First and foremost, we want to thank everyone who took the time to submit a nominee for the inaugural Most Creative People in Arts Administration list. Not only were applications full of detailed info the panel needed to deliberate, but the individualism and authenticity from each applicant was evident in each submission. Despite all the ups and downs over the course of 2016, it’s reassuring to know that the field has so many creative innovators. Each of their projects reaffirms the value of not only being creative, but knowing how to get things done to bring that creativity to fruition.
Hopefully, they’ll serve as inspiration to expand your creativity while accomplishing more than thought was possible in the year to come.
The panel results were all very close and when it was all said and done we ended up with a very good problem to have in the form of a tie. As such, we’re very pleased to present both as recipients in our inaugural program.
Juan’s nomination was submitted by his co-worker, Katie Wilson. Following is the program description in her own words:
Juan José Escalante began working for the José Limón Dance Foundation as a Development Consultant in 2013. The Executive Director at the time found herself dealing with a large debt accumulated by the Foundation during FY08-12. With no obvious path to solvency, she brought Mr. Escalante onboard to strategize for the Foundation’s financial future. He analyzed the Foundation’s operations and financials, then presented a debt reduction and strategic growth plan to be implemented over the next five years. His goal: to take the Foundation from surviving to thriving. After the Executive Director’s departure in late 2013, Mr. Escalante became Executive Director on January 1, 2014 and began enacting his plan. Thanks to his strategic thinking, the Foundation has been able to reduce its debt by over 70% in three years.
The José Limón International Dance Festival played a significant part in Mr. Escalante’s plan. To commemorate the Foundation’s 70th Anniversary, he hoped to bring the spotlight back to the legacy of American Modern Dance icon José Limón. The proposed festival would reenergize the Foundation’s donor base and licensing program, engage new audiences with the Limón work, reposition the Foundation in the New York City dance scene, and celebrate the then-Artistic Director who had served the organization for 50 years. This festival would be unique in that both professional dancers and students would be invited to perform the work of only one choreographer.
A massive success, the José Limón International Dance Festival ran October 13-25, 2015 at The Joyce Theater in New York City. Four renowned dance companies and nine prestigious dance universities from seven countries around the world joined the Limón Dance Company in performing classic works by José Limón to enraptured audiences. In six carefully crafted programs, 180 dancers came together to celebrate a dance legend before more than 7,000 audience members, both New Yorkers and out-of-towners. Four of the dances were revived especially for the Festival and had not been seen in decades, including “Carlota” and “Orfeo”. In one of the many wonderful reviews the Company received, The New York Times proclaimed that “the Limón Dance Company lives on… and its members remain heroic defenders of their patrimony, the work of a man that became part of the core of (American) modern dance”. Most excitingly, the participating colleges and companies incorporated the Limón repertory they learned into their own seasons, allowing Limón’s vibrant works to be seen around the globe before audiences of all kinds.
The Festival would not have been a triumph without Mr. Escalante’s leadership. He spearheaded the intense preparation required for a program of this magnitude and expertly managed his team of three full-time and two part-time staff members to make it happen. He raised funds to cover a million dollar project by increasing the Foundation’s individual and foundational donor base by more than 80% and securing multi-year commitments. He even surpassed his ticket sales goal by 105%, enabling the organization to complete the project with a revenue $300,000 above projection. He also concocted an organic social media strategy highlighting the organization’s history to generate excitement and interest over the Festival. It worked – the Foundation’s Facebook followers increased by 30% during this three month period. Since Mr. Escalante became Executive Director in 2014, the Foundation’s followers grew by over 600%. Together with Licensing Director Yasuko Tokunaga, Mr. Escalante forged partnerships with esteemed dance companies and elite dance schools, bringing together top talent to perform alongside the Limón Dance Company. Many of these organizations have since expressed interest in licensing another dance from the Foundation which will bring the Foundation additional income.
With the Festival, Mr. Escalante increased the Foundation’s visibility in manifold ways. Not only has the licensing program seen a bump, but open class and workshop attendance has also skyrocketed. An audition held after the Festival received over 400 applications, indicating that professional dancers are eager to work for Limón. This increased interest in learning Limón technique and then dancing for the Company is crucial to sustaining the Foundation’s mission. It is how the next generation of dancers, teachers, and reconstructors will be trained. Furthermore, the Festival enabled the Foundation to find its new Artistic Director. Though a few of the applications arrived before the Festival, 40% were submitted during the Festival itself. Colin Connor, who was hired, did not even apply until after the Festival. He set a piece on one of the participating universities, and his tremendous work with those students set him apart from the rest of the applicants.
Mr. Escalante also used the Festival to develop international touring opportunities for the Company. Since 1954, the Limón Dance Company has served as a cultural ambassador abroad, often at the behest of the US Department of State. Since the Royal Danish Ballet, one of Denmark’s premiere dance companies, was participating in the Festival, Mr. Escalante invited the Danish Minister of Culture to attend a performance while he was in town. The Minister was so impressed that the Company is now in conversations to tour Denmark. Additionally, following their participation in the Festival, a Venezuelan dance company called CoreoArte is interested in bringing the Limón Dance Company to South America to coach local dancers in a Limón work and then perform alongside them. Through the Festival and Mr. Escalante’s relationship building skills, the Foundation is set up to continue its legacy of cultural exchange.
Juan José Escalante’s initiative, creativity, and leadership make him a standout arts administrator. With the José Limón International Dance Festival, Mr. Escalante set up the José Limón Dance Foundation to sustain its mission for years to come. This project engaged new audiences, fostered relationships within the global dance community, and reaffirmed Limón’s place in the pantheon of dance. Mr. Escalante’s accomplishments with the Festival cannot be overstated.
Juan José Escalante
Juan José Escalante the José Limón Dance Foundation in 2013 as Development Director and came to the organization with an impressive nonprofit management background from New York City Ballet, where he worked as an associate director of finance and Miami City Ballet as the development manager and human resources director, and Ballet Florida, where he served as Executive Director from 2001 to 2004. He also led the Orlando Ballet from 2009 to 2011 as their Executive Director. Mr. Escalante holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and a Masters Degree in Global Management. He has chaired the national committee for small and medium companies for DanceUSA, and the Cultural Executive’s Committee for the Palm Beach County Cultural Council. Mr. Escalante was appointed Executive Director of the José Limón Dance Foundation on January 1st, 2014 and currently serves on the Advisory Board of Dance NYC.
Aubrey’s nomination was submitted by her colleague, Bettina Swigger. Following is the program description in her own words:
This is beyond an arts organization turnaround story. Aubrey did that part in less than a year (see supporting materials). Hence the project title here is about what Aubrey did after that, bringing the organization to do a lot of things that the largest orchestras in this country are doing, and in some (many?) cases, I dare say doing it even better.
From streaming a concert on Facebook Live like the San Francisco Symphony and the New York Philharmonic but at a fraction of the cost (yes, even with a union orchestra), to an outrageous data-driven experiment encouraging donors to opt-out of communications that in turn actually raised MORE money for the organization, to an audience development plan that has the California Symphony more thoughtful and targeted about audience retention than most multi-million dollar arts organizations, the only thing better than seeing the list here is reading about it yourself in the blog she started this year to share this work with anyone who will listen.
For the ArtsHacker audience that cares about the how-to end of things, Aubrey’s projects and the way she blogs about them is nerdy arts admin gold. She has truly brought the California Symphony to run with the big dawgs in the orchestra world—I haven’t even mentioned yet how she got the California Symphony’s education programs on NPR’s “All Things Considered” last year, or how she got the Library of Congress to co-commission a new work for their composer-in-residence, or how she partnered with Post Modern Jukebox in their first-ever orchestra collaboration—all on a budget that the rest of us are more familiar with, and people need to hear about it. Thank you for your consideration! Aubrey is amazing; she’s a revolutionary…a thinker….a doer and everything she does is dedicated to getting more people to connect in a meaningful way to classical and orchestral music.
Before joining the California Symphony in 2014, Aubrey Bergauer worked at Seattle’s leading cultural institutions: Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, and most recently as Senior Director of External Affairs at One Reel, the organization that produces the Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival and draws 120,000+ people to Seattle Center every Labor Day weekend. At One Reel Bergauer oversaw all revenue-generating departments: marketing, PR, development and sponsorship, customer service, ticketing, vendors, and concessions. Most notably, she led the organization to achieve an unprecedented 43% increase in revenue during her tenure via data-driven and forward-thinking marketing tactics.
Nominee: Aimee DiAndrea
Organization: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Nominee: Anna Marie Wilharm
Organization: Lookingglass Theatre Company
Nominee: Ben Richgruber
Organization: Eau Claire Regional Arts Council
Nominee: Clare Burovac
Organization: Portland Opera
Nominee: John Davis
Organization: Orlando Chapter of USA Dance
Nominee: Jourdan Laine Howell
Organization: Palm Beach Opera
Once again, we want to thank everyone who took the time to submit a nomination. Your enthusiasm and involvement made everything possible.
We’re very happy to announce that the panel deliberation produced several useful byproducts we’ll set into motion for the 2017 program, such as refinements to the nomination forms to make it easier for applicants to provide everything the panel needs.
We’re excited for the 2017 program and to that end, keep an eye out for the announcement in Q2, 2017.