Three ISPA Members Recognized in Auditoria Magazine
Sunday, September 30, 2012
In Auditoria Magazine's Annual 2013 Issue, three ISPA members were recognized for their work in shaping the arts world today. Help us congratulate ISPA members Jude Kelly (Artistic Director, Southbank Centre), Joshua Dachs (President, Fisher Dachs Associates), and David Staples (Chairman, Theatre Projects Consultants) on this recognition of their substantive contributions to the arts!
To read the original article in Auditoria's 10th Anniversary issue, follow this link, or read the text below written by Emma Pomfret.
In 2011, on the 60th anniversary oft he Festival of Britain and London’s Festival Hall, Jude Kelly felt a moment of deep satisfaction. "People were able to express how much they loved and understood the site. They acknowledged that what we’d been trying to do for the past five years made sense.” What she’d been attempting since her arrival six years earlier as artistic director of the Southbank Centre was to reconnect with the location’s history.
"It’s a festival site – there to explore and showcase the imagination of the many in a sort of curated eclecticism,” she reflects. Last year’s Festival of the World boasted international art,music, sculpture and food all around the site– a neat fit with London’s Olympic summer.It personified Kelly’s artistic outlook:universal, transformative and global.
"Arts events are becoming genuinely global,” she adds. "There’s an acceleration and a confidence happening. World culture doesn’t fall under the category of ‘exotic’ any more.”
Another of her coups is partnering with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. Around 60,000 people caught the Venezuelans’ increasingly ambitious Southbank residencies in 2009. In 2012, SoundsVenezuela featured five sold-out concerts across four days, transforming the Royal Festival Hallinto a nucleo – the music community centre at the heart of El Sistema, the Venezuelan education project that produced the youth orchestra.
"When I first came here, I strongly believed you have to get to the root of the passion of the artforms we care about, so I was looking for examples of where the energy of classical music was going to re-emerge. In doing that, I met with El Sistema.”
Kelly says securing box office heavy weights such as Dudamel or Daniel Barenboim is less about competition with other venues than about creative programming. "Between us all we’re capable of thinking, ‘How do we work with artists on risk-taking and devising special projects?’ Today it’s about the big experience.”
Nurturing the larger artistic landscape remains a huge personal motivation for Kelly. After putting the West Yorkshire Playhouse on the map, she founded Metal – artistic lab spaces in Liverpool and South end that allow artists to experiment. "As an artistic thinker you have to feel you can apply your ideas-making outside an institutional framework. You’re trying to create the future, not just sit in the present.”
Kelly presides over 21 acres of artistic and revenue potential at the Southbank Centre."We put on 1,000 ticketed events and another1,000 that are free – 50% of our work being free is a lot,” she notes. "The more we do, the more we can demonstrate this also brings us revenue. People stay and eat, drink and shop; it’s good for us financially as well as for artistic reasons.”
In the past decade, sponsorship has become embedded in the arts. "There’s a more relaxed approach to corporate patronage,” Kelly agrees, though she’d like to see it go further. "Art transforms people’s lives and I would look to sponsorship to help in the distribution of the arts to more people, not in just holding up the jewels in the crown for the few.”
With an impressive portfolio of built projects all over the world, Joshua Dachs is a familiar name in theatre planning and design. He cites Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, the Smith Center in Las Vegas, and the renovation of Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York as some of his firm’s most important projects over the past decade. An ongoing project at New York’s Park Avenue Armory is one he picks out as particularly exciting. "We’ve spent the past few years upgrading the building to accommodate unique and ambitious large-scale performances,” he says. "Recently we designed an extraordinary performance there called Philharmonic 360, involving three orchestras arranged in a triangular shape, with 1,500 people interspersed among them. The show comprised what Alan Gilbert, the New York Philharmonic’s conductor, described as "spatial music” –essentially live orchestral surround sound. It was a unique idea that only the Armory could support.
”Trained as an architect and with a varied background including musical performance, theatre production, and theatrical lighting design, Dachs has been a pioneer in his field for more than 30 years. Having witnessed many of the industry’s transformations over that time,he describes that current challenges are related,in part, to the collapse of traditional business models.
"The subscriber-based regional theatre model developed in the 1960s doesn’t work very well in the USA nowadays,” he says. "Audiences seem less interested in traditional formal experiences and are more excited by things that are new and different, and that come with beer in an informal setting. Perhaps this is the endof the Cultural Mesozoic period and we’re going to see the kill-off of a number of Dinosaur Arts Institutions and their replacement by small and nimble Mammalian cultural players."
The more successful and forward-thinking cultural institutions are going to be reinventing themselves in the next 10 years. How they evolve will be interesting to watch. I imagine we’ll be seeing fewer large new projects in the USA and Europe, and more rehabs and found-space adaptations. And I think those few large new projects will be trying new approaches.
"Inventive directors and designers will always push the envelope and use whatever is at hand to do remarkable things,” says Dachs. "I’m not sure technology makes people more creative; it just gives them new toys to play with. And there’s nothing wrong with that.” Although Dachs isn’t convinced new theatre technologies will greatly impact the quality of art, he appreciates technology enables organisations to earn additional revenue from live performances. "Live theatre has always been an ephemeral art form,but the success of Met Live, National Theatre Live and all the other webcasting and simulcasting efforts means that those ephemeral productions can be experienced – albeit at a distance – by a much larger paying audience, and that’s a goodt hing for arts organisations in very many ways.”
After 38 years with Theatre Projects, David Staples is clear about where he finds his continuing motivation. "It’s because of the diversity of the work,” he says. "I love culture shock… that’s why I do it.” Recently returned from Korea – "the 59th country I’ve worked in” – Staples selects two projects 6,000miles apart as highlights from the past decade.
Singapore’s Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay was completed in 2002, a desperately needed splurge on culture by the government after 25 years of focused economic development. "It was our biggest project in Asia and it incorporated programming for Asian and western cultures.
”The second highlight is Oslo’s Opera House,designed by Snøhetta architects and opened in 2008. The new home to Den Norske Opera & Ballett swoops down to the city’s fjord. "I worked on that over a 10-year period, and it’s really rather special,” Staples feels. "People overuse the word ‘iconic’ these days but it’s up there with the Sydney Opera House. And unlike Sydney, it functions really well!”
Oslo’s Opera House delivers beyond pureaesthetics, showing the transformative power ofgood design. It has elevated Den Norske’s artisticdevelopment from a provincial company to onethat regularly partners with the MetropolitanOpera in New York and English National Operain London. "They have moved up and that’sone of the most rewarding things for me.”After so long in the business, Staples dislikesbeing caught up in trends. "The challenge isto produce a building that’s appropriate toits community and its circumstances.That counts, not trends,” he insists.
Nevertheless, Staples detects recent interest in "smaller, quality venues” (Oman’s 1,100-seat Royal Opera House in Muscat, for instance), and digital demands placed on new venues. Miami’s New World Center by Frank Gehry is another petite example with 756 seats. "It’s also one of the most wired buildings we’ve done,” adds Staples, explaining the Internet2 connections.
"You have the potential for all sorts of collaborations: a bunch of students in Miami having a masterclass with a violin teacher in Vienna, for instance. Or an ensemble where the strings are in Miami, the brass in Oslo and the percussion in Sydney.
”Artistic innovations including collaborations and projections will certainly play an ever-bigger role in venue design. Selecting some of his most memorable performances, Staples hits on Klaus Obermaier’s Rites, a dance-orchestral digital collaboration at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 2011. A solo dancer on stage was motion-captured and her movements projected and transformed live on a giant3D screen above the orchestra.
Ultimately, the Theatre Projects man says he "would die to see a live performance over a recorded performance or a video any day”, although he accepts the broadcasting/streaming trend is here to stay. "But it’s not a panacea,”he adds, believing that changes in the arts themselves are driving a renaissance. "Everybody now accepts that opera has surtitles. Fifteen years ago it didn’t and the audience for opera has grown over that time. If the arts don’t change, they’ll die.”