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ARTIST AND PRACTITIONER INTERVIEWS


The Arts Center of the 21st Century Symposium is among a number of planning and programming activities organized by the Hopkins Center as it moves toward its 50th Anniversary in 2012/13. When the Hop was opened in 1962, it marked the outset of a wave of cultural facilities building that was about to sweep the country and many of America’s campuses.

As the Hop and other campuses contemplate a new phase of re-animation and potential expansion, the hope is that a symposium such as this can capture the aspirational and risk-taking spirit of 50 years ago, and, by learning from artists and among ourselves, help to plot the course of art centers for this new century.

The principal theme of the convening is to learn from artists and practitioners where their work and their interests are leading them, and how those directions might affect the physical manifestations of future arts centers.

The following artists and practitioners were interviewed in advance of the symposium:

Bjorn G. Amelan, Creative Director, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
John Borstel, Humanities Director, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange
Nick Cords, Member, Brooklyn Rider Quartet
Dartmouth Student Advisory Committee
Kathleen Forde, Curator, Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC)
David Harrington, Kronos Quartet
Patrick Hyland, Project Designer/Architect, Westlake Reed Leskosky
**Bill T. Jones, Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
Liz Lerman, Artistic Director, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange
Stanford Makishi, Executive Director, Baryshnikov Arts Center
Diane Ragsdale, Associate Program Officer, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Peter Sellars, Director
Jason Treuting, Founder, SO Percussion
Marianne Weems, Artistic Director, The Builders Association
Paul E. Westlake, Managing Principal, Westlake Reed Leskosky

A summary of their responses can be found below.

Question protocol used for the interviews:

  • As a campus arts center contemplates a possible renovation and expansion, what would you advise as key considerations in its planning process?
  • For your own work and as you view work in your fields of engagement, what are the key physical needs that an arts center of the future needs to anticipate and address?
  • Where have you worked where the physical facilities were especially well-suited to the work you think is important to the future of your field?
  • Are there specific thoughts you would like to share about the following kinds of spaces: A. Spaces in which artists develop work. B. Spaces in which audiences see and experience artistic works. C. Spaces in which audiences gather before and after seeing artistic works. D. Spaces for teaching in the arts.

INTERVIEW OF BILL T. JOESN CO-FOUNDER AND ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, AND BJORN G. AMELAN, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, BILL T. JONES AND ARNIE ZANE DANCE COMPANY

Interview by Jeffrey James, Howard Gilman Director, and Margaret Lawrence, Programming Director, Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College

James: What key issues should campuses be thinking about as they think about facilities?

Jones: First and foremost I think there is something wonderful about being in a theater of 1,000 seats or so, and it should be the most flexible space possible. We just came from Italy where they have these jewel box opera house theaters and still even have some raked stages. And they are trying to put contemporary work into them. It can be frustrating. Even working at the O’Neill Theater—which was designed in 1929, when everything was in the middle of the stage—and trying to create something new there, is hard.

When I was making Chapel Chapter, wouldn’t it have been great to have a space like the one in Barcelona, (Mercat de les Flores,) that was a serious space that can be reconfigured? In our configuration it seated 600, but it had a flat floor and was completely flexible, with overhead theatrical support and completely flexible seating. Other positive examples have been in Harbourfront (Toronto), and the large black box theater at SUNY Purchase which—oddly enough—was built in the ’70s! I think BAM is building a new theater—maybe called the Melillo—adjacent to the Opera House, that will be a flexible black box.

I’m not sure why people would want to invest in a traditional proscenium at this point. Although people still want to do opera. They still want to see spectacle. They want to use fly space. So how do we resolve that, to have flexibility and the traditional trappings?

Our own company is more often than not adapting or making new work for proscenium. I’ve always felt that’s a little “retro” on my part, though those are the spaces we’re invited to. But if you look at what younger people are doing, they seem to like more informal setups.

Amelan: A major concern is the blurring between the virtual and the real. What we are seeing now in 3-D projection capabilities….how do we create a space that is both technologically equipped and flexible, bearing in mind the ever greater blurring that is going to occur between the real live performance and the virtual component that may be integrated into it? We are just at the threshold of an era in which the trappings of theater devices to create illusions, electronically.

Jones: I think about the prototypical young psyche. Do people want to sit and watch something, or do they want to get up and interact with it? Am I wrong here? This informal group, people who are always in their stocking feet, with a device in hand and a monitor in front of them….when they go out, how do they behave? How do they expect to behave? I think that sensibility…Are people even interested in going to see anything live? What does it mean when they get there? A few years ago at the Walker they were presenting a show by Philip Verne…called Let Us Entertain You. I was telling Kathy Albrecht that something was escaping me in terms of the work. The space was set up with bean bag chairs, and the event didn’t tell me a story or even walk me through. She said, “that is what’s happening right now. Look at the way they use the space. They want to be able to sit down where they want to sit down, they want to be able to have a quasi-social experience (all the time I think, it seems).”

Well, how does that informality and hyper-socialized sensibility of being able to have a thousand friends and to comment instantly on what you’re seeing…how is that reflected in the spaces we’re building?

James: Do you feel it’s our job to be proselytizers for what we are doing? That is, to try to fight against this virtual, stay-at-home direction? This feeling of “I want my own thing?” Or do we need to accommodate or speak to it?

Jones: Unfortunately, we have to do both, don’t we? We have no choice. We are artists and presenters. This is what it’s about: a time honored tradition of real humans coming together in real time and real space, to have an experience. That experience is being changed now by the internet. I’d say “You know, forget them! Hold your guns! Those who will let them come to you!” But that won’t work. And that’s not what you’re asking, is it? We don’t want to be defensive, yet we don’t want to dream ourselves out of who we really are. But how can we re-start the discussion?

James: In the next couple months, we’ll be doing some collective interviews with students. The first one will be mostly students who are engaged in the arts at Dartmouth already, and who have pretty much made up their minds that they like the model you’ve just articulated (that you come in person to a performance). They may also like the other possibilities, but the fact they perform live means they’re already in the picture we’re used to.

The most eye-opening interview will be if we can get a group of students who don’t come to anything, who have maybe mentally crossed us off, because it isn’t what they care about.

Jones: Yeah, and they care about…? That is a big question, isn’t it? I was down in Tampa a few days ago, and all my young nephews and nieces knew I was coming. I was rehearsing a big show at the university and it was going to be performed this weekend. They all went to Orlando for the AA (Athletics recruitment) conference, where all the scouts come. It’s in a stadium. They went there in person. They didn’t stay home to watch. It’s very big for African Americans (race is a part of this as well, isn’t it?). Within a decade white Americans will be a minority. I think much theater is white. That’s not a put down, but the people who create it, the people who have been doing it, the people who pay for it, who go to it, are white. What are the other people doing? Hispanics like music events, they like watching TV, how often are they going out and doing something? I hope that is in the discussion you will have. Imagine a country in which the traditional leaders in that area are now a minority. Who will be coming and how do they expect to behave when they get there? How can we accommodate their interest level? Do people want us to feel like television?

I was recently on the Colbert Show, and what it felt like to be in a TV audience? Behind me were a bunch of young kids from Princeton, who are big fans of his…those were the screamers in the back. That was a very particular event. A live performance, complete with cameras…what can we learn from a TV studio?

Amelan: There seems to be a hunger for fame. It even translates to a ridiculous contraption at our mall in NY State. It is a digital karaoke booth where the singer goes inside (they can no longer see the public, there are cameras in there) and chooses a song and a digital background environment for their broadcast. Then the people outside the booth see the performance projected on a number of screens. The two—the performer and the audience—never see each other in reality. What the audience sees is a composite. People line up to do this. The concept is indicative of a state of mentality. They get their 3-5 minutes of fame, and passers-by see them on screen—

Jones: They’re emulating mass culture as they see it on television!

Amelan: How can we tap into that hunger to create something that attracts people? That is our dream audience: people who are young, people of color, people who are engaged.

Jones: It’s interesting you’ve asked me what I as an artist need, yet we are mostly talking about what “they” need from us. But it’s because you run up against this right now: we are an endangered species. Did you read the article by Sarah Kaufman in the Washington Post? In terms of sustainable companies other than Ailey, there are Paul Taylor, Mark Morris, and Bill T. Jones. In that order. Dance is a particularly challenging genre in that there’s not a lot of time or money. In touring, we have to get the show up fast, we have a certain standard for how it needs to look. Most places we go to do that pretty well. Is that going to continue?

What about the idea of simulcast? The future for facilities seems to be pointing toward something more and more like a giant TV studio.

James: You’re the first person who’s been interviewed who has pointed to that idea not just as a technical model but as an audience model. That electricity you felt at the Colbert Show, was different.

Jones: Yes, those young were there to be part of it, at the source. Others are content to see it at home.

Amelan: There is always a line to get in to The Letterman Show, you see it every afternoon along Broadway. There is a major constituency who want to be there in person.

Jones: Yes, and what is that about? Is it instant celebrity? Is it being able to participate in something that will have a worldwide reach?

James: Shifting gears to some other kinds of spaces: all these performing arts centers also have spaces that aspire to be good social spaces. Do you have a sense for what really works, examples of ones you love?

Jones: In Europe, the French especially, seem to have the sense of the important of a restaurant, a bar, a place for socializing after the show. It’s surprising how rarely that is done in the US.

Amelan: It’s not in our culture, but Chinese Opera or Japanese Kabuki is something where you can go, take a break, have some food, step outside during the performance. They emulated that when we saw Peony Pavilion. As opposed to spending 2-3 hours in the dark, focused on the stage.

Jones: Are you assuming artists are going to make their work differently? Those are folk traditions, right?

Amelan: Yes, they are folk, popular entertainment. Should we revisit the model of our live performances here? A lot of people at Fela! on Broadway have commented how wonderful it is to feel like you can take your drink to your seat. We wanted to emulate Fela’s cabaret in Lagos.

Jones: But I don’t think everybody is going to want to build that kind of work.

Amelan: But if a venue has the flexibility to be able to accommodate an artist who does—if they have the big flat floor and the flexible lighting—then they can be a cabaret if that’s what is needed. If they really need to move around, how do we create a space that encourages circulation, so you don’t have the horrible times when someone has to go to the restroom and everyone in the row has to stand up to let them out. So people don’t feel trapped. Make it ease and entertainment, rather than rigor and discipline.

Jones: You want to make it for the slacker impulse in the culture (and I say slacker without even knowing what the term I’m using means!): people want it when they want it, and how they want it. And in tiny doses. The present model with well behaved subscription holders, is aging, And kids don’t seem to have any passion toward it. The world we travel around in, we go to places where we have crafted what we’ve made for mid-20th-century performing spaces and for people who are well-bred, educated, who know to go sit in the darkened room and watch (not talk), to clap politely, and maybe there’ll be a post performance discussion afterwards. I have a creeping feeling that something is moving past us. In 20 years will that model be really creaking?

Amelan: In Shakespeare’s day, people would get up and go out, lights stayed on, and people chatted. A certain distancing occurred with the 19th century. Lights out, performer faces the audience, and they are trapped there, for a purpose.

Jones: I feel some anxiety, because this exercise isn’t just an exercise. Everyone knows what we’re saying. Is there a degree of digging our heels in, being bastions of tradition, or is it that we’re really trying to talk honestly about who that audience is going to be that we’re building new spaces for?

James: The impulse for the symposium is more about what the artist thinks they need.

Jones: This artist is trying to tell you why it’s so hard to get people in the seats. Where are the young people?

James: How would you change your work to address this audience and how it’s changing? Or would you?

Jones: My work changes with almost everything I create anyways. A Quarreling Pair was set up to be a rollicking stage show, very frontal. There was a lot of playing to the audience. Chapel Chapter was designed to make something we thought would be small and portable, bringing back the intimacy (audiences of max 200 people) but presto change-o, our presenters have more traditional spaces and can’t run something for 3 weeks to make the money back, so it had to adapt to their proscenium stages. For Fela!, we made it an entertainment spaces. They can eat and drink, and I wish they could even hang out and flirt with each other like they could in a club, But Broadway doesn’t have time to allow for that to happen, I wish it could. For Fondly, how do we transgress? We wanted the satellite stage to come out into the audience’s lap, so they’d be around it, and the walkway would lead to another world.

I’ve been trying to think of subject matter and style that invited more people to come. That is why I’ve been spending time analyzing who I want to see there. If I want more people of color to come in, how do I change my work to do that? I sometimes despair that there is no way because we live is a more racially self-segregated world. Who are our theaters for?

In terms of social spaces, I like to know the audience will think this is something they have to see, and come with enthusiasm and excitement, and that they’ll want to be there before the show and after the show, talking about the show. You aren’t alone, many people don’t feel they have that.

Bob Bursey (Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co. Producing Director): Could there be a situation among MUPS where everyone agreed on a basic space plan for their venues, so an artist tour among these venues without making significant changes to their works, from place to place? We spend a lot of time in our process struggling with that. To try to build a piece as best we can, that tour, but when we book the tour, the process is still happening, because every venue is different. There are millions of practical reasons why that can’t work, but consistency would make less compromise for the artist.

Amelan: Breaking the fact that culture is a bitter pill, from our message.

Jones: And is it a snobby thing for us to be saying the culture is a bitter pill, but mass media pop culture is not?

As an artist who has been trying to become an institution in the culture, I spend so much time thinking about the way in which I speak to audiences, that it’s hard not to think about foremost.

People are trying to build experimental black box theaters…

Lawrence: Maybe someday they’ll call those “the traditional black boxes!”

Jones: Right! The assumption is, anything not using a proscenium has to be called “experimental.” Maybe that term will change once more than 50% of the new facilities being built are black boxes.

James: What about the kind of space you need to create work. For example, EMPAC had a higher emphasis on spaces for creation than for presentation.

Jones: The next work we’re proposing is one I’d like to make in a TV studio. Simulcast and the internet change how I think about what I’m doing. What does a cinematic close-up mean? How about the intimacy offered by the use of camera? It’s tantalizing to me. I am anxious we’re not reaching the people I feel I need to reach. I want to be able to compete. I want to make a work for which my hundreds of nieces and nephews would actually want to go to.

James: What about teaching and learning spaces?

Jones: As flexible as possible! Not claustrophobic. There may be a lot to learn from the new Ailey studios, where the openness of the glass becomes part of how the institution represents itself to the public.

Rehearsal spaces should also be able to be converted into a facsimile of a performance space.

What about computers? Can someone get on line to find an idea? Can spaces be wired and connectable? More and more, that connectivity will be part of the creative process. It’s so weird. I feel like something is staring me in the face right now that in another ten years will be so obvious. Do you ever feel that way? We come into a community, we do something, we have a good public response, and I feel like it didn’t make a difference in the community. Like it was just blip in that city, something ever more marginalized in that city’s culture. Is the nobility of the art form that very thing? Maybe it’s something to be prized. I always feel after a show, “that was good. But who wasn’t there? What didn’t happen?”

An ongoing annual relationship with a presenter is another important thing in terms of continuity and impact—and would help an artist understand what a community wants. Now, that’s terrible, for an alienated modern artist like myself—trained by other alienated modern artists who are saying “f*** you” to the world all the time—to say, “I want to know what the community wants?!

Lawrence: Well, at least you should know who you are saying it to! Who am I pissing off this week? Now I know them all!

Jones: Am I in sync with the world that I claim I want to be a part of? And did I make an impact?
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INTERVIEW OF ARTIST LIZ LERMAN, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, LIZ LERMAN DANCE EXCHANGE, NICK CORDS, MEMBER, BROOKLYN RIDER QUARTET AND JOHN BORSTEL, HUMANITIES DIRECTOR, LIZ LERMAN DANCE EXCHANGE

Interview by Jeffrey James, Howard Gilman Director, Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College

James: What facilities are most useful to you?

Lerman: The making of a piece happens in an arc, so it depends on where in the arc we are, and what is happening. A space for a design team to work (lights, sound, video, and some dancers) is key. It doesn’t even always have to be a theater, if there is a really good lab space. The technical piece is always so costly.

Further out before the premiere, rehearsal space is very important. There is also a need for research. That could happen in a space like an office that has meeting spaces. It’s needed for a few weeks.

Then there is the question, “where is the audience, and who are you talking to?” Audience comfort is so important. I was so struck by the comment Alan Brown made: Kids these days want to multitask and they don’t want to be stuck in the dark for two hours. Also, do moms need a place to put their baby carriages?

Borstel: There is a big difference between being ADA compliant and actually being a welcoming facility for people.

Cords: I’m really interested in spaces that have a lot of transparency. The New World Symphony in Florida has a new space that incorporates a huge external screen that functions like an open window, showing orchestra rehearsals. It encourages greater audience ownership in the ensemble.

A Brooklyn Rider member founded a series in Manhattan where the setup gives the artist the experience of being “wrapped” (surrounded) by the audience. It breaks down the division between artist and audience. So…a flexible space would be important.

Lerman: And how about letting faculty fund more ways to “perform” their work? I’m not necessarily just talking about artists, but all makers of knowledge. Where do they get to submit their knowledge to others? Just in class…and then in a book? That is not really serving them well. What about a faculty salon?

Cords: Be careful of long-term planning on the subject of technology. It’s hard to know how far into the future you can see. Who is emerging at the edges of the field who you ought to talk to?

(Kamancheh virtuoso) Kayhan Kalhor is sensitive to things before the concert: the feel of the space, how does it pave the way for a great performance? What is the environment like backstage?

Lerman: Yes! Paving the way for inspiration. Even the experience of religiously rehearsing is so important.

Cords: And what happens after the performance? What’s the takeaway for the audience? There needs to be a way to give audiences a way to plug in, get involved, and continue the experience.

Lerman: At the Walker, we’re working on a piece in which Act 1 is on stage, and Act 2 is every audience member sitting down for tea and conversation with artists. It requires a series of tables. We discovered we needed this during the Genome Project, when after the performance (and even after the post performance talk), people were not leaving the building! Having all these tea tables is a logistical challenge, but we’re working on it.

The Walker also has a bar, and when they are able to get artists to come in (Cords interjects, “I would!”), that is a great informal way for people to interact with them.

I’m also interested in intimacy. The smaller theater at Jacob’s Pillow is built to be intimate, but the audience feels too far away.

Cords: And I’m not that impressed with Zankel Hall. It was designed to be flexible (at great cost), but it takes an army and an entire day for the transition to happen.

Lerman: University of Colorado (Boulder) had a good black box space with enhanced technology.

Borstel: Yes, but the parking is underneath, so you enter by coming up through the building itself. I really like for a space to have a sense of place—a street entrance. Each facility ought to have a sense of place that I couldn’t get anywhere else. I love how at Jacobs Pillow, in the main theater, as the lights go down, they linger on the big paintings for just a second longer, before going to black.

Lerman: Yes, and the lobby of the Abbey theater—I love it. And Sadler’s Wells did a nice job, too.

James: How do you feel about transparency—about being watched while you’re working?

Lerman: Sometimes, I just want to close the curtains! When I’m being watched, I feel a pull to explain what’s going on.

Cords: It does need some measure of control.

Borstel: Can you curate or “docent” what is on a screen, so it’s mediated somehow? That reminds me: Montgomery City College has a new facility. As you approach it from the highway, you see a huge picture window onto a large dance studio. But nothing is ever happening, so it’s usually dark—and very unattractive!

Lerman: Some Dance Exchange company members are now blogging about our creation experience. That can help explain to people what’s happening. A live Tweet Feed could even take place during rehearsals…

Cords: There are clear ways to give the illusion of transparency—just a glimpse. Classical musicians spend so much time in the dark privacy of practice rooms—it’s like, “don’t bother me!” I’d actually welcome some transparency that pushes artists further toward an ultimate goal of communication.

Lerman: Elizabeth Streb has done this with her studio which is a storefront. I wonder how it has changed her work?

James: What about cameras?

Lerman: They are fine—as long as I can turn them off sometimes!

Cords: Right. It’s like with cell phones: yes, you can turn them off, but somehow no one ever does. It has the potential to take away the specialness of what is going on right then: the live experience.

Lerman: It may make live performance more sacred—more separated from the ordinary. The cherished hour the audience member is in the chair. Cameras would help me supply the kind of digital materials I’m being asked more and more to supply alongside my work.

Borstel: How do audience members perceive, share, and see the space with other audience members? Architecture isn’t complete until the audience is in it. Does it feel populated? Crowded? Can there be people-watching? That’s a good frame through which to think about various theaters.

Cords: The Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center feels very nice. It’s not flexible, but I like it, and it has a good backstage feeling, too.
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INTERVIEW OF DARTMOUTH STUDENT ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Interview by AJ Fox, Advisor on Student Relations, Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College

At one of its spring term meetings, the Hopkins Center’s Student Advisory Committee collectively discussed and answered questions included in the interview protocol for The Arts Center of the 21st Century symposium. There were three undergraduates and two graduate students at the meeting.

1. As a campus arts center contemplates expansion, what are key considerations to do with the planning process?

  • How much input should come from students? Even if student input is not used, having more is better because it gives a sense of “buy-in.”
  • A communal space for artists to socialize and share ideas is essential.
  • It’s important to consider whether or not students who are not involved in the arts should be brought into the planning process.

2. What are the key needs that the arts center of the future needs to address?

  • Arts centers need to provide ample rehearsal spaces.
  • Dancers need rooms with big mirrors.
  • It’s good to have an evening space like a late-night café, in order to keep students coming back.

3. Where have you observed physical facilities that work especially well?

  • Not the current music department–it’s “creepy.”
  • Places that have “warm” color schemes.

4a. Are there specific kinds of things you would hope for in a space that artists use to develop work?

  • An “art room” where artists of different disciplines could work together.
  • Something like the HopStops – a “kiddie camp” for the arts.

b. What would you like to see in spaces where audiences experience art?

  • They should be as large as possible.
  • More visibility–some venues in the Hop are “cloistered in the deepest dungeons.”


c. What would you like to see in social spaces?

  • Make them visible, but not with two entrances (it’s too easy to leave).
  • Lots of space and accessibility.
  • Natural light and greenery.

d. What would you like to see in arts teaching and learning spaces?

  • Soundproofing for musicians.
  • Art storage spaces.

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INTERVIEW OF KATHLEEN FORDE, CURATOR, EXPERIMENTAL MEDIA AND PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (EMPAC)

Interview by Charles Helm, Director of Performing Arts, Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University

Chuck Helm: I asked Kathleen to reflect on these questions and issues from the perspective of EMPAC being a prominent recent example of an art center that was specifically designed for “performance on the future” and new technologies and contrast the realities they’ve experienced since opening and operating in the facility with its original aspirational aims during its design phase.

Positives:

  • the silence (air handling, box within a box construction, sine wave dimmers)
  • the flexibility and acoustics of venues (black boxes in particular great for performances, film screenings, film shoots, audio mixing, projection, installations, talks) I would say it is vital to have spaces like the black box studios for new work. They are in some ways more useful than a theater in our context. Especially when the funding schemes don’t really support the types of giant projects that can take advantage of the Theater (operas etc).
  • the flexibility for audiences in different venues—the theater, studios and concert hall can all be seated and arranged differently to feel comfortable for small group or high capacity audience.
  • the ability to do last minute small, inexpensive things on the fly because of extra residency offices for artist residencies and allowing for some windows in the overall schedule and budget in all of the venues where last minute things (an artist coming in for a film shoot or audio recording, a workshop, a series of rehearsals for a company en route to a premiere in another city without an extended tech time) can happen.
  • places for social space—a reason for an audience to come into the building even when there is not a performance and/or spaces to mingle and talk /stick around before and after shows (art in public space and cafes for ex). (right now we are behind on this but moving forward)…
  • a separate space just for student life and student workshops/rehearsals

Negatives:

  • the lack of a permanent shop.
  • the lack of adequate permanent and accessible storage space for equipment (audio, video, stage).
  • the lack of basic and comfortable residency housing for groups of artists. As of right now we have 5 apartments available at any given time so budgets are usually used primarily for housing.
  • the biggest challenge which we are working through (and I hope to overcome) is the flexibility to follow the field of contemporary art and performance as it dovetails with installation and exhibition. A small room for a single video projection, doors and elevators that are big enough to bring large scale installations into public space, power across the street from the building so that projection on the facade can happen, the ability for an institution to affix things to walls (photographs, posters, flat screens) without the fear of damaging precious architecture. Walls that can be painted and patched over are important. White walls in some of the venues or public space which can be used for projection etc., etc.
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INTERVIEW OF DAVID HARRINGTON, KRONOS QUARTET

Interview by George Trudeau, Director and Amy Vashaw, Audience and Program Development Director, the Center for the Performing Arts, Pennsylvania State University

George, Amy and David met over breakfast for a discussion about the performing arts center of the future, and the needs of artists who are pushing boundaries. What follows are notes from the conversation, which are rather stream-of-consciousness, but that is the shape the conversation took.

David feels that an important feature of the arts center of the future will be fully integrated Wi-Fi capabilities. He noted wanting to do a project involving wireless internet but being hampered by the fact that one of their regular performance venues, Zankel Hall, is not Wi-Fi capable. He spoke about the need for internet connectivity throughout facilities

David noted that spaces should be designed with an eye toward giving audiences a totally re-imagined experience: “people want more involvement.” Audiences want to be close to and perhaps also interact in some way with performers (all ages). He noted an extreme example of the Ann Hamilton Tower in Sonoma Valley, CA. Kronos presented a work in the tower. Creating opportunities in the design (exterior and interior) for site-specific work would be interesting to David.

He went on to say that artists wish for TRULY modular acoustics that can be adjusted at the turn of a dial. He noted Wenger has created rehearsal rooms wherein an artist can change the acoustics of a room to prepare adequately for the hall they’ll be performing in. He indicated the audience craves a sense of informality, so anything that can promote that sense would be something to consider.

We talked about the need for spaces to be flexible, adaptable for the future. Projections on surfaces can change the environmental feel of a space.

Adaptability of spaces in all forms needs to be easy and relatively inexpensive.

It should be easy to record in a space, and hear back instantly as necessary.

He noted that Kronos is working with the creator of Guitar Hero on a piece.

He suggested getting in touch with Randall Klein from San Francisco Jazz. Here’s an article in which he talks about thematic programming and programming to the venue.

He also noted the Exploratorium in SF, what they are doing to attract audiences and provide an immersive experience.

David indicated that an ideal space includes a studio wherein 20-30 people can observe the creative process. He indicated they are doing a concert in a person’s home–really bringing the idea of the salon back with this notion. Rehearsal/creative spaces are important considerations.

The incorporation of artist living spaces in facility design would assist in interaction in many forms. These spaces could be designed to function as performance spaces–bringing the artist living and performance space together. Kronos has done concerts in its own studio/rehearsal space which has been attractive to attendees.

He also referenced a think tank for physicists in Canada that Kronos is working with, the Perimeter Institute. The institute programs arts and cultural events as part of its regular business.

I.F. Stone: a journalist who inspired Kronos. He was the voice of dissent. “step back, learn about the area of human inquiry: microbiology, archaeology, architecture, etc.”

David also referenced Donlyn Lyndon, the chair of architecture at Berkeley as a good person to talk to.

The ability to import and export content necessary.

Dressing rooms need to be close to the stage!
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INTERVIEW OF PAUL E. WESTLAKE, MANAGING PRINCIPAL AND PATRICK HYLAND, PROJECT DESIGNER/ARCHITECT OF WESTLAKE REED LESKOSKY

Interview by George Trudeau, Director, the Center for the Performing Arts, Pennsylvania State University

George Trudeau spoke with Paul Westlake and Pat Hyland via phone. They roughly followed the question protocol. Paul noted their firm is currently involved in three of the campuses helping to organize this convening–Ohio State/Mershon Auditorium, ASU/Gammage, Penn State/Center for the Performing Arts

1. As a campus arts center contemplates a possible renovation and expansion, what would you advise as key considerations in its planning process?

The stage house is the heart/essence of these facilities. Tours becoming larger, more technology incorporated into work/tour. Patrons have higher expectation for experience driven by 3D films, availability of sophisticated home technology. Exciting possibilities are emerging to create a theatrically immersive experience. Pay attention to stage technology–shelf life is the driver, need flexibility to stay up to date. Have ability to change infrastructure engineering for strength/ability to hang/incorporate – flexibility is key. Lots of existing structures have single (many large) venues – when adding second facility this is where flexibility comes into play. A small venue can complement larger/major venue. Examples from own work: currently working on Playhouse Square commission with Playhouse Theater Company, Cleveland State Theater. All under 550 seats.

Collaboration and synergy a trend. Other partners and resources sought to meet increasing challenge of funding.

2. For your own work and as you view work in your fields of engagement, what are the key physical needs that an arts center of the future needs to anticipate and address?

High bandwidth for fiber optics. Adjustable lighting fixtures. Digital projection. Must take into account architectural considerations of higher technology (exp. trend to digital scenery). Students are tech savvy, what makes experience different/desirable. Patron amenities casual-informal blended experiences. No boundaries of disciplines, interactivity with audience with feedback both ways. Create places that bring people from different disciplines together and in contact with art to hang out, talk about it, experience different artistic environments. Two examples: Ohio State business school incorporates art/artists, Cleveland Clinic incorporates visual art into all public spaces (has become a major visual art center) and working to create a presence in facilities for Cleveland Orchestra.

3. Where have you worked where the physical facilities were especially well-suited to the work you think is important to the future of your field?

Cuyahoga Community College Center for the Arts – technically rich backbone “most in USA” (archives of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). Arts and Idea Stream in Cleveland works art/artists into every segment of facility including artist interviews. Information on these facilities included.

4. Are there specific thoughts you would like to share about the following kinds of spaces:

a. Spaces in which artists develop work

  • Art can happen anywhere, artists need flexibility, multi-purpose spaces desirable, ability to create virtual worlds. Architecture adapts to “suit” campus wears. In their experience campuses are generally underfunded in technology.
b. Spaces in which audiences see and experience artistic works
  • Expectations are changing. Patrons want a 2-way street. Earlier start times, parties after shorter performances, use technology to bring audience closer to artists/see different views. Cited Hanna Theater in Cleveland, broke down barriers between social/performance experiences–lobby is both outside and in the performance space, bar in theater, take drinks to seat, freedom to move between bar–lobby–seat, different/higher lighting of audience, sight lines to other audience members, some seats larger that can orient to stage (public comes early to snag those), artists mingle in with patrons before/after, general feel is fluid scene between social side/performance side. Information included on Hannah Theatre.
c. Spaces in which audiences gather before and after seeing artistic works
  • Increasing desire to have theaters that are not transient experiences. Best model is the new Guthrie. Large lobby, should create same excitement as stage. Theaters as a desirable place to be for whole host of reasons.
d. Spaces for teaching in the arts
  • Backstage environment designed to create leaning opportunities. Learning should include different disciplines i.e. visual arts, sciences, etc. Operating principal is: “Where would Leonardo Da Vinci want to hang out?”
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INTERVIEW OF STANFORD MAKISHI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BARYSHNIKOV ARTS CENTER

Interview by Jeffrey James, Howard Gilman Director, Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College

Key considerations in planning:

  • Consulting with artists/users who have experience of many theatres (as Hop is doing)
  • A seasoned theatre consultant (Baryshnikov Arts Center is using ARUP)
  • Consulting administrators who have complete capital projects

Key physical needs that should be addressed:

  • Ease of use by the public
  • Cool place to hang out, especially if interested in younger audience
  • Environment inviting “engagement” – e.g. new Alice Tully Hall
  • Safety
  • Full tech complement (as advised by veteran artists/users – Jennifer Tipton advised them)
  • Acoustics
  • For dance: sightlines crucial (including feet), sprung floors
  • Freight accessibility (problem in the new BAC theatre)
  • Location as easy destination (or creating more of a destination)

Especially well-suited examples from your perspective:

  • EMPAC
  • REDCAT
  • University of Colorado, Boulder (combination of great studios, excellent theatre, welcoming culture)
  • Bennington (sweet, woody, welcoming)
  • Skidmore (good smallish theatre)
  • Often big stages and small houses really work, though, counter to that phenomenon are places like the Paris Opera/Palais Garnier and some other big opera houses, where everything the artist/ensemble needs is there at hand-huge stage, great dressing rooms, canteen, patron salons, restaurant(s), bar – i.e. A place where the artists and audience never need to leave.
  • MANCC (Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, Florida State University); magnificent space for creating and developing work, supportive of residencies in every way (elements of their formula: studios with views, sprung floors, high ceilings easily convertible into performance spaces; great sound system and flexible lighting; wonderful hang-out spaces, to encourage run-ins, collaboration, interdisciplinary work; lounge with Pilates class – a foot bath!; everybody who goes to work there feels pampered)
  • The Duke (42nd Street NYC) is an example of theatre that is not optimal, especially as a public space.

Thoughts on specific kinds of spaces are incorporated into the answers above.

Key Takeaways:

  • To be an optimal space for artists takes both the kinds of facility approaches mentioned above, as well as a daily attentiveness to creating a welcoming environment for the creation of work;
  • To be an optimal space for audiences, give them as much as you possible can for a whole experience–food, drink, welcoming staff, the right spaces, and a sense of destination.
  • It may be obvious, but great programming is a key to developing a personality as a venue.
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COMMENTS BY DIANE RAGSDALE, ASSOCIATE PROGRAM OFFICER, ANDREW W. MELLON FOUNDATION

Collected by Jeffrey James, Howard Gilman Director, Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College

My points of view on all this are pretty basic—I think that, at a minimum, we need spaces that support the way artists want to create and present work and people want to experience it (now and as their needs and preferences evolve). I think we need spaces that support socializing (in various forms). Depending on mission, spaces may also need to support hands-on participation, or training, or “classroom learning,” or the particular needs of families or other constituencies (youth, the aging, non-English speaking, etc). Given the growing importance of individual donors, spaces may also need to support donor cultivation needs. And in order to not be marginalized or underutilized, spaces may need to be available to serve other needs in the community.
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INTERVIEW OF PETER SELLARS, DIRECTOR

Interview by Jeffrey James, Howard Gilman Director, Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College, Margaret Lawrence, Programming Director, and Joe Clifford, Audience Engagement Director

James: 2012 Fall will be our 50th anniversary and we want to mark that in a variety of ways, We also want to bring into very clear focus for Dartmouth’s leadership what the Hopkins Center’s future should be, at that point….knowing that 50 years ago, when this place was being conceived and built, Dartmouth was being very brave…

Sellars: And it’s my observation that you’ve also become a student center. From the fries to the mailboxes, that’s where students are.

James: Right. When we were being built, the then-president said “I envision is that this place should become the heart and soul of Dartmouth College.” And in many ways it has. Nelson Rockefeller, who pushed this project, was an alum of Dartmouth. And that’s why in part the architect Wallace Harrison was involved. We would like to use this institutional moment of the 50th and beyond to force Dartmouth to look at the powerful decision and action it had taken those many years ago…and to have that same kind of bravery again, in thinking about “what should this place be for its next 50 years?”

Sellars (joking): And the answer is, the ultimate party school.

James: We also hope that long-postponed promises for the Hop—which, if you’ve noticed, is looking a little ragged around the edges—that this can become a moment of re-animating this building, which all in all still has an incredible pulse to it…but its physicality needs attention. And there has long been promised some level of expansion…both related to the fact that some parts of the Hop will move out when the new Visual Arts Center is built. You may have picked up from students that there are a lot of things that don’t happen around here because there are no spaces for them. Even though we try to have students be as creative as they can, there still are just moments when you throw up your hands—they can’t get into the black box theatre because it is booked the whole time. In the planning period leading up to the 50th, one of the things we want to try to do is talk with people like you about your thoughts on where your own work is headed, and where the work that you admire is headed, in terms of what does an arts center of the future in a place like Dartmouth, look like?

Sellars (joking): Can there be better programming than that which exists?

James: We have started to talk about the act of commissioning much more actively and strategically…and having a closer relationship with artists for whom this makes sense—who get the educational mission and want to be a part of it…and who have their own statements to make. Outreach is also an area we imagine for growth. It is currently applied almost only to the visiting performing artists. But it also could be applied to what the music department does, etc. So this is a 2-part set of questions for you: One, in terms of facilities: where have you been that you have loved and that is great for what you do—and why is that? If you had a blank slate, what would you create?

Lawrence: Especially looking forward: how are artists creating work and how can building catch up?

Sellars: It doesn’t always have to do with money. I mean, all sorts of buildings have been created that we don’t have the money to fill…

James: The other part to do with you, is we’d very much like to have your brain engaged in helping us think about this moment, too. We’ll be forming an artists’ advisory group that you’d be an ideal member of.

Sellars: Please! Sure!

James: And beyond that, you’ve planted seeds here and there about projects you’d be interested in doing. I don’t know if you’d be interested in doing any of them with us, but we could also talk about that.

Lawrence: Back to the first question: what do you think artists need?

Sellars: Somewhere that is warm in the winter and open in the summer (laughs). I am really spoiled, because I have a relationship with REDCAT, a place where all kinds of people are absolutely thrilled to walk into that building, and once they’re in there, are super-happy. The building itself is such an amazing magnet….and the experience when you’re in it is of a real community. The building itself creates a feeling of belonging and togetherness. I think it’s my favorite black box theater I have ever been in. The sound and lighting setups are so brilliantly done; the proportions are magnificent. Most black boxes are so claustrophobic, but the ceiling there is fantastic. Also, the lobby is great. It is unpretentious yet elegant—it doesn’t feel like second-rate anything. It feels like the most sophisticated artists of this generation chose to create there….rather than “this is the alternative space for the kids.” The details all are there—the panels move…the place is alive. It is not a tomb. The future is created in spaces that have air, light, a sense of responsiveness, and are not “second best.”

Frank Gehry’s gift is also to make shared spaces. So the relationship of the audience to the theater is great. There is an obsession with everyone having close proximity. My favorite seating is that of a steep slope. You’re close, plus the height creates a dynamic spatial relationship. Here at the Hop, Spaulding barely has any rake—that is like a nightmare for me. It is like a landscape in Nebraska where you think there is going to be a hill….but then, there is only more flatness. You’re hoping for a little altitude, but it’s just not gonna happen. I love Theatre de la Ville in Paris, with its super steep rake, because that creates a community.

Lawrence: Do you think artists need more flexible buildings than they used to?

Sellars: For me, the imagination has shifted to the visual. Instead of moving things around and building stuff, you can do the whole thing on a laptop. So for me, it’s more important that the space be wired and hooked up, so you can do everything digital. Can you do an amazing sound installation? I think maybe we need another speaker at every third chair, in the theater! You should be able to show up with your laptop, plug it in, and have the whole place be alive. That is a priority.

James: You mentioned there are places for community other than Disney Hall—places that really work?

Sellars: Palais Garnier? (laughs) Actually, literally, every project that I am doing…we are doing all kinds of different things around the shows. Feeding refugees, showing films, etc…so the show is just one part of the project. What I’m really getting is the Paris Opera AND Disney Hall—where the performance area is only one third of its space…and there are all these incredible public spaces for people to gather, be together. Everything goes around the performance, through the performance, which is only one part of the total picture. Right now, it is the shabbiness of the public spaces at the Hop that is the crisis. You can camp out somewhere, but you always feel like some weird homeless person, in the lobby.

Lawrence: The lobbies are miniscule, too.

Sellars: You need to remember—a community project is part of the show. You want a space for the community, where they love coming. That is what Gehry did so beautifully at Disney. All the public spaces are so thrilling, including the public gardens, places you can go up and have views…. Disney Hall is this composite thing, and the only other building like that for me is the Paris Opera: there are fantastic balconies from which to survey all the rooftops from Montmartre to here! There is room for multiple groups to gather, and creative things can happen.

I’d also like to emphasize organic food, food preparation, and what it actually means to make the food the subject, not “next to the subject;” where the content is eating differently; because that is what brings people together, is food. Also, greenery—there must be gardens. In your case, there is a big winter. But can there be a hanging garden, maybe inside glass? A magnificent green, hanging garden—a beautiful tropical indoor space. If you just live in this cold building, it does something to you that’s not good. You need a tropical, moist, aromatic provision for your senses. The Hop should be a place of total sensory revival. It’s no accident that the Café at the Hop—the fanned out area—is packed every day. The students feel it’s theirs, the food is there, it’s like a back porch, there’s light…..and its shape is non rectilinear (which is a great relief at Dartmouth! I am so obsessed with hard lines at this place!)

James: And you know, when the Hop was built, those arches at the front, those curves, did not go over well!

Sellars: Yes, I bet! So the more inviting you can make your spaces, the better. Although I love the Frank Gehry stuff, the architect is only as good as the client. One that was NOT a good client for Frank, was Bard. The client was too square.

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INTERVIEW OF JASON TREUTING, FOUNDER, SO PERCUSSION

Interview by Jenny Bilfield, Artistic and Executive Director, Stanford Lively Arts

Treuting Bio:
Jason Treuting performs with SO Percussion, Big Farm, QQQ, Alligator Eats Fish, and neitherMusic. He also improvises with composer/performer Cenk Ergun and in a duo setting with composer/guitarist Steve Mackey. His compositions are featured on So’s latest album Amid the Noise from Cantaloupe Music. Treuting received his Bachelor in Music at the Eastman School of Music where he studied percussion with John Beck and drum set and improvisation with Ralph Alessi, Michael Cain and Steve Gadd. He received his Master in Music along with an Artist Diploma from Yale University where he studied percussion with Robert Van Sice. He has also traveled to Japan to study marimba with Keiko Abe and Bali to study gamelan with Pac I Nyoman Suadin.

SO PERCUSSION Bio:
Since coming together at the Yale School of Music, So Percussion has been creating music that is at turns raucous and touching, barbarous and heartfelt. Realizing that percussion instruments can communicate all the extremes of emotion and musical possibility, it has not been an easy music to define. Called “astonishing and entrancing” by Billboard Magazine, “brilliant” by the New York Times, the Brooklyn based quartet’s innovative work has quickly helped them forge a unique and diverse career.

Their music runs the gamut from percussion classics (Steve Reich’s Drumming), to new commissions (David Lang’s the so-called laws of nature), to original music (group member Jason Treuting’s Amid the Noise).

So Percussion has performed this music all over the United States, with concerts at the Lincoln Center Festival, Carnegie Hall, Stanford Lively Arts, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and many others. In addition, recent tours to Russia, Australia, Italy, Spain, Germany, and the Ukraine have brought them international acclaim.

1. As a campus arts center contemplates a possible renovation and expansion, what would you advise as key considerations in its planning process?

Presenters and SO PERC are getting used to the fact that you can present music with more than just the aural/sound element in mind. When we go to spots [on presenter series] that are just music-oriented, it’s clear that the visual side needs to be important–we see the value of a lighting designer, facilities to enhance visual dimension. This is something presenters are learning about as well. We find that we’re going to more spots that have alleged malleability, but nobody takes advantage of it because of clout [they'll do it for a high-profile artist, but not for an upstart percussion quartet] and cost [operations]. We need spaces that are not just configurable in theory, but configurable to all…easy enough and cost effective enough for any visiting group to configure. We often get the ‘oh that’s not possible’ blow-back. Space needs to work for the artist. This is often hard to anticipate ahead of time–there’s something in the moment about it–you realize this sort of thing on-site…that the space would allow you to do X. Venues that have lighting and video capacity would be great–this is assumed in black box theater spot. This flexibility has to do with the way a venue is built, and also how it’s run. As a Percussion Quartet—on tour, we’re trained to be easy on everyone. We really want partners who will help us grow audience and to help a performance feel ‘of’ the space.

2. For your own work and as you view work in your fields of engagement, what are the key physical needs that an arts center of the future needs to anticipate and address?

Video, lighting, configurable (tech, seating)–options to configure. More conversation with artists/tech staff ahead of time. Talking earlier is better. More likely to make changes at last minute–they’re more flexible than, say, a touring standard orchestra. [It's consistent with the] John Cage side of what they do [SO PERC has Cage and Reich repertoire at its core]. Making decisions living and breathing, with the ability to adjust/flex in real time.

3. Where have you worked where the physical facilities were especially well-suited to the work you think is important to the future of your field?

Loved playing at the new space at Walker Arts Center [McGuire Theater]–stage, tech feel like huge venue but audience size is small (300+). Intimate. The Harvey @ BAM feels smaller than it is.

4. Are there specific thoughts you would like to share about the following kinds of spaces:

a. Spaces in which artists develop work:
SO PERCUSSION has had wildly different development situations. One seems to be the rustic, and the other is fully loaded at disposal. A barn in southern Vermont versus Kasser Hall at Montclair, where SO could bring its own crew and use Kasser’s staff to load/implement. Felt like they were taken care of and well supported. Crew was receptive. Thought Kasser/Montclair felt integral in developing the work that SO PERCUSSION was working on, wanted to make it great even though it was being developed–this was the first time SO had that kind of support. Super important. They’re more prepared because they’re able to develop it for practical use/knowledge at performance venues– pragmatic. Ideal: development space as similar as possible to the performance space. Their own rehearsal space–southern Vermont, staying near rehearsal barn. No feeling of time constraints. Could work right at the moment. Budgets not on mind. So different, but as valuable.

b. Spaces in which audiences see and experience artistic works: see response to first question re: malleable spaces.

c. Spaces in which audiences gather before and after seeing artistic works: more casual–un-moderated…casual hang time, with a bar. Time after to process, socialize, casually. Awkward to have CD table as only milling-about place in lobby where artists can connect with audience. Facilitated in a way that doesn’t feel facilitated–not completely ad hoc. Thoughtful questions happen in-hall, lobby is more ‘fun’ questions.

d. Spaces for teaching in the arts: depends upon age level. For under college age, something awesome about coming to a performance hall. SO tailors show to them. In general you’re bringing audience to see what the artist does, not dumbing-down. Commands a certain respect. Targeted teaching situation requires a neutral space–flexible space. Video, sound, available, and a place where people can interact. Performance vs. grouped learning.

Take Aways

Build real flexibility into spaces, such that it’s accessible to all users and not prohibitively expensive or operationally cumbersome.

Allow time for shows to be tailored to the space once an artist is on-site–build that sensibility into the planning and staff mindset.

Offer development time in the space that a new work is being created for in order to simulate ‘real’ conditions and minimize unknowns of transferring from one site to another.
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INTERVIEW OF MARIANNE WEEMS, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, THE BUILDERS ASSOCIATION

Interview by Charles Helm, Director of Performing Arts, Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University

1. As a campus arts center contemplates a possible renovation and expansion, what would you advise as key considerations in its planning process?

A large, open space where seating can be adjusted, and which can be darkened completely.

2. For your own work and as you view work in your fields of engagement, what are the key physical needs that an arts center of the future needs to anticipate and address?

40x40x20′ black box fully-wired.

3. Where have you worked where the physical facilities were especially well-suited to the work you think is important to the future of your field?

Kaaitheater (Brussels) was built to serve artists working in the late ’80′s (such as The Wooster Group, Needcompany, Jan Fabre, etc.) and therefore has many of the features my generation of artists were raised to hope for.

I also love post-industrial spaces which have been repurposed, such as MASS MoCA, Tramway (Glasgow), Muffathalle (Zurich) etc. I think this is because the spaces always feel open–there is air and room around the work, even if the set is quite large. It gives the audience a chance to experience an epic, empty space, which is not a common experience in contemporary life.

4. Are there specific thoughts you would like to share about the following kinds of spaces:

a. Spaces in which artists develop work

  • A floor you can drill into. A space which can expand and contract depending on the size of the rehearsals. A wood and metal shop. A digital lab.

b. Spaces in which audiences see and experience artistic works

  • My ideal is to place the set on the ground with an audience in a steep rake. My experience has been that you can seat 900 people in this configuration without losing intimacy. (But of course we use large video images, so I’m not speaking for everyone.)

c. Spaces in which audiences gather before and after seeing artistic works

  • A big bar/restaurant.

d. Spaces for teaching in the arts

  • In the theater, hands-on, everyday.

One last word:

We had the remarkable privilege of developing our last show, CONTINUOUS CITY, at the Krannert Center in Champagne/Urbana, Illinois. In addition to providing financial support, we were able to work closely with their shop to design and construct the set, and we also occupied their theater for six consecutive weeks with staff support. The experience left me speechless. In other words, simply having a fully-functional theater, a caring staff, and the space and time to do what we needed to do was unsurpassable.

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