The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Presenter Interview
The world of Samuel Miller, a leader in arts management in the U.S.
The world of Samuel Miller, a leader in arts management in the U.S.
What is specifically new about in LINC? When the New York Foundation for the Arts was established 40 years ago by New York State’s agency (New York State Council on the Arts), the idea was to support individual artists, and their programs provide individual artists with grants, health insurance, loans, and affordable spaces, etc.
 LINC didn’t want to create a separate infrastructure, like setting up organizational support and setting up support for individual artists. As you said, NYFA does a lot of that in some professional development for individual artists. Creative Capital makes grants and supports professional development; United States Artists is making grants, so does the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Herb Alpert Foundation and many others. Yes. These are important supports that have been out there.
 But what wasn’t happening was the work with different kinds of service providers, both in the arts and outside the arts, to address the needs of the arts community in Washington State or the Bay Area, or in Chicago or New York; adding these issues around somebody’s core issues. So the idea was, again, “complementary” –while acknowledging that artists are still competing effectively for direct support; through partnerships we would be getting to issues around health care, space, information, training, those sorts of things. To address the question of what artists need, and how to respond to their needs; the strategy was not to create a whole new set of permanent institutions. It was to influence the behavior of the existing institutions.

I see. That is why LINC was planned for a 10-year period? Because once LINC successfully set the issues to be addressed for artist support within the existing organizations, it would then remain for them to be addressed by those organizations without LINC?
That’s right. When I went to LINC in 2004, I took with me Judilee Reed, who worked with me for NEFA. And we got close to the half-way point of the 10-year period, I realized that she was more capable than I was and should be responsible for the next five years. So I spoke to the Board that I wanted to step up to the board and shift the responsibility and the leadership to Judilee. I’ve done my job for the first 5 years –the same-old thing I have always done: build partnerships and raise money necessary to support those partnerships. But the next five years should be about really perfecting it.
 I made that shift partially because I wanted to get back to dance (laughs), and also to get back to international work. For LINC, we were able to create the way to continue to work on the Cambodian project. We also had the program for the first five years on artists and global society, having some interactions in Japan, Australia and the Netherlands. But it wasn’t a primary mission of LINC to work internationally. It was dealing with the needs of U.S. artists. I didn’t want to dilute the mission, so now I am back to my interest: dance, performing arts and international projects primarily with Asia.

Are you referring to the Eiko & Koma’s Three-year Retrospective project that you just started?
The Eiko & Koma project that I started to work with Wesleyan University and other partners on is one of a number of things. Through the past year from February to November I worked as a consultant for the Mellon Foundation for their funding strategies on dance and theater. That was interesting. I have worked also with Wesleyan, and we are launching a graduate program –an institute for curatorial practice in performance. We do need very professional development for presenters and curators of dance. Also I am working with a theater in Great Barrington in Massachusetts, called the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center and developing some new programs for them. And I was just in Indonesia, Cambodia and Japan last November working with out longtime partners in these three countries to build another exchange project. It is to try to bring together the two major projects of my work in Asia: the Cambodian Artists Project and the Triangle Project; into a single effort.

Would you explain about Eiko & Koma’s Project? At this moment few Japanese people know about this big retrospective project on this two U.S.-based Japanese artists.
I am producing a retrospective with Eiko & Koma, which is the three-year project. One of the aspects of that is how can this body of work be developed and shared not just in the U.S. but in Asia as well. Clearly Japan is the centerpiece in that because Eiko & Koma are artists who were born and raised in Japan. But they have developed and presented work outside Japan. How can this project that will look at their entire body of work be best shared with particularly younger people in Japan? So I was there to investigate that idea.

I guess the Eiko & Koma project can also relate to the Cambodia and Indonesian projects that you are working on.
Yes, partly, because Eiko & Koma have worked in Cambodia recently and in the past have been working in Indonesia as well. So we are talking in a sense about a tour, but nothing should be that simple. We are also talking about residencies that would allow some of the artists who have collaborated with them in Cambodia and/or Indonesia for instance, to come to Japan; and work with them and share some of their work with the Japanese arts community. It’s a kind of model of what I want to do, to work with “historic” partners I have worked with in the past, such as the Japan Foundation and the Saison Foundation, to bring artists for non-bilateral exchange: not just US-Japan but multi-lateral. Also it is not simply about performance but about process and context. So that is why it looks to me like a good exchange program. With the historic partners, I think we can play out not just a single project but a series of projects over the next three to five years.

So, freelancing now you have more freedom to focus on what interests you, and focus on the artists you love.
Having more freedom, I think more of history. People like Ralph Samuelson (former director of Asian Cultural Council in NYC) and Jerry Yoshitomi (former Executive Director of JACCC) clearly taught us that only long-term relationships are going to be valuable, as you gain knowledge and trust. It is silly to get into a relationship if you are just going to handle it in short-term on a single result basis. You really need to figure out what you can offer in 10, 20 and 30 years.

Thank you very much for you time and your very interesting story.
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