RadArt – A story about breaking the barrier

RadArt was set up in 2004 as a collaborative local network for independent performing artists in Tromsø. The purpose was to «facilitate and stimulate the production of contemporary Norwegian and international performing arts and projects that take the performing arts to new levels».

From day one Rådstua Theatre House, situated in the centre of Tromsø, has been the heart of the organisation. It offers office space, venues, rehearsal rooms, a café, storage space and a collaborative community of independent artists. The rental costs were a present to the new organisation from Tromsø Council; which has become an annual occurence.

The starting point for RadArt was to create a new type of artist organisation that would bring together everyone who is connected to the independent performing arts field in the Tromsø region: actors and dancers, visual artists and musicians, producers and technicians. All types of forms and expressions were welcome: dance, theatre, performance, story-telling, stand-up.

The name of this new network organisation was subject to many discussions. We wanted a name that would really stand out. It had to work just as well in English as it did in Norwegian. Suggestions such as «Tromsø Performing Arts Forum» were rejected because it reminded people too much of the «North Norwegian Performing Arts Forum» which had short-lived success a few years prior. It was important to find a name that would make the new organisation stand out from traditional associations or interest groups. The organisation would be a practical community that would result in cooperation and more innovative performing arts.

It was Lawrence Malstaf who came up with the name RadArt. The name has several connotations: RadArt is a radar that receives and sends national and international signals. RadArt can also refer to an abbreviation for radical art, and it is linked to Rådstua.

Since the very beginning activity and members have constantly grown, and RadArt is emerging as an important platform for its 81 members and 13 support members.

Activity during the first years
RadArt was originally run on a voluntary basis. A lot of work was put into different projects that would bring together culture, business and academia in Tromsø. Eventually, these initiatives were taken over by other institutions, but the work and results they created helped to raise awareness of the necessities for cultural development in Tromsø, which was an important factor for the creation of the Tromsø City Council Culture Business Fund – INTRO. This came about in 2010 and quickly became an important source for funding projects run by RadArt. In 2012 the Sparebank 1 Nord-Norge’s Culture Business Foundation was set up, and also became major financial support for the cultural businesses in RadArt.

RadArt was prepared and ready when these schemes were set up.

New organisation from 2009 – RadArt becomes a project network
In 2009 it became clear that RadArt had to make an effort to strengthen the profesional independent performing arts position in Tromsø, and especially at the Rådstua Theatre House. In order to do this, funds were needed as the workload was too much to be run solely by volunteers. RadArt therefore launched the three-year «Project RadArt». The project had three main objectives:

• Demonstrate the quality and variety of independent performing arts
• Professionalise and increase the number of guest performances and performing arts productions
• Provide courses and professional for RadArts members

Tromsø City Council also became a partner. They contributed with part-time project leaders for three years. An important premise was that the activities should be based on the initiative and the will of the members.

«Project RadArt» was a catalyst in the early development of RadArt which is still an ongoing process. Set designer and producer Hege Pålsrud was hired as the first project leader. In spring 2011 performance artist and producer Kristina Junttila took over the position. The management of «Project RadArt» was lead by Kristin Bjørn for the entire time, with representatives from the board of RadArt, Rådstua and Tromsø City Council as members. The culture business funds from INTRO and SNN would later become important sources of funding as well as the Norwegian Arts Council and Tromsø City Council.

Cooperation with Rådstua Theatre House
After three years «Project RadArt» could be summed up as a resounding success. The cooperation with Rådstua Theatre House had created a win-win situation for both parties. The platform for cooperation was formulated as partners at the turn of 2011-2012:

Tromsø Council has given Rådstua Theatre House a particular responsibility for independent performing arts.
Rådstua and RadArt have a similar variety of programmes that organise national and international guest performances.

We work together on courses and workshops with guest artists. As often as possible we work with other partners such as Hålogaland Amateur Theatre Company (HATS) Resource Centre for Cabaret and Theatre, and the Art Academy in Tromsø.

By using each other’s strengths, we strive to create projects that promote and reinforce independent performing arts in the region: artistically, practically and financially.

Other partners
Right from the start RadArt’s focus has been to use existing institutions and schemes. It has never been RadArt’s aim to become the biggest in the industry. As RadArt doesn’t have fixed assets, it has been a natural step to look for partners whose aims match those of RadArt.

HATS Resource Centre for Cabaret and Theatre in Northern Norway became an important partner for courses and professional development from an early stage. Nationally, although not partners in RadArt, the Dance and Theatre Centre and ProScen also played an important role, especially towards the beginning.

Advertising agency Rød Tråd (Red Thread), Hålogaland Theatre, Tromsø library, the Kurant and Small Projects galleries, DanseArena Nord and especially the Forum for Northern Norwegian Dancers are all examples of partners that have been essential in increasing the awareness and availability of performing arts in the region.

Activity and finance
From the reorganisation in 2009 the number of members in RadArt has hit the roof; from 15 members at the beginning of 2009 to 75 by the end of 2011. This rise in activity and the opportunities that have been set up in the city has meant that many have decided to establish or re-establish themselves in Tromsø. Several key members have even come back to Tromsø with their families to establish their career after having studied in other cities or abroad.

Rådstua Theatre Company and RadArt’s revenues almost tripled over the first few years, from about 1 million kroner (£95,000 €120,000) in 2008 to 3 million (£290,000 €360,000) in 2011, and this trend is still on the rise.

The figures don’t include the members’ own personal activities. The beginning of «Project RadArt» coincided with a large increase in both members’ activity and grants through a project funding scheme for performing arts in the Norwegian Arts Council. For example, members received 5 million kroner (£480,000 €600,000) in project funding from various schemes. The investment in Tromsø was spotted early and recognised by the Arts Council and other national professional bodies. Tromsø Council’s share of this was approximately 200,000 kroner (£19,000 €24,000).

Results that exceeded all expectations

Guest performances and festivals
In cooperation with Rådstua Theatre House, RadArt strives to make the venue an attractive venue for professional theatre. The work that has gone into this has lead to a fantastic development from two guest performances in 2009 to 12 in 2012. It is inspiring and rewarding for both the audience and the academic community in the city to experience diverse performing arts at such a high level. Inviting guests to Tromsø also puts Tromsø on the map in the industry and we’ve had great feedback from out guest performers about the way in which they were treated at Rådstua.

During the Project RadArt period two festivals were established:

RadVent – RadVent is a mini festival based on everything that is going on in the performing arts community in the region. It takes place during the first week in December and is the RadArt members’ early Christmas present to the people of Tromsø- a tribute to the city, performing arts and creativity during Advent. All of RadArt’s members are invited to take part. In 2013 the festival welcomed about 1000 members of the Tromsø public and a dedicated producer was involved to carry out the planning and to make sure everything ran according to plan. The festival focuses on projects in the making, and is open for improvisation and showing works that are in progress. During the festival debates, post-perfomance discussions, courses and seminars are also part of the concept.

Vårscenefest – Tromsø’s performing arts festival was held for the first time in 2010 under the name SeNext. The title Vårscenefest came about in 2011 and the festival has taken place annually ever since. Vårscenefest is organised in collaberation with Rådstua Theatre House and occurs at the end of April, beginning of May. This festival represents something new in Norway as it is organised by a curating committee, where the majority are elected at RadArt’s AGM (annual general meeting). Vårscenefest has particular focus on performing arts as a part in society, and every year there is a theme which is discussed at seminars and is related to the performances. Vårscenefest brings in artists from home and abroad helping to make Tromsø a more attractive cultural city. For example at the 2014 festival there were performances from The Freedom Theatre from the West Bank, VERK productions from Norway, the co-production «Graceland» with dancers from Sweden and Finland living in Tromsø.

Scenetekstivalen, a sister festival to Vårscenefest, was established in 2013. Scenetekstivalen focuses on newly written scripts and innovative stage ideas. Scenetekstivalen is a collaboration between Vårscenefest, the foundation Ferske Scener and Dramatikkens Hus.

RadVent’s calender and Vårslipp
RadArt actively works to become well known in Tromsø’s business sector. Through this we aim to promote members’ activities, develop our audience base and establish new sponsors and partners. During RadVent, RadArt hands out advent gifts to different companies: a member visits the company and gives a short performance. In 2013 five different businesses welcomed actors, dancers and playwright professionals. The same performances are also shown at the Tromsø County Hall every day during RedVent at lunchtimes. The same concept was carried out during Vårscenefest in 2014, under the name Vårslipp.

Møt en scenekunstner (Meet a performing artist)
«Møt en scenekunstner» is a concept which has been going on during RadVent for several years. A performing artist sits in a café ready to answer any given question. One audience member at a time comes and sits at the same table as the performer, and is given some suggested questions to initiate the conversation. Both invited guests, such as politicians and people from local businesses, as well as passers-bys have taken part. The aim is to increase understanding and interest for performing arts by providing clarification and new insight in a comfortable setting.

Courses/Professional development
RadArt arranges numerous courses and seminars on topics such as audience development, marketing, finance and professional development. The courses are arranged depending on the needs and desires of the members and are largely set up in cooperation with other associations. HATS is a main partner alongside other important partners such as the Norwegian Centre for Acting and the Forum for Northern Norwegian dancers. During the three years that «Project RadArt» was active, a series of courses were held:

• Accounting
• Pitch training/Branding for art businesses
• Academic art courses
• Daily training for dancers
• Other types of training for actors
The social and academic environment was strengthened by monthly business lunches, joint improvisation evenings, parties and other events.

In 2013 five courses and a huge seminar were arranged by RadArt. RadArt sets up courses and seminars relevant to its field through networking and its website. These have been arranged by members, through their professional field, as well as other cultural participators, institutions, political and artistic organisations as well as public agencies. RadArt uses this activity to facilitate future strategies and collaborations. As there is so much going on in the courses and seminars, a new committee was established in February 2014, lead by Alexander Martinsen. The committee’s objective is to think in the long term in terms of professional development for members and to set up a calendar of courses and seminars. This will make it more accessible for our members. We are hoping to work alongside Scene Bodø and the performing arts community in the Finnmark region to coordinate courses and invite them to courses in Tromsø.

National awareness
In recent years RadArt has also been working on getting its name heard across the country. RadArt’s business model has been picked up on in Tromsø and across the country. From 2009 RadArt has had «inspriational lectures» at the National Forum for Culture Council, it has recently set up a network for filmmakers in Tromsø, created a network with Scene Bodø and hosted events organised by Dansearena Nord. Previously we gave presentations and talks in Trondheim, Bergen and Stavanger all about RadArt. Newly established network organisations contact RadArt to share experiences about structure and organisation. In December 2014 we’re planning a seminar in conjunction with Showbox about organisation in the independent performing arts field. The thinking behind the seminar is to share experiences with other network organisations, build on our own network and to demonstrate what RadArt and its members’ do.

Residens Tromsø
With partners in all areas of art, RadArt is working hard to create an artistic base in Tromsø. The association «Residens Tromsø» was founded in autumn 2013, with Ingvil Fossheim from RadArt as chairman. The various organisations in the association come up with their own programme and RadArt aims to have an artist in residence each year. During Vårscenefest in May the artist Kaja Kann visited the festival through this association.

Tallenes Tale («The figures do the talking»)
«Tallenes Tale» is a membership survey conducted by RadArt in 2012 based on finances, organisation and the every day work of RadArt’s members. It is based on members’ accounts from 2011. The survey received a lot of attention and RadArt got some great feedback from the survey. A new survey, based on 2013’s figures will be carried out in 2014.

«Psst! Visible performing arts in the north» 2013-2015

As a result of «Project RadArt» RadArt has managed to obtain funds to initiate a new three-year project which will be based on raising awareness and strengthening independent performing arts in Northern Norway through larger audiences, increased media attention, informing decision-makers’ knowledge of the independent sector and higher income for members. Psst! is being supported by Troms County, Tromsø City Council, the INTRO-fund, Sparebank 1 Nord-Norge’s Culture Business Foundation and the Norwegian Arts Council. Psst! has assigned Hanna Solberg Christoffersen as project leader. The activities from the time of «Project RadArt» will keep going with a special focus on raising awareness. Many of RadArt’s activities have become annual events; RadArt makes it ideal for performing artists from the independent field to stay in the region, and the public are aware that the performances shown are bold and of high quality.