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Grounds For Sculpture (GFS) was established in 1992 to promote an understanding and appreciation of contemporary sculpture for all people by operating a 35-acre sculpture park containing over 250 works of well-known and emerging American and international artists in central NJ, organizing accessible exhibitions, and interpreting these exhibitions through lectures, workshops and educational programs.
For more than ten years, MM2 Dance Company, located in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania has created dance works for the stage, outdoor landscapes and arts related venues, offering free or subsidized programs in order to make dance more accessible to the public. MM2's mission is to provide emerging dancers with the opportunity to perform in professional venues as well as create choreography, utilizing contemporary movement that connects both dancer and audience in a meaningful, relevant experience.
The inspiration for the development of the collaboration between GFS and MM2 was the result of a dance presentation that occurred seven years ago. Since then, MM2 has served as the resident dance company for GFS, collaborating on 25 programs and serving thousands of persons of all ages. GFS attendees have also had an opportunity to observe the creation of site-specific pieces and works in progress, as MM2 rehearsed and worked at GFS with specific artists/sculptors. The success of this program has given impetus for the expansion of this collaboration.
Direction for this project is through Rena Perrone, Events Coordinator at GFS and Steven Weisz, Founder and Artistic Director for MM2. Rena has worked with Grounds For Sculpture since August of 2007 as their Community Events Coordinator, organizing and executing over 25 concerts, performances and partnership events annually. Drawing on three years of conference planning practices from her time with the Future Business Leaders of America, in addition to box office sales and event production skills acquired with the former Sovereign Bank Arena, she has been instrumental in providing an enjoyable park experience to over 100,000 GFS visitors annually.
Steven has over 30 years of special event planning and marketing experience for major corporations and retailers in his capacity as CEO for Rainbow Promotions Inc. Steven has also been President of Delaware Valley on Line, a regional ISP specializing in web marketing and social media. He is also the founder of PhiladelphiaDANCE.org, the largest resource for dance in the Philadelphia region. Steven is also founder and editor of The Dance Journal with over 150,000 subscribers.
The greatest challenges for both of our organizations are audience development and visibility. By building relationships with existing and potential audiences, through the use of specific collaborative programs, audiences become more engaged with both our organizations and our art forms. Through collaboration we are able to develop a larger community as well as capitalize on shared connections and resources. Visitors to Grounds For Sculpture are urged to seek out participatory experiences. By partnering with MM2 Dance, workshops and programs can be offered that meet that goal. For example, just this year a family workshop was conducted in which guests could create their own bubble wrap sculptures, modeled on the movement of MM2 Dancers and specific dances they created with bubble wrap. The result of this collaboration was an increase in attendance by over 200% over previous family workshops. This collaboration has also reached a new demographic of audience. MM2 Dance, which has a following in the Philadelphia region of Pennsylvania has been able to draw audiences across the bridges in to New Jersey, exposing them for the first time to GFS. Simultaneously, MM2 Dance has also been able to cultivate an audience in New Jersey. Collaborative efforts in press releases, social media marketing and networking among membership has increased visibility significantly for both organizations.
Educational programs and events at GFS are designed to engage visitors of all ages by offering learning experiences that are accessible, meaningful and inviting. They are developed with an eye towards the link between the program and current exhibitions, support of mission, and interpretation of the sculpture park through a variety of artistic disciplines, including dance, music and poetry. Dance with Sculpture has been integral to the interpretation and appreciation of the sculptures on the site. Additionally, this program has provided life enriching experiences to audiences, through the medium of dance and movement, while also developing new dance fans by creating works of artistry that engage and motivate others. Through this collaboration, GFS and MM2 have accomplished the following:
1. Increased participation with other GFS programming – this year MM2 assisted with a family drop-in workshop that was extremely well-received--while weekend drop in workshops usually have about 25 people, this event drew over 100 attendees
2. Further developed “arts partnership” in which MM2 Dance performances enhanced attendance at GFS
3. Continued exposure of audiences to the diversity of arts mediums -- during the month of August, MM2 will combine a photography retrospective of performances at GFS with an actual live performance.
4. Expanded audience outreach throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey region
5. Developed collaborations with artists in other mediums that allow for new ways of presenting art to the general public—this year for our Anniversary Arts Party, MM2 augmented the Meet the Artist Tours with improvisational dance
6. Created new marketing and public relation opportunities for mutual promotion and exposure including on line and print mediums, as well as on Facebook
This model serves as an excellent cross-disciplinary collaboration between dance and the visual arts and has helped to advance the mission of GFS and MM2 Dance. The focus of this collaboration was the development of programs that provides life enriching experiences and engages new audiences as well as retain existing ones. MM2 and GFS continue to develop and implement strategies that builds participation in their organizations; along with developing tools to effectively evaluate the overall success of these strategies. Recognizing the positive impact of shared experiences, it is also the goal of both MM2 and GFS to develop a network for the dissemination of information that will advance participation in arts in each community.
Since 2003, the collaboration between GFS and MM2 has offered 25 cross-disciplinary dance and sculpture programs to the public. This opportunity has allowed each organization to expand its geographic and demographic audiences as well as capitalize on shared connections, financial and operational resources. As the collaboration has evolved and gained visibility, Dance with Sculpture has made it possible for MM2 to raise money from individual donors and corporations. With this additional support, MM2 can provide stipends to their dancers, provide transportation and deliver quality dance programming free of charge to the general public. GFS donates venue space to MM2 for public workshops, open rehearsals and performances, which is a cost savings of over $35,000 in rental fees over the last 7 years. Additionally, GFS’s space lends itself to outdoor and indoor experiences, providing the opportunity for MM2 to serve larger audiences. GFS in turn is able to offer this programming at no additional cost to their membership as well as the general public, increasing the range of family and educational programming. GFS has seen a great response to interactive programming with MM2, including an increase in attendance by over 200% over previous family workshops.
MM2 which has a following in the greater Philadelphia region of Pennsylvania has been able to draw audiences into New Jersey exposing them for the first time to GFS. Simultaneously, MM2 has also been able to cultivate new audiences in New Jersey. In 2010, GFS launched a significant marketing campaign that expanded our regional marketing to include video ads, billboards, improved street and park signage, update materials, and new use of electronic technology. Images of MM2 Modern Dance and the Dance with Sculpture were included in this campaign. These efforts have increased visibility significantly for both organizations. GFS park attendance is up by 40% and on track to hit 150,000 by year-end. Additionally, membership revenues are expected to increase by 23%. Notably, by looking at daily records, GFS has seen an increase in family memberships from those in attendance when MM2 dancers have performed in the park.
Dance with Sculpture has provided new and innovative interpretations and appreciation of the sculptures on the site and led to a deeper appreciation of both art forms. Feedback provided by audience members and participants indicates that the interaction of the dancers with the sculptures and the natural environment creates an aesthetic experience that is life-enriching for all. What started as an informal relationship has evolved into a formal and long-standing collaboration that serves both the greater good and utilizes the economic and operational resources to broaden our audiences and provide quality and cost effective programming.
The inspiration for the development of the collaboration between GFS and MM2 was a result of an informal dance presentation that occurred at GFS more than seven years ago for a small group of 50. Since then, MM2 has served as GFS’s resident dance company, collaborating on 25 programs and serving thousands of persons of all ages. Over time, we have asked ourselves, what is it that makes this combination so special? We feel that the two art forms relate to each other in very interesting ways since both deal with the relationship of the viewer to objects in space and time. The success of this collaboration is a direct result of the formal partnership developed between MM2’s artistic director, GFS’s community events coordinator, and the participation of other staff members. Together, GFS and MM2 created a model that serves as an excellent cross-disciplinary collaboration between dance and the visual arts and has helped to advance the mission of both organizations.
The greatest challenges for both organizations include funding support, developing new and exciting programs and attracting a larger audience. This collaboration has been successful in meeting the above challenges especially with regards to increasing the audience outreach and innovative programming. Last year, MM2 worked with visitors to create their own bubble wrap sculptures modeled on dance movement and choreography, which were then exhibited during a performance in the park. The result was an increase in attendance by over 200% over previous family workshops.
The benefit to the community of this arts collaboration is a new level of engagement between artists and audience. In addition to the creative interaction between GFS artists and MM2 Dancers, audience members are also encouraged to be a part of the creative process and engage in meaningful dialog. During a recent Meet the Artists event, sculptors talked about their works and then allowed MM2 dancers to create interpretive dance pieces that centered around that work. Audience members were invited to provide rules for movement and language inspired by the sculptures, by which improvisational dance was then literally created on the spot. The feedback received from this program was extremely positive and has led to other subsequent improvisational and interactive sessions in the park. As a result of this success, the goal is now to expand on this programming and develop further educational components.
Lastly, MM2 dancers are able to work with artists and art in the park, create new choreography and gain exposure and feedback for their works. Visitors are allowed to participate in free workshops, watch rehearsals and attend dance performances. This feedback and development has also allowed MM2 to take new dance works beyond the park to other major venues. MM2’s recent Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe performance featured two pieces developed from improvisation sessions at GFS.
It is the intention of GFS and MM2 to continue with this collaboration building on the success of this relationship to leverage additional funding to support expanded programming and new ventures. Emphasis will be placed on engagement and education that will increase delivery of services to an even larger and more diverse audience.
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