The Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF), created by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, has included Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival of Becket, MA in a new $15.125 million project, Leading for the Future: Innovative Support for Artistic Excellence, which will enable Jacob’s Pillow to become a major provider of online dance content to the public, artists, dance students, and scholars.
Executive director Ella Baff said, “We are honored to receive this prestigious recognition from our field, and I’m thrilled to invoke two favorite words to describe the impact of this grant: “transformative investment’’. This initiative will help us employ state of the art electronic media to extend every mission area of Jacob’s Pillow – creation, presentation, education, preservation and audience engagement – to benefit the arts community and the public. This funding will remove the constraints of conventional time and physical location, allowing us to share our institutional resources such as the vast Archives, annual Festival, and Audience Engagement Program, with a broader, worldwide audience.”
“Leading for the Future will help trailblazing arts organizations continue to thrive in a society that is changing at lightning speed,” said Ben Cameron, director for the arts for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. “Together with the Nonprofit Finance Fund, we hope to learn valuable lessons about how arts organizations can innovate, even when faced with the challenges of a slumping economy, shifting generational interests, and emerging technologies.”
“Leading for the Future participants have already proven themselves adept at artistic innovation; now, they will lead the way for arts organizations to reinvent their business platforms so the artistic side will be reliably supported,” said Clara Miller, president and CEO of NFF. “At a time when restricted gifts and carefully predicted outcomes are the status quo, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is offering these organizations the latitude and support that is required for true experimentation and change.”
Jacob’s Pillow’s initiative, with the working title “Virtual Pillow,” will aim to deepen engagement with existing dance patrons; build audiences for dance; and increase the visibility of past, present and future artists presented by Jacob’s Pillow. Through new electronic media, the Pillow will extend beyond its traditional Festival season and physical location in Becket, Mass., and reach larger audiences world-wide. For example, the Pillow’s vast Archives hold a great deal of dance history over the past century – an expansive resource that can be shared more broadly.
The Pillow’s Archives contain more than 350,000 photographs, films, books, and historic documents and dwarf most library collections—including those of colleges and universities—for dance. These resources can be digitized and the material organized into online programs that add context and deepen understanding about individual artists and dance traditions, and help audiences understand evolving forms. Other areas of Virtual Pillow that will be researched and potentially implemented include live-streamed or delayed broadcast performances, participatory activities with online audiences, other resources for scholarly research, and more.
“In the cultural field, Jacob’s Pillow is seen as the mother ship of dance,” said Baff. “This initiative will share our resources and commitment to dance in new ways with existing audience members, educators, scholars, artists and, importantly, to build new audiences for dance. The Internet is a limitless venue, and a different kind of venue. Nothing can replace the unique experience of live dance or being on site in the beautiful and welcoming atmosphere of Jacob’s Pillow, but a Virtual Pillow will extend all that we have to offer in new, different and unique ways.”
Leading for the Future will provide Jacob’s Pillow with significant capital resources and advisory services. The goal of this national initiative is to enable a group of artistically outstanding organizations to strengthen their business in a changing environment, while providing instructive examples and models for other arts organizations to learn from and possibly replicate. Twenty finalists were asked to engage in a rigorous application process and take part in live interviews. Ten of these organizations were selected to receive the award: Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, Center Theatre Group, Cunningham Dance Foundation, Jacob’s Pillow Dance, Misnomer Dance Theater, National Black Arts Festival, Ping Chong & Company, SITI Company, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and The Wooster Group. Jacob’s Pillow is the only organization from Massachusetts to receive the award.
Initially, the Pillow will receive $75,000 for a first year of planning, research and development, during which the organization will convene a think-tank, further develop and test project ideas and content formats, assess staffing needs, explore sustainability, and determine hardware, software and bandwidth needs. After determining its plan for the following four years, the Pillow is eligible to receive up to or more than one million dollars of support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Nonprofit Finance Fund.