It’s Not about the Money 2 or Space: the Final Frontier

I just got off the phone from talking with John Cimino (who as you may now has some association with this website). He wanted to have an introductory chat after reading my last column (Its Not about the Money!).  He’s a good listener, so talking with him helped me organize my ideas with a little more clarity around what kinds of SPACE(s) I was writing about last time. Also clarifying was a message I received from Elena Thornton of the Arizona Arts Consortium. The consortium’s vision is “to create a multicultural arts center, where children, teens and adults will become inspired, to develop their creative abilities, in conjunction with exhibiting artists, writers, actors, dancers and musicians who will share their expertise in a gallery, theater setting.” While I applaud the consortium’s efforts and think the project of great value, this kind of community arts space is not precisely what I was thinking about (blogging sometimes breeds imprecision), but I was thinking about several other kinds of spaces. Let me take up the space of this blog to clarify further, and note that the list following is neither completely inclusive nor exhaustive:

1. Headspace: Artists, and creative people of all kinds, need intellectual room to breath. Headspace requires time, and – depending on one’s personal preferences – a certain amount of solitude and quiet. When interacting with others, creative headspace needs constructive feedback (both positive and not) and an emotionally supportive atmosphere. Too many conservatory environments, to provide one counter-example, include teacher-centered classes in which the master teacher expounds on his or her own work, negating the validity of the budding student artist. This teaching method does not promote the kind of headspace needed for students to be innovative and creative. Headspace is akin to the image I included last week as well as this: a wide open expanse filled with possibilities – ideas don’t happen inside closed minds!
2. Physical incubator space: Artists need physical space in which to develop work. Artists need physical space in the same way scientists need laboratories – a place to experiment and evolve ideas long before they are ready for exhibition to or performance with the public. Many of my region’s emerging visual, media, and performing artists were bred at the university at which I work, but once graduated, they lose access to the physical space in which to create the new work they were taught to value and create. Without physical space in which to develop work, the fertile headspace will lead only to frustration.
3. Networking space: Artists benefit tremendously from interaction with one another. The coffee shop next door (or inside) of the incubator space can serve this purpose physically, and the web provides those networking opportunities virtually. My colleague Jake Pinholster is developing a networking web-based space for metro-Phoenix artists called AMOK: Arts-Materials-Organization-Knowledge that, once it goes live, will create a networking space not only to facilitate the exchange of ideas, but the exchange of materials as well. How cool would it be if artists could use a site like this to create a local barter economy in art-making materials (and I don’t just mean visual arts, but performing arts as well)? There are some models for this nationally (the Ohio Theatre Alliance comes to mind for materials and Springboard for the Arts (Minneapolis) for knowledge sharing and other important infrastructure support – like healthcare) so we need not re-invent the wheel, at least not from scratch, to create such space.

My own headspace is opening up significantly as I begin a much needed sabbatical. No doubt my imprecise ideas on this subject will continue to evolve over the next several months.

Since I touched on the subjects of networking and virtual spaces, I’ll let you know that the p.a.v.e. symposium website has just gone live. It contains a mere tickler of information at the moment, but as the schedule develops, we’ll be posting updates. Registration for this free event will open in October. See http://theatrefilm.asu.edu/initiatives/pave-symposium.php

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