Changing the tune: building resilience within the folk community in response to pandemic and beyond
Music has a power to illuminate a path forward through times of crisis and social change, whether from Woody Guthrie’s “Ballad of Tom Joad,” to Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddamn” to Bob Marley’s “Small Axe,” all the way to H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe.” As a community of people who coordinate gatherings, folk musicians and presenters are very vulnerable to disruptions such as a pandemic shutdown, but we can also choose to pioneer emerging forms of community-building and emergency response that prioritize equity and resilience.
Today, Folk Alliance International (FAI), in partnership with Majestic Collaborations, is proud to announce its latest initiative to carry forth that heritage, Changing the Tune. Dedicated to building resilience within the folk community, the 18-month project is made possible thanks to a grant from Performing Arts Readiness, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Early phases of the project will emphasize the development of tools and best practices for performing organizations responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the implementation of safety measures, recommendations for hosting inclusive virtual and alternative format events, and the development of business continuity strategies. Medium and long-term, these and other tactics will be adapted to prepare members of the FAI network for resilient response in the wake of potential future emergencies of all kinds. While current practices often make performing arts organizations economically vulnerable to the impact of disaster, creative communities are also among those best equipped with the skills and physical resources to respond in times of crisis when suitably prepared.
Tom Clareson, program director of Performing Arts Readiness, explains, “There are myriad concerns that event producers and attendees need to consider; the goal of the Performing Arts Readiness program is to activate an arts-focused approach to resilience and improve emergency preparedness among performing arts organizations through advocacy and outreach. PAR has worked with Majestic Collaborations to convene a diverse cadre of experts to work hand-in-hand with Folk Alliance International to undertake research, share knowledge, create networks, and to assist their own communities. Beyond the COVID-19 re-opening plans, this project will provide a basis upon which to build capacity to adapt and respond if impacted by emergency, disaster, or long-term changes in climate.”
With over 3,000 member organizations, Folk Alliance International is the leading international voice for folk music, creating a particularly rich opportunity for the identification and development of innovative response strategies and allyship within its network through this initiative. Aengus Finnan, executive director of FAI stated, “Festivals and venues are the lifeblood of touring artists careers, and the cultural heartbeat for connecting audiences with live music. We have passionate and resilient presenters in towns and cities across the country and around the world who are anxious to find safe and meaningful ways to reopen. Their collective wisdom, creative successes, and lessons learned will be a powerful resource to share broadly.”
Changing the Tune launched publicly in early December 2020 with a survey to presenter organizations within the FAI network that seeks to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic across its intertwined organizational, financial, human, and community dimensions. Qualitative interviews and a survey designed for audiences to help guide organizational decision-making will follow through early 2021.
“We want to identify and share the patterns, potential partnerships, and emerging practices that are defining the platypuses among these organizations,” explains Matthew Kowal, cofounder of project partners Majestic Collaborations, drawing a comparison to the unusual egg-laying mammal. “We’re looking for the ones who have evolved just a little bit differently than the others and have found ways to thrive under the present circumstances.”
Results of the surveys will be used to assess the specific circumstances, challenges, and successes experienced this year by members of the FAI community, create resources and best practices to address the interests and needs identified by respondents, and develop mechanisms for peer-to-peer learning and mutual aid within the network.
A monthly web broadcast set to launch in early 2021 will provide ongoing recommendations alongside expert interviews, community case studies, and live chat opportunities, enabling the sharing of relevant and timely content within the folk community even amidst rapidly changing conditions. Additional resources and platforms are expected to be developed through ongoing conversation among the project partners and with the Folk Alliance International member network.
About the Partnering Organizations
MAJESTIC COLLABORATIONS works to empower communities to address environmental and humanitarian concerns with art, culture, design and planning. They work directly with arts organizations and agencies to develop emergency action, business continuity, and disaster response plans, and provide training, consulting, advising, and guidance for staff, boards, and volunteers to identify and contextualize the risk and needs of performing arts and cultural entities to enable effective response during emergencies and disasters. Their mission is to collaboratively refine best practices across creative industries while building diverse networks to better address climate and health crises, all while recognizing that mass cultural gatherings such as performing arts events and festivals are among the most likely settings to effect meaningful, transformative, and community-driven change among individuals.
Learn more at majesticcollaborations.com
FOLK ALLIANCE INTERNATIONAL was founded in 1989 to connect folk music leaders aiming to sustain the community and genre. Their mission is to serve, strengthen, and engage the global folk music community through preservation, presentation, and promotion. FAI defines folk broadly as “the music of the people” (reflective of any community they are from), and programs a diverse array of subgenres. The organization’s expanded global network now includes more than 3,000 members, a worldwide community of cultural sector entrepreneurs and leaders that includes artists, agents, managers, labels, publishers, DJs, and festival, venue, and concert series presenters.
Learn more at folk.org
The PERFORMING ARTS READINESS project helps performing arts organizations nationwide learn how to protect their assets, sustain operations, and be prepared for emergencies. Its work brings together knowledge of the performing arts field and expertise in emergency preparedness from both the performing arts and cultural heritage communities to conduct community outreach and engagement, sponsor grants, and develop and share informational resources to help support performing arts organizations in developing safety and preparedness plans.
Learn more at performingartsreadiness.org