Monday, November 22, 2010

Austin Scenic Coop Forging Links

Austin Scenic Coop Forging Links:

New Works Community, Mellon Foundation, Sustainable Theater Project

The last month or so has brought some exciting news. A coalition of Austin theater groups and artists has formed to carry out a research and development project very similar to the one the ASC is engaged in with TCG support. Its aim is to determine the best means by which the Mellon Foundation can support the production of new work in Austin. The Scenic Coop is participating in this effort.

Some background: last year the Mellon Foundation contacted members of the Austin theater community with a suggestion. They had identified Austin as one of three cities known as an incubator of new work (not an exhaustive list by any means, just three smaller scenes with that reputation), and wanted to support that effort. But how do you throw something substantial behind such an ephemeral notion? The Foundation’s suggestion was “You tell us.”

So, a variety of theater folks with a focus on creating original works began to meet and discuss this. Areas of specific study were named, including Audience Engagement, Resource Sharing, Communication, ways of dealing with Austin’s geographical and cultural isolation, sustaining suitable living standards for arts workers, etc. After some many months, a proposal was drawn up, thanks in large part to the diligence of Katie Pearl and others, and the Foundation agreed to it. The result is an 18 month long process of compiling info on the needs, opinions, suggestions, warnings and potential of as many Austin artists as possible.

Clearly, in the area of Resource Sharing, the ASC dovetails perfectly with the New Works Community’s proposed goals. I have been attending meetings and am preparing for a retreat in January to coordinate the launch of the NWC proposal’s next phase. This process has brought the ASC to the more acute awareness of the community, and the feedback I have received has been eye opening. Among other things, I have begun to think of the possibilities for sharing non-material resources. There is such a lot of work involved in dealing with physical materials that it is possible to forget that resource sharing is as much a creative conversation as it is an organizational undertaking.

In the meantime, the Coop’s inventory-taking is complete and a database is being built. The website is inches away from being published, and we continue to provide materials for a variety of projects, though on that front things are oddly slow the last few weeks.

A meeting with Salvage Vanguard Theater’s Artistic Director Jenny Larson and the heads of the other organizations which headquarter at SVT’s space has yielded a plan to expand the storage capacity of the Coop, enabling us to begin taking donations again (we’ve been at capacity for a few months). The new area is directly behind the stage of the large theater at SVT, and will house foam, hardboard and marly for use by dance companies, as well as a general stock of elements and some of the taller pieces that have been wedged into the shed and existing storage bays. There’s a roll-up door too, which means that we can take things that won’t fit through a standard doorway. Wow. Cool.

Anyway, I guess that covers the latest action. Off for now,

Connor Hopkins

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