iSAW is both the primary project and current public studio facility for the South Florida Composers Alliance, a nonprofit, educational, and cultural institution incorporated in the state of Florida.
SFCA was funded in October of 1985 “…to raise, receive and maintain a fund or funds of real or personal property, and to distribute and administer the fund or funds, including any income or interest generated there from, exclusively for charitable, religious and educational purposes.” Two key elements in SFCA’s original mission included: (1) “the promotion, cultivation and elevation of the public awareness and appreciation of ‘new music’, [through] … public exhibitions of [new] music of the highest artistic merit.” (2) “to sponsor and promote the sharing of ideas, knowledge and techniques among professionals, students and the general public, all for the benefit of the public throughout Florida and the world.”
To these ends, and after some experimentation as to the most effective operating structure, SFCA now provides the fiscal infrastructure for its two main projects: the Subtropics Experimental Festival of Music and the Sound Arts (since 1989) and the Interdisciplinary Sound Arts Workshop (iSAW since 1995). SFCA is certified by the state of Florida to do business as both Subtropics and as iSAW.
In June of 1986, SFCA was designated a not-for-profit [sound arts] organization exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the internal revenue code, making it possible for SFCA to seek funding from government agencies and private foundations, and to receive tax-deductible contributions from corporations and private individuals.
SFCA 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status determination letter
Originally, SFCA was modeled after, and functioned like, countless composer-based organizations run by volunteer directors and members — a large group that shrunk within months to a labor core of about four. Because of the myriad obstacles composers and other creative artists face in our society in securing a living—only a few are lucky enough to have university jobs—most end up in other occupations while writing music on the side. These composers relied on SFCA for an occasional performance but had little extra time to commit to its management.
With the hiring of a full-time artistic/executive director in October of 1988, SFCA embraced a new interpretation of its prescribed purpose and adopted an experimental attitude toward the fulfillment of its mission, one that questions and helps redefine established ideas about the purpose of composers in society or what the meaning of music might actually be. This approach propelled SFCA in new directions. Since that time, SFCA has traveled an uncharted course as a grass-roots, community based, research and development organization in the arts.
When considering the original mission of SFCA—and its subsequent manifestation through iSAW and the Subtropics Festival—a clear pattern of continual experimentation and growth is evident. Throughout its history, the organization, and its associated personnel, have sought to reflect the changing patterns of artistic culture concerned with music and sound, always bringing the leading edge of creative individuals within these fields into participation in its myriad programs. Originally the concern was primarily focused upon concert presentations of the “new music” practice as a continuation of the classical music heritage. Within a few years this grew to include the more experimental concerns that were coming into foreground awareness at the time such as video art and installation practice. iSAW has consistently sought out innovative projects and presentation venues appropriate for this growth in artistic vision and expansion in material resources. In recent years this has included more interdisciplinary projects and creative partnerships with other organizations, allowing for the inclusion of new media, interactive presentations, and larger public art events.
While continuing to support the immense diversity of musical and sonic arts genre evidenced by our past activities, iSAW is currently seeking to encourage trends towards the merger of art and science—and more research based artistic activities—that are congruent with larger questions about how the sonic arts can contribute to: community design, integration and redefinition through new technologies; environmental awareness; and the growing definition of “sound studies” as a coherent intellectual discipline.