A pilot fellowship program for BIPOC artists, facilitated by RAWdance
Today’s art landscape requires working dance artists to expertly wear many hats — not only developing a vision for their craft, but also coordinating with collaborators and spaces, raising funds to support their projects, learning how best to promote their work to audiences, and more. It’s an incredibly challenging balance between art-making and administrative responsibilities, especially as an early-career artist still growing a support system. And particularly as a BIPOC artist navigating an inequitable system rooted in white power structures.
We—the company’s Co-Artistic Directors—have been thinking of how to start and shape a fellowship program for some time. We’re excited to launch our pilot program—a year-long paid opportunity that will support dance artists as they pursue their own journeys and goals (artistic, administrative, activist, and any permutation in between) by expanding resources, emphasizing relationship building, and providing a mindful structure for explorations and discovery.
The 2021-2022 year will support three artists who self define as early-career and will prioritize artists who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color. For its pilot year, this program will work with over 40 local arts and community leaders to refer eligible artists to apply.
Learn more about us and the fellowship origins…
We understand our strengths and values to be:
- Collaboration as the heart of decision- and art-making
- Cultivation of genuine relationships and connections with our audience and peers
- Respect for our artists and staff, reflected through transparency and compensation
- Pushing our craft by taking risks; measuring success through the process, not the end result
Through our company’s 17-year history, we have learned a lot about navigating the multiple roles that artists today have to play, and have built a network of peers, advisors, collaborators, donors, and dancers. The aim of this pilot fellowship program is to create a space where these resources can be thoughtfully and impactfully shared with fellow artists. RAWdance’s focus is to act as facilitator, supporting participating artists by listening, brainstorming, and connecting them with our community. We acknowledge the problematic structures of traditional hierarchical direct mentorship programs, and strive to avoid replicating these models. Instead, we commit to following the lead of more expansive fellowship programs that build strong cohorts amongst Fellows and create mindful spaces for partnership, questioning, feedback, and growth. To read more and understand a little bit about each of our experiences and backgrounds, check out our short bios here.
After years as an idea, this fellowship really took shape over the past 8 months, as the nation and world simultaneously grappled with horrific tragedies caused by systemic racism. While we individually re-focused our personal work on education and deeper listening, we organizationally made commitments to do some internal auditing, group work, and formally take action. We began company-wide conversations on structural oppression, accountability, representation, evaluating aesthetic preferences, and tokenism, including early work with outside equity consultants. This program is one clear action we are taking in our ongoing plans to confront structural racism in the arts that we will continue to develop over the next few years. We understand that much of our success and ability to maintain our company has been due to our identity as an organization founded by two white leaders within a structure that evaluates our work from a norm/perspective of white excellence. In calling these circumstances forward, we collectively, as an organization, commit to prioritizing artists who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color for this program.
In developing this pilot program, we met with peers, advisors, and artists in our community who have strong connections with early-career artists, experience with various artist fellowship programs and/or deep connections with local BIPOC arts communities. This pilot coalesces the generous thoughts and feedback of so many people and we’re thrilled to be ready to launch. But we also acknowledge that as a new experience, there will still be learning to do along the way. We vow to pause in any challenging moments and meet them with grace and openness so that we can listen, respond, and do better moving forward. We appreciate your partnership through this journey and are looking forward to developing something exciting together!
Who we are looking for
Three self-identified, early-career BIPOC dance artists based in the Bay Area, who are seeking a supported space to advance their vision and goals to the next stage of their career. RAWdance is led by artists who work primarily within the contemporary/modern dance lineage. While there is no expectation that applying artists share this same artistic aesthetic, we want to be transparent about our experiences and artistic backgrounds.
As a pilot program, we are also looking for artists who will be comfortable shaping the fellowship experience with us as the year progresses and as we better understand how we can all serve one another’s growth and development. Feedback and open communication will be very valuable to ensure that each participant receives the support that they need. This experience is a work-in-progress. While process is our favorite part of art-making, it can include challenging moments alongside wonderful discoveries. We commit to bringing our whole selves and we aim to hold a space where you feel you can too!
- Each Fellow will receive a $4,000 honorarium to participate in the program and support their art-making as they see fit.
- Each experience in the program will be designed by the Fellow to serve their specific needs, with the support of our team at RAWdance. Communications and engagements will be a mix of in-person and virtual.
- We will serve as facilitators/connectors along with RAWdance’s extended family/network of collaborators, advisors, donors, dancers etc.
- The company will hold space for the cohort to connect and grow in relationship to one another.
- Fellows will be encouraged to outline specific objectives (that can evolve as the year goes on) to guide their individual fellowship experience.
- RAWdance commits to creating a mindful container for Fellows to work within that will incorporate collaborative pathways to share space and feedback, including co-creating a community agreement and inviting guest BIPOC arts leaders to engage with the program throughout the experience.
- The program will designate a third-party individual, outside of RAWdance’s staff, to provide a channel for Fellows to express any feedback that should be addressed during the fellowship period.
Why a referral Process
- One initial, day-long orientation
- Monthly, 90-minute check-in meetings from August 2021-August 2022 (each month will alternate between individual conversations with RAWdance Co-ADs/guests, and conversations with cohort members)
- A final gathering for artists to wrap-up and reflect on the year
- Additional conversations are encouraged and welcome at any time
- Applications are due July 7 and may be downloaded below. Applications may be submitted via written responses or audio/video recording.
- A panel will review all applications and recommend a small group of artists for Round 2. The panel is composed of a RAWdance board member, advisory board member, company dancer/collaborator, two outside community members, and RAWdance’s three Co-ADs. Five of the eight panelists identify as BIPOC.
- The 2nd round will involve an invitation for several artists to participate in an informal conversation with the Co-ADs to get to know one another better, and begin to discuss specific potential objectives for each prospective Fellow.
- Applications will be available on June 9
- Applications are due on July 7
- Artists will be notified about whether or not they will be asked to have a second round informal conversation by late July
- Final artists will be informed of decisions by early August
- Radiate Fellowship program will begin on or near August 23
Why a referral process?
Why a referral process?
Since this is our first time building a program like this, we had many questions about how to best approach the process of inviting artists to express their interest and participate. While we initially envisioned a general open call, after many valuable discussions with peer leaders, teachers, and advisors, moving forward with a referral process seemed like the best course of action for our pilot year. By connecting with individuals in the dance field who are familiar with us and our work, and requesting that they share this opportunity with eligible artists who they could see benefiting from this experience, it felt like the right balance of outreach and mutual understanding that is required for a brand new program.
Download the application and learn more about the application process and specific applicant eligibility here:
If you have questions regarding the program or the application, please feel free to contact us at FELLOWSHIP@RAWDANCE.ORG.