the collective space. I’m extremely proud of the final product—it’s a meaningful, intentional, diverse piece that is deeply interdisciplinary and communicative as well as expressive. (We’ll send more videos and images along of the final product in August and September. Check out rehearsal footage here).
However, despite the success of the content of the show, we failed to sell performances to local Italian festivals as much as we had hoped. Although we spent much of the spring and a better part of the summer on as much marketing effort as our small staff could manage and did have quite a bit of interest from both old and new contacts, Ad Mortem will be performed only six times in Italy this August (all unpaid gigs). Times are extremely tough in Italy; festivals that have paid us well in the past have explicitly said that other artists are willing to work for free this year since everyone is out of work, and we definitely feel the ramifications of cultural budgets being slashed all over Italy. From a national to a village level, festivals are canceled or drastically scaled back.
I feel hopeful but cautious as I plan for 2013 programming, which will be intentionally planned to reflect our realities in Italy. This fall we still plan to host two visual artists who will subsidize their own costs and install work either in the hotel or directly in Labro.
The Artistic Council has had two meetings, both of which have been extremely insightful, exciting, and helpful. The group continues to be encouraging and offers valuable perspective on some larger Art Monastery plans. They have provided advice on both our current situation and feedback on our plans for growth. Julia Pond, former AMP Programming Director, and Adam Pollock, ex-Director of the Batignano Opera Festival and owner of Batignano, one of the primary properties the AMP is considering purchasing, have agreed to join the Council. They will attend the third meeting which will be scheduled for August.