|Have you brought the same artists again later due to their popularity?
Yes. An example is the Emerson String Quartet. I don’t think there is any better string quartet right now. So I don’t have any problem with bringing them every two years. They can always bring different programs. There is nothing wrong with keeping brilliant artists a part of what we are doing—as long as we present lots of other perspectives.
You mentioned that you would not present the local artists—so does that mean you are not doing anything to involve them in HOP?
We don’t present many local artists because they can find presentation in other ways. What we do with those local artists, however, is we involve them a lot in our activities so that they can have exchanges with artists we bring in. Many of them are really interested in being involved in master classes of dance or opera; we offered a theater workshop by Anne Bogart, to which we specifically only invited local professionals and semi-professional actors.
Let’s talk about commissioning. How many commissioned productions have you presented so far?
In our history we have commissioned now more than 80 works. Many music works. Also dance works. Less with theater because it’s more difficult proposition to commission. Some of those are co-commissioned with major institutions like BAM or “Great Performers” at Lincoln Center. Some are with co-commissioners across the country. For example, Donald Byrd (contemporary African-American choreographer), we had nearly 20 co-commissioners. Sometimes we are the only one.
As I explained, we are trying to show students the creative process by having the artist have a residency period for the commission. Even if we don’t have the residency, having a moment of premiere means the artists are there—and it enables the students to be among first people to see the work, or to hear from the artists about their creative process, which is helpful to them. We want to show the students that art is not a set canon but something that is constantly being evolved and created.
Do you handle a touring after the premiere at HOP?
Yes, for example, the piece we talked about earlier: You Can’t Get There From Here, is deeply connected to an issue that our community really cares about. It’s a solo play, very simple to present, so it easily can tour after the premiere at HOP. Our goal was to commission a work that reflects our community but also to get the work out there. So we found some co-commissioners to involve with us. We started her research by bringing in an existing play of hers—and developed a short tour throughout New England so that she could be introduced to other communities, too. She began thinking about the new play and people in our region. That meant that when the piece was finished, we could book a tour throughout New England with the new piece. Now it’s going to have a run in San Francisco, and we are actively promoting it to other presenters in the country. So, yes, we do try to get work that we commission out there. I wish I had another staff member to do this.
How do you raise the funds for commissioning?
Commissioning money comes from my programming budget. We are heading toward our 50th Anniversary in 2012, we are trying to build a new endowment specifically towards commissioning. Obviously we want to do some commissioning in celebration of the 50th. So we are starting to think about what that will be.
You must have to squeeze your annual budget hard for the commissioning projects.
Yes, I do. I put pennies from here and there and I write grant applications. Sometimes we go to particular board members to ask for help. For the commission by Paul Taylor to be premiered in this April, three of our board members were involved, and I wrote two grant applications. This year is unusual because five things in the season involve commissions and co-commissions. We usually do one.
How much is the annual operating budget?
It is about $7 million, including film and some personnel costs. HOP has 50 full-time staff, and I supervise five who are programming and educational outreach people. I don’t supervise marketing personnel because there are several curators for film programs and galleries and we all use the marketing department. I am also not in charge of the box office.
How much is the performing arts budget and how is fundraising handled?
A total artistic fee in my Performing Arts Program is about $550,000 each year, which is actually not very much. We negotiate very hard.
HOP’s executive director is the main fundraiser for the entire Center. Dartmouth College has a development department, so he collaborates with them. I help the executive director for some development, but I am the only grant writer for Performing Arts and I bring in around $200,000 a year. I do some corporate sponsorship, too.
How does the current financial crisis affect budgeting?
Dartmouth’s endowment didn’t do as badly as other schools. Still, it has brought a cut of $60 million. So Dartmouth has developed three different scenarios: everybody has to do a 5% cut, or 10% cut, or 15% cut. In a couple of weeks, we will find out which of those sizes of cuts will take place. I may have to have a smaller season by maybe 30% next year.