University of Nebraska: Lessons Learned
Perhaps the greatest lesson learned from this project was the importance of choosing the right artist. Mark and Dawn’s tenacity, perseverance and willingness to collaborate and interact with just about anyone were extraordinary, and sustained the project through significant challenges.
- In terms of the basic construction of the project, it could’ve been phased better, perhaps focusing on the creation of “loopdiver” (the commissioned piece) in the first year of the grant, then perform the piece and doing the collaborative residencies the second year. This would have mitigated the end‐heavy process.
- From the artist’s perspective, also, this was an extraordinarily long residency (two years). One of the unexpected results of this extended timeframe was that many of the dancers left the company and new dancers had to be brought up to speed on the project.
- Interdisciplinary work is not common at UNL, especially among arts faculty. This is a long-term concern for the education of the students. The Lied can offer projects that help build interdisciplinary work, but without this work being integrated into other areas of their University life, it may not become an integral part of the fabric of the institution.
- The structural impediments to interdisciplinary work in a university setting can be stifling. The Lied Center still faces many challenges in integrating the work of artists into academic life, including faculty compensation structure, departmental silos and gatekeepers (Deans and Directors of departments) who may or may not be supportive of interdisciplinary work. But even the gatekeepers, if they are supportive, cannot directly influence faculty. Faculty must want to participate, and gatekeepers must want to fund their involvement in interdisciplinary work.
- Academic departments operate in different ways and do not all have the same expectations. Many are eager to collaborate but need to be funded to offer their expertise or involve students.
- The contracting process between the University and Troika Ranch was difficult. Intellectual property issues nearly derailed parts of the project.
- More pre-planning time would’ve been useful. The lag in time between the grant proposal submission and the grant award announcement caused us to put the project on hold for a long time and lose some momentum.
- Additionally, more ‘process management’ effort at the front of the project would’ve helped to clarify roles and responsibilities of each partner, and what would be required of them to satisfy the conditions of the grant.
- Sustainability was not a stated objective at the beginning of the initiative, so we now find ourselves in a more difficult position when thinking of how to sustain parts of this initiative. In the future, we need to think more carefully about what elements of a project are sustainable, or how to plan an exit strategy.
- Managing the project was extremely labor intensive and difficult for a staff member to incorporate into an already full load. In hindsight, hiring a dedicated project manager would have been advisable, and would have been an insurance policy against staff turnover.
- With so many different stake holders, clarity and consistence in communication really is the key to keeping a project of this scale working well. Communicating regularly with outside partners on a regular basis was critical, as well as having written agreements in place before any activities occurred, to ensure that any misunderstandings could be rectified prior to the events.