create / 2014

Schkapf Performing Arts Incubator

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Schkapf

Schkapf aims to create a permanent performing arts incubator that provides a support system and career development for LA artists.

Please describe yourself.

Proposed collaboration (we want to work with partners!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Schkapf aims to create a permanent performing arts incubator that provides a support system and career development for LA artists.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Schkapf recently completed the pilot stage of its LA Performing Arts Incubator, a local space that incubates individual artists as well as ensembles through mentorship, project support, resource sharing and networking. We now need to develop our infrastructure further to better serve as an organizational hub able to bridge artists and resources, art and community, academia and practice. In so doing we will be more appropriately placed to fulfill our mission as a leader in developing quality live performance that raises the industry standard as well as the status of Los Angeles’s performing arts on national and international stages, and to advocate with government officials for a robust pipeline capable of supporting artists’s livelihood.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Building upon our 10-year track record as a presenting theatre and home to a resident theatre laboratory, Schkapf will expand its pilot programming capacity to increase our functionality as an incubation house for artists as entrepreneurs. In order to achieve this goal, Schkapf will:

(1) Cultivate its current intern team into sustainable staff positions, including Development, Programming and Education Directors, as well as a Cultural Liaison to engage with neighborhood, academic, and business partners.

(2) Select five ensembles or individuals to incubate projects. Recipients will be guided through their creation process with resource-sharing, space-sharing, professional development classes, and expert feedback. They will hold consistent public showings of work-in-progress, and will serve as case studies in the further development of the incubation model.

(3) Expand the School of Embodied Acting to hold regular fee-based classes with established local, national and international teachers in order to improve the caliber of work created in Los Angeles and make it competitive in a wider market.

(4) Secure partnerships with at least three new partners, including a local vendor, school, and other nonprofit, to cross-promote and support, creating a positive feedback loop within cultural and economic ecosystems. The areas we are focused on are: (a) the creation of our research library and commissary as a neighborhood hangout that serves the Theatre Row Association and Central Hollywood, and acts as a hub for artists within the wider LA County area to exchange ideas, do research, and be inspired by installations, video and audio recordings situated throughout the space;

(b) the building of stable foundations for a wider alternative touring network on the West Coast specifically for, but not limited to, physical, collectively created, visually ambitious, and cross-disciplinary live performance that will serve as a viable way for LA artists to bring their work to other communities and generate more income;

(c) the development of a more vibrant educational interface bridging students and faculty of LA’s rich universities with local practitioners, thus generating more research networks and potential funding revenue for the universities, a clearer understanding of the current artistic field for students, and a more robust pool of patrons and artists at Schkapf.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CREATE today? In 2050?

Today, independent artists interested in live performance in Los Angeles contend with the mega-industry that is film and television while receiving minimal support from government and local nonprofits. While many theatres have ‘new works’ series, few incubate projects from inception to completion. University settings are fertile breeding grounds for experimentation, but too often do not communicate with local practitioner groups. The result is a broken pipeline in which much of the city’s best talent does not have a venue to hone their craft, connect with fellow artists, and key into the communities that they exist to serve. Schkapf’s project challenges the production status quo, creating new environments for industry professionals to develop and expand their artistry, raise the culture of live performance in LA to a competitive standard on the national and international scenes and generate more economic viability for artists seeking community engagement and experimenting with new work. By 2050 we envision Schkapf to be a vibrant artist live/work village providing onsite livelihood for hundreds of artists. This means easily accessible work and rehearsal space, a state-of-the-art flexible performing arts centre capable of meeting a wide variety of performance demands, and a robust and unique School of Embodied Acting with its own pedagogical paradigm that serves as a node in an international training scheme. It also means a performance research library and bookstore, artisan retail shops, a cafe/restaurant, and rotating interfaces (galleries, installations, screenings, hands-on learning opportunities) for the wider education and recruitment of audiences. This village will not only directly change the ways in which performance is created in Los Angeles, dramatically increasing access to the means of production, but will also add to a more educated and interactive audience support base for live performance in LA County. Schkapf will not only be incubating world class homegrown LA performance, but, unlike the majority of presenting houses currently in LA, Schkapf will directly collaborate with international artists to incubate work that impacts and serves the residents of LA County.

Whom will your project benefit?

Our project benefits the performing arts communities of Los Angeles and their audiences, specifically but not limited to, those interested in physical, visual, ensemble and cross-disciplinary work. It will also benefit the surrounding neighborhood of Schkapf by creating a Cultural Liaison with the intent of bridging the artist-driven work at Schkapf with local residents, creating more dialogue around the use and value of live performance as well as developing mutual bonds that will cultivate respect, care, and pride in the neighborhood itself. Our project also aims to benefit our partner organizations: the local vendor, school, and nonprofit that we engage with in order to mutually grow, or further sustain, our respective organizations.

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

Schkapf has a robust network of sustained partners that it has been collaborating and consulting with to create the first stage of its development. In the performing arts context these include The Clown School (local), the Network of Ensemble Theaters and Celebration Barn (national), Slava Polunin, Au Brana, Awake Projects, the Grotowski Institute and the London School of Performing Arts Practices (international). In a local government context, Schkapf is an active participant in the Central Hollywood Neighborhood Council, Media Business Improvement District, and the Theatre Row Association as well as seeks regular consultation from Arts for LA and the Department of Cultural Affairs. In an academic context, Schkapf has partners at USC, CalArts, CSU/LA (local), Naropa, Emerson and Brown University (national), the Laboratory Theatre Network, the University of Leeds, the University of Huddersfield, and the University of Kent (international), as well as notable independent scholars, such as Kathryn Mederos Syssoyeva and John Britton. We will continue to work extensively with these partners in the visioning and implementation of Stage 2 of this project. Schkapf will also reach out to local theatres that have successfully created multi-faceted neighborhood hubs, such as the Bootleg Theatre (which is also a bar and music venue) and Greenway Arts Alliance (which partners with its local school and vendors) and international organizations such as the National Theatre Studio (a research and development organization that ensures innovative new performance for England’s regional theatres) and the Battersea Arts Centre (a collective of producers who have renovated an historic London Town Hall in order to incubate a variety of performance capable of “inventing the future of theatre”) to further develop our programming and ensure that stage 2 is sustainable and influential. Furthermore, we will identify and begin collaborating with new partners capable of assisting in the creation of an operational and revenue-producing commissary, the foundations for a sustainable touring network, and a university-to-industry pipeline.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Create” metrics?

  • Employment in creative industries
  • Arts establishments per capita
  • Minority- and women-owned firms
  • Measures of cultural and global economic influence (“soft power”) (Dream Metric)
  • Recruiting and retention rates at local higher education institutions (Dream Metric)
  • Percentage of graduates from local higher education institutions that remain in LA County 5 years after graduating (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Through the creation of an incubation hub for entrepreneurial artists, Schkapf will create opportunities for both new employment and the creation of new artistic companies within a stimulating and empowering space. Schkapf has a history of cultivating a diverse array of artists and supporting women-led projects, and it intends to continue to do so. (Schkapf won The Most Wanted venue award from Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative at the Hollywood Fringe Festival 2014). By improving the university-to-industry pipeline and engaging students, Schkapf will influence the Dream Metrics of improving recruitment and retention at universities, and at nurturing students’ local investment to retain them after graduation. Finally, due to its international ties and commitment to an international face and preparing artists for touring, Schkapf will increase the cultural influence of the performing arts in Los Angeles, typically viewed as a film town, worldwide.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

As an infrastructure project, Schkapf will use the following metrics for evaluation: (1) Staff performance, as assessed by supervisors. This includes weekly check-ins between staff and managers, quarterly assessments of Project progress, and a comprehensive year-end report detailing successes, areas for improvement, and next steps. (2) Success in maintaining viability of the space, assessed through financial growth from grants received, individual donations solicited, and earned income from performances, classes, rentals, and touring. (3) Success in increasing visibility as measured by patronage and new engagement with the space - participants in the School of Embodied Acting workshops, traffic on social media, and audience growth and retention. (4) Success in partnership engagement, including the number of new partners and collaborations, and strategic planning for a touring network on the West Coast. (5) Success of incubated projects, measured by positive reviews garnered, strong financials, and firm ‘next steps’ for shows incubated in the space.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

  1. The current model of producing live performance in Los Angeles is not viable or sustainable. Performances need to have a long-term investment plan, rather than being subjected to a limited run, have the capacity to grow in size (i.e. from 99-seat to 300-, to 800-seat, etc.), and be flexible to perform in various settings. They need to be created with the intention of touring them, not only to generate a healthy return on investment, but also to enrich the artists involved by exposing their work to diverse audiences, thereby continuing to challenge their own artistic boundaries and responsiveness to current audience demands. Schkapf’s mentorship programs and network affiliations will serve our incubated projects by encouraging such flexibility and responsiveness. However, singular products will not ensure a robust and healthy producing venue. A performing arts centre must exist as a hub. Thus we are implementing multiple programs and space use that ensure a healthy influx of participants and a resilient approach to revenue generation and donor support. This solution arises from the inherent collaborative nature of live performance. Since LA is an urban sprawl, we need to respond by creating a beehive capable of serving multiple artists, who can in turn take their shows on the road and return home with new insight. A collective impact on the ecosystem of LA performance will have much greater influence than a single innovative artist or company making work in a single venue.

  2. Performance artists in LA need a support structure for career development and continued artistic growth. It is increasingly common for LA performance makers to transfer their skills into another sector after ten or fifteen years working in live performance. Without the financial and artistic support to sustain and develop their livelihoods and artistic skill, they are forced to create new careers in other fields or move from LA entirely. Schkapf is therefore working towards the creation of a robust local, national and international network that can support artists through mentorship, dialogue, practical exchange, and entrepreneurial thinking and problem-solving. This can lead to more jobs, more artistic challenges, and a sustained career in live performance making.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

We have worked with a highly talented team of arts administrators over the past three years on an all-volunteer or small stipend basis, and key individuals are set to begin work full-time pending funding. This year, we ran pilot programs on a shoestring to test and refine all of our projects - incubation, a neighborhood hub with food and drink, educational programming, and academic-practitioner conferences. We are set to apply the lessons learned from these pilot programs and implement them in full. Having run our space for over 10 years, we have extensive experience and relationships ready to be cultivated into meaningful partnerships - all we are missing are the resources to provide sustainable manpower capable of enabling us to build on the strong foundations we have laid over the last decade.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

  1. The continued rise of commercial rents threaten the viability of an incubation space dedicated to research, gestation, and project implementation. We are therefore committed to a diverse programming that allows for patron generation on multiple levels. We are also collaborating with city and regional officials, university and secondary schools, national and international networks, as well as commercial and philanthropic investors to create an organization dependent upon multiple partners and funding streams.
  2. While the conversation around live performance in Los Angeles continues to develop, artists and audiences alike are often underexposed to the potentials of the medium. This limits innovation and patron support. We are tackling this problem through our Kino Kabinet screenings of notable national and international performances, our School of Embodied Acting, our Around the Teapot unconferences, and our plans to create a hangout and research library within the complex that allows for exchange and inspiration as well as the creation of a Cultural Liaison position able to bridge community and university sectors.

What resources does your project need?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach