A Statement from our Executive Director about PAE

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Dear Friends and Colleagues:

It is with bittersweet resolve that we announce that the 2019 Performing Arts Exchange will be the final PAE. Last year, South Arts developed a new strategic plan guiding our vision forward; this meant a deep investigation and introspection about our current and future programming. What is meeting the needs of our constituents? And what isn’t? What can we do better? What should we change, and where is new programming needed? And through this process, we found significant areas where we can deepen our impact and increase our services.

We recognize that the landscape of the arts in the South is changing, which requires South Arts to make some adjustments to meet the needs of our constituents in the 21st century. When a program such as PAE is no longer able to meet the needs of our constituents as effectively as it once did, it is time to sunset those efforts and redirect those resources. The Performing Arts Exchange has been in South Arts’ portfolio for decades, and has served tens of thousands of artists, presenters, agents, managers, and other industry professionals throughout our history. But we recognize that there are now more effective ways for us to serve our constituents.

Over the past year, South Arts has launched multiple new programs and expanded our grantmaking offerings for presenters, artists, and arts organizations. Jazz Road—the largest initiative in South Arts’ history—offers support directly to jazz artists to build tours across the country or develop residencies to further explore their artform. Momentum is a new evolution of our decade-long Dance Touring Initiative working with Southern modern dance and contemporary ballet companies to expand their capacity to tour. In These Mountains is a multi-faceted program that preserves and perpetuates the folk and traditional arts of Central Appalachian counties in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Throughout these new programs, we have built in various entry-points for artists and organizations.

Additionally, South Arts has expanded our grantmaking efforts supporting the presenting and touring field as well as our other programs to make them more effective. Our existing Performing Arts TouringLiterary Arts Touring, and Traditional Arts Touring grants continue to support presenters who engage Southern artists. Our new Cross-Sector Impact grants recognize the power of partnerships between the arts and other entities within our communities. Express grants are quick-turnaround funds for the presentation of Southern artists in rural communities. And we have funds available to support the professional development needs of Southern presenters/programmers/curators and to strengthen their program design.

Our Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers works with presenters to become Screening Partners, connecting audiences around the region with compelling indie films and meeting with filmmakers. South Arts continues its commitment to making arts organizations more resilient and able to withstand crisis; the ArtsReady 2.0 online preparedness planning tool will roll out in the next few months. And we are also expanding the types of constituents whom we serve through co-hosting an annual conference on Creative Placemaking as well as other new services.

Coming to this decision to sunset the Performing Arts Exchange conference was not easy, but is an important step in ensuring that South Arts continues to provide programs effectively addressing the needs of the field. We recognize that there are excellent conferences for artist showcasing being run by our friends and colleagues, that the internet has made it easier than ever to connect artists, programmers, and audiences, and that there are increasingly more effective ways to conduct professional development. South Arts remains committed to supporting the arts, artists, arts organizations, and presenters of the region.

South Arts is looking at providing some additional new services for presenters, but we are not ready to announce them. We will be soliciting the feedback of our constituents before final decisions are made. Please subscribe to our email list so we can ensure that our programs best support your needs.

To the PAE attendees who have been with us since the early days to those who joined us for the very first time in 2019, thank you for being part of the Performing Arts Exchange family. And we look forward to continuing to work with you through all our South Arts programming.

Thank you.

Suzette M. Surkamer
Executive Director, South Arts