Recommended for all first-time Idea Swap participants! The Idea Swap is November 2 at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA. Registration closes tomorrow, October 25.

This session provides an insider’s guide to understanding NEFA and how the Idea Swap supports New England’s presenting and touring field. Past participants will share why Idea Swap is a valuable resource and how to make the most of the day. 

The first time I went completely overwhelmed and intimidated and more and more I feel like this is a lifeline and support system for me. And when I come [to Idea Swap], I'm seeing friends and people I've worked with, and there's a reunion aspect to it and there's new and exciting family members."

-Shoshana Bass, Sandglass Theater


Adrienne Petrillo: Good morning, and welcome to our session on how to make the most out of Idea Swap. I'm happy to welcome you here today. This session will be recorded and shared on our platforms, just for everyone to know that. Before we begin our meeting today, I would like to acknowledge the land on which we are meeting. While we are meeting virtually, the New England Foundation for the Arts, also known as NEFA, our offices are based on the traditional lands of the Massachusett, Wampanoag and Nipmuc people, and we honor their ancestor's past, present, and future and recognize their continued existence and contributions to our society. At NEFA we believe that one of the roles of the arts is to make the invisible visible. We also believe that it is not the responsibility of those who have been made invisible to remind us that they are still here. We also acknowledge that all places where we provide support and hold events are indigenous lands, and we offer our respect to those who have and continue to steward the land on which we meet. We will take a moment to pause and I invite you to reflect on the deep history of these lands and its people. Thank you for joining us today. I'm Adrienne Petrillo, my pronouns are she/her, and I am the senior program director for New England Presenting and Touring at NEFA. I'm joining you today from my home in Massachusetts in Pawtucket land. I am also joined by my colleagues, Falyn Elhard, Jane Preston, Michelle Daly, and Ann Wicks. They will introduce themselves in the chat and I invite you to do the same. I also want to thank our ASL interpreters today, Lisa Gentile and Elizabeth Nadolski. In today's session, we will provide a little bit of context about NEFA's work and the Idea Swap event, and then we'll move into a panel discussion with four people who have attended many Idea Swaps in the past. They will share their experience of attending, how the Idea Swap benefits their work and help to address any questions that folks who are joining us today may have. And hoping we have time at the end, we may go into some very short breakouts so we can do a little bit of informal networking so that you have a chance to meet a few people in person or meet face to face, anyway, before we meet in person at Mechanics Hall in Worcester. So I'm going to pass to my colleague Jane Preston who will share more about NEFA's work.

Jane Preston: Good morning, everyone. As Adrienne said, I'm Jane Preston, I use she/her pronouns, and I am joining also from Pawtucket and Massachusett lands, and I am deputy director for programs at NEFA and really excited to welcome everyone to Idea Swap very soon. And we're glad to have you here today to learn a few things about the event and to learn a bit about NEFA. You may be new to Idea Swap. we don't necessarily assume that you're new to NEFA, but we'll just give a quick rundown and background about our organization. And we started in the mid-'70s, in 1976. We are one of six regional organizations that were founded around the same time. And we are the band between the National Endowment for the Arts and the State Arts Agencies and we receive funding from both and work very closely with the NEA and with the New England, our region's state arts agencies, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Connecticut Arts Commission, Maine Arts Commission, New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and the Vermont Arts Council. We are not a government agency. We are a 501 . And so the foundation part of our name is a bit of a misnomer. We are not a government agency, but we are a grant seeker. We also understand a bit about what that's like. We raise funds so that we can re-grant those funds and redistribute them to artists and organizations in New England and also beyond New England. We have national and international programs as well. So now that we've deconstructed our name, we'd love to give you a sense of the scale of the organization. Last year we awarded almost $6 million in grants and over 400 individual grants, and that was somewhat higher than a usual year, even though in some of our grant programs, we were slightly smaller because of COVID, we also had the opportunity to give a lot of grants through COVID funds, federal funds, and foundation funds provided by the American Rescue Plan. So there's a wide variety of grant amounts, and that all depends on the programs. So we're going to quickly look at programs that are accessible to you. We won't talk about all of them at Idea Swap, but just so you have an overview, let's take a look at the next slide, which shows the programs of the Regional Arts Organizations. As I said, NEFA's one of six. We all have different sizes of regions and populations, but we do a lot collaboratively. And there are programs that are run by other organizations, other regional arts organizations, that you also have access to. So some of them are support for artists, some are to tour internationally, to host artists from other countries. Presenting native artists. There's an incentive to present native touring artists and jazz residencies. And we're also doing some strategic leadership development initiatives, the Leaders of Color Fellowship program, which is new to our region this year. So there is a website that has a map that shows all of this and goes into greater detail about each of our programs. But we'll quickly focus on the rundown of NEFA programs on the next slide. And NEFA's different programs include New England States Touring, which will be the focus. That's the program that's really spotlighted at the Idea Swap. It is also known as NEST, so you'll hear a lot of references to NEST, the New England States Touring program. We have CreativeGround, which has just been relaunched our online directory of artists and creatives in the region. We have a Public Art program, pretty extensive partnerships in public art throughout the region. National Dance Project and National Theater Project, our national programs. And Center Stage, which is a cultural exchange program internationally that is produced by the Department of State in partnership... Actually, we produce it, we partner with the Department of State to identify the priorities for that program and for the funding for that program. So we're not going to go into great depth in any of these areas today except for giving you an overview of Idea Swap. The website has information, and then you're coming to this great event. All of our programs and departments will have staff at the Idea Swap. So if you want to learn more about anything that NEFA does, just walk up to any of us, the staff will be identified, come up to anyone and we will introduce you to the person who can really focus on answering your question. And the point really is that, the staff love to talk with folks in the field. That's the best part of our job. And we really want to be approachable and want to have a relationship with you, so please come up and talk to us and we'll look forward to meeting you there. I think I'm turning it back to, Adrienne.

Adrienne: Yes, thank you, Jane. So we are going to talk a little bit today about NEFA's Idea Swap. This is our 20th annual Idea Swap event, and we are thrilled that we will be back in person this year at Mechanics Hall in Worcester. The Idea Swap is an opportunity for New England presenting organizations and touring artists to meet and to share ideas about projects and artists that might be touring the New England region. And then some of those projects turn into applications for NEFA's NEST 3 program. NEST 3 is a grant program. There are, as Jane mentioned, New England States Touring or NEST. There are three versions, NEST 1, 2, and 3. We were very creative with the naming. But Idea Swap will primarily be focused on NEST 3, which provides grants to support the presentation of artists from anywhere in the world, touring to at least three communities in New England and at least two different New England states. And so presenting organizations must work together to submit applications for NEST 3. Each organization submits their own application. And the Idea Swap is where a lot of those conversations begin. And so organizations in New England are highly encouraged to attend Idea Swap, learn more about potential tours, there's an opportunity to find out what your peers and colleagues are doing, as well as identify tour partners for artists, for presenters. If you have a project that you're looking to tour and you're hoping for grant support, it's a great opportunity to meet other folks and start those conversations. Several weeks ago we did an in depth webinar about the NEST 3 grant opportunity, so I'm not going to go into detail on that today, but that webinar is posted on our website and I highly recommend reviewing that. We talked a lot about the grant guidelines, eligibility, what makes for a competitive application. All of our guidelines are also on our website and you're welcome to review those there. So today we're really focused on Idea Swap. And first question we always get is, who attends Idea Swap? So on November 2nd in Worcester, we expect about 150 people from across New England, and this includes presenting organizations, meaning those who book artists to perform in their communities, in their venues, and they're of all different shapes and sizes across the region. You'll see university art centers, you'll see small volunteer run groups and everything in between. We will also have many touring artists and ensembles based in New England, including artists who are eligible for our NEST program. As I mentioned, there are different variations of NEST, including NEST 1 and 2, which is primarily focused on New England artists, and NEST 3, which is an opportunity to present artists from anywhere. We are also joined by service organizations such as our partners at the New England State Arts Agencies, so it can also be a nice opportunity to connect with those folks. And then finally, as Jane mentioned, NEFA staff, most of us will be there in person. I think this might actually be the largest gathering of NEFA staff in person we've had since the pandemic started, and it is in part because an event of this scale really takes support across our whole organization. But we're all there and we're happy to talk to you about any aspect of NEFA's work. So a little bit about what happens the day of Idea Swap. The majority of the day is made up of what we call project presentations. So after a welcome from some special guests, we will have project presentations both in the morning and the afternoon, and we have asked participants to submit their project ideas via our online event platform, Whova. At this point, I think we've had 50 or so projects submitted, maybe even more since I made these notes. And so 15 have been selected for formal presentations. These presentations will be five minutes long. And for anyone who's been in the past, know they are exactly five minutes long. We will time everyone. It is how we stay on track during the day. And an artist or a presenting organization during those five minutes will share about a project they're excited to share with you, and that will include showing video of the work or a work in progress or something to give a better sense of what the project will be. In the afternoon, we will have breakout groups with what we call Mini Swaps. So these are shorter, more informal project presentations, there are three breakout groups, and folks who have been selected for those will have four minutes to really just stand up and talk to a smaller group of people about their project. There won't be any video or tech involved. It's a really informal opportunity to just hear about some additional projects. Our CreativeGround team will also be available throughout the day at Idea Swap. They can show you the site. And it is great to take a look if you haven't in while because it has recently had a big upgrade. It looks beautiful. They will help you update your profile. And CreativeGround is a really good tool for helping to continue building your networks beyond Idea Swap. And then at the very end of the day, there will be an optional social hour to do just the informal networking and keep the conversation going, so we hope you'll stick around for that. So that really... All we wanted to do was to cover sort of what happens in Idea Swap and move into more a discussion portion. But just as a reminder, you're welcome to contact anyone on the New England Presenting and Touring team. That's myself, Falyn Elhard, and Michelle Daly. We're all here through Idea Swap and can answer any of your Idea Swap questions. And then finally, we want to make sure that we thank our funders, the National Endowment for the Arts and the six New England State Arts Agencies are key partners in all of our New England work and we are so grateful for their partnership and support. And finally, our sponsors for this year's Idea Swap. We have had wonderful sponsors who are helping make the event possible, and so we just want to take a moment to recognize. Eastern Bank, Zevin Asset Management, Trillium Asset Management, Your Part-Time Controller, Melanson and Peabody Office. So with that, we're going to conclude the presentation portion of this meeting and move into a discussion, which I think is the more interesting part of the day. I'll just wait for our... We have four panelists who are joining us, and I'll just give it a minute for them to all get joined in the center here. And we are also going to be joined by Michelle Daly who has been working with the New England team for the past several months, especially in helping to plan Idea Swap. Michelle is a producer, a manager and artist, and has attended Idea Swap as a participant and is now helping to organize and she also brings a unique perspective to this conversation.

Michelle Daly: And I'm here, but I think maybe we can only pin six people. So, I... Yeah.

Adrienne: Thank you. So I'm going to start by asking our four panelists to introduce themselves very briefly because we want to try to stay on time. And so just to talk a little bit about why you do what you do, why you come to Idea Swap, how it works, and just the sort of short overview of who you are. So we'll start with Ali.

Ali Kenner Brodsky: Hello. Thank you for having me, Adrienne, and NEFA staff. I'm Ali Kenner Brodsky, I use the she/her pronouns and... Let's see. I'm artistic director of Ali Kenner Brodsky & Company and co-producer at Motion State Arts, which is an arts organization based in Providence, Rhode Island. Adrienne, I've already forgotten what you wanted me to say.

Adrienne: Anything... Do you want to just say a little something about your work as an artist and your work-

Ali: Sure, yeah. Yeah, sorry. I'm a choreographer and dancer. I've been working for 20 plus years just making emotionally driven dance theater works. I've been based in New England now for 13 years, and I think I got connected with NEFA shortly after I arrived back to Rhode Island. I now live in Massachusetts. Been going to Idea Swap now for 10 years, I believe. And that's probably good for now, yeah? Okay.

Adrienne: That's great. Great. Sabrina, would you like to go next?

Sabrina Hamilton: Sure. Sabrina Hamilton, she/her/hers, and I have attended Idea Swap for at least 10 years, wearing both a presenter hat and a touring artist hat. And I'm usually there as the artistic director of the Ko Festival of Performance, which has been a 31-year-old festival devoted to themed seasons of original devise theater, usually presented on either the Amherst or the Hampshire College campus, independent though from them. And also presenting workshops, rehearsal residencies, and a new program of capacity building residencies and off season doing production and artistic services for various artists. And we're small but we have gained a lot from attending Idea Swap over the years and it's been a very empowering process.

Adrienne: Great, thank you. And, Rob, do you want to go next? And maybe also just give a little bit... 'Cause you are at a university, and sometimes there are assumptions about the infrastructure that exists at universities, so maybe you can also just share a little bit about how your programming works and your staffing as well.

Rob Richter: If I only knew. Hi, I'm Rob Richter, and I'm director of arts programming at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. I use he/him pronouns. I have been to Idea Swap since the beginning. Missed... I have missed one. I might have missed a virtual one, sorry, but I think I registered for it. And we have a multidisciplinary performing arts series that I curate bringing in music, theater, and dance. I'm actually housed, I mean, I think some colleges and universities, the performing arts series is more a PR side of the organization, of the university, bringing in, trying to get people from off campus onto campus. But I'm actually housed in the academic side, and so we support the academic curriculum. Fortunately for me, we have an adventurous academic performing arts department and art department, so I get to bring in those things or more artistically challenging or innovative. But it's walking a fine line of, is ticket sales still supporting the budget? I mean, I have a budget from the college but that's only a portion of our operating budget, so we need to bring in the community as well. So with all of the artists we bring in, we do some form of academic, some form of residency program or engagement program. I think that's probably enough for the moment.

Adrienne: Great, thank you. And Shoshana, you want to bring it home, talking a little bit about what you do, 'cause like Ali, you have a couple of... And Sabrina, you have a couple of hats, which is pretty typical.

Shoshana Bass: Yeah, a whole shelf full. I'm Shoshana Bass, she/her/hers, and I'm the artistic director of Sandglass Theater. Yes, we are a presenting organization, we are also creators and advisors of original work working primarily with puppets and ensemble with puppets. We also teach and do residencies and educational work. So we span many places and I was just sitting here thinking, oh, I really feel when I go to the Idea Swap that we can be a complex identity, and that's really nice 'cause I think that there's a number of us out there that need to sustain ourselves by being multidimensional. So we are that. And I am newer than most of you to Idea Swap, but it's been kind of handed down as, it was introduced to me in slow stages. And I started going together with my father who's the founder of our theater, and we've been in a transition for the last six years of the company, and NEFA has been a big part of that transition. I'm actually right now Zooming in from, I'm on tour right now through a mutual funded program. So it's really imbued in everything that we do on all facets of our identity.

Adrienne: Great, thank you. So I'm curious, and anyone can start this, why you make the time to come to Idea Swap? How does it support your work? Who wants to jump in?

Rob: I'll jump in. So I mean for us... Sorry Ali, if you were about to jump. So for me, it's really twofold. To reconnect with colleagues who, reconnect or meet new ones, particularly I think there's been a lot of change in the New England presenting arts community in the past few years. So it's to meet new colleagues, reconnect with old colleagues or veteran colleagues and to see what kind of partnerships that we might develop together in either presenting or otherwise. And then the other part is really to be exposed to artists that I don't know about and ideas for projects or presenting artists. And those ideas I think come to me from the projects that are being presented in the project presentations or even the Mini Swaps, but also that opportunity to talk to colleagues to hear what they're thinking about. It might not be something that's being presented there. And I do have to say, until relatively recently, we have not presented many New England artists, and that's more because of our geography and our focus to bring things to the region from much further afield, from much farther away and things that would not normally be seen in our own region. So sometimes we are presenting an artist that their engagement with us might be their only engagement in New England, certainly their only engagement in Connecticut. So it's that sharing of ideas. I guess that's why it's called an Idea Swap. So those are my two primary objectives.

Adrienne: Yeah. Sabrina, do you want to build on that a little bit? 'Cause you've also done a mix at Ko Festival, you've had long relationships with artists including New England artists, but you've also come to Idea Swap and talked about other projects and built partnerships with other presenters for artists from further afield.

Sabrina: Yeah, we do do that mix and one of the things that I found really useful is to sort of figure out what the ecology of the presenting world is. Like, who are sort of pure organizations in terms of budget, who are pure organizations in terms of when they present within a summer festival. So things like that. Learning about best practice. Also as a smaller presenter, sometimes hearing about larger projects that we could only conceive of as part of a NEST 3 kind of thing, and thinking about ways that we could be innovative and do what I call value added presenting to bring in some of the larger groups. So we will give artists as much money as we can, but we also think about what else do artists need? Do they need a vacation in the country with their family? With babysitting? Do they need videotapes of their group? Do they need... Of their piece. Do they need a lighting design that they can then take away with them and use in the future? What kinds of things can we provide? So part of it is getting the lay of the land that way. And also, going to the Swap, there are times when artists perform as part of the Swap. And I actually picked up a piece from that Sokeo Ros's piece, which we ended up premiering. I was sure that all these larger presenters would've grabbed this project because it was such a compelling presentation. And when I saw him the next year, nobody had, and so we got to premiere it, and that was just an honor and a wonderful thing to do. So part of it is that local part so that I'm really thinking across the NEST, the different NEST levels. So New England artists for the lower budgeted NEST 1, 2 kinds of things, and then NEST 3 for artists that are usually from further a field.

Adrienne: Great, thank you. And Ali and Shoshana, so you both play dual roles as presenting artists, but you're also both touring artists. And a lot of artists come to Idea Swap and it can be challenging sometimes. And it is... I always say it's the start of a relationship, but I'm wondering if either of you would be willing to share a little bit about why you come and sort of how this fits into your touring work and building relationships.

Ali: I'll jump in if that's okay. So I started going to Idea Swap when I was new to the region and I thought it just gave me a better sense of what was going on in the landscape of New England. I had been in New York for a long time, so I didn't really know what was was going on with New England. And as an artist, you send out a lot of emails to people, and sometimes you don't hear anything, and Idea Swap is a really nice time to introduce yourself and get that face to face time and say, "Oh, I'm the one that's been hounding you in your inbox." And I find that really valuable and I really look forward to that year after year now that I've been in the region for a bit and been doing things. And I have to say, as a receiver of many NEST grants, NEST has made it possible for me to move my work around New England in a way that wouldn't be possible on my own. That's as a performing artist. Little did I know when I was at Idea Swap, however many years ago it is now. Maybe 2015 or 14 I met David Henry, who at the time was at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. He was the producer of the dance performance there. And we struck up a relationship, we became very friendly, we meet for coffee. And now in 2022, or in 2019, I brought him on to Motion State Arts. As he was walking out the door of the ICA retiring, I said, "Hey, David, you're not done. Come and help us start Motion State Arts," which is a dance film. We produce a dance film series in Providence as well as a yearly dance festival, and David has been integral in that and that relationship was built at Idea Swap. And little did I know when we met, that so many years later, that was going to be an invaluable relationship to me. I guess for me as an artist, you just don't know where these relationships are going to lead. When you meet someone, have a conversation, eat lunch together, whatever, you just don't know, a year, two years, three years down the road, like, what that relationship yields. It's just been really valuable.

Adrienne: Thanks. Shoshana, did you want to respond to that as well?

Shoshana: Sure. The three words that come to mind to me are relationship, inspiration, and synergy as reasons to attend in kind of an overarching thing. For Sandglass Theater, and again, with the different hats, we bring in international artists for our international festival. And for those, it's been really essential to have other partners in that. I want to shout out some people in the room. I see Mayo Street Arts, Next Stage and Ko Festival of course here. And these kind of relationships that often are prompted by gatherings, like you were saying, Ali, they continue and they emerge, they continue to emerge. So I think the continued visiting and check in of a yearly event like this really serves something longer. So I think for me, because of the multiple identities, I go into Idea Swap really opened toward what might emerge and what connections might evolve or suddenly spark, and not try to treat Idea Swap as the place everything needs to be finalized and happen, but just to stay, to kind of have a finger on the pulse. And I think it's also a way that we check in with the greater field, especially regionally and like check that everyone's doing okay and surviving and have a kind of finger on the pulse of our sector and what questions people are asking and what they're dealing with both as presenters and as artists. One big piece for me that's become really vital, both as a touring artist and as a presenter, has to do with the fact that we live in a very rural place. And to bring an artist from afar is a rather expensive and big thing to do. Also to work here as an artist, it's important that we have really strong networks. So to work together on tours or places where an artist can come from outside the community, not just for one gig and then fly home, which I think is, we're in a new reality where also in regards to the climate, that is not a sustainable model and we need to really think of different ways to be working together and addressing pretty pressing needs of our time, I think, in terms of how artists move around and tour and perform. So that's a big passion of mine that I think that this organization in particular really has access to doing something about. As an artist, for me, that often means two presenters that I've been talking to separately that don't know... That I have the opportunity to take both of them and say, "Hey, we meet each other. How can you work together on a tour for this piece that serves all parties in the process and really lets you share costs and do stuff like that?" So I find myself as an artist bringing together presenters. I find myself as a presenter really finding where the advocacy piece is in terms of the sustainability of this model and just taking care of our wider field a little bit. So those are the things that spring to mind for me right now.

Sabrina: Can I add one more thing, which is... Yes, as Shoshana was saying, advocating for artists that you love. And I love wearing my Yenta hat, but also being seen as an artist the Idea Swap context sometimes is really effective. A show that I was with that had performed at my festival, and Aris was picked up by a presenter in a much larger house but in the community next door. And if we hadn't been at Idea Swap, that never would've happened. When I was looking for a touring opportunities, I would never would even have approached that presenter, but the project really struck her and that's how that happened.

Adrienne: Michelle, you, like many people here, are wearing lots of hats including as NEFA staff right now too, is there anything about why you have attended Idea Swap or what you think is valuable that we haven't touched on?

Michelle:  I think the one thing I would add is, I think similar to Ali, I started coming in like 2014, 2015, and I was a brand new presenter who kind of got thrust into a role that at that time I probably wasn't completely prepared for. And just Idea Swap and just meeting this network of artists and colleagues in New England was so helpful for me as I was finding my footing as a presenter and also sort of my curatorial and creative voice. And just like, repeatedly over the years, I feel like that strengthened, and it's really exciting for me now to kind of be on the other side of it, of helping make Idea Swap a reality for this year.

Adrienne: Great, thank you. So, I'm sure a question that a lot of folks have, 'cause I get it when people call me about Idea Swap, is how as an artist, what's the best way for an artist to build a relationship with presenters? So, for any of you, either your artist hat, your presenter hat, any thoughts on like how do you approach presenters and start to build that relationship? Yes, Shoshana.

Shoshana: I would say, do your research before the Swap about who's going to be there. Look up their organizations, and before just mass emailing anybody who's on the presenter list, go to the website, look at what work they present, what programs they have, what excites you, what might align with what you do. And I think that's a really, really important step because then there's an authentic connection that can happen about, I'm working on this project and I saw that you're serving these communities that I think would really benefit for this, and can we talk about what that may look like? I mean, there's nothing like, we all know what happens when creatives get into a room together and can just have like free time to dream and network and think. So for me that's a really important piece of allowing us to do that well.

Adrienne: Yep, I think that's a great suggestion and you gave me a perfect place to plug our CreativeGround website, which also gives you the opportunity to look up cultural organizations in New England and learn more about their work. Sabrina, Rob, Ali, anything else you would add to that?

Rob: I want to add something that Shoshana just said in terms of doing your research. And that's hard. I mean, it takes time. But I had... And the question that Adrienne posed is, many artists have asked me, and I don't have a good answer, but there was an artist that reached out to me via email. And I mean, I get at least a hundred emails a day from artists unsolicited, and how do you wade through them all? I mean, early on in my career when there were less emails I thought I have to answer every single one, and it's not possible. And I had an artist who, not from New England, who reached out to me maybe six weeks ago and I thought, oh, I need to respond, I need to respond. I never did. And then I got another email from him saying, "Are you ignoring me? I've been in this business too long to be ignored." And I'm like, well... So he did get my attention and I did respond, and I said, well, I've been in this business a long time too and I respect artists and I've been busy. And so I think it's so tough as an artist to put yourself out there. And I think what he did not do was he didn't look at our website to see what types of artists we present. And I will respond more quickly to somebody who it's within the realm of what we do. I mean, we don't do family programming. And when somebody pitches family programming to me, I don't even respond. So it is that research. It's making that personal connection. I mean, I am more likely to respond if somebody addresses it to me and names me or has some frame of reference to what we do. It's not a guarantee, but it's that connection that we have met. And I might need to be reminded that we've met. And so it's a challenge. But I think it's the research, it's the connection, and it's some perseverance. And I sort of feel like there's some other thought that I don't remember now, but I will stop there and maybe we'll come back to me.

Sabrina: I think it's important to use lunch and all those times around the actual formal sessions and to take a big breath and overcome shyness and to not just hang with the people that you know to be brave that way, but also as the day goes on is sort of, who's sort of in your performance ecology and to prioritize meeting those folks? I find it really useful when artists have something that I can take with them, whether I like a one sheet or a business card or a something so that I have a thing because then it sits up on my desk and looks back at me. And I like that, and it lets me know where to go for more. I think it's really useful when artists, and one of the ways that you can show that you've done your homework is when you say, you come up to us and say, oh, I see that you presented such and such, they're old friends of mine, or we do really similar work or how did it go when you presented that... So that you're finding a bridge that way, that you're introducing yourself by putting yourself on a map for them rather than just being your own sort of island in the field, is useful too. And then taking notes and doing the follow up. It's really good to have something to, some way, whether it's your phone or a piece of paper, to jot it down, and particularly names. Because sometimes presenters will mention other presenters or artists will mention people who are not there and so you don't have it on any of the documentation of the event, so have a way to record those kinds of bits of useful information.

Michelle: That's awesome information, Sabrina. I just wanted to add, we are using Whova platform this year, which I think all of you have probably at least dipped your toes into at this point. And, yes, that's to share sort of all your project information, but also as the sessions go through the day, there's places in the app to take notes. We're going to be doing the project interest survey through the app, so for those who feel comfortable in that technology, it's going to be a great resource for people who have a preference for pen and paper to make sure you bring your notebook.

Adrienne: Ali, did you want to add something?

Ali: I was just going to say, when I first started going, I don't think I knew anyone and it was really... And I know, Adrienne, you do a very good job of seating people now at tables. And so I would think it's really great just to talk to the people at your table and that kind of, is really nice because then when you say what you do, they're like, "Oh, did you meet blah blah blah." And I've had people literally walk me over to meet Kelsey at Space Gallery, which you all did. We'll be there next month, and so, yeah. And, Sabrina, the lunch line is a really great place to chat. And I also find after Idea Swap, at the little kind of informal gathering where people are just a little bit more relaxed, is also a really great place to just introduce yourself. And I also agree, it's hard to go up to people and say, "Hi, I'm so and so," but this is the place to do it. It's sort of almost expected, people want that. And so, yeah, it's hard 'cause some of us are a little, could be shyer, but it's also could yield again a really great relationship that you can build on. And I think I met you there, Sabrina and Rob.

Sabrina: Yes, and I so remember when you first started coming, I mean, I, to this day, remember your energy and we would like really meet people and look them in the eye and really present yourself but you didn't like pin people down. You were really, really good at that.

Ali: Thank you. If anyone-

Sabrina: Like, memorable all these years later.

Ali: Oh, thank you. I'm always happy to chat with anyone, so if anyone is here and is new, when you see me, come and chat, I'm always out for a good chat. So.

Rob: I want to just quickly comment on the shy factor. I mean I think we're all kind of... The perception is that we're all out there and we're bold, but many of us are not. And I... I don't know how people perceive me, but I am shy. Maybe I don't sound like it now, but in those sort of large groups settings, and so, on both sides, and not that there's sides but yes there are, I mean, we're all in this together and we all have the same goal and objective to present the best performances that we can as presenters and as artists. But there is that shy factor. And somebody might be aloof, and it's for a different reason. So, anyway.

Adrienne: Right. So I just want to ask one last question before we move into some informal networking, which people have already alluded to. That's a big part of Idea Swap as well. But there are... So Idea Swap I think is clear as the beginning of a lot of conversations or a chance to check in with folks, and I'm wondering, this is not the only opportunity that exists. This is the opportunity NEFA has put together, but would any of you like to just share about other networks or opportunities or things you're part of where you also get a chance to continue conversations and build relationships? And I'll put you on... Okay.

Ali: Yeah. Well, so I also met Randy Fippinger at Idea Swap, and I guess it was right when the pandemic started. He pulled me in, so now I'm on the board of New England Presenters as secretary, which has been a really great learning experience for me as I began producing through Motion State Arts and sort of really understanding the landscape of what that is. That's been really an amazing organization to be a part of, so for our newer presenters out there, if you don't know about New England Presenters, find me or talk to me.

Sabrina: I've found, in addition to New England Presenters, the Network of Ensemble Theaters, which Sandglass is also a part of, and so much of our programming has come through that national organization, Network of Ensemble Theaters. There's one other thing I really wanted to add 'cause I found it incredibly useful, which is when artists were able to present different tiers of their project with different price points. So, like, here's the full blown thing, and then here's the smaller version, here's the thing with just the week long residency, and that has allowed me to partner with other presenters of different scales for a NEST 3. And I've noticed in the mini breakouts, artists doing that more, and I find that a really, really, really useful tool.

Adrienne: Great. Thanks, Sabrina. Rob, Shoshana, other... We've talked about Network of Ensemble Theaters, New England Presenters.

Rob: I mean, I think New England Presenters has been crucial for me and I've been involved, I mean, I was president years ago, and it's been a great network. There's also APNNE, Arts Presenters of Northern New England, which, since I'm in southern New England, I'm not as involved with, but certainly have worked with people with APNNE, and there's overlap between them in New England Presenters. And then the Regional Booking Conferences. And I try to go to APAP, Association of Performing Arts Professionals Conference in New York, in January every year. I mean, and it's huge and it's overwhelming and it's tough and it's not cheap, but it's been valuable for me. And I think the very first time, and I've actually pretty much been going since '99. My very first time going, I had sort of an informal mentor, not an official mentor, even though they do have mentors, who said... And I was not booking at the time, I was there to learn. And so I walked, she said, "Okay, walk around. Have a folder and walk around with your folder over your name tag so people don't know who you are, and so you can just observe and watch, and people won't... They're not like, "Ooh, Connecticut College, I need to talk to you." Now, I have been challenged over the years with some people saying, "You're covering up your name tag and I don't know who you are," but it is sort of... I think the first time you go, it's a great opportunity, but take it in small doses. Orient yourself first is my suggestion.

Shoshana: Great. Yeah, I'd like to support two things you just said, Rob. One is a mentor, like, having a conference buddy is a really wonderful thing because of all the things we just talked about of how overwhelming and intimidating it can be. And just to have someone you're checking in with. You go off, he checks in with you. Go off, you check in. Or maybe someone who's done the conferences more times that you know who you can ask, "Will you kind of be my buddy?" I think is a really supportive, lovely thing to have. And then the other piece you mentioned... Just left my head. It's gone. In terms of networks, I think.. Well, for any artist or presenter, your network kind of depends and is informed by what disciplines you work in. And I think it's important for us to think about networks outside of the arts and culture sector as well as the networks that we function in. I think that many theaters function in their town, municipalities, and many people function in collaboration with agricultural... Wherever you are, so that we expand the thinking of what networks can be and how we coexist and support each other that way. Sandglass is a partner with the National Performance Network as well, who I'd like to shout out into the room, who are doing incredible work for artists that are focused, and presenters focused on anti-oppression work, social justice work. We have a consortium of puppet enthusiastic presenters in the region, we have an international puppetry network, so there's many different layers of networks. And I'm on the board of the Network of Ensemble Theaters that Sabrina mentioned. So if anyone wants to talk deeper about that, I'm always happy to talk about the kind of ethos and value system of that network. And, oh, I remember what the thing was, was also what Rob said, that this is like not a one-off thing, this is a long-term, long relationship of a network that builds over time. And for me, with all these networks, the first time I went completely overwhelmed and intimidated and more and more I feel this is like a lifeline and support system for me. And when I come, I'm seeing friends and people I've worked with, and like there's a reunion aspect to it and there's new and exciting family members. I treat everything maybe a little too personally like family, but that's how I was raised. And that there's... just is... That you treat it like a long term thing. It doesn't all have to... It won't all happen the first time. And certain overlaps happen with the different networks we're part of that I think strengthen us more and more. And I just love this idea. Yeah, we're all in it together so there's no like us and them. And it's very different from APAP for example, which is, to me, just too much, and there's not much I can do with that. But this idea that there is like a united goal that we have is a really beautiful way to approach it. So thanks for saying that, Rob. I'm going to take that nugget with me.

Rob: it's conversation and having conversation. And I was on the phone with an artist manager that I've worked with for many years the other day, and she had her projects that she was pitching. And then we got into just conversation, and she said, "Will you be at AAP this year?" I'm like, "Actually this year, I'm not going to be." "I'm going to be in Cambodia." And that's a long story, but... And she's like, "Huh, there's another project that I never would've thought to have asked you about." And it's with some... It's a Paul Dresher Ensemble working with some Cambodian dancers and the apsara. And I'm like, "Oh, yeah, apsara." And so it's that casual conversation that sometimes is the more fruitful. And so it's... We're human beings, all of us, and sometimes in those settings, we do put up some barriers, but we're human beings. Some conversation is key.

Adrienne: Yeah, and I think that is a perfect segue. So we do want to go into just some small breakouts. We're going to just do some randomized breakouts and just have a chance for folks to meet each other, connect prior to arriving in Worcester. And so as you go into your breakouts, we ask that you just go around and do introductions, your name, affiliation, if you have one, pronouns, and what you're most looking forward to at Idea Swap. And so we'll give you just a few minutes to do those conversations. But I want to thank Sabrina, Rob, Ali and Shoshana. That was an amazing conversation, and we really appreciate you taking the time to be with us today.

Rob: I think we all need to thank NEFA for everything NEFA does.

Adrienne: Thank you, Rob. And we're looking forward to seeing everyone in person too and having those conversations. So I think it may just take a minute with the technology, but for folks that can stick around, we'll do some short little breakouts and give you a chance to chat.