Performing Arts Presenters and Arts NPOs
Shuji Sota (Professor of Atomi University)
Arts Presenters in Japan
Promotions of the performing arts in Japan include: (1) performances conducted as entertainment business by private-sector theaters or entertainment companies; (2) programs organized by the event promotion divisions of newspaper companies or broadcasting stations, or by theater production companies; (3) programs organized directly by public cultural facilities; (4) programs organized by local theater-goers’ circles (audience associations); and (5) performances that are directly produced by arts organizations.
As the number of public cultural facilities in Japan increased rapidly in the 1980s and 1990s, there has been a corresponding increase in performing arts staged as a nonprofit activity of primarily type (3) above. Festivals and other such events held over limited time periods are also commonly presented by government agencies, corporations, and other such organizations joining to form an operating committee, which serves as the operating entity.
Arts NPOs have also attracted more attention in recent years. Social action programs have become more active in Japan since the beginning of the 1990s, undertaken as community volunteer activities and by private-sector nonprofit organizations in all fields of social concern. Following widespread volunteer activities during the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake in 1995, the Law to Promote Specified Nonprofit Activities (the NPO Law) was enacted in 1998 to facilitate organizations fulfilling important social support roles as corporate entities and promoting their activities.
As of September 2006, 23,204 NPOs were certified nationwide. Of those, 1,730 were arts NPOs who specified in their articles of association “activities for academic, cultural, arts and sports promotion” (source: Arts NPO Link. As of the end of November 2007, there were 34,621 certified NPOs). Organizations managing public cultural facilities have emerged, as have organizations active as presenters of international performing arts.
Latest Trends in Arts NPOs
Arts NPOs active as presenters currently belong to one of three general types. The first is an operating committee formed for a limited term that, on the basis of its record as a presenter of past projects, establishes an NPO to continue its activity as a presenter. The second is an NPO acting as a presenter on contract for projects that had been operated by government agencies, public foundations, or private-sector corporations. The third is a project initiated by a private-sector organization that has later restructured as an NPO in order to be eligible for public support.
Although it has been ten years (up until 2008) since the certification system was established, the tax and subsidy systems, and other such social arrangements for supporting NPOs have not yet been put in place. Consequently, even though they have increased in number, many have not yet fully developed their capabilities. Efforts are being made, however, to publicize and support the activities of arts NPOs. In 2002, the Asahi Art Festival was established to support events planned and organized by arts NPOs and community groups’to serve as a bridge between art and society. In 2003, the first nationwide Arts NPO Forum was held in Kobe where arts NPOs from all over the nation gathered for the first time. We shall certainly be seeing more and more activities by these organizations.
Particularly the introduction of the “Designated Manager System” in 2003, NPOs are now able to manage public facilities such as cultural halls, and expectations are growing for them to become the key players in public cultural facilities.
Examples of Arts NPOs in Japan
NPO Arts Network Japan (ANJ)
The Tokyo International Arts Festival initially operated as an annual project run by an operating committee since it began as the Tokyo International Theater Festival in 1988. On the basis of that record, the operating entity was restructured as an NPO in 2000. In addition to organizing the Festival, ANJ runs Nishi-Sugamo Arts Factory using old school buildings as an art space, together with another NPO Artist’s Studio In A School (ASIAS) with support from Tokyo’s Toshima Ward. ANJ is also under contract by Yokohama City to be part of the operation of the rehearsal venue Steep Slope Studio and is the designated manager of the ôkurayama Kinenkan Hall. It is growing rapidly.
NPO Dance BOX
Originally an operating committee established in 1996 to produce dance performances and workshops in the Torii Hall, a private-sector theater in Osaka. When the Torii Hall stopped its production activities, the committee reorganized itself as an independent project organization, the NPO Dance BOX. In 2002, it established the small theater Art Theater dB in the Shinsekai Arts Park, using a vacant space in the amusement park/commercial building complex Festival Gate in Osaka. With Osaka City supporting the program by paying its rent and utilities, the organization worked on projects that make use of the private-sector NPO initiative. Although the theater was closed when Festival Gate went out of business in 2007, Dance BOX is still active as one of the few dance-specialized arts NPOs in Japan.
Furano Theater Factory
This was the first NPO to be authorized in Japan. Since 2000 it has been under contract to Furano City to manage and operate the public Furano Theater Factory. It conducts various kinds of educational programs. This is a pioneering example of the government-owned, contractor-operated cultural facility in Japan. With the introduction of the Designated Manager System for public cultural facilities, in 2004 the NPO became the designated manager of the theater.
ST Spot Yokohama
This organization was formed in 1987 by local volunteers to run the small public theater in Yokohama City, ST Spot, and then became an NPO in 2004. In addition to being commissioned by the city to run the theater and develop young artists, it is also part of the operation of Steep Slope Studio. Its new Art Education Division is expanding into new areas of activities, such as promoting links between the arts and education in schools.
Triton Arts Networks (TAN)
This is an arts service organization based in the Dai-Ichi Seimei Hall, Tokyo, established by Dai-Ichi Mutual Life Insurance Company in 2001. It is a pioneering case of a private-sector concert hall operated by an arts NPO. TAN is engaged in local community activities as well as the Dai-Ichi Seimei Hall.
Japan Center, Pacific Basin Arts Communication (PARC)
Since 1990, PARC has collaborated with public organizations such as The Japan Foundation on a number of international exchange projects related to the performing arts. It has served continuously as the operator and administrator of the Tokyo Performing Arts Market since 1995. PARC was legally incorporated as an NPO in June 2002.
NPO Japan Contemporary Dance Network (JCDN)
This is a network organization formed to share practical information among people involved in dance and to increase opportunities for dance performance. JCDN started a touring performance project “We’re Gonna Go Dancing!!” that has traveled to dance spaces in cities throughout Japan since 2000, when it was still preparing to become an NPO. Now its activities are expanding dramatically. In 2007, the project promoted performances by 49 groups including overseas artists in 21 cities, and it also organized a project to tour, for the first time, five cities in four Asian nations: Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia. In addition to selling tickets and distributing data files to promote contemporary dancers, it works with local governments in different areas to implement a dance popularization program involving workshops, seminars, and other activities. As a key organization in the field of contemporary dance, it has been receiving support under an Agency for Cultural Affairs program to support human resource development in arts organizations since 2002.
NPO ARC (Activities for Research and Creation of Theater of the Day)
The Tiny Alice, a small theater that celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2003, has been holding the annual Alice Festival, featuring Shôgekijô companies from Japan and other countries. It established the NPO ARC (Activities for Research and Creation of Theater of the Day) in May 2003.
Arts NPO Link
Conceived during the first national Arts NPOs Forum, this organization was established in 2006 to solve issues common to arts NPOs. In addition to holding the annual forum, it conducts research on and publicizes arts NPOs.