IAM Feature on ISPA Fellow Rithisal Kang
Monday, December 1, 2014
ISPA partner organization International Arts Manager (IAM) has published a feature on ISPA Fellow and Executive Director of Amrita Performing Arts Rithisal Kang. Below is a reproduced version of the IAM article. Take peak at a week of Rithisal’s life!
My Life – a week with Rithisal Kang
September is busy and exciting. My associate director Hannah Stevens has just taken her maternity leave. This week I have two wonderful colleagues joining me: Chankethya Chey (artistic director) and Rachel Sene (general manager). We’re having lots of meetings to stay on the same page.
One of the most urgent issues this week is a pro-blem with the visa logistics for 18 artists from the Royal Ballet Troupe of Princess Norodom Buppha Devi. The gravity of the situation is such that we’re quite close to a forced cancellation of an 11-city performance tour in the US and Mexico. I got involved at the last minute. We’re waiting for approval on the P3 ‘culturally unique performer’ visas for the application, but the unalterable single entry agreement on P3 visas for Cambodian passport holders means that we have to apply for an additional visa for this one trip. Amrita’s help is badly needed, so I’m in communication with the French and US organisers of the tour to discuss possible solutions; we hope that by the end of today or tomorrow, we will receive notification of approval.
At lunch I meet with Prumsodun Ok who is a Cambodian-American artist. He’s been in Cambodia for a few weeks to work and present his new piece. We talk about evolution and inspiration in Khmer dance, and tensions around new creativity that has proved unpopular with traditionalists.
The day starts with an interview by Michelle Vachon, a reporter at The Cambodia Daily, for an article relating to a published Cambodian Living Arts survey on employ- ment in the performing arts.
Next we have an full staff meeting. This was the first chance for Rachel and Chankethya to meet with the full Amrita team. We’re getting ready for two big projects next month; a visit from Mark Morris Dance Group as part of Dance Motion USA 2014, and our Contemporary Dance Platform.
During the last hour in the office, I write to several donors updating them with news, thanking them for their generosity, and asking them to make this year’s donation towards the continuation of our work. These are not template messages, but personalised emails.
I spend the whole morning at the National Forum on Volunteerism, an event co-organised by UNDP Cambodia and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. I moderate presentations and discussions on issues in volunteerism, while students from various universities join and actively participate in the dis¬course. This is a non-art activity that I get involved with every now and then.
Rachel and I have a lunch meeting with one of our important donors who has just made his yearly contri¬bution to Amrita. He’ s working with us on raising funds for a three-year artistic leadership plan and kindly spent time personally advising us on fundraising.
In the afternoon, I meet with Rachel and Chankethya about whether to take forward a seedling project. We discuss various elements, reflecting on what Amrita does, our finance and fundraising capacity, and the advantages of the project both to us and to the wider sector.
I attend the welcome reception for the new Public Affairs Officer at the Ambassador’s residence – a lovely evening meeting managers and leaders in the arts and beyond. One of my goals for the evening is to raise the US visa issue with the Ambassador. He’s very enthusiastic, having seen the Princess’ production in June and given it a beautiful mention on his blog (currently the most widely read in Cambodia). He immediately introduces me to the chief of the Consular Section at the Embassy, who reassures me his team will do what they can. It’s really important that this kind of understanding can be reached in person, as it provides oil to grease the wheel – much better than making the case when I am in my office and he in his.
My other goal for the evening is to bring to the attention of the president of the Royal University of Fine Arts an impending visit by professor Ruth Ber-eson (my former professor at the State University of New York, Buffalo). She is currently dean of the Faculty of Creative Industries at LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore, and is visiting to discuss arts manage¬ment practices in Cambodia. I aim to initiate a meeting between the president and the dean to explore the possibility of academic collaboration.
Rachel updates us on a project she’s worked on in detail, while Chankethya and I give our input. It is great working with these two wonderful ladies – we comple¬ment each other’s roles in the team so well. It is exciting to agree, disagree, discuss and laugh with them. We feel very well prepared for the upcoming con¬ference call with the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, Dance Motion USA, and Mark Morris Dance Group.
We also have a presentation at RUFA with Robert Turnbull, executive producer of the Magic Flute pro-duction planned for Cambodia in 2016. Interested artists from Amrita and other companies attend Robert’s talk, short screening and Q&A session.
I communicate with our French and US counterparts about the visa issues for the Royal Ballet Troupe – no news on petition approval yet, leaving five days left next week to deal with it before departure. This is quite worrying, but I feel everyything is going to work out. Still, we review alternative plans in case the visas are not approved. Before lunch, I have a quick meeting with Chankethya about a few issues regarding her weekly artist workshop.
I have lunch with Sopheap Chea and Darong Chour of Bophana Center, an audio-visual resource centre whose founding director, Rithy Panh, has received numerous awards (including an Oscar nomination for his film The Missing Pictures). Sopheap is org-anising a celebration for World Audio-Visual Resources Day. We agree on programming a storytelling comp-etition alongside an open Amrita rehearsal, and identify two further collaborators to approach.
I meet with Meak Khim from Sovanna Phum Art about their performance trip to Taiwan. He has ques¬tions about performing a large shadow puppetry piece at a festival in Taiwan, and it’s always a great pleasure to be able to offer peer advice on arts man-agement issues where helpful. The day ends with a few drinks at a bar with friends and colleagues.
The Ancestors’ Festival takes place at this time of year in Cambodia. For 15 days, Cambodian Buddhists go to temples to offer food to the monks, in the belief that this dedication of merit is then passed to their ancestors. Today and tomorrow morning I will join my family for two different temple visits.
It’s always great to chit-chat with people in the neigh¬bourhood – we don’t often see each other until there’s a social or cultural gathering. After a vist to the temple I go jogging and for a sauna. I always try to make time for keeping myself healthy.