Treehouse Shakers

Treehouse Shakers
Hatched, BAM Fisher, Hillman Studio

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fundraising, The Other Artistic Plight

Anyone who has ever raised money for a film, a play, or a new album, knows that the artist must wear two shoes. Shoes of different colors, shoes of different sizes. A shoe for their art, and a just-right shoe for fundraising.

The play can be good, but if the theater is too small, the audience too sparse, the publicity narrow to nil, then the show might not matter in the long run. Without a backer, without a publicist, without the finances for the theater of choice, without being able to pay the actors, the dancers, the videographers, the technical director, the lighting designer, the stage manager, the sound designer, without an audience,without the ability to keep the company in rehearsals, creating, performing on stage, the Artistic Director has nothing.
Coyotes Dance at The Ailey Citigroup Theater, NYC Photo by Mercedes McAndrew
It all comes back to knowing how to ask for money, when to ask for money, the never-ending cycle of asking for money, building the board, building a network, building the audience, build, build, build, and then asking for money again. Even after one raises the finances, someone will say, it is not enough. They will say, why can't we raise money like Lincoln Center (seriously, someone in our company once asked me this). I didn't get my MBA, and on some meager days I think I should have. Our society loves the people who make money. If you make money, we are told, then you have succeeded.

I have stayed and made this company, even when my fundraising shoe was too small, and pinched my toes. I stayed when I wasn't being paid, but my company was. I stayed after starting a family (most people at this stage in life, on my income, keep it only as a hobby). I do it because I believe in the work. I believe in what will come. I believe in the art. I believe in the audiences who see the work.

Students post-show Animal Rhythms with Treehouse Shakers' dancer, Malinda Crump, NYC
Sometimes I am asked to add something desperate to our mission; we could raise more money if we helped starving children in Africa, cured cancer, or ended wars. All those things I wish Treehouse Shakers' could do. Our mission though, is to strengthen imaginations. Envision a society without art, without dance, without play, without music, without creativity, without thought, without reflections, without joy. What Treehouse Shakers makes is important. We give actors jobs, dancers jobs, musicians jobs, technical jobs, publicists jobs. I am in the business of making people explore, think, reflect. Imagine. Play. That is important.

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  1. Wow! I always knew my sister's best friend was in New York acting and writing plays. It is so much more amazing to read the actual process and efforts that have gone in to it. You are really amazing Mara. Thanks for trying to keep the arts alive, so that they will still be around when our children are old enough to act, or become the audience.

  2. I love this one, Mara. It says it all!