2.20.13 | Transblog
On a chilly day in December, we gathered in the TransDesign space to explore what sustainability meant to theatre artists and designers in the context of a residency program. Writing as a theatre artist myself, we were aware that this was certainly new territory and a bit of a daunting task to undertake. Beginning with our initial application to the New Challenge, we tried to envision a residency program that utilized strategic design thinking to generate a new philosophy and practice around ideas of sustainability and what that means to an artist. Would they even be interested in bringing such an ideological, social trend into the context of their work? If so, how would they go about doing it? We posed these questions and others to a willing group of artists who were concerned about the sustainability of performance in a wider social context.
We were lucky to have a workshop group that was not only comfortable but also quite well versed in collaboration. Many work with ensembles that offer company members ample space, flexibility, and the trust to equally contribute to the process of creation. In these environments, wild ideas can take shape and grow from the ingenuity of creative collaborators. These artists, however, are also deeply curious and vigorously invested in honestly representing the current state of the industry—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Within this particular group of artists, there was a consistent interest in exploring how sustainability could be better incorporated into their practice. After all, the basic principles of sustainability are fundamental to the success of their respective theatre communities.
After kicking off the workshop with a brief warm-up exercise and introduction, we split our participants into two groups for a brainstorming exercise that focused on the possible positive and negative outcomes that incorporating sustainability into an artist residency might have on either the work created or the residency program itself. We introduced as little specificity as possible so that a full world of potential projects and complications could be imagined. We organized these into 3 central categories: artists working within a “cocoon,” context and environment (division between artist and non-artist), and practical concerns. We, then, used these categories to generate potential projects that could be submitted to an operating residency.
In the second half of the residency program, we changed the perspective from that of the artist to that of the residency “producer.” Three teams then proposed three amazing pieces that each addressed one of the categories. In the end, we had a conceptual model of the artist and their struggles with sustainability in the industry.