A belated post – I’ve just started at Wesleyan (more on this soon!), following a week-long process of getting to know PICA; its staff, the artists, the Portland context – really just melting into the cracks of the place.
…and it’s a great place. PICA is a fantastic organisation. We knew this all along (I wanted to come here for a reason, after all), but actually spending time here cemented this. Across the week, I gained an in-depth preview of the coming TBA Festival program, was there to support its media launch, sat in on logistical meetings, and had several good conversations with Performance Program Director Erin Boberg, Visual Arts Curator Kristan Kennedy, and Artistic Director Angela Mattox.
What struck me was the level of professionalism and cache that PICA has, and the quality of work and artists that PICA continually (with TBA poised to) delivers; in as small a town as Portland. Beyond the scale, too, the type of work – the TBA 16 program brings together artists from all over the world (particularly those not commonly represented in arts festivals – Lebanon, Bulgaria, Colombia) as well as a substantial and responsible engagement with Portland’s own culturally diverse communities.
Excitingly, community engagement forms a cornerstone of PICA’s program, through what they call their Institute – a strata of their operations that sits alongside visual arts and performance, led by CE Manager Roya Amirsoleymani. This extensive and meaningful level of investment in audience development and ‘outreach’ is impressive and inspiring – I’m really looking forward to spending a good time speaking with Roya about their strategies around both TBA and their year round programming…how they maintain connections to diverse communities and manage to connect in with them in a deep way; framing and inspiring participation, managing ongoing impact, creating programs that intersect across education, public program, and audience development.
For these conversations, I’ll be returning to PICA in August ahead of September’s TBA Festival; the focus of my time will be to assist with their Creative Exchange Lab – a program that, twice a year, invites a group of artists (diverse across both identity and form), for a ten day residency of discussions, forums, public programming around their processes and practices; with access to space and stipend for them to develop work if the urge strikes. Their autumn lab coincides with TBA – providing a wealth of work to respond to and local artists to engage with. I’ll be working to support Angela Mattox as she coordinates and facilitates this lab.
In addition to that I’ll helping out, again with both logistics and facilitation, for the annual meeting of the Africa Contemporary Arts Consortium, a group of representatives of both US and African arts orgs and collectives, gathering during TBA, intersecting with the Creative Exchange Lab, and conducting meetings of their own. It looks like being a busy two months – full of exceptional programming and opportunity.
I’m also excited to share that I am recipient of further funding from Arts Queensland! This grant is for the work I’ll be doing supporting Leisa Shelton, Curator of the Australian program for Venice International Performance Art Week at the end of the year, and (along with the OzCo funds already acquired) will support my three months with PS122 at the start of 2017. I can breathe easy – but not too easy; now I have to start working on that project too…