Friday, July 6, 2018

How Can We Really Earn the Name, The Field?

by Jennifer Wright Cook, Executive Director of The Field

The name “The Field” is ambitious. It implies that we believe that the whole ecology of artists and makers is vital to the health of our world. “The Field” means that we believe that all voices and visions are key. Maybe we haven’t earned that name?

From May 2017 til May 2018 The Field was one of 60 arts organizations in the Race Forward’s Racial Equity in the Arts Innovation Lab, an amazing yearlong training program to improve racial equity in the arts and culture sector. Representing The Field was former Program Manager Wilfredo Hernandez, and myself - Executive Director, Jennifer Wright Cook.

Race Forward | The Center for Racial Justice Innovation | logo
Click to read their June 2017 press release,
"Race Forward Announces Distinguished Roster of
Participants for Racial Equity in the Arts Innovation Lab."
After several workshops and skill-sharing (and dance parties), each organization had to launch a prototype to advance equity in their organization. The Field focused our prototype on Fieldwork, our 32 year old flagship feedback program that has been used by tens of thousands of artists and educators nationally and internationally. 

For context, Fieldwork artists/participants have historically skewed primarily white, primarily female, primarily dance/movement-based work. Our four Fieldwork facilitators are artists of color; three of whom have facilitated for 10+ years. In order to support our facilitators and sustain the program as a whole, we realized (1) We have some work to do, and (2) We are gonna do that work.

Wilfredo and I analyzed the pedagogy and practice of Fieldwork by looking hard at the Facilitator Manual and the participant Guidelines. We looked for coded language and silent references to the lifting up of white Eurocentric aesthetics around style, structure, design, body type, etc.

The work we set out to do was co-created with our Fieldwork facilitators. They are vital to the work. We collaborated with Fieldwork facilitators Pele Bauch, James Scruggs, Shalewa Mackall and Naoko Maeshiba via discussions, and review of writing and processes.

Current Fieldwork facilitators, L-R: Pele Bauch, Shalewa Mackall, Naoko Maeshiba, and James Scruggs
Field Deputy Director Shawn René Graham and National Field Network Manager Katherine Longstreth participated in our discussions and revisions. Full Field staff was looped in to the process and resulting programmatic changes.

Here are two key problem areas we identified together, and our processes to address them:
  1. Problem: The emotional labor of our facilitators is real. We need to support them more, check in more, listen more, and pay them for check-ins and debriefs.
    Process: We are baking in regular check-ins and debriefs to our facilitator engagements, and we are adding money to the budget to support this work.
  2. Problem: We need to be race explicit. Our public-facing Guidelines had not intentionally and authentically included artists of color.
    Process: We added more inclusive language. For instance, we included the following text to the Guidelines used by all participants, and made them available on our website: “If you feel like the feedback is too much or is biased by race, gender, culture or other -isms, the facilitator will lead the group to ensure that the artist’s work and vision is centered authentically and respectfully.”
In case you’re wondering, “Is this just a Diversity Initiative that just aims to get more artists of color in Fieldwork?” – the goal of this work is not to get more artists of color in Fieldwork – although that might happen.

The goal is to ensure that artists of color feel intentionally and authentically seen, supported, and engaged. As Wilfredo said,
"If we are going to create the circumstances in which artists of color feel supported and uplifted, then we need to scaffold that experience and make sure we are co-creating that reality each time we enter into the room. That requires some level of standard language and practice."
So what’s next?
  • Fully bake in the new practices and protocols so that Fieldwork can better support artists of color
  • Share our work with our national Fieldwork sites
  • Connect to more outer borough and/or artists of color led spaces for Fieldwork
Overall we are deeply grateful to Race Forward for this incredibly ambitious effort to impact the NYC arts and culture sector - for putting in heart, muscle and brains, and for empowering us to move ourselves and our organizations forward toward equity; and to the NYC Cultural Agenda Fund for funding this ambitious effort – and for putting out the RFP that made space for the work to happen! If there is no incentive for equity work, unfortunately, most white-dominated organizations will not do it.

We also want to thank our cohort partners at DanceNYC, ARTs East New York, and Spaceworks; as well as our coach Ellen Gurzinsky for making us work harder and laugh more.

The work is ongoing and consistent. It doesn’t end; it is iterating and shifting and growing forward.

PS. Here is full scoop on what we did and what we learned.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

July 2018 Meet Our Artists: Nicola Bullock

Our Members, Fiscally Sponsored Artists, and other program participants represent a wide range of career stages and disciplines. We love them - and, as fellow artists, we're always inspired by them. With this monthly feature, we hope you'll feel the same way!

Name: Nicola Bullock

I am…
A dance-maker, performer, teacher, and student

I’m inspired by…
The people who have come before me - back to the first humans to ever walk upright – and by the generations yet to come. I am inspired by the fact that dance has always held an important role in connecting people to themselves, each other, the world, and the cosmos. I am inspired by the endless wealth of ways that different bodies move as they seek to lead fulfilling lives.

I’m proud of…
Championing the voices of local dance-makers in Durham NC by producing shows, cofounding an organization that curates a season of dance, and working with theater companies to bridge the theater and dance communities.

My goals are…
To hear the ancient wisdom of the body; to learn how to transmit a visceral sensation to others through dancing; to adventure places outside of prescribed roles and movement patterns; and to keep a good sense of humor while at it.

How does The Field help you?
I'm excited to be a Fiscally Sponsored Artist at The Field! This allows me to fundraise and apply for grants with the backing of an incredible organization.

Any advice for fellow artists?
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” - Samuel Beckett

Click to enlarge images. Couch photo by Noah Rosenblatt-Farrell. Bullock. Mustache photo by Mayra Wallraff. Field photo and other content ©Nicola Bullock

Additional viewing: Creative Block 

To join The Field community and become eligible for a "Meet Our Artists" feature, sign up for a membership and join our mailing list for program updates!

Friday, June 1, 2018

June 2018 Meet Our Artists: André de Quadros

Our Members, Fiscally Sponsored Artists, and other program participants represent a wide range of career stages and disciplines. We love them - and, as fellow artists, we're always inspired by them. With this monthly feature, we hope you'll feel the same way!

André de Quadros

What do you do?
Artistic Director of Common Ground Voices (CGV), an international choir project consisting of equal groups of Arabs, Israelis, and Swedes

What inspires you?
The common ground of music unites and acts as a tool for fruitful dialogue based on creativity, compassion, and respect.

What are you proud of?
In Jerusalem, we are confronted with ethnic, religious, political, and socio-economic diversity, segregation, and fragmentation. Over a five-day residency in March 2018, the singers were able to converse about the conflict, realizing the importance and platform of CGV.

The Swedish singers functioned as artistic and project partners by being able to mediate conversations. Several of the Israeli and Palestinian participants testified that CGV gave them the opportunity, for the first time, to have a fruitful dialogue with the other party, based on mutual respect.

What are your goals?

Common Ground Voices aims to form a circle of understanding in a world of differences between human beings.

Do you have any advice for your fellow artists?

Peace-building and conflict resolution takes patience.

How does The Field help you?

The Field assisted in raising money for the travel, accommodation, and food costs for the singers; providing the resources to make the 2018 March residency in Jerusalem possible.

Click to enlarge images. Content ©André de Quadros

Additional viewing:

To join The Field community and become eligible for a "Meet Our Artists" feature, sign up for a membership and join our mailing list for program updates!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Field DC/Portland Touring Exchange

Our latest Network Touring Exchange wrapped up this Spring! Launched in 2016, this program provides the opportunity for movement-based Network Site Leaders and Fieldwork facilitators to visit another Network Site for 2-7 days of mutual capacity-building activities. Read about the 2016 Network Touring Exchange here.

This Spring we were happy to have Claire Alrich (Site Coordinator of The Field/DC; independent dance artist) and Sarah Greenbaum (Fieldwork facilitator; Dance Place Artistic & Community Program Manager) travel to Portland, Oregon from April 13-16, 2018. Here's what they reported from the field, to The Field!


Project Summary

The goal of this exchange was to research residency models. During the exchange we planned to meet with community leaders and organizers of art spaces that host artist residencies to research different ways feedback is incorporated into residency structures. These conversations also focused on how programs centered equity, and how equity could be enhanced.


Friday, April 13: We began our first day in Portland meeting with Subanashi (Suba) Ganesan, Creative Laureate of Portland, Portland-based dance artist, and founder of New Expressive Works (N.E.W.), a flexible use dance space in SE Portland, which hosts performances, classes, and rehearsals. We talked with Suba about N.E.W.’s residency program which incorporates three sessions of Fieldwork over its six-month session. These Fieldwork sessions are led by The Field/ Portland Site Coordinator Katherine Longstreth.

Claire Alrich, Subashini Ganesan, Sarah Greenbaum (selfie)
Next, we met with Linda K. Johnson, who shared some history of the Portland dance scene and, specifically, her role in Conduit Dance Company, which was a major force in the local, national and international dance community until it closed in 2016 after 21 years due to lack of affordable space. Linda also discussed her mentoring program Corpus, which was devised from a need in the community for continuing artistic and community development for post-graduates in the Portland area.

Saturday, April 14: Saturday morning we attended an Authentic Movement class at FLOCK, a one-room dance center in Northeast Portland with eight member-artists, each of whom pays a flat fee each month for dedicated time in the space as well as access to flexible time they can reserve week by week. Authentic Movement is one of the only regular classes the space offers; generally it is dedicated to rehearsal and workshops for its members.

After class we talked with Tahni Holt, choreographer and founder of FLOCK. Tahni shared her experience of running FLOCK as well as her motivation for starting the space; we also spoke more generally about the successes and challenges of the Portland dance community, specifically in-regards to gentrification and shifting demographics of neighborhoods.

Claire Alrich and Tahni Holt (Photo by Sarah Greenbaum)
Saturday afternoon we participated in a Fieldwork showing organized by Portland-based artists Katherine Longstreth, (The Field/ Portland Site Coordinator), and Jen Mitas (Fieldwork facilitator.) The showing took place at Performance Works NW, a church-turned-studio space run by Linda Austin, which hosts an Artist in Residence program. Several Portland-based artists, including Catherine Egan, Allie Hankins, and Michael Galen, showed their work. We shared a segment of our evening-length work, Holon!, which will premiere this July at the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, DC.

Following the showing we went out for drinks and snacks with the Fieldwork participants, getting to know each other and sharing about our respective communities.

Sunday, April 15:
We spent Sunday morning exploring the West Hills of Portland and the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Sunday evening, we returned to N.E.W. for the Artists in Residence Fieldwork showing. We watched works in progress by the four artists and participated in the feedback session, with about 30 minutes of feedback for each artist. Katherine Longstreth led the session and Suba Ganesan also attended.

Joint showing with Field/PDX and Field/DC artists (L-R) Celine Bouley, Catherine Egan, Allie Hankins, Rachael Dichter, Katherine Longstreth, Claire Alrich, Jen Mitas, Michael Galen (Photo by Sarah Greenbaum)
Monday, April 16: Monday morning we gathered at Jen Mitas’ home along with Katherine Longstreth to discuss the Fieldwork Facilitators Guide, with an eye towards shifting the guide to make Fieldwork more equitable and accessible to all. Prior to the meeting, Jen met with Suba Ganesan; Jen brought Suba’s insight to the meeting as well. We met for three hours and had a fruitful conversation, but recognize that there is much more work to do.

From there we went to Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) to meet with Erin Boberg Doughton (Artistic Director and Curator of Performance), Roya Amirsoleymani (Artistic Director and Curator of Public Engagement) and Van Pham (Development Associate). We discussed PICA’s structure, its position in a changing neighborhood and its Creative Exchange Lab, a three-week, interdisciplinary, research-based residency that takes place on site at PICA and at nearby artist retreat Caldera Arts.

We also attended the Creative Exchange Lab’s open showing at PICA, where artists shared samples of their work with the Portland community.

Takeaways & Actions

This residency provided us with ample time to learn, discuss, question, reflect and connect. The following points reflect recurring themes that surfaced during our time in Portland – important conversations that we continue to reflect on.
  • Bringing together diverse groups of people in flexible spaces 
  • Working from a scarcity vs. abundance lens as a means for creating more equitable sharing of resources 
  • How artists shift - and shift with - the changing landscape of a city 
  • The importance of holding space for process, without expectation of a product 
  • The impossibility of a “blank slate” and the need to acknowledge background/assumptions when viewing art and giving feedback.

To learn more about future Network Touring Exchanges or how to bring Fieldwork to your city, visit The Field Network at

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

May 2018 Meet Our Artists: Anabella Lenzu

Our Members, Fiscally Sponsored Artists, and other program participants represent a wide range of career stages and disciplines. We love them - and, as fellow artists, we're always inspired by them. With our monthly "Meet Our Artists" feature, we hope you'll feel the same way!

Anabella Lenzu

What do you do?
Choreographer, dancer, teacher, writer, and artistic director of Anabella Lenzu/DanceDrama (ALDD)
What inspires you?
My work reflects my experience as a Latina/European artist living in New York, and comes from a deep examination of my motivations as a woman, mother, and immigrant.

What are you proud of?
I have had cultural, economic, and social difficulties in my career as a teacher and choreographer, but I have always risen above them by thinking and reflecting on my role as one of service to dance, to art, to my community, and to my people.
My impulse to learn, my need to see the world, and my desire to gain insight into this life and the next have led me to travel, teach, and share my experiences and my culture with others. I feel privileged and blessed to have been able to make a living as a choreographer, dancer, and teacher in Argentina, Chile, Italy, the United States, and the world.

Do you have any advice for your fellow artists?
As dancers with years of training, we know how we appear externally, how the audience sees and perceives us. We have built our internal framework, the skeleton of our artistic selves, and just as we built the house, we must furnish the interiors.
I reached my physical and mental limits many times. I suffered from bulimia and panic attacks, but I overcame them through my family’s patience and guidance, and by listening to myself, confronting myself in the mirror, closing my eyes and cultivating an internal self-image.
This is my dance training, and I apply it to all areas of my life. Through constant, persistent work, we form an umbilical cord – a connection – between the darkness and the light.

How does The Field help you?
I met Steve Gross (one of the founders of The Field) in 1999, when I did not speak English. I took ALL the workshops they offered in Grant Writing, Development, Marketing, Pitching, etc. I participated in Fieldwork at least 10 times and learned how to give honest and precise feedback to my peers (in English).
The Field gave me the foundation to understand how a private/nonprofit dance company functions, preparing me to create ALDD.

Click to enlarge images. All photos by Todd Carroll.
Additional Viewing:
Sangre y Arena (Blood and Sand) by Anabelle Lenzu

To join The Field community and become eligible for a "Meet Our Artists" feature, sign up for a membership and join our mailing list for program updates!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

April 2018 Meet Our Artists: Kelly Tsai

Our Members, Fiscally Sponsored Artists, and other program participants represent a wide range of career stages and disciplines. We love them - and, as fellow artists, we're always inspired by them. With this monthly feature, we hope you'll feel the same way!

What's your name?
Kelly Tsai

What do you do? Musician & Memoirist, Spoken Word, Theater, Dance, Film, New Media

What inspires you?
Sometimes it's just to put something beautiful into the world. Sometimes it's to ask a question that I'm curious about. Sometimes it's a gift or tribute to people that move me in their conviction and power. The world offers a lot of positive inspiration, and I feel lucky as an artist to have a job that celebrates that.

What are you proud of?
Evolving as an artist over time. Culture changes. Life changes. Relationships change. I feel blessed to continue to follow the heart of my inspiration and learn new ways to express my experiences through a wide array of techniques, mediums, and forms. There are always new relationships to be formed with existing audiences, new audiences, and who I am as an artist. Each day provides another opportunity to learn and grow from within. I'm proud that my work has always stayed true to that.

What are your goals?
To be f*kin' bad-ass & to make work every day.

Do you have any advice for your fellow artists?
The more you trust the universe, the more you'll have time and energy to pour into making the work you love. Stay awake at the wheel. What you loved in the past may not be what you love in the future, and vice versa. The role of the artist in culture is constantly in motion. Be honest with yourself. Respond, support, and nurture what's growing inside of you always.
Time is an interesting and important component in the creative process. Some artistic practices and fields are fast. Some are slow. Some are collaborative. Some are more solitary. There is no set standard for what constitutes the best development for work. Understand what fits best with your personality and how you like to create. Your greatest asset is your psychology and deep belief in the specificity of how you work.

[Ed: Read more about Kelly’s path in this Forbes interview, How Thinking Like an Entrepreneur Helped One Artist Build a Thriving Career.]

How does The Field help you?
When I first started my career in NYC, The Field was extremely helpful in providing nuts and bolts on how to think concretely about an artist career and the process of managing production and creating organizations for independent art-makers. It created a foundation for my continued learning behind the scenes, and the creative labor it takes to get art out to audiences.

All content © Kelly Tsai

Additional Viewing:

To join The Field community and become eligible for a "Meet Our Artists" feature, sign up for a membership and join our mailing list for program updates!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

March 2018 Meet Our Artists: Emily Berry

Our Members, Fiscally Sponsored Artists, and other program participants represent a wide range of career stages and disciplines. We love them - and, as fellow artists, we're always inspired by them. With this monthly feature, we hope you'll feel the same way!

What's your name?
Emily Berry

What do you do?
Dance maker, educator, Artistic Director of B3W Performance Group

What inspires you?
Social justice, forgiveness, and Undoing Racism – a program of The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond challenging participants to analyze the structures of power and privilege that hinder social equity, preparing them to be effective organizers for justice.

What are you proud of?
I am proud of being a collaborator among all the brilliant co-creators in B3W, a social justice art & performance collective. I am most proud that I get to work with them!

What is your goal?

To have the art we create make a difference - even if it is just by chipping away.

Do you have any advice for your fellow artists?
Take risks! Don't worry about being "good." Say what you gotta say and focus on that.

How does The Field help you?
The Field has helped me through fiscal sponsorship, workshops, and The Field Leadership Fund (FLF) – The Field’s 2015-2017 Fellowship program focused on offering professional development, compensation, and access to those who faced barriers to their advancement based on race, gender, and other identities. (Learn more about Emily’s FLF work here.)

Click to enlarge images. Content © B3W Performance Group

Additional Viewing:

FORGIVENESS - Part I: Forgiving the Personal (Performance Reel)

To join The Field community and become eligible for a "Meet Our Artists" feature, sign up for a membership and join our mailing list for program updates!