Operating grants: The “production” function in the arts

Production means creating, realising, distributing and promoting an artistic work. This is possible – strange but true – without an audience. Huh? Yes. As soon as there is an audience involved, you have a different function. So in production, where exactly lies the focus? And (how) can you combine it with other functions?

Everything before the big moment

In production, the focus is on creating and realising. You go from concept to concrete result. And that’s why you spend months designing an exhibition, rehearsing a concert programme, making an installation, … Notice all those verbs? Doing: that’s what it’s about. 

The focus is not on showing your work to an audience. Yet you are often already doing so. You are probably already thinking about distribution, promotion and audience reach. To whom do you want to show your work? Where? You are determined to contact the right curators/programmers. You can already see the poster in front of you. That too is part of production. 

Production is everything up to and including the dress rehearsal. To just before the premiere. Everything up to and including construction of the exhibition. Not the vernissage. 

Specific production criteria

If you opt for production, the assessment committee will look at a number of specific sub-criteria:

  • The quality of your creation and production process
  • The quality of your artistic partners and the strength of your partnership(s): Are you on the same page? Are you the right partners for each other? 
  • The quality of the intended artistic result 
  • Your vision on distribution, promotion and audience reach

The assessment committee reviews this entire list. It also links the criteria to other elements in your application. So make sure your budget reflects your artistic plans. Plan in fair practices – including into your partnerships – so that even the work behind the scenes is done correctly. Keep diversity in mind as well as your position in the arts landscape. And go international.

Is this not again very close to “presentation”?

Distribution, promotion, audience reach? Don’t these belong under “presentation“? Yes. Also. During the creative process, artists often know that they ultimately want to present the artistic end product to a wider audience. They are already thinking of the target group and the right channels to reach it.

Precisely because these two processes overlap, many applications combine the two functions. Especially if your organisation has its own infrastructure. A concert hall, a stage, an exhibition space. Then it’s not illogical to focus on production and presentation at the same time. 

Yet the two functions are clearly distinguishable. Production is everything before the last step of presenting the work to an audience. Presentation is everything starting with this last step. Vernissage and then the audio guides, the children’s workshops and nocturnes in the museum. Premiere and then a full calendar of performances, maybe even including touring internationally.

Or “development”?

Occasionally confusion also exists with respect to development. Which is understandable. Sometimes the difference between artistic research (development) and creation (production) is not so clear. In the case of pure development, your organisation initially guides makers in their artistic process. During the creation and production process, you remain neutral concerning setting up collaborations and concerning promotion and audience reach.

Practical examples

Organisations that focus only on production are typical: performing companies, ensembles and orchestras, or production houses in theatre, dance and visual and audiovisual arts.

Choose wisely

The function chosen determines the minimum and maximum percentages. In the case of production, you must contribute 20 percent of your own resources. Even if you at the same time focus on participation, reflection or development