Save The ARTist (Creativity Plus)


There is a great deal of concern and hand wringing over saving the arts. Recently, the Westchester County Arts Council sent out a plea for us to write to our congressmen about major cuts to the arts. I did is they asked, knowing that in even the smallest way our voices have to be heard.

I got an answer back not from the congressmen but from his assistant. there was a lot of blame and finger-pointing in this letter, it still talking how great Westchester County is in comparison to other locations. I will copy and post her letter, but before I do: I have something to say. Yes, big surprise.

With all the talk about saving the parts one very important component seems to be forgotten:

WHAT ABOUT THE ARTIST?

I am a performing and teaching ARTIST. I make my primary living from working in the Arts. My discipline is Theater/Drama, Storytelling and Creative Writing. I do not create “lasting” art in Fine Arts, but I DO perform a service in the Performing Arts.

When you cut the funding for the arts, you are not just cutting out a sculpture or a painting, or a dance or theater piece, or a choral work, you are taking money out of reach of PEOPLE who are trying to pay their bills and survive. by making these budget cuts to save organizations, you are also then putting more people on unemployment. This fall, I have been unable to find a job, mainly because in my field there’s much less work. There are also more people out looking for any work, so even jobs that I could fit into are inundated by other people looking for work.

Where would we be without ones like Van Gogh?

Is it just me, or does this just not make any sense? A good friend of mine has put it  very simply: at this point in time, if everyone across the board and that means the big boys in the middle management boys played fairly, more people to keep their jobs. It’s part of what I’ve been saying in that we need creative solutions and problem solving in place of the reactionaries.

I do not want to be on unemployment. I want to work. I feel there are ways that more people can work and keep their jobs. Today on the news from NPR I heard that more than 28,000 postal workers will be laid off soon. What jobs will they be able to get to support their families?

It’s very easy to cast blame and point fingers. As a country, we seem to excel at that.

Wouldn’t we be better off if we were creative problem solvers?

As stated above, here is the letter I got today:

Thank you for writing to County Executive Robert P. Astorino regarding funding for the arts.

Please be assured that Mr. Astorino has read your message and he has asked me to respond to you on his behalf.

The county executive understands and appreciates your concern for the arts.  While developing the proposed 2012 county budget, Mr. Astorino and his administration have given the arts the same consideration accorded to every program, service, agency and facility supported by county government.

As you know all too well, this is a very challenging economy.  There is a critical need to balance a $114 million county budget deficit with a responsibility to provide essential services and property tax relief, protect Westchester’s neediest residents, promote structural financial reform and reduce government spending at all levels.  One of the major roadblocks to maintaining the funding level for Arts Westchester and many other worthwhile programs and services, is the failure of the public employee unions to agree to make a reasonable contribution to their healthcare premiums.  Westchester County’s union employees are one of the few groups left in the nation that contribute nothing to their healthcare costs.  This ever-increasing financial burden necessitates reductions in other portions of the county budget.  The county executive, since taking office two years ago, has attempted to get county workers to agree to the same level of healthcare contributions state workers make.  While there is a reduction in the allocation to arts programs, the County Executive’s proposed budget includes funding for the arts at $750,000.  This action is in no way a reflection on the outstanding quality of exhibits and performances presented by the arts community nor the talents and efforts of all who labor to bring these offerings to fruition.  It is instead, a part of many across-the-board measures which must be taken during these difficult times.

Your views and those of all who live and work in Westchester are very important to the county executive.  Your input is both welcome and valued.

Again, thank you for writing.

Sincerely,

Janet Lokay
Assistant to the County Executive
148 Martine Avenue
White Plains, New York 10601
(914) 995-2127

Here was my response to Ms. Lokay:

Hi…
it’s not just the exhibits and performances.

You forget a very essential part: the artist has to live, pay bills, and be part of the economic structure. By cutting the arts, it’s not just the end product but the people who live through the process. Two very different things.

I am a Teaching Artist and a performing artist. My entire life is creative and my livelihood depends on schools, libraries, community centers and more have funds to hire me and others like me. I live for the educational process that is part of the learning process…and it does not seem politicians realize this.

Schools may not hire a full time Theater Teacher anymore (I have my NYS Certification in Theater), but they SHOULD hire me as a consultant, which is what a TA (teaching artist) really is. I integrate my work into the school core curricula, and it enhances, not wastes, the teachers’ lessons.

I would love to have a conversation  about this. Yes, many of us produce art that is seen; there are many more of us who produce art that is part of the educational process, for ALL ages, and we’re hurting, trying to make a living.

My thing: instead of telling me why something isn’t working, why are we not doing problem solving around the negatives out there. I’d rather know what has been attempted, or will be, instead of what is not working. I  work a lot with my students, when I get them, on problem solving.

I’m serious about talking with Mr. Astorino.

She gave me her phone number. If I don’t hear from them, and if you know me at all, they will hear from me. I will let you know what happens next. I’m tired of the excuses. Let’s get off of  unemployment

Imagine, Work, Trust, Create (The Creativity Series: guest blog)


I met Molly Faulkner many years ago in Lincoln, Nebraska. We were at the International Thespian Festival to run workshops for High School students  from across the country who really, really cared about theater in all its aspects. From there grew a long standing friendship and respect for each others craft: Molly in Dance, mine in theater.

This is a real pleasure to have her here.

The Creativity Series: Guest Post

Imagine, Work, Trust, Create: Molly Faulkner

In trying to answer Stuart’s questions about creativity I found myself trying to define it so I could better investigate how it manifested itself in my own life.  Here’s what I came up with.

There is a world of action and a sense of journey implied in the word creativity.

To be creative is to imagine something and then follow it through to a conclusion. It may not turn out as planned but it leads somewhere. The idea of creativity has engendered many scholars to try and define it, map it, visually represent it, and try and pin it down in language, but the concept is too broad, the process too variable, the experience too personal.

There is a liminality that creativity entrusts to its initiates, standing on the threshold between envisioning and conceiving. The lens of creativity both broadens the focus to encompass connections from outside world and narrows it to recognize how these connections serve the idea. Every step of the path leads to the end of the journey, and there is an inherent trust that it is the “right” path, the ONLY path which will lead to other paths.

Creativity by its very nature is a successive finite endeavor, there has to be a conclusion a product that can be deemed creative. Creativity demands an audience, demands recognition, and demands perspective to be truly appreciated.

Back to Stuart’s questions of the what, how, where, why, and who of creativity, I’m a professor of dance at a community college. I try to be creative in my teaching, in my choreography, and in my administrative work. But more than that I try and let creativity permeate my life and when I let it, it gives me great peace.

I am awed at the connections between living life and the creative process and constantly try to minimize the compartmentalization between “my art” and my life. I learn this lesson over and over again.

When I trust the process and embrace the liminalty there is an excitement rather than an expectation for what’s next, and isn’t that what creativity is all about?

Molly Faulkner is an Associate Professor of Dance at Palomar College in San Marcos, CA. She was a professional ballet dancer, a dancer for Tokyo Disneyland, and the muppet Grover on Sesame St. Live before she discovered a passion for teaching and choreography. She has degrees in dance from the University of Arizona (B.F.A.), University of Iowa (M.F.A.), and Texas Woman’s University (Ph.D.).
Molly Faulkner, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Dance
Palomar College
760 744-1150 ext. 2318

Tech Plans: Urban Shakespeare, Week 3 (part 1)


“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date . . . .”

Well, for me, Summer could trip away and make no stay…especially not the heat we’ve had this past week (and are still experiencing). The heat has definitely affected everyone’s mood and output this week, even with all the progress the kids have made.

Tech Things Reporting:

Costuming and Props:

I had a great visit to Materials For The Arts this week. For those not in the know:

“Since 1978, Materials for the Arts has provided thousands of New York City’s arts and cultural organizations, public schools and community arts programs with the supplies they need to run and expand their programs. Materials are gathered from companies and individuals that no longer need them and redistributed to the artists and educators that do. In the process, hundreds of tons are removed from the waste stream every year and kept out of landfills, helping to sustain our environment and promote reuse and waste reduction. MFTA helps artists realize their visions, provides students with a richer educational experience and furnishes businesses and individuals with a simple and efficient way to enhance the cultural life of their city. The success of MFTA and its programming would not be possible without the participation of material donors throughout the metropolitan area. If you are interested in donating your unwanted reusable items to MFTA please visit our Donor page or call 718-729-3001 and press 1 for “Materials Donation”.

At this moment, my costuming costs are  as close to zero as possible. There will be some fill ins, I’m sure, and I am not taking into account the salary of the costumer and her assistant.

 

I picked up some wonderfully vibrant fabric, colorful and light, to go along with the previous fabrics I had “shopped” on a previous visit. Set in Mali, I am excited about the patterns and use of Earth colors that the costumer now has to work with. My cast will be barefoot, which fits both the traditional feel plus the ease of the dances. I have a lot of running, twirling, swirling, foot stomping things planned.

To the right is a picture I found online when I did my Google Images search. When I came across this, I immediately had my Oberon costume, in style if not in actuality. A little more “magical,” this outfit is already close to perfection to me for Oberon. I love the pattern and the flow of the garment. I would only add a bit of green to it, to cement it to the Magic forest, and I need it to capture the idea of Air.

That is how I am seeing  this, as I am sure so many others have before: the Royal Court (Humans) are grounded/Earth; Fairy Court are Air; Mechanicals are of the Earth, but deeper and more firmly planted, even in their clowning/Everyman status.

Face Painting & Masks

For the Fairy Court, mainly, I am looking at traditional and tribal face painting to accent the “difference” of the two realms. Yes, again, nothing new, but I’m letting you into my process of total environment.

I’ve been enjoying the research, the “hunting and gathering” of what the production staff will need to help the overall artistic vision come alive. Colors play an important part of all this.

I’ll be using some masks: planned are three and I feel that is all I will do, even though I originally wanted to have more. Less is more, in all things. It should not take away or hide (mask) the work the kids are doing. Their performance should shine through first and foremost. So, Oberon will have a Dragon Mask (I’ve had for years) that stirred my actress (yes, actress) in her physicalization; the Donkey do for Bottom; and a half mask for Thisbe (Flute). All three masks are planned for removal during the show.

More info to come, and that will make up (get it? pun intended) part two of my Tech Titterings.

THREE WEEKS GONE!!! THREE TO GO!!

I’ve said it before, re: me: What fool this mortal be!

 

How did you trick out your show? What would you like to do?

Previous Older Entries