Today the Nevada Arts Council Partner-in-Excellence grants are due, so of course I stayed up until 3 am, trying to at least get down my complete narrative. When I first started this process, the narrative section seemed easy, but I skipped around and chose which questions to answer, figuring inspiration would strike later when I returned to the questions I found dull or problematic. And inspiration did strike in the sense that I have a better sense of what I feel my organization is trying to achieve. The issue then becomes how do I make my narrative fit their questions. When fitting questions to your own agenda, it's important to come across as stealthily as a polished diplomat, not as glaringly obvious as a Presidential candidate. Attempting to take their questions at face value doesn't work, as either the questions seem repetitive or non-relevant. So trying to get my ideas across in a way that explains what we are trying to do while somehow trying it into the question being asked is crucial.
The following question seems like it should be simple enough: 1. Describe your community and include: (a) its location in the state, (b) relevant community characteristics, and (c) demographics of its population. If you cite census data, please relate it to your programming decisions. I had an almost boilerplate answer for this last year, taken from the grants from the year before. All I had to do was recheck the latest census data. And, of course, in answering a question about the demographics of a population, I must use Census data, what else would I do? Yet they seem to be asking a different question, one I can't quite tease out. Tell us about your community, and don't try and skate by on this question by citing Census data. If you insist on using it, make it relevant. But how are the demographics of my community really relevant? From casual observation, the demographics of our concert are similar.
Early this morning, at 3 am as I was brushing my teeth before collapsing into bed, I thought maybe they really do want to know very specifically what the demographics of our audiences are. Maybe they want to know if the demographics of our audience match what I state in the population of my community. Maybe they want a better idea of what my community is, they don't want me to cite data about the Reno/Sparks/Tahoe/Carson area at large. But that is our community. This is who we try to reach, this is who we want to reach. That is how we envision our community.
Part of my difficulty here is my own opinion of Reno, recently formed in the last few years, when I see big commercial music acts getting lots of press and/or acclaim, but choral music getting not a lot of attention when choral music is much more accessible to the community at large in terms of performance opportunities. And choral music can be such a varied and complex art. Choral groups are so big in other countries, and choral singing has been taken to new levels of performance with the standards and judging criteria being set by organizations like Musica Mundi. When Reno has a choral festival, who comes? Mostly people from other states and other countries. They come and stay in the hotels and eat dinner, and spend money, and they are their own audience, since such a small segment of this community actually attends these concerts, many of which are ticketed but free.
When the American International Choir Festival was here, the news came out and filmed my choir singing on state for a panel. I came home eagerly to TiVo the news, and was disappointed to find out that they were only playing it from the angle of, "look how small this is, look how much money was wasted, RSCVA debacle!" Reno's craptastic attitude is a major part of the problem in attracting new events and new tourists. It's not all about how many hotel room dollars events are going to bring in, how we evaluate the worth of an event compared to the cost of having it is more complex. I think that Reno did get screwed by the Interkultur, because in wanting to hold successful choir festivals in the US, they are perhaps not considering their audience. The cost of actually attending their events as a performing group are prohibitive, and if you're trying to get something new off the ground, something that already doesn't have status, you're going to have to offer a bigger incentive.
But Reno should also consider the question of whether an event enriches the area culturally by providing something to its residents, whether the residents will be supportive and make an event a success, and whether the combination of these things can help define the city as a venue for future world class events that may prove to be more lucrative.
With the grant application, I'm somewhat disappointed that they chose to end with a very boring question, that doesn't seem to lend itself to a good meaty answer. I wish they had streamlined this process even more so that my narrative could read like an essay, and I could end with the question of why we deserve state funding, instead of having it stuck up near the top.