Photo above: Dancers Michaela Perdue, Will VanMeter (KSU Dance Company) Photo by Robert Pack
By Dr. Ivan Pulinkala, Chairperson, Department of Dance at Kennesaw State University
Over the past decade, I have experienced Atlanta’s art community grow in density, complexity, and sophistication, against a landscape ripe with opportunity, discourse, and challenge. An ever increasing populous of promising artists and art organizations are weaving the collective fabric of our artistic identity, as we struggle to create an infrastructure to support our thriving artistic spirit. Our network of voices can often seem to be a cacophony to the external viewer, but under the surface, Atlanta artists, leaders, organizations, philanthropists, and businesses, are forging unique ways of embellishing sparse resources with reciprocal relationships that I believe are key to our success on a national and global stage.
The Atlanta Intown Theater Partnership (AITP) began as a result of the Loridans-Trammell Theater Initiative bringing together five mid-sized theater companies for a capacity building project. The resultant AITP alliance serves as one such example of an innovative partnership forged to collectively combat economic challenge at a time when it was critically needed. The development of the Department of Dance at Kennesaw State University has similarly been the result of several town and gown partnerships forged to advance capacity and resources. Our decade-long partnership with Atlanta Ballet has created professional performance and pedagogical opportunities for our students, undergraduate degree opportunities for professional dancers, and resulted in several artistic collaborations. When we could not afford to bring professional dance to our students at KSU, we forged a partnership with the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University to provide reciprocal advantages of opportunity, cost, pedagogy, and marketing. And similarly, a partnership with the Israeli Consulate in Atlanta has resulted in a study-abroad program, and access to several visiting artists and companies from Israel. Across the Atlanta art community, partnerships of all varieties are being forged to build capacity and leverage resources that provide reciprocal advantage. Parent organizations like the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Woodruff Arts Center, Fulton County Arts and Culture, Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, and Georgia Council for the Arts, play a vital role in fostering and advancing alliances between government, business, philanthropy, and the art community, but just as critical are the networks of independent partnership ventures formed within the microcosm of the art community that are paramount to our growth and sustenance.
So, what then have we learned from the development, sustainability, and success of partnerships within our art community? When forging a partnership venture, it is critical to begin the conversation about what one can give, rather than what one can get. This approach creates a common ground of reciprocal advantage that brings disparate entities together for common good. Clarity of mission, purpose, and scope are obviously critical to success, but so is a focus on trust and transparency, that has tangential benefits to the broader community. Partnerships lead organizations and individuals to expanding their world views, and provide the opportunity for us to learn valuable lessons of doing business from each other. Our cultural plan should therefore more actively incentivize successful joint ventures, for they allow partnering entities to recognize their individual limitations, draw upon each other’s strengths, and leverage capacity far beyond the sum of each partnering entity. Certainly not every partnership is a great idea, and not every partnership is sustainable, but often, their pursuit opens doors that are not accessible by way of independent venture. So, as we continue to seek more funding for the arts in Atlanta, it is also critical for us to recognize the power we can leverage from within our existing capacity, for the sum of one plus one is greater than two when partnering entities unite toward common cause.