Art is about crossing boundaries, building community AND boosting the local economy. Prospective residents are attracted to areas based on their public gardens, art galleries, music scene and other avenues for creativity and culture. So, why aren’t the arts thriving across the U.S. when all signs point to its significance?
Some of the variables mentioned were time, cost, access and resistance to going alone. Well, there isn’t much artists can do about most of those things, but we still need to keep touting its’ value. We need to remind the public about the benefits of dance, music, visual art, architecture and creativity in their lives.
Since I left NYC 10 years ago and became a bigger fish in a smaller pond, I’ve worked tirelessly to instill the value of cultural dance in my community (and beyond). I began to produce events where people could see what we do and be entertained or inspired to join us. Without sponsors or much in the way of a budget, I’ve financed cultural dance events since 2002 with the hopes of breaking even. My goal was to create an experience similar to what I had in New York City — here in my own town.
Fortunately, there are many people who get it and consciously create space in their lives for art. In 2010, when the economy was pretty much toast, audiences at art events provided $74.1billion of valuable revenue for local merchants and their communities. I suppose the million dollar question is how do we reach people who consider art to be an “optional” perk to explore when time allows? How do we override the other variables listed above?
Hey, if kale can surge in popularity because of it’s benefits, art can too. It’s a much easier sell. Here’s why:
Tava is a professional bellydancer, instructor and author in NYC and CT. She performs regularly for all family friendly events, galas, weddings and corporate events. Tava also performs in creative/theatrical endeavors and enjoys her balance of commercial and artistic fulfillment. To learn more about classes in Fairfield County, CT or to inquire about hosting Tava for a workshop, please visit: BellydancebyTava.com
On the heels of an event I hosted at The Factory Underground in Norwalk, CT, I recently finished all of the postmortem analysis and learned that I broke even. This is a typical outcome. Sometimes I profit, most of the time I break even, and once in a great while, I take a loss. With 17 bi-annual events under my belt, I have done my best to learn from my mistakes but I also know that I will make new ones from time to time. I’m writing to share some of the arrangements I’ve had over the years in the spirit of total transparency. Keep in mind, I fall in the category of doing this because I love it and it fosters student retention. Also, I live in an area that is not known for its thriving arts scene. There are very few options in terms of affordable space (and that number continues to shrink).
1. Profit Share – This is a great way to do it, provided the venue is willing. It is the least likely to require digging into your own pocket and the venue is taking some degree of risk with you. I did this for many years at a hotel ballroom. They got full bar and about 70% of door fee. This left me with enough to pay the band, travel costs for visiting dancers and have a little something in my pocket in most cases. As my events became more successful, the venue wanted a larger piece but that’s not really what ended this arrangement. The venue owner pat me on the head and said “Don’t worry sweetie, I’ll talk business with your husband.” Oh, a piece of my mind was given…loudly.2. True Promoter – This is another way to go when it comes to sponsoring events. I assumed the traditional role of promoter for a beautiful (now closed) bar/lounge. The venue got full bar and I got full door so long as I hit a guaranteed number of people which, thankfully, I did. If the venue hadn’t closed, I think we would still be there today. The drawback of this arrangement was no space for a band and I prefer to have live music at my events.
3. Tack on Extra at the Restaurant – This was my least favorite option. Having an event at a restaurant, I had some flexibility in terms of accommodating last minute requests and not having to bring in any food/drinks. It is nice to offer hot food and have a staff to help. What could go wrong? It’s expensive! The best deal I could find came to $22 a person and I know that charging more than $25 leads to lower ticket sales so that left me $3/head to pay for band and PA. Ouch! I took a bath.
3. Self-Finance – This is the highest risk option but also has the greatest potential for earning money if you’re smart, organized and established. I rented a hall. Bear in mind, renting a hall means also renting a PA, paying for event insurance, supplying all alcohol because it is illegal to sell it and has to be worked into the price, paying for set-up/break-down, supplying all food and adequate space/tables for vendors. I did this for a few parties and I think my hair went gray until I broke even on ticket sales. I would sweat bullets laying out big $$$ so I was actually surprised when I yielded the highest profit with this arrangement. The drawback of the venue was having to bring everything in myself. It’s a huge investment of time and money but good to know I have it in pinch.
photo of Tava (Bellydancer in NY & CT) by Adam Jason photography
4. Self-Finance #2 – Currently, I rent from another venue that has a bar area, tables, stage and its own PA system (that is a big cost-saver and back-saver if you have to rely on your husband to carry it and set it up). I got a little older and wiser and decided to make it BYOB to save myself the hassle of guesstimating wine/beer needs, buying it all, having it delivered and returning whatever was unopened. So, this is where we are now.
All things considered, the events are the highlight of my year. It is a very special feeling to see your students shine on stage and to watch their friends/families shower them with love. I also feel fortunate to have musicians that work with me on these nights. Carmine, Brad, Casey, Eylem, Rob, Pete have all been true professionals and have helped my students to fall in love with live music. My husband is a sound engineer and production manager for famous artists so his help and guidance is beyond valuable. My students assume extra costs by bringing food or drink, helping to keep me calm when I’m muttering nonsense to myself walking in circles and for promoting the event to their friends/families.
So, I hope to see you on May 3rd at the Factory Underground. We’re going to do it all over again. Here’s a bit of what you can expect:
Tava is a professional bellydancer in NYC and CT. She performs regularly for all family friendly events, galas, weddings and corporate events. Tava also performs in creative/theatrical endeavors and enjoys her balance of commercial and artistic fulfillment. To learn more about classes in Fairfield County, CT or to inquire about hosting Tava for a workshop, please visit: BellydancebyTava.com
Every year I have the pleasure of producing an Annual Evening of Bellydance with music by Carmine & Friends (Carmine, Brad, Casey & Eylem). It is important for me to share the experience of dancing to live music with my friends, students and the community. The event took place in May at the Westport Woman’s Club. The night is a mix of student and professional performances, vending and open dancing for about 100 people. These events always leave me on such a high and serve as the best reminder of why I dance. There is no wedding, banquet, gala or birthday party performance that comes close to dancing for my community. Thank you to Nahara, Lorelie and Yasmine for loaning us their talents and Tunnel Vision Company for the videos (more to come).
The link is up to purchase tickets for CT’s annual night of LIVE MUSIC and bellydance performances that showcase various styles and cultures. Tava has produced this event for many years and they are a community highlight. Sunday May 18th (2014) at 6:30PM
$25 – includes light fare, beer/wine, mini lesson, performances by students and professional dancers (including featured guest dancers).