You're doing this project not as Off-Leash Area, but as an individual. How did you decide to go after an Artist Initiative Grant that would support the work of others rather than something that would support your own project?
Yes, this is an individual endeavor. Though I must say, Off-Leash Area would be the perfect organization to spearhead this. Unfortunately, OLA is too small an organization budget-wise for us to be eligible for any funding. I thought this was an important project for artists, for the community, and for me personally, so I went after the Artist Initiative grant.
I believe artists are not only responsible for their own work, but also responsible for and to their peers. Artistic initiatives aren't just about creating something. I've been working professionally for over 30 years -- am 53 now -- and I feel ready to take on a leadership role in the community that reflects my interests and skills and experience. No one is going to offer me this, so I've just gone after it!
Have you done much curation in the past? How do you see it as part of your work as an artist? What's the process been like for you?
I don't use the word 'curator' for myself, and can't control how others may view and want to categorize this effort. I am a facilitator. I don't come from an academic background or point of view. I'm very practical. I'm not trying to put forth my personal taste, nor further any aesthetic agenda other than valuing: original work, work that plays with form, and independent producing artists. The work in the showcase doesn't have to be 'experimental,' but it can't be 'conventional' -- and these terms change constantly. I believe that when an artist is true to themselves, and that exploration is ongoing, then the work is bound to be original and push form to some extent. So I see this as more a part of my work as an artist/professional/member of the community.
Were you looking for anything in particular when you put out the open call? What was your criteria as you looked through the submissions?
I really had no idea who would or would not apply, or contact me, or be interested. I didn't have a big budget, and the public call for proposals was minimal. It's the first time out, so maybe in the future word will spread. But I did have enough. The criteria was that the artists had to have lived continuously in Minnesota for five years, created work, and demonstrated an ongoing engagement with developing a personal style or vocabulary. They also needed to have a history of creating original work over at least 10 years, and be 30 years of age or older.
Can you give me a general sense about the show? Are there any themes that have emerged?
I think the overall flavor of the two weekends will be deeply personal but approachable experiences. This is art, but art made by artists who want to engage with the audience, and through their work offer that audience multiple entry points. I think the work is overall emotional rather than cerebral.
What excites you about the artists you have selected?
These are people who don't play games, who are extremely serious about their professions, and have given a lot of themselves to their work over the years, and I think it shows on stage.
Anything else we should know about this showcase?
The entry is 'suggested donation' because I want as many people to attend as possible. It can't be a community event unless the community is engaged.
I guess also that this is a showcase, and not a festival. Festivals have to put on themed events, like Two Headed Artists with a Tendency Towards Blue, and attempt to be barometers of what's going on. They're always beholden to funders, and whatever personal tastes of the panels or artistic directors are. A 'showcase' implies something smaller, more precious (in a good way!), and manageable. With the showcase I'd like to say, "Look! No need to look outside our own community for national quality artists. They're right here, and all you have to do is pay attention to them!"
Provincialism is a state of mind.
IF YOU GO:
The Right Here Showcase
James Sewell Ballet Tek Box at the Cowles Center
7:30 and 9 p.m. Friday-Sunday, with each artist performing for about an hour.
There's a suggested donation of $10-25, which includes two performances in one evening.
Get your tickets here.