Artists and Arts Presenters Connect at Conference

By Maddie Orton
Arts Correspondent

It’s back-to-back-to-back performances for organizations attending the five-day Association of Performing Arts Presenters (or APAP) Conference in Manhattan. Representatives from venues like NJPAC, bergenPAC and others search through a Midtown hotel for the right acts to complete their seasons. Scott Stoner helps organize the conference.

“They’re from communities large and small, urban, rural from all around the country, and there’s a lot of international folks here who are representing artists internationally. And also international presenters here looking for U.S. artists to travel abroad,” Stoner said.

Bryan Zellmer is here for Sussex County Community College. Students and members of the public attend shows at their performing arts center.

“From APAP, I get about 65 percent of my programming,” he said. “And I end up booking a few acts that I didn’t even know about before I came here.”

There are more acts to see than opportunities to see them, so people jump from room to room to catch as many as they can.

When asked how many acts he thinks he will see, Zellmer said, “I couldn’t even count. I try to get as many in as I could possibly see. I run myself ragged, but it’s really worth it.”

It’s worth it for the performers, too, who look to the conference to book tour dates. Rimli Roy is one of them. She’s founder and artistic director of Surati, a Jersey City-based Indian performing arts group.

“We are showcasing tonight, so we have a lot of prospective presenters who will come to our showcase. And then, if they like what they see, which I hope they do, there’s a big chance of your booking for shows and other tours,” she said.

Touring means income for performing arts non-profits. New Brunswick’s American Repertory Ballet is looking to expand their touring radius. It’s their third year showcasing at the conference, and first year with a full booth.

“Part of our strategic planning will make touring a very big part of our company,” said American Repertory Ballet Executive Director Vanessa Logan.

For Logan, the trip across the river is already paying off.

“One person said, ‘OK, I’ll see you next spring, let’s solve that and we’ll talk next week.’ So it is absolutely that successful,” she said.

The APAP Conference also allows performing arts presenters to work together in coordinating bookings and discussing trends.

But, when they’re not talking shop, you could easily confuse arts-loving professionals at the conference for kids in a candy store.