Organization Name: The Ware Center of Millersville University of Pennsylvania
Department Submitting Recipe: Office of Visual & Performing Arts
Program Name: AXIS Dance Company Disability Arts Residency
Time of Program: On the evening of 11/20/15, the morning and afternoon of 11/21/15, and the afternoon of 11/22/15.
Program Length: This was a three-day residency with intermittent and varied activities.
Program When Elaborate: The activities took place BOTH before and after the performance itself. They will be described in the responses to later questions.
Goal: To introduce local individuals living with disabilities, their non-disabled neighbors, and university students to new perspectives on the arts impelled by the creative work of performing artists who themselves living with disabilities.
Time of Year Offered: This was a one-time program.Program Description:
This multi-faceted residency begin with a free 11/20 evening screening of the documentary film INVITATION TO DANCE which features the AXIS company. Filmmaker Simi Linton joined the AXIS dancers and, via Skype, artistic director Judith Smith, for a post-screening panel discussion hosted by Suzanne Callahan. The following day, two free workshops were conducted by the dancers. The first was held in the morning at the Lebanon VA Medical Center for "Wounded Warriors" served by that facility and featured a performed excerpt from the dance "To Go Again" that would be featured in the performance and was built on the stories of veterans and their families. The second free workshop offered that afternoon on the university campus was intended for anyone in the community interested in AXIS' processes of creating physically-integrated dance. The final day of the residency featured a free pre-performance lecture by Millersville Professor Dr. Thomas Neuville on "Disability and the Arts" as part of our ongoing "Perspectives" series. The performance itself featured both ASL interpretation and audio-description, and was followed by two talk-backs, one with the general audience of the performance and then a less formal one with students from an area arts magnet school. Various evaluative measures were taken throughout the residency and will be discussed in further responses.
Number of Participants: The screening of INVITATION TO DANCE and the post-screening discussion served 75 people. The "Wounded Warriors" workshop was attended by 25 veterans of both genders and of a wide-age range. The public workshop was attended by 16 community participants, including several wheelchair users. The pre-performance "Perspectives" lecture had an audience of 35. The performance itself, there were 396 audience members in attendance. Many stayed for the talk-back.
Target Audience: There were a few target audiences. We held this residency in the month of November when Veterans' Day is celebrated because "Wounded Warriors" are a population we have begun serving through our arts programming and because we knew that one of the dances in AXIS' repertoire, the aforementioned "TO GO AGAIN" would have resonance for this audience. Along with these veterans, another target population for our recent arts programming has been any individuals in our community living with physical, sensory, cognitive and/or intellectual disabilities. We also wanted to reach out to the general public to broaden their understanding of disability and how it can become not an obstacle to creating art but a catalyst for creativity. Finally, as a university with a fledgling Disability Studies major, we targeted our students in presenting this residency.
Is the program for kids? N/A. But children were welcome to the performance and did attend, including the aforementioned students from an area arts magnet school. As previously noted, we arranged for them to meet and talk with the AXIS dancers after the performance. These students' interest was along the lines of self-expression and potential career opportunities in dance.
Nature of Audience Engagement: There were many forms of audience engagement. After watching the documentary INVITATION TO DANCE, audience members participated in a a talk-back with the filmmaker, the AXIS dancers, and, via Skype, artistic director Judith Smith. The Wounded Warriors who were part of the Lebanon VA Medical Center workshop moved and danced with the AXIS dancers and watched and responded to an excerpt from their dance piece "TO GO AGAIN." They also enjoyed pizza after the workshop, but the AXIS dancers could not partake because of the 45-minute travel time to the next workshop. Participants of that public afternoon workshop danced with the AXIS company members. The audience members that attended the pre-performance lecture on "Disability and the Arts" listened and asked questions. And most audience members of the AXIS performance stayed for a post-show talk-back with the company and provided a bit of feedback. Further evaluative feedback from residency activities was solicited from participants of the workshops and from a sampling of three targeted audience constituencies. These were done via live and phone interviews and through written questionnaires.
Location: The screening of the film took place in the main auditorium of the Ware Center in downtown Lancaster, a space equipped for such purposes. The Wounded Warrior workshop was conducted in the recreation center of the aforementioned Lebanon VA Medical Center. The public workshop was held in a multi-purpose room of Millersville University's Student Center. The "Perspectives" pre-performance lecture was given in the dance studio of the on campus performing arts center - the Winter, and its largest hall - Clair Hall - was the site of the performance itself, a theater space with a large proscenium stage and wheelchair seating space.
How Many Staff: We used 1 member of our staff to manage the grant, plan and implement the residency activities beyond the actual performance, and help facilitate the talk-backs. 5 tech staff members ran the performance, its set-up and strike, 1 marketing administrator led a team of 3 student workers in promoting the residency, and a box office staff of 5 managed ticket sales and ushering duties. 1 finance staff member kept track of the budget with the assistant of 1 student worker. 2 professors of the Social Work Department and 1 graduate assistant conducted the evaluative work. And, finally, our director interacted with donors and served as a liaison with the university administration.
Program Cost: The budget was $35,505. Expenses included salaries and wages, artist fees for AXIS and their travel and subsistence, marketing, assessment, the fee to bring in the filmmaker of INVITATION TO DANCE, supplies and materials.
Marketing for Program: The residency was featured in our season brochure and that was followed-up by the mailing of post-cards to both our dance and general audiences. We also promoted the residency on our website and through e-mail blasts that reach some 5000 patrons on our contact list. Press releases were also sent to various area media outlets. In addition, personal phone calls and e-mails were sent to local agencies that serve individuals with disabilities, dance companies, and veteran organizations. We also provided free tickets to veterans from the Lebanon VA Medical Center and a local shelter for homeless vets, as well as to the clients of disability organizations for which financial need presents a further obstacle to participation in the arts. Our office also has a Disability Arts Advisory Council comprised of local stakeholders and these 25 or so council members helped promote the residency through their organization's websites.
Cost for Program Participants: Activities: Free. Performance: $15 adults; $12 seniors; $5 students. Also 2 free tix offered to MU faculty & staff
Attendance To Date: Over 500
Past Iterations: As noted earlier, this was a one-time program. But we do similar programming for other artist residencies.
What works? Targeting the workshop experiences to particular audiences that had connections to the performance content or a to physically-integrated company proved helpful in both drawing participants and in making the opportunities truly meaningful. Involving local veteran and disability groups in the planning of the residency also gave them a sense of ownership in the residency and allowed us to determine how best to serve their clients through our programming of activities.
What doesn't work? We ran into unexpected scheduling conflicts outside of the university. A county-wide once-a-year fundraising event was scheduled for the same weekend and required the participation of all of the community's disability service agencies curtailing their full participation in the residency. A fluke in scheduling at neighboring Franklin & Marshall College prevented its dance students from joining us as planned. Regarding the former, it reminded us that we must communicate more fully with the regional community to avoid scheduling conflicts.
Performances Where Offered: Although we offer similar programming for other dance performances, the physically-integrated nature of the AXIS Dance Company made our offerings quite specific in intent and in the targeted audiences. Some things we learned from this residency such as the possibility of offering audio-description to blind audiences for dance will now become regular offerings of our dance programming.
Past Research on Program: As noted earlier in this "Recipe," Evaluative feedback from residency activities was solicited from participants of the workshops and from a sampling of three targeted audience constituents. These were the general public, individuals living with disabilities, and Millersville students. Students of the MU Social Work Department conducted telephone interviews with them. The workshop participants responded to questionnaires. The results were analyzed and reported by the MU Social Work Department and a report submitted to Dance/USA. Suzanne Callahan was extraordinarily helpful in the development of the evaluative tools utilized.
Continuing Program? With the University's new Disability Studies program and our commitment to inclusive arts and arts-learning opportunities as well as to populations such as veterans, refugees, at-risk youth, and people living with disabilities, programming of artists and arts companies such as AXIS will continue. So will dance programming because of the success we have had in building an audience for this art form through presenting companies such as AXIS.Additional Comments:
We'd just like to add our deep appreciation to Dance/USA for making this programming possible and to Suzanne Callahan who provided guidance and facilitation for the evaluation portion of the project.Resources & Links:
We took part in one of the EDA webinars, one exploring disability and the arts, A record of that can be found on the Dance/USA website.