Raucous Caususes and Imaginary Needs

Two conferences on the creative support of creative artists

In the late 1980s, several hundred people met twice at remote locations on two islands, one on the U.S. east coast and one on the west, to consider “the creative support of the creative artist.” Sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), the first conference was held in May 1986 at Montauk on the eastern tip of Long Island, New York and the second in November 1988 on Orcas Island near the Canadian border in Washington state. These two gatherings brought together artists, arts funders, and dedicated people from organizations that serve artists. For two days (Montauk) or four days (Orcas) they talked, performed, argued, ate together, played together, and tackled critical concerns within and beyond the arts. They also built life-long friendships and professional relationships and provoked questions that remain today.

Long Island

With an interest in tracing the emergence of a national conversation about the place of artists in the system of arts support, Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) commissioned me to write about these two conferences. (The essay itself is available in the conference archive.) My perspective is undoubtedly colored by the fact that I attended the first and was in the whirling center of the second as its coordinator. I’m grateful to Grantmakers in the Arts for the opportunity to bring these two conferences back to mind and to engage in conversations with friends and colleagues who made them happen. — Anne Focke

Orcas Island

What’s here?

In the conference archive you’ll find the essay published by GIA along with some of the original documents from the conferences themselves. Specifically, the archive draws on a nearly 500-page notebook, generated as a result of the conference on Orcas. It contains not only specific materials from the conferences (schedule, participants, summary reports) but also essays commissioned for each, post-conference reflections, and many pages of relevant examples, research, personal stories, and more. A blog is also part of the site and is in the sidebar along with the conference archive.

Pre-internet documents

Because the conferences took place before the internet or even personal computers were in common use, most of the material from the conferences exists only in hard-copy form. So for the most part, that’s what fills the archive here. Many of the high points in the notebook – commissioned essays by artists and others, published research, and so on – aren’t included here due to restrictions of time and resources and also to concerns about copyright and permissions, which were obtained at the time but with no thought to plan for something like the web. The table of contents (in the archive here) provides an overview of what the notebook includes.

More thoughts and questions

Your comments, reflections, corrections, and questions are welcome, either as a comment below or in the blog in the sidebar.

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