The kickoff Waffle Chat at #Fusebox2016 got to the heart of things real quick. Panelists Kee Hong Low ( West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong), Matthieu Goeury (Vooruit, Belgium), and Cory Baker (The Long Center, Austin) joined Ron Berry for some real talk about the state of international arts funding, the role of arts centers in local communities and future aspirations for their institutions. Kee Hong Low, the Head of Artistic Development in Theater for the massive new Hong Kong Arts district, West Kowlhoon, jokingly referred to arts centers as monsters that require a lot of food. He was alluding to the huge amounts of investment money taken to build a center, but his analogy surpasses the financial. Arts centers constantly need to reinvest in their communities, as new Vice President of the Long Center, Cory Baker discussed with a local Austinite. The long Center offers a residency program that gives local artists access to rehearsal space, marketing and other perks, but in 2015 no one applied. This speaks volumes to the disconnect between artists and the resources at The Long Center. With the loss of several key performance venues in Austin this year, such residencies will be crucial for presenters. The question that faces Baker is how to make The Long Center feel more accessible to the local arts community. As she said, it’s not about bringing new work to Austin, but about how to engage with what’s already here.Matthieu Goeury, on the other hand, is looking ahead to a future community in Belgium that will be quite different than the current patrons of Vooruit. He is faced with an influx of young non-white immigrants that will largely reshape the demographic in Belgium. He wonders how to plan ahead for a different audience. I wonder what strategies Vooruit is using, and how those might be in conversation with the ones we are having in Austin and in other regions? How can local artists and art centers, like the the Long Center, engage with one another more effectively? How can a large scale district for the arts be developed in a way that feels like home for locals?
This talk got me thinking and wondering. Have a listen, comment here or come find me IRL (I’m the gal with purple hair) I’d love to keep ‘chewing the fat’ together.