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The National Center For Choreography - Akron Announces Thought Partners for Creative Administration Research Program

Thought Partners include Antuan Byers (New York, NY), Byron Au Yong (San Francisco, CA), Francine Sheffield (Richmond, VA), Huong Hoang (New York, NY) & more.

The National Center For Choreography - Akron Announces Thought Partners for Creative Administration Research Program The National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron has announced the Thought Partners for its newly launched Creative Administration Research (CAR) program. Thought Partners are paired with a choreographer in the dance field to investigate administrative practices that support the artist's creative practices. Thought Partners include Antuan Byers (New York, NY), Byron Au Yong (San Francisco, CA), Francine Sheffield (Richmond, VA), Huong Hoang (New York, NY), Indira Goodwine (Boston, MA), John Michael Schert (Boise, ID), Mengtong Guan (New York, NY), Pamela Green (Durham, NC), Priya Sircar (Miami Beach, FL), and Tonya Lockyer (Suquamish, WA).

With lead support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Creative Administration Research program fosters a national think tank of up to 20 dance Artist Teams between now and June 2023. These teams include the choreographer, Thought Partner, and NCCAkron staff members. Each Artist Team engages in an artist-dedicated Investigative Retreat, with time and space to identify administrative experimentations that support creative practices. Rather than reinforce the one size fits all approach, Creative Administration Research invites Artist Teams to imagine multiple ways forward. The paired Thought Partner provides additional accountability and a sounding board in between Investigative Retreats.

Current Thought Partners include arts administrators, artists, funders, presenters, and those who work outside of the dance field. Thought Partners were identified through participation in NCCAkron's CAR Work-In-Process Series of discussions, which brought together 41 thinkers and leaders across the arts sector to reflect and imagine a twenty-first-century dance ecosystem. NCCAkron curated a selection of potential Thought Partners from the pool of participants for possible pairings, and choreographers made final selections.

The first cohort of choreographers began their Creative Administration Research in Fall 2020 including Jaamil Olawale Kosoko (Mengtong Guan), Raja Feather Kelly (Byron Au Yong), Brian Brooks (Huong Hoang), Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener (Tonya Lockyer), and Ronald K. Brown (Pamela Green).

Tonya Lockyer, whose Investigative Retreat with Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener happened in January 2021, explains, "I'm honored to collaborate with artists and NCCAkron to help create transformational change that will strengthen, position, and sustain dance artists, now and into the future. I know first hand, both as an artist and curator, the power of focusing on an artist's trajectory and the many arcs of inspiration and strategy that bring dance to life, and make a life in dance possible."

A similar timeline and process are set for the second cohort of artists, who were onboarded in early 2021. The cohort includes Abby Zbikowski (Francine Sheffield), Bebe Miller (Antuan Byers), Marjani Forté-Saunders (Priya Sircar), Kate Wallich (Indira Goodwine), and Banning Bouldin (John Michael Schert).

Indira Goodwine, whose Investigative Retreat with Kate Wallich is this month, explains, "NCCAkron's Creative Administration Research program provides an opportunity to intentionally merge a choreographer's creative practice(s) with emergent administrative strategies that support their career trajectory and overall desired social impact through dance. It not only creates additional pathways to better support individual artists but also places a high value on the stewardship of trust that must be built amongst all members of the dance ecology for equitable transformation to occur in our field."

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funding also enabled NCCAkron to hire Kat Wentz as Program Manager as the organization's second full-time employee in Fall 2020. Wentz reflects, "It has been a privilege to observe and work with the Artist Teams through these Investigative Retreats. Each retreat has provided new insight into each choreographer's needs in addition to overarching pain points in the field."

In summer 2021, NCCAkron will host another iteration of the CAR Work-In-Process Series to grow the pool of Thought Partners and continuously collect program feedback. The third cohort of choreographers and curated Thought Partners will be onboarded in early Fall 2021. All active Artist Teams will gather in Akron, Ohio, for a Summit Convening to exchange experiences and working knowledge in June 2022. During this time, an open application will be announced for a fourth cohort to join the process. The application will be open to dancers, arts administrators, and funders to participate in the Creative Administration Research program. NCCAkron will document and share discoveries from this work through a publishing partnership with The University of Akron Press.

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