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Circus Arts On the Rise!

Those of you who have read my On Our Minds posts over the years will know that I have a passion for circus arts (although I keep my own feet firmly planted on the ground). Awareness of circus arts has blossomed in recent years, in part due to the popularity of Cirque du Soleil and more recently (and sadly), the demise of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey. There has also been an explosion of circus training programs across the country, providing people of all ages and capacities the opportunity to enjoy the challenges and rewards of circus training at the amateur level. Further, innovative new permutations of the art form such as social circus, a social intervention approach based on the circus arts, have received increasing recognition.

Dozens of circus organizations were featured this summer in Washington, DC at the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. In conjunction with the Festival, the NEA welcomed nearly 200 circus arts professionals to their offices to engage in a conversation about the state of the field, marking another step along the path to broader recognition of circus as an art form. Many in the circus world were happy to see a subsequent article on the NEA website by Michael Orlove, Director of Artist Communities and Presenting & Multidisciplinary Works, in which he stated: “It is our job, collectively, to see that this unique art form receives the requisite attention and unconditional support it so deserves.” While there is still a long way to go before this translates into a formal recognition by funders and actual grant dollars, it marks a significant shift from earlier dismissive attitudes about the world of circus. It will be interesting to see where this leads!

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