In the last couple weeks two arts service organizations have taken the arguably long overdue step toward establishing greater parity among their members.
Last week at the Arts Midwest Conference, Ohio Arts Presenters Network (OAPN) president Robert Baird announced that the organization would be changing its name to Ohio Arts Professionals Network. While the acronym remains the same, the change was effected to acknowledge that agents, artists and other professionals were members of the organization.
Today, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) made a similar announcement that going forward they would be the Association of Performing Arts Professionals.
This isn’t the first time APAP has changed its name to reflect the composition of its membership. It started in 1957 as Association of College and University Concert Managers (ACUCM). In 1973 it changed to Association of College, University and Community Arts Administrators (ACUCAA) and became Association of Performing Arts Presenters in 1988 to acknowledge the membership wasn’t primarily based in higher education any longer. (Though I think ACUCAA, pronounced ah-koo-kah, was a lot more fun to say than APAP)
More than just superficially changing the name, APAP committed to a new program to help artists become members,
In addition to the updated name, this year the organization has introduced a pilot initiative called Artist Access, a one-year introductory membership program allowing qualified individual professional artists who have never been an organizational member of APAP, and who have never attended APAP as a full registrant, to become an APAP member and attend its annual members conference at reduced rates. More information is found at artistaccess.apap365.org.
Certainly, there is more work to be done to help everyone feel like an equal member of the respective organizations. (As with my cable company’s special pricing, I wonder where are the discount and benefits for long term loyal artists who have felt marginalized.) The format of the artist/agent/presenter interactions at the conferences often leave all involved feeling uncomfortable.
There have been efforts to change this situation. Over a decade ago, the Western Arts Alliance started experimenting with the physical layout of their conference, seeking to change the power dynamic. Along with the name change, last week OAPN expressed their commitment to making attendance at their conference feel less confrontational by shifting the focus to a block booking format where artists, agents and presenting organizations sit down and try to set up beneficial routing arrangements that save the presenters money and get the artists working.
It will be interesting to see how these efforts develop and what new initiatives emerge to address concerns about the state of this corner of the creative and culture industry.
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