Perform: ambitious platform boosting Alex. rising artists



Sun, 03 Dec 2017 - 02:36 GMT


Sun, 03 Dec 2017 - 02:36 GMT

One of the workshops conducted by Perform with founder Iman Zaki in the middle – photo courtesy of “Perform” official Facebook page

One of the workshops conducted by Perform with founder Iman Zaki in the middle – photo courtesy of “Perform” official Facebook page

CAIRO – 3 December 2017: In the midst of cultural centralization in Cairo, social and political tensions, and a decrease in available resources and spaces, performing artists in Alexandria are struggling to restore the status of the live arts in Egypt. Addressing this issue directly is an Alexandrian-based consultancy office for performing arts called Perform.

Brainchild of Iman Zaki, a theater graduate from Alexandria University, Perform is an ambitious platform that offers consulting for performing arts groups, organizations, and projects. The initiative’s mission is to create a stable and supportive audience for performing artists by offering capacity-building services that help them find and use opportunities that keep their work active.

Acknowledging the value of Alexandria’s artistic community as interconnected groups in solidarity, a major part of Perform activities involves the development of strong networks for performing artists, providing support when the artists are facing work challenges. These networks work together to come up with strategies to help the groups sustain their work.

While Zaki was attending a training workshop in Berlin arranged by the Goethe Institute in 2015, she began working on a project proposal for Perform, which she submitted to the Goethe Institute in Munich. The institute supported her proposal and funded Perform’s Alexandria office for consultancy services.

The organization aims to empower performing arts groups who are not able to fund their artistic outputs. Much of the training they offer is concerned with providing management skills so as to pursue income-producing opportunities that encourage sponsors and fans to support their work.

Zaki has emphasized in an interview with Egypt Today that there is a clear distinction between commercial show art and performing arts, mentioning that performing arts are concerned with their character of being “live” and involved, and are quite different from the nature of commercial shows, which are more concerned with the show business industry. Examples of performing arts include theater, dance, singing, and circus.

“What actually characterizes Alexandrian performing artists is their commitment to develop their work. Artists are always looking for opportunities to improve their learned arts through workshops and training programs. Even in this particularly difficult climate for performing arts, they have a strong love for their work, and use their passionate energy to spread their message, creating a fulfilling community of artists and their audiences,” Zaki told Egypt Today.

"Alexandrian society contributes to this atmosphere. The city attracts tourists to its cultural hubs, and the locals have acquired a taste for the arts because of their constant exposure to the elements of their artistic city. It is to the extent that, proportionally, Alexandria’s performing arts groups may well outnumber those in Cairo," Zaki explained.

She also pointed out that there is a considerable decrease in the presence and the role of shows in the city saying “There are fewer opportunities for performers, the demand for shows has decreased, and there are fewer available spaces that connect artists with their audiences - a massive blow to performing artists, who are struggling to find opportunities that allow them to profit off their work.”

Artists working with Perform use all opportunities for exposure, like taking on street performances and proactively applying to appear in events and festivals. After all, to sustain their art, they must constantly exist in the public eye, whereas creating a direct connection between artist and audience is a vital factor in the continuation of any art

Stressing on the importance of “Art being truly a part of life,” Zaki added that Perform works with existing performing arts groups through providing space to carry out their activities and achieve the initiative’s mission; such as Reflection of Arts art center in Alexandria in which Perform hosts training sessions as well as programs led by professional artists.

The preparatory phase of the project involved connecting with groups of Alexandria’s performing arts communities. Perform focuses its work on the more common issue among Alexandria’s artists: the absence of a background in managerial skills.

Zaki stated that those groups are not experienced in managing and marketing skills, so they lack the ability to introduce project proposals, promote and market their activities, and sign potential contracts. Consequently, Perform held a number of orientation sessions, attended by 200 groups in total, inviting and encouraging artists to consider their program and discussing the importance of management skills.

The organization is currently working in full capacity building with representatives of 10 groups, mainly in the area of cultural management (which refers to management and policy within the arts and culture industries), to create lasting and sustainable futures for the groups. Their current goal is to train representatives from each of the 10 participating groups to act as managers and gain the training and skills needed to handle the business aspect of their work.

The participating groups will be performing self-produced and self-organized shows in December as part of an eight-day arts forum. The shows will be held in Jesuit Cultural Center in Alexandria. In efforts to manifest shows to audiences, those groups will also be handling all the promotional and marketing responsibilities.

In January, Perform will be hosting a conference with cultural agencies and centers from Egypt and other countries in plans to connect with potential funders and discuss solutions for the challenges that face performing artists in Alexandria.

The organization is currently working on developing an online platform that will display opportunities such as available workshops and training sessions in the city and abroad. The website will also link users to art institutions, generate an updating calendar of artistic events, and bring young artists and spaces together for artistic endeavors.

“When an artist becomes stronger and more visible in the city, it means that it is time for the artist to learn how to navigate through the constant challenges faced,” Zaki added as she explained that the notion of community togetherness is an essential part of Perform’s culture, which is really derived from the culture of art. .

The Perform community mirrors the ideal performing arts community; it consists of performers as well as non-artistic practitioners who all work to give performing artists access to the city’s surface world. As a result, all efforts undertaken by the organization pour into the artist’s well being. Artists can rely on varied forms of community support in times of uncertainty.

Art has a distinct impact on Alexandrian society. Physically, the city has numerous buildings and institutions that are dedicated to teaching arts and creating spaces for artistic expression; less visible in Alexandria is the actual artistic community that is fighting for a secure position among the recognized professions.



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