Established in 1971 as an independent organization to serve individual artists throughout the state, the mission of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) is to empower emerging artists and arts organizations across all disciplines at critical stages in their creative lives and professional/organizational development. In 2009, New York Foundation for the Arts extended their programs and services throughout the United States and the international community.
Michael L. Royce is currently the Executive Director of the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). NYFA provides more financial support and information for artists than any organization in the US. His efforts to support cultural exchange began in 1998, when, as the Deputy Director of the New York State Council on the Arts, on a delegation to Israel, he oversaw and implemented the creation of the New York–Israel Cultural Cooperation Commission to foster exchange between the two states. As a creative artist, Mr. Royce has performed in and directed many theatrical productions throughout the US. Mr. Royce paid a visit to Beijing to attend 2016 International Formation of Art Management in late April, we took this opportunity to have an interview with him.
What do you know about the developments in Contemporary Chinese art and Chinese art organizations?
Michael L. Royce: Good question and an interesting one: I know that the contemporary art in the Chinese market several years ago was selling at a greater volume for the first time than the New York market, and then it dropped below the New York market. I know that your government is trying to create infrastructure in China where art acts as a catalyst for tourism, which I think is a good idea and that your leaders are focused and invested in the sector, which I also think is a good idea. I know that Chinese artists don’t have at least from my experience as many opportunities as American artists when it comes to resources and places to show their work, create their work, perform their work. That is relatively a new industry and so there are many opportunities here that have yet to be discovered because it’s so new.
Would you like to briefly introduce the New York Foundation for the Arts?
Michael L. Royce: Sure. The New York Foundation for the Arts is the largest arts service organization in the United States. We are 45 years old and we support individual artists and all disciplines, so performing visual, literary, media, and interdisciplinary through four primary ways, one: we get them access to funding or provide direct grants, two: we provide professional development training, three: we provide mentorships, and four: we provide a lot of free online resources.
What kind of future cooperation are you looking forward to be conducted between Chinese art organizations and the New York Foundation for the Arts?
Michael L. Royce: We are looking forward to any collaboration where either the individual artist or the arts administrator or the emerging arts organization can grow and develop itself in a way that it wants to. Our mission is to empower emerging artists and emerging arts organizations at critical stages in their creative lives. So our resources, our programs, our services are very varied and come at all different levels, so that we can support an artist or organization wherever it may be to reach its next level.
What do you know about Chinese emerging artists?
Michael L. Royce: I don’t know a lot but I’d like to know more. You know, I’ve been to China four times and I’ve had the chance to talk to a lot of contemporary artists living in the cities and that’s wonderful and I appreciate that. But China is such a big country, that I think there is no way that I can really understand what artists are about in China unless I have the chance to go through to some of the rural areas in China. Otherwise, I won’t get the whole picture.
Would you like to bring about more cooperation between the Foundation and CAFA in the future? In which kind of form would you like to cooperate?
Michael L. Royce: We are very open to any kind of collaboration. We have extraordinary staff, most of the people that worked at NYFA are artists themselves, so they are very passionate about what they do, they are very committed and they are very smart. Because we are a service organization, we tailor and customize what we do to what the given need is, whether it’s an artist or university or organization, whatever they tell us they are lacking or they need or they want, we customize training and resources around them. For example, in the United States, we work with many art schools to design programs, and we partner with those universities because the art schools in the United States generally don’t teach graduating artists how to be successful in the marketplace. They work on their technique and their discipline and they are extraordinary in doing that. Once the student is in the world after academics, he or she doesn’t know how to put their creative work into the marketplace, so these schools hire us to teach that.
What’s your impression of Chinese artists and Chinese exhibitions?
Michael L. Royce: I think my perception on Chinese artists and Chinese exhibitions is very limited because I don’t live here. I only come maybe once every other year for a short period of time. But my perception is that Chinese artists are really struggling right now to find a way to have an audience, interested people who want to know more about contemporary arts rather than traditional arts. If they go on to the traditional arts, there is a built audience, people are very interested in that, buy the product, want to be it. But if they go on to the contemporary art works, the audience become less and less because the audience has not yet been educated on the value of contemporary art works.
Accordingto your perception and understanding, what do you think of the future of non-profit organizations in China?
Michael L. Royce: A lot of it will depend on the laws that are created, I mean, one of the things that significantly helps the non-profits in the United States is that we offer tax deductions, tax benefits to the citizens that contribute dollars to art organizations and I don’t think you do that here. So our arts organizations would not be as successful or may not even be able to function if those tax laws were not in place.
What do you think of the target of this program?
Michael L. Royce: I think it’s just really about communicating both sides. We are all in this together, both the United States and China. We have art administrators and we have artists, we have an art market, and we can both learn from one another and we can maybe solve our problems together. So I think the greater the cooperation, the better.
According to your understanding, how to establish an aesthetic foundation for the audience of contemporary art in China?
Michael L. Royce: Through the experience of it. So as people go through the experience of visiting an exhibition or going to see a performance or reading a contemporary literature, after they go through the experience of it, they find themselves enjoying it or being changed from it or thinking differently because of it, they’ll want to have the experience again. And so the only way you can change or educate or grow an audience, it’s to offer them the opportunities to experience the arts.
Image Courtesy of Judy, transcription by Helen Jiang, interviewd and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO