Space to rehearse and perform. Guest teaching gigs. Relationship building. Deepened college curriculum. Financial support. These are valuable gifts to artists and college departments alike. The CUNY Dance Initiative (CDI), now heading into its sixth year, successfully embraces and supports both artists and students, dance companies and theater/arts departments. They have become a model example of public/private partnerships.
The seed for the project is credited to Kerry McCarthy, vice president for philanthropic initiatives at The New York Community Trust, whose reflection about the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s report “We Make Do” sparked some out-of-the-box thinking about spaces at City University of New York (CUNY) campuses. CDI is based at Queens College and works with 13 colleges and community colleges within the CUNY system—4 dance programs and 9 performing arts centers. CDI’s goal is to connect each resident artist and their project with a variety of departments and student groups across each campus.
Artists can apply for a CDI residency at one of the 13 campuses. Artists can select their choices, and the open call for applications is October 3–November 4 for residencies from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021.
Residencies include studio space, and, frequently, performance opportunities, as well. Through generous funding by several foundations, CDI is able to offer an artist stipend of $500–$3,000, depending on the project. Visiting artists offer master classes, workshops and open rehearsals.
“As a program with a budget for guest artists, CDI has been the primary way we provide workshops to our students,” says Amy Larimer, director of dance at Lehman College (Bronx). “These kinds of residencies have exposed the students to approaches to dance that they might not otherwise know about, and have also provided the program with a way to get to know artists and develop more substantial relationships.”
Over the past five years, the program has offered more than 6,000 hours of studio and stage time for artists. Says director Alyssa Alpine, “Certainly in New York, where space is at a premium, and the cost of it takes a good portion of a company’s budget, we have space, plus we offer access to a new community for artists. Time, space and money—the essentials for dance to flourish. We literally open the doors at the CUNY campuses.”
“CDI gave me the freedom and the space to realize a major production that I have been working toward over the last six years,” says former CDI artist in residence Dušan Týnek, who worked at John Jay College in Manhattan. “Having access to a beautiful theater (basically for free!) for two weeks in New York City was a dream come true.”