Balance

Yes, sometimes the artist does.  I went to some lovely places in the past few months.  Like when I fed this rhino 
Andrew with Rhinos
at the amazing White Oak Conservation Center. My dear friend Colleen Keegan, one of the brilliant creators of theCreative Capital Professional Development Program brought me to visit this amazing place.  Philanthropist Howard Gilman made White Oak a home for two geniuses he came to admire: Mikhail Baryshnikov, who based his White Oak Dance Project in this beautiful studio
White Oak
and conservation biologist John Lukas, who has created the premiere rare animal conservation center in this hemisphere.  It’s astonishing.  We had dinner with John and his wife.  And we got to meet this ridiculously cute baby rhino, so adorable I’m gonna spring for a second rhino photo: 
Rhino
Sixty endangered species are bred at White Oak and studied as part of a global effort connecting zoos, animal sanctuaries, and land conservation efforts.  And right next door, experimental dance artists create new work.Nice.

After that, I headed to Camp Choconut for the wedding of David Brick and Maiko Matshushima.

Choconut
Then I headed to a dune shack in Provincetown, MA, for a week long solo artist retreat.  They drive you through these huge dunes that look like this
Dunes
until you get to this shack 
Shack
where I spent a lot of time writing 
desk
with this pencil 
pencil
because the shack has no electricity.  So no laptop.  Writing with a pencil is different.  You have to plan more.  You can’t just spew some nonsense and then clean it up.  A great practice for me.I had never taken an artist retreat by myself.  God, why not?  Headlong has had some wonderful retreats, and they are always big noisy affairs with lots of people and schedules and rehearsal spaces.  This was just me and a two-room shack and a lot of silence. It took about a day to really come to rest.  But then I did.

It was amazing. Please remind me to do this every year.

The last natural place I went was right off the tip of Manhattan.

Gov. Island
Governor’s Island is well worth the 800-yard ferry ride from Manhattan.  The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council hosted a five day Creative Capital workshop for 50 New York artists.  I taught on two of the days and the artists were fired up.  They were ready to change the world, and it was a beautiful thing to be a part of.That’s one of the things I spend my time doing, traveling with some hilarious other artists like this one and this onearound the country, teaching artists how to build sustainable lives.  In Philadelphia, I do it in a program I started called Artist U that offers a year of planning and professional development to 12 local artists each year.  Here we are at last year’s graduation in June:


Artists U
Sorry JJ, I cut you off on the bottom there.Artists can have a pretty rough ride.  I’ve spent a lot of time with a lot of people in the last five years thinking about why that is and about how that might change.  There’s a nice interview with Ruby Lerner here about Creative capital’s approach. And I also like the thinking of these folks.

Artists U is planning an expansion to two new cities and that has me thinking a lot about scale. Funders are obsessed with it these days: what are the best practices?  How can we get “to scale,” i.e. replicate a program to an extent that it will have broad, national impact?

So I got stuck on this thought, deep in my dune shack solo: there is a lot of arrogance in the ambition that I (and others) have for Impact.  We want to change things thoroughly, permanently, broadly, immediately.

I saw an announcement today: a group wants to get “health insurance for every artist by 2014.”   A nice sound bite, but what does that thinking really do to us?  So now, back in the urban jungle, I am trying to combine my ambition with a little more balance. 

Feet
There was a square of sunlight in the dune shack.  In the middle of the day it was on the floor, and then it crawled slowly up the wall till sunset.  It was the closest thing I had to a clock.  I made dinner when it was chest high on the wall.  And I went out to watch the end of the sunset when it turned orange near the ceiling.

Are you still reading?  How nice of you!  Here’s your bonus track:  Someone made a movie about us, a documentary you can see on September 13 .  One night only!  This is the picture to promote the movie, and it captures Headlong in our very first Philadelphia studio in 1993.Some things I notice: how high Amy wore her pants, and how low I wore mine.

And we shared the studio (at 20th and Snyder) with a band who kept changing their name.  For a while they were called Naked Culture and you can see it spray painted on the right there.

much love,Andrew Simonet
Headlong Dance Theater