Sometimes the challenges of a difficult time can bring about innovations that change our lives and our ways of thinking. Thinking along those lines, it can be said that 2020 has presented us with a multitude of opportunities in which people have had to use creative problem solving in order to address these present issues.
In the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, people turned to the arts – whether it was binge-watching series on Netflix or streaming movies on HBO or Disney Plus – to manage the stress of the uncertainty. In a partnered effort to foster this vital creativity, Texas Performing Arts and Fusebox Festival have announced a collaboration to launch a residency program for Austin-based performing artists.
This partnership comes at a time when both organizations believe there is necessary work to do to ensure the performing arts industry has not only a future, but a sustainable one. The ultimate goal of the residency program is to put resources directly in the hands of Austin artists.
Bob Bursey, Executive Director of the Texas Performing Arts
“UT is one of the world's premier leadership institutions where we study issues in our society, said Bob Bursey, Texas Performing Arts Executive Director. “We give lab space to students to study and examine these issues, and bringing in the arts is an extension of that.”
The residency program focuses on adventurous Austin-based artists who are pushing the boundaries of performance, as well as furthering the values of diversity, equity and inclusion in the local performing arts community.
“That is one of the greatest roles of artists in society,” Bursey said. “They’re able to respond to the moment and hold a mirror up to society. They’re also able to share joy, which is so needed right now, and even though it’s a very difficult moment for arts and cultural institutions, we don’t want to step back. We want to give artists the ability to reflect this time.”
The program provides four individual artists or ensembles up to $20,000 in project funding for technical support and artist fees, plus access to the theaters, studios and production shops at Texas Performing Arts valued at $30,000, to create a total award of $50,000 each.
The residencies are designed to be flexible to respond to the needs of each participating artist and the project they plan to create. The creative process will be shared with audiences online through interviews and other forms of digital documentation. Texas Performing Arts and Fusebox will continue to support the projects in the next stages of their development leading to their premieres.
“In this difficult time for live performance, it’s essential that we make radical investments in new work rather than retrench,” said Bursey. “Without a typical schedule of performances, it’s the perfect moment for us to repurpose our stages as laboratories for Austin artists who have been so hard hit by the pandemic. When we are able to gather together again, we want to ensure there will be compelling new performances to see.”
After evaluating and learning from the pilot year, the intention for the program is to become an annual opportunity for the Austin performing arts community, with the 2021-2022 program involving an Austin-area call for submissions, with participants selected by an invited committee of Austin artists and arts leaders.
Gesel Mason Photos courtesy of Texas Performing Arts
This year’s selected participating artists/collectives are: Gesel Mason, Associate Professor of Dance at University of Texas at Austin; Charles O. Anderson, head of the University of Texas at Austin’s dance program; Rudy Ramirez, director, writer, performer and teaching artists specializing in the development of new work; and the Frank Wo/Men Collective, an Austinbased group of interdisciplinary artists who co-produce forward-thinking physical theater pieces.
Charles O. Anderson
For more information about 2020-2021 TPA/Fusebox residency program, please visit the Fusebox Festival site.
This is Part One of a San Marcos Daily Record series highlighting the Fusebox Project and this year’s featured artists.