From January 4th thru the 8th in New York City, The Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) will open its doors for the 62nd year in a row. With over 2000 member organizations and 3600 members from performing arts, APAP has grown to be the kind of event that the arts world relies upon to keep the wheels spinning.
We had the privilege of speaking to APAP CEO Mario Garcia Durham (formerly director of presenting program and artists communities for the National Endowment for the Arts), Krista Bradley, APAP Director of Programs and Resources, and Jenny Thomas, APAP Director of Marketing and Communications, about the upcoming events. “Whenever we think about a group that may not be participating with us enough, we want to make sure that they know what we’re offering, and what we’re offering is important to them,” Durham explains “I would say that one of the greatest benefits in of an organization like APAP is that you have eyes and ears of individuals from all over the world. We have over 30 countries that participate. It’s a gigantic event. It still has a huge platform in which individuals and artists and organizations can be seen.”
For five days solid, presenters and artists will come together to make a deal, to exchange ideas on culture and above all, to network themselves and their organizations in to the right performance opportunity. As the largest event of its kind, APAP brings every performing art to the table, from Broadway musicals, to concerts, and theater. But in recent years, as the popularity of contemporary circus rises, circus companies are more present and presenters are more open to programing circus to increasingly savvy audiences, and like it’s sister conference in Canada, CINARS, APAP is starting to reflect this. “One of the key advantages of jumping into the pool, so to speak, is that you are talked about and if you’re not talked about, there’s no knowledge or even any further steps if no one is aware of your existence. So…by having a number of circus related organizations and artists participating in APAP it raises the profile and the talk and the discussion about circus. There’s a cumulative effect.,” says Durham.
We really recognize that arts organizations need to be firmly part of their communities and addressing the needs of the communities.
“We are masters of convening like-minded people that have an interest and a drive to grow particular genres. Circus has really benefited from that from a number of people who have convened– presenters, artists, people who want to advance circus…particularly in north America,” says Bradley.In fact, the pre-conference has hosted circus session discussions for the past several years with key figures in the international industry, Thomas says. This year the panel (which includesPotluck Variety Arts’s Jenni Taylor Swain, Harlem Stage’s Monique Martin,Double Edge Theatre’s Carlos Uriona, andBoom Arts,La Tohu&Montréal Complètement Cirque Festival’s Ruth Juliet Wikler ) will cover the topic of “New Avenues for Community Engagement: Contemporary Circus and Outdoor Arts” on Friday, Jan. 4 from 1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Participation in the pre-conference is currently free, RSVP here.
APAP starts with a pre-conference this year (Jan 3 & 4) before kicking in to full gear with the many sessions, forums and affinity groups revolving around five broad categories: networking events, partner programming, plenary events, professional development and special events.
But there are many additional topics up for discussion in the 80 plus sessions which would be of interest to professional circus arts companies and presenters. The APAP experience itself is full of diverse opportunities. With pitch sessions and consortiums, participants can join sessions on sensitive and relevant subjects such as diversity, disability, codes of ethics, and race and gender as well as marketing, youth programming, community engagement and visas. “We’re going thru a more tumultuous time with issues and with leadership in our communities. We really recognize that arts organizations need to be firmly part of their communities and addressing the needs of the communities,” Durham says, explaining the decision to have so many socially conscious sessions this year. Bradley summed up the importance of offering such options to the arts community, “Programmatically, for the last couple of years we’ve been talking about issues that we are facing in our field around gender, around access, around equity, around power dynamics– and what does this mean for the field? How do we lift up voices that haven’t been heard? How do we become a model and leader within our communities to drive change? So you’re seeing some of that bubble up through the topics that the field wants to talk about.” Durham whole-heartedly agrees, “it is like a tidal wave to us, like a cataclysmic event that right now the issue that we’re facing with #me too, with changing demographics in this country, with changing your consciousness, with recognizing that some ways of operating are no longer acceptable in the role of leadership and art leadership and organization.”
A sampling of some of the group meetings which might be of interest to the circus industry include; an artist affinity group, a people of color affinity group, a transgender arts professionals forum, and international affinity groups. These groups are set up specifically to augment networking possibilities, but they are also a valuable tool for the first time attendee to APAP as a way to feel more connected early on in the week, recommends Bradley, “because then you can make connections and have some allies that might be able to guide you so that you can plan your time because there’s a lot of things to do, so you’ve got to pace yourself and lay out a plan in advance.”
The relevance of attending APAP for mid-sized and mid-career circus companies is increasing, making it a tool worth examining for professional expansion as a company or for finding the right caliber show for a presenter. Bradley explains, “The more representation we have among artists and presenters in other circles the greater the whole contemporary circus idiom grows. There’s also a group of folks that came out of the Auto Piste project that is trying to grow a network of US presenters that are regularly seeing, commissioning and touring work. So, it’s a fertile and exciting time for APAP to see the way that circus has grown in our field.”
Considering the opportunities to pitch, the expo hall, the showcases (booked independently by the artists and companies around the event), and the information gained via networking and professional development sessions, participation could be a real boon and also a boost for access to contemporary circus in the US. Durham himself thinks so, noting “There are a number of individuals involved with APAP that are active in organizing sessions and that are big supporters and allies of circus. You have your folks that are really not only just there to endorse it but also to do things!”
Photos courtesy of Adam Kissick/APAP.