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Asking Artists, What Do You Need?


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Asking Artists, What Do You Need?


“Neither of us is alone at the top of the pyramid,” he said. Which is good, because the whole organization is under many pressures.

Ms. Chopra discussed concerns of equity and access — who, for instance, is on the juries and panels that award grants. She and Danielle King, the director of cultural programs, acknowledged the tensions involved in selecting choreographers for Extended Life: the need to give a few artists difference-making support versus the danger of giving the same few artists larger and larger pieces of the pie.

For all these reasons, it matters who is in charge. “What they do and how they do it is completely dependent on their interests,” said Sarah Michelson, an acclaimed choreographer who, as an Extended Life artist, is presenting her new “june2019/” on June 24 and 26.

For months, Ms. Michelson has been rehearsing at an undisclosed council-provided location, making a lot of noise. “I appreciate the space I have in the deepest possible way,” Ms. Michelson said, “but what’s important about Lili is that she’s not afraid to ask hard questions about what artists provide New York City and what New York City provides artists.”

“I feel I can be in partnership with her,” she added. “That is so rare.”

Artists need space and money, but not only that. “If you have the right ideas, you’re going to get space, grants, audience,” said the artist Kamau Ware. “It’s a teach-a-person-to-fish situation.”

Mr. Ware, the founder of the Black Gotham Experience, had already started giving walking tours about the early history of black communities in New York City (like those he’ll give for River to River on June 25) when he got his first residency grant from the council. But it was the council’s idea to find him a retail space in the South Street Seaport. “They saw where my idea could go,” he said, “and everything came together for me.”

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