Learn As Much As You Can From the Local Partners, Kinshasa, 2011

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
2011
guideposts

Arts programs are not one-size-fits-all.  It is important to allow yourself to be guided by those who really know the territory. 

Collaboration comes as second nature to many people in the arts -- and international cultural engagement will take full advantage of your ability to collaborate in ways you never anticipated!  

Think of the process as the building of partnerships.  Your potential partners could be your artistic counterparts overseas, other American colleagues who have worked in the country where you are headed, international arts managers or Embassy Public Affairs staff, especially those who have been in country for a couple of years.  Ask them to help you select from a variety of approaches that are comfortable and suited to your company’s repertoire and/or menu of programs.  

Performances are the grand finale but your impact is strengthened and your interaction with local communities enhanced through Seminars, Workshops, Outreach events, etc.  

Flexibility and adaptability are key traits.  The only caution is to avoid taking on a project that doesn’t suit your artistic or social aesthetic or mission.  You have to be clear about your strengths and weaknesses, and/or any rules that govern your institutional behavior.  

Years ago, we were being wooed by top executives of a corporation based in Africa.  As much as we wanted to accept their generous sponsorship offers, we couldn’t do so -- their main product was tobacco, and we work with youth.  We had to forgo a potentially lucrative opportunity because this simply wasn’t the right message for Battery Dance Company.

On the positive side, where re-imagining our mission produced amazing results:  In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we worked with the local PEPFAR (the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) office, modulating our Dancing to Connect program to focus on the stigma of HIV+ and AIDS prevention.  This allowed the Embassy to double up on its goals of engaging youth (our Dancing to Connect program brings choreographic skills to high school students and young adults) and helping spread awareness and education around the illness that is afflicting an astonishing number of people in Africa.

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