Name: Hunter Noack
Organization: In A Landscape
Annual Operating Budget: $500,000
Learn more at inalandscape.org
Interview originally published on June 19, 2020.
How are the arts playing a role during this critical time?
Art has many functions in times of crisis, and these days are no different. Art is being used to draw attention to the conditions of people not given a voice in the media, used as propaganda for governments, and as expressive tools for those who depend on the creation or consumption of art for their mental and physical health.
At the beginning of the American Civil War, New York literary journal The Knickerbocker wrote, “ARTISTS! … remember that your elegant brushes are recording the history of a nation.”
What has been the most notable / most unpredictable / most challenging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your organization? Biggest financial challenge?
The most notable challenge is the inability to confidently make projections. With information changing daily about health risks, our ability to to schedule concerts, or predict revenue is very difficult.
To date, what steps have you taken to mitigate that impact?
We furloughed all staff, and postponed all season announcements. We are working on changing the tour to accommodate public health authority regulations.
What kind of innovation in management has developed for your organization, and what challenges have you encountered when implementing new innovative ideas?
Executive director Lori Noack and artistic director Hunter Noack have been volunteering time along with the board of directors, meeting regularly to discuss new ideas. Executing new ideas requires resources of time and money. With money running short and staff volunteering time, it has been a challenge to implement new ideas.
What are the short-term and potential long-term effects of this shut down for your organization and the arts in general?
Short-term effects are lost revenue and change of strategy. We will certainly feel long-term effects but do now know what those will be.
What is a positive collaboration or initiative born as a result of this situation within your organization or that you’ve seen from your peers and colleagues in the arts industry?
Our concert model already encourages many of the best practices of social distancing–allowing audience members to roam freely through open natural spaces while listening to music–we are prepared to adjust our audience capacity as needed in order to comply with any federal or state gathering restrictions. We have also developed an app so that people may listen to the live music, in the landscape with their own devices and their own headphones, eliminating the need for our audience to come into contact with anyone for the duration of the program. We are working on a virtual concert series, bringing classical music and the outdoors to people in isolation. Outside of our organization, we have seen a tremendous amount of high quality art available for free online. Metropolitan Opera, Broadway plays, and artists of all levels creating in isolation and sharing for free virtually.
What is the biggest lesson learned as a leader during this crisis?
Cash is helpful. Having a clear mission and being able to articulate it is helpful. Demonstrating how you serve the population and who exactly benefits and how they benefit.
Regarding the creative process, what has been a source of inspiration for you/your organization at this time or how has your creative process changed and evolved? What outlets or channels have you sought out to continue to express your creativity, personally and/or professionally?
The constantly moving target has sparked us to think outside the box, rethink our long term plans, and given us time to assess what we love most about what we are doing and what we love the least.
What message do you have for the artists and fellow art leaders in our community today? Conserve cash, think outside the box, and forge partnerships with other organizations. This is a time to experiment with new ideas, to flesh out the best of what you do as an artist or an organization and find new ways to carry out your mission or share your work.
What question do you wish someone would ask?!
I wish we would all make a practice of asking each other, What do you need and how can I help?
When looking to the future, what brings you hope?
The possibility that we will have a different administration in 2021, for a start. More than that, though, or equal to it, is the hope that we will emerge from the pandemic, this awareness-raising movement of racial discrimination protests, and whatever other shift is on the horizon, with a stronger or renewed sense of our interconnectedness and a respect for our shared humanity.
About Hunter Noack:
Born in Newport, Oregon in 1988, Hunter Noack grew up hunting, fishing, and kayaking the rivers of Oregon. Hunter is the founder and artistic director of IN A LANDSCAPE: Classical Music in the Wild, an outdoor concert series where traditional concert halls are replaced by forests, fields, deserts, and riverbank vistas. In four years the project has presented 83 concerts featuring 62 guest artists for over 12,000 people. 46% have attended for free and for 28% of the audience, the IN A LANDSCAPE concert was their first experience with live classical music. His projects have been featured in the LA Times, Portland Monthly, on CBS This Morning, OPB’s Think Out Loud and Art Beat. In 2011 Hunter won the Los Angeles International Liszt Competition and in 2014 he won the coLABorate Award in London. In recent years Hunter created new works with Northwest Dance Project and Oregon Ballet Theater and he was the first Artist in Residence at All Classical Portland.