I was sad to miss my regular Tuesday class this past week, but the convention I went to was totally worth it.
The subject was Audience (R)evolution, and it was hosted by the Theatre Communications Group. Community Development, audience diversity, and audience engagement are all subjects that are dear to my heart, and this was like a gold mine of forward thinking and problem solving.
It was totally applicable to being an artist as well. A big component of the convening was to think about developing cohorts, people who have a common goal who will work with you. Artists definitely need cohorts! I think of all my classmates as cohorts, Toni and Sally are my cohorts, and an agent is also a very important cohort. We work together, help each other, and offer solutions to each other's problems that alone we might not have thought of.
We also talked a lot about the obstacles that stand in our way. Which as artists sometimes feel insurmountable. I know that occasionally I ask myself, 'Why am I doing this? Is all the toil and stress worth it?'. So far, the answer has always been yes. This is my calling, it's what I was meant to do with my life. It fills me up (even as it wears me down). We had a non-traditional speaker come in at one point, and he really inspired me. I'm not a very religious person, and this man is a pastor in Harlem. I was prepared to listen, but not expecting much. However, his viewpoint is that everyone, adult, child, and in-between, are all creators and artists. He sees himself as a creator and dreamer, a cultural architetect. It was so refreshing and inspiring.
I just want to share some of what he said:
The world is in need of people with reckless imaginations. We are all cultural architects, with a passion for the possible and enlisted in the fight to abolish the impossible. Shift from 'dreaming' to 'living', help people dream while they're wide awake. We (as artists) fight the domestication of dreams, of being civilized (I particularly love this!!!). Cast your dreams into the atmosphere and make the world adjust. Create every day. Inspiring someone else is an act of creativity.
I could go on and on. He has done some really amazing work in his community, starting a facility called The Dream Center for people of all ages to come and experience and learn about art. It was in response to art funding being cut off for public schools in NYC, but I love that he's made it part of their mission that a person of any age can be a dreamer and creator. I gues I'm so used to the conservative church of the south, who in my experience are not very supportive of the arts.
So, I've got lots of thoughts swirling in my head, this is really only the tip of the iceburg. It really invigorated me as an arts administrator to go to this place and share my story and what we're doing in Austin, and hear about other theatres across the country. We're doing such good work and outreach, and even though it feels like an uphill battle sometimes I can tell it's worth it.
I got back just in time this Sunday to help with our Annual Garden Party, which is free to the public and helps replenish our butterfly sanctuary. We also offered a learning petting zoo and craft station for the kiddos. It was so much fun! I'll leave some pics here as my images of the week. :)