Arts & Cultural Vitality / 2013

cARTel: Collaborative Arts LAs ToDo List

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by cARTel: Collaborative Arts LA

Our idea is to solidify our company as a sustainable arts organization whose focus is on emerging arts professionals. We believe that in LA, there are two types of arts events: the heavily funded, well attended, and smoothly run event geared towards established artists and celebrities; and the unsupported, sparsely attended, poorly managed event for emerging artists. Our mission bridges the two: creating artistic opportunities for thrilling and boundary-pushing artists that will allow them to create on a bigger, better supported level. Now is the time for us to take the next step in our mission. Each year, we engage hundreds of artists, creators and collaborators - and in order to fully invest in artist and art administrators potential, we need the funding to be able to support them on a monetary level. But first, a little bit about us: cARTel’s attracts those not interested solely in performing or watching, but rather in sharing the experience of art with one another. Since 2007, we have produced 22 theatrical productions, 6 music and film festivals, several one-day events such as poetry readings and collaborative mixers, and 2 installation art shows featuring the work of over 2000 multimedia LA area artists. Our work has been covered by the LA Times, NBCLA, Huffington Post, LAist, LA Weekly, The Examiner, and countless blogs and digital hubs. Our Artistic Director, Negin Singh, was featured on the White House blog, “Winning the Future: Obama and Young Americans” and was named one of the top 20 Indian-American Entrepreneurs for 2012 in India Currents Magazine. Our company values include: -Affordability and accessibility. If we can’t afford the price of a ticket, we don’t put it on. -We only produce original work by daring artists and promote collaboration as the driving energy behind the creative process. -The event has to be logistically sound and provide a safe, exciting platform for the artists success. -Process is as important as product. Throughout the creation and planning process, artists and staff alike need to feel comfortable and pushed with respect, patience and fun! Where we are now: We have succeeded in creating a model that attracts artists and audiences to participate in challenging and exciting art-making that is new and comes with few guidelines. Right now, cARTel administrators and artists need to MAKE time out of their hectic schedules to support the mission, which means that though we do a lot already, we can do a LOT MORE. With appropriate funding, we will focus more of our time on expansion of our core programming, free workshops, mentorship programs, a physical space, as well as experiment with new events! Our programs: BROKECHELLA MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVAL What began at a coffee house with 50 people has now grown to a street festival for over 2000. Brokechella is a one-day extravaganza that will feature 38 of LA’s finest emerging musical talent chosen from over 300 submissions. Music, gourmet street food, art installations, boutique vendors, games, and more - all for under $10. NO BUDGET FILM FESTIVAL Beg, borrow, collaborate; NBFF takes indie filmmaking back to its roots. A red carpet event at the Downtown Independent, last year’s edition debuted the Bonus Features panel series featuring some of today’s trailblazing voices and industry heavyweights from major networks and film fests. GENDER LAB Our annual ensemble-based production returns in summer 2013 for the multimedia performance 'Gender Lab.' An ensemble of artists will use dance, visual art, poetry, food and more to create a sensory experience that asks the question, "How much of a wo/man are you?" SOUND/STAGE A quarterly live recording series at El Cid, cARTel revives the lost art of the radio play in a swanky cocktail setting. Sustainable storytelling infused with old Hollywood glamour, the LAist hailed Sound/Stage for "...resurrect[ing] all of the allure and sultry romanticism of Old Hollywood." LIVING ROOM TOUR The Living Room Tour is a touring theatre series that commissions original work and thrusts it straight into your living room. Since 2007, LRT has hit up living rooms from Hollywood to Orange County to the Valley to Monrovia and everywhere in between. The 2013 show will tour in October as the first Halloween-themed edition of LRT. EVERYBODY NOSE cARTel’s performance clown troupe creates highly collaborative theater pieces through fully-dimensional, silent clowns. Using both physical comedy and intense character work through an organic realization process, we have trained over 1000 clowns to date. Additional support will ensure free workshops for people of all ages, as well as create a new holiday work for December 2013. We have set a fundraising goal of $200,000 for this calendar year to help us sustain our growing organization which will provide for full-time staff, part-time and freelance coordinators and as a means to sustain our standard of artistic excellence.

What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

Our greatest achievements have grown out of the people and artists with whom we are privileged to work. Our ensemble of dedicated artists has grown over the years into a dedicated, well-rounded staff. In addition to our core team, we have worked with and showcased over 2000 artists over the past five years – in successful productions and events that span several mediums of art including film, theatre, music, art and more.

While operating with very little money, we’ve been creative and efficient with our resources, so perhaps our biggest achievement has been the fact that we’ve kept it all going! We have been fortunate to be able to do a lot with very little, never stopping, never settling and constantly taking on new challenges with vigor. For example, our Brokechella and No Budget festivals – which today stand as our most far-reaching and well-attended events – started very small. Brokechella started in a coffee shop, and in April 2013, 2000 people will join us downtown for a day of music, food, and art (we’ve literally had to shut down an entire street in order to accommodate everyone and everything). No Budget began in a 50-person theater with no curating process and 16 videos submitted by friends and fans; it now is in its fourth year and has a red carpet, panel discussions led by arts professionals, a sold-out 300-person theater and has been a launchpad for young artists to create work and launch meaningful relationships within the film industry. The winners of the very first No Budget festival just released a trailer for a series based on their winning film, and many past Brokechella bands have been featured as “bands” to watch and have developed large local followings. The growth is so exciting to watch and defines what success means to us.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

We are supported by an advisory board of arts professionals, including producers Brian Udovich, Nick Scaramuzzo, Joe and Lisa LaMattina, filmmaker/programmer Terrie Samundra and marketing specialist Marcella Misserian. Our administrative and artistic ensembles are made up of dozens of young Angeleno artists. We are also currently reaching out to City Councilmembers, as our next goal is to leave a LASTING impact on the city through public works projects that can make LA a better place. We are not a company that wants to go into a theater to create theater; we want to take over a dump and better it and create theater in it. We want to form partnerships with small businesses to collaborate and spread the word about them through our art.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

Our biggest metric of success is our fundraising goal of $200,000. If we reach this, it means our audiences were bigger and that our events received more recognition than in 2012. Larger audience means our projects were more accessible. Starting with the expansion of Brokechella in April 2013, it means more artist-to-audience-to-artist engagement.

Success will also be measured by how many arts administrators we can afford paying an appropriate wage to. Right now, our administrative core is made up of 11 dedicated individuals who give up their time whenever they can because they are passionate and believe in the mission. Though they receive paid stipends, it is simply not enough to be able to fully focus on the tasks at hand. With support, we would be able to expand each of our programs and devote even more time to the creation and production process.

At the end of the year, we will ask collaborators about their experience and how we can improve. cARTel’s focus is on investing in young artists, and working with them to create art, events, experiences and an overall culture that is sustainable and long-lasting. When you go to one of our events, you see both artists that have been with us since the beginning, and ones who responded to our call to submissions just weeks before. This is because we are more interested in a strong, sturdy foundation that we can build over the course of five to ten years. A survey will enable us to see if we are on the right track.

In addition, success will be measured by how well we establish working relationships with other arts organizations, partners that might normally be viewed as competition. We will evaluate our collaborations to see how they benefit the arts scene of Los Angeles and the city as a whole.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

With support from grants like this, we will be able to expand each of our programs to become year-long projects that last beyond the day of the event with dedicated staffs to each. We can create new hubs for lovers of film, music, theatre and art to experiment without worrying about the bottom line. We can be the premiere place where experimentation and collaboration is key, which is wildly important in a city where art can sometimes get lost in the Hollywood hustle. For example, we would love to add an extension to our No Budget Film Festival program by creating a monthly called “First Cut” where artists can show the first cut of their new film to a group of smart and creative individuals who can provide feedback. For Brokechella, we could create industry showcases for the artists we’ve worked with in the past to ensure they are getting the attention they deserve. In this way, we can ensure that all of the artists that come through our doors can receive help and constructive attention AFTER the day of the event.

If the arts are our passion, then Los Angeles is indeed our canvas. With an aging population, we believe that it is absolutely crucial to continue creating opportunities for younger, emerging artists – and not just to continue at our current rate, but to increase and expand opportunities across the board. Los Angeles is already a destination for so many young arts professionals, but we believe that our organization can be part of the effort to elevate L.A. as a true artistic community – taking the “cool” factor of our local arts scene and making it possible for young artists to truly envision and experience a sustainable career in our city.

We want to be able to sustain our city’s thriving arts and culture scene – and to create opportunities that cut across existing social and economic divides. All of our projects support emerging artists who are trying to make a name for themselves, and we make our events as affordable and accessible as possible, so that young people interested in being part of our community will be able to do so. Los Angeles is an arts town, and a destination – but too often it feels as if there is too much of a gap between the young and the established, and that many of the opportunities that exist here do not exist for everyone. cARTel is dedicated to giving people those opportunities. If people come to us with ideas, we listen. If people come to us wanting to help out or participate, we find a place for them. Our focus is truly on the collaborative and communal potential of art, and we feel that this philosophy can absolutely benefit the sometimes-fragmented communities of 21st century Los Angeles.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

Success in 2050 is a thriving, durable, democratic Los Angeles arts & culture scene that is truly collaborative and provides opportunities for all types of emerging artists who want to build careers and lives in our city. cARTel wants to show artists that contrary to popular belief, there IS A WAY to make a career out of art-making and passionate collaboration! The creation of art is not limited by venue, by galleries, theatres, and stages. The foundation that cARTel and our partners set in 2013 will encourage emerging artists to be innovative, to collaborate rather than silo themselves away.

To put it in a “big dream” sort of way: We want to make Los Angeles VISIBLY better. We want you to be able to pass by our project on your way to work, and to be able to participate in one of our events without having to look too hard to find us. We want art-making as a way of life to become a possibility for more and more people, and we believe that cARTel is the right vehicle to make that happen.

Many of us in cARTel are not native Angelenos, but we all were drawn to this city by the enduring promise that this is a place where a young person can come to make his or her dreams come true. We are reminded of a scenic overlook on Mulholland Drive, high above the city, looking east toward downtown Los Angeles, and a placard referring to L.A. as “The City That Dreams Built.” As Los Angeles moves through the 21st century, we face many challenges as a city and an arts community. But this age-old promise – the “City of Dreams” – remains. Thousands of people will flock here in 2050 because of that promise. Their art won’t be held back by lack of funds or sponsorship. They will have developed the tools to go out there and make art no matter how little resources they think they have.