I can’t say that there have been any wholesale transformations to my job since the last time I wrote here, over a year ago. When things have changed, they’ve mostly been smallish shifts or gradual developments: a staff change here, an added responsibility there. Mostly variations on a theme.
However, there have certainly been challenges. Producing performances in a large museum gallery that resembles an irregular concrete box has always been a tricky proposition, but the addition of a sprawling architectural installation to the space made things even more dicey last year. For several months while the exhibition was up, I winced my way through shows as performers came within inches of delicate artwork and we had to turn away crowds at the door because we lacked the room to accommodate them. It was a tricky balancing act, trying to meet the needs of the performers, the artist whose work was in the gallery, the audiences, and the various levels of administration in the museum. You can get a sense of how tight (yet wildly energized) the gallery was during that time, in this image of indie rock band The Dodos.
This past Summer, I had the pleasure of working with the local creative collective Thingamajigs in the first residency program that we’ve done as part of this performance series. The residency allowed them to work in the space extensively for a couple of months, creating work on a larger scale and involving members of the community. Again, there were new obstacles to overcome and new approaches to shepherd, but it resulted in brilliant moments like the multimedia performance in this photo: musicians improvising to graphical scores that were suspended on scrolls from the balconies, with projections of a poet who was working simultaneously on texts for an upcoming show. There’s something very satisfying about mounting events that are, at least on one level, an intersection between the artists’ creativity and the architecture of the building.
What snuck up on me as I’ve done this work for the past four years or so has been an ever-expanding network of artists whom I know, whose opinions I trust, and whose work I follow regularly. Much like corporate networking, this kind of artistic networking tends to be project-based and benefits a lot from in-person contact. I try to get to as many live performances in the area as my budget will allow, staying up to date on what everyone I know is doing. Having a sort of big-picture view of the local scene (be it music, dance, performance art, visual art, or anything else) helps me notice trends and connections that can inform future programming or spark new ideas. In a more prosaic way, I’ve been able to reach out and quickly get advice on buying sound equipment, finding a good jazz guitarist to play at a reception, borrowing a guitar amp, and finding a home for some 55-gallon steel drums.
One wholesale transformation of my job does lurk just over the horizon. At the end of 2014, the museum building where I have worked for the past several years will close, as we prepare to move into a new space. I have mixed feelings about the move, not least because the current building has truly wonderful and inspiring acoustic properties that will likely be lost to history upon its closure. On the other hand, I like the look and location of the new building, and I’m ready to fall in love with it when we move.
In the medium term, the move means that there will be about a year during which I won’t be putting on events, and my work duties will be shifted. But I’ve got the itch to continue applying the skills I’ve accumulated to produce and program shows, so I’m hoping to find some opportunities to do that on the side while I am doing other things at the museum. I’m putting out feelers into the local artists’ network already, and in the meantime I still have a year’s worth of shows to mount and I can hatch some exciting schemes to put in motion when the performance series is resurrected at the new museum location.
Start from the beginning – Read Sean Carson’s “Week in the Life”