OUTNORTH_AUG

Out North Contemporary Art House is a multi-disciplinary art center in Anchorage, Alaska that supports contemporary performance and visual art. Last year, Out North developed an “Art House Resident Program” to incubate and sustain small local art groups that fulfill Out North’s mission. The initiative is designed to create a collaborative, dynamic physical and community space where a dozen or more art house resident groups can create, present, produce, teach, and reach out through spoken word, literature, theater, visual art, film, new media, dance, music, education and journalism. The mission is to push the boundaries of content and community, give voice to those marginalized because of identity or circumstance, advance critical thinking and social justice, and build community pride, resilience and resolve.

ArtPlace talked to Dawnell Smith, executive director of Out North Contemporary Art House, about how to define and achieve success through and within its Art House Resident Program, and what the program can do for its community.

ARTPLACE: What do you have to do really (really) well to achieve success with your initiative?

DAWNELL: We need to create collaborative opportunities that enhance the singularity of each group’s voice and purpose. Doing that means talking, listening, cohering, and adjusting to the needs of every artist. Continual conversation, a sort of din of expression, tension, creation, and participation, needs to happen between and among all artists and art house groups.

We need to negotiate the use of resources among many groups, and recognize and acknowledge that success takes many forms. Focus: Art works with clients experiencing disabilities in all art forms, including photography, for example. To help these artists develop their skills and experience, our other art house groups invite them to take headshots and images of rehearsals, performances and events. These photos become vital to each group’s grant reports, organizational archives, and promotional efforts.

In turn, artists from various art house resident groups work with Focus: Art in building exhibits and performances. These relationships go beyond the trade of services, for they rise from a sense of belonging, from a sense of involving, and from a sense of responsibility to and interest in contributing to every group’s artistic growth.

Spreading these kinds of driven, committed, aesthetically connected relationships means appreciating and activating art’s capacity for engaging people both personally and socially.

ARTPLACE: How do you expect the community to change as a result?

DAWNELL: The idea is to open the doors to art and art making in all possible ways. When integrally involved in creation and collaboration, people understand more palpably the interplay of focus and experimentation when inventing solutions, and the importance of each piece to the whole.

We already see the art house community developing strategies for overcoming bumps in the creative process and the logistical hurdles inherent to their work and the sharing of resources. By bringing more people into the art house, we expect more neighbors, colleagues and friends to become aware of or reacquaint themselves with the necessity of individual thought and participatory action to the health and energy of the community.

Our hope is that more people and groups in the community talk, listen, cohere, and adjust to the needs of each other.

 

 

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