Svea: Entrepreneur and Artist

Svea Schneider is a bad-ass. A german-born hiphop and breakdancing vegetarian whose self produced dance festival, INSITU Site-Specific Dance Festival is now going into its second year (called  one of the “Top 24 Outdoor Performances to see” by the New York Times). Originating from a small town in the southern wine region of Germany, Svea fell in love with breakdancing and Hiphop and decided to move to NYC at the age of 21. After studying at the Broadway Dance Center she signed a contract with BLOC and Clear Talent Group and began working as a commercial dancer. At the age of 29 she decided to pursue her own artistic practice and enrolled in NYU Gallatin’s Individual Studies Major focusing on Dance as the Manifestation of Self.  While in school she founded KINEMATIK Dance Theater. In 2014 Svea moved to Peru, worked as an artist director for two and a half years before moving back to NYC. That’s when she had an idea… for a site specific dance festival that would contribute to her community.

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How did INSITU start?

With an idea.

I wanted to make a change and create something that positively impacts my community in Queens as well as the larger NYC dance community.

I participated in the “Artist as Entrepreneur Bootcamp”¹, a program organized  by the New York Foundation for the Arts. It was a 4 day bootcamp where we covered many aspects of Arts Administration and Production. It was during those four days that the seed for INSITU was planted.

Having lived and worked as the artistic director of a non-profit dance organization in Lima/Peru, I experienced first hand how dance empowers people and creates social change. When I moved back to LIC, I wanted to create something that uses dance as a platform to bring people together, spark dialogue, connect and empower people and communities.

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What steps did you take?

  1. The most important thing for me was telling everyone about my idea and my plan. If you are standing in front of a mountain you want to back down. There were times in which I thought that I could never pull this off and I had many doubts.  So telling people was my way of making sure that I pulled through with my plan. I call it my german discipline : )
  2. I reached out to community arts organizations in the neighborhood and said, “I have this idea, what do you think about it?”.
  3.  I applied to be a fiscally sponsored project — that really helped shape INSITU. For the application you have to submit a detailed project description, a timeline, a budget etc…I created a 40 page-long document.
  4. I connected with a graphic designer (Siri Lindskrog) that worked with me from the beginning. She helped create a very professional visual identity for INSITU through the website, logo and other graphics. Her design helped attract dance companies, sponsors and community partners to INSITU.
  5. After working 10 months on INSITU by myself I reached out for help. I placed ads for interns and was able to gather an amazing team of people around me who believed in me and INSITU. About a month before INSITU 2017 I connected with Karen Kitchen, an amazing woman who has 20 years of public art production experience. She is now INSITU’s co-producer and has become a very close friend. We are now creating, producing and dreaming INSITU together.

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Can we talk about getting Sponsorship?

There are 7 fundraising paths I explored for INSITU 2017:

  1. Corporate sponsorship
  2. Grants
  3. In-kind donations
  4. Fundraising events
  5. Discretionary funding from local politicians
  6. Individual donors
  7. Kickstarter campaign

Out of all streams, most substantial financial support came from corporate sponsorships.

And how do you attract corporate sponsorship to an Arts Festival?

You have to have a good idea, be passionate,  and be convinced of your vision. You have to be organized and explain to executives why this project is important to you, your community and why they should support you and your vision.

INSITU’s community partners helped me tremendously by connecting me to potential donors and opening doors for me. I cultivated relationships to our sponsors for many months and I am enormously grateful for their support and for seeing the potential in INSITU from its inception.

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Do you have any advice for yourself if you were to do it again?

Yes…  Balance!

I ended up working tirelessly (up to 80 hours a week²) for over a year and forgot to live a balanced life. I wish I had given more time for my partner, for my friends, for my own leisure and artistic practice.

Its also important to know when it is time to stop and not be a perfectionist. In the grand picture it’s more important that things get done and you’re not killing yourself while you’re doing them, than if they’re absolutely perfect.

What’s in your future?

I am currently organizing the second iteration of INSITU. We just announced our incredible line up of 20 national and international choreographers for the 2018 festival… super exciting!

Besides that, I am currently pursuing my master’s degree in choreography and  concentrating on being back in the studio to hone my own artistic voice and keep creating dance works.

I also just got engaged, so a wedding is in the near future. My fiance and I are planning on having children in the next few years, so I am excited to be a mom when that time comes : )

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  1. Can’t make it to a bootcamp but want to learn about Dance and Business? NYFA sells the Profitable Artist handbook, which goes through the whole curriculum of the Entrepreneur Bootcamp.
  2. Svea was able to work full-time and unpaid on this festival for a number of reasons. (1) She’d bought her apt 10 years earlier (2) She bikes every where eliminating subway fair costs (3) She has an amazingly supportive partner.

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