Preparing for a Creative Residency

Originally published on Artist Soapbox on 8 April 2019

Greetings, Soapboxers!

Spring is springing in our neck of the woods. New growth and new opportunities are on the way and, in keeping with my January intention, I am leaning into the excitement and wonder of it all (with, let’s be real, a garnish of panic).

This spring I am participating in something brand-new to me: Creative Residencies. Wondering what the heck that is? Well, that makes two of us! Broadly speaking, a residency is an opportunity to trade in the day-to-day grind for a few days or weeks of focused, intentional time to work on your creative project. Often this involves going to a remote location.

I’m excited to share that I will be participating in residencies with Drop, Forge & Tool in Hudson, NY and the Turkey Land Cove Foundation in Edgartown, MA. Why apply for a residency? In my case, I’m developing my latest play via a long-distance collaboration. My NYC-based partner thought a residency could be a fantastic opportunity for us to be in the same place at the same time and dig into the project in a deep and meaningful way.

Personally, I thought it sounded way too good to be true and thus unlikely ever to happen. In this case I am perfectly happy to have been proven wrong. In retrospect, I’m actually grateful for my initial doubt because it allowed me to approach the applications with a nothing-to-lose, go-for-it mindset rather than letting my buddies perfectionism and comparison restrain me.

The application process involved, among other things, sharing our project and goals with the organizations. They want to know how applicants will use their time and what they will have to show for it once the residency is complete. This pushed me to think more broadly about the script and the production as a whole — what needs to happen to move it closer to reality and how can we leverage this uninterrupted time to make progress towards that?

In preparation for the residencies, my partner and I drafted a long list of goals. My mind is boggling a little bit thinking about this ambitious list. But I’m excited. Our goals are rather detailed, yes, but I feel we have left ourselves plenty of room to breathe and discover and stretch and create. Will we accomplish every item? Probably not. Will we discover things we hadn’t yet considered? Almost assuredly. In this moment, I am so grateful for the residencies’ gift of the truly precious commodity of time. I know we will make good use of it.

Residencies are available throughout the country, for all sorts of endeavors. Have you participated in a residency? We’d love to hear about it. Please drop us an email at artistsoapbox@gmail.com and share your experience.

Looking forward to reporting to you from the other side of this journey!

‘Til next time,
MT

Community Building

Originally published on Artist Soapbox on 25 February 2019

Greetings, Soapboxers!

Last night I experienced musical time-travel. Two bands that were hugely important to me as a young, aspiring rock ‘n roller, reunited after many years for a one-off show. The place was packed with old friends, most of us sporting quite a few more gray hairs than we had when we first met. I spent the night rockin’ out down front just like I did all those years ago, a visceral reminder of why I love music and why music will always be my home.

Upon further reflection, something else stands out. The power of our creative community and support from our peers.

When I was young, I didn’t know the first thing about being in a band. It blew my mind to learn that a friend owned an actual drum kit, let alone wanted to play music with me. Before long we were playing Buzzcocks covers in my living room and having a ball. Then we wrote a few of our own songs. The next step was playing out in public, a daunting proposition. How would we set that up? We didn’t know anybody. Or so we thought.

[For any youngsters reading this, keep in mind: Once upon a time, there were no smartphones and no social media of any kind. For god’s sake this was before MYSPACE.]

A coworker passed by my desk one day and noticed a photo of my bandmates. A surreptitious, we-can’t-talk-about-this-openly-at-work email soon followed: “Are you in a band? So am I!” Right away he suggested playing at The Cave and introduced us to the then-owner. Within a week, we had a show on the calendar. A Monday night. We were ecstatic.

That introduction, a simple act of generosity, opened a huge door for us. In the crowd that Monday night were members of one of the local garage rock mainstays at the time. And those guys knew everybody. They took us under their wing, setting up shows with us, introducing us to out-of-town bands, and generally making us feel welcome.

They didn’t owe us anything. They weren’t looking for anything. They, unlike us, had been around long enough to know that music was never going to pay the bills. Honestly, it probably wasn’t any more complicated than that they liked our music and our bands fit well together. But their support taught me a lot about creative community building and the importance of extending a hand where and when you can.

It also made me think about the reciprocal nature of support. If you expect only to receive support without giving support to others, you can bet your returns will diminish in short order. From attending an event to buying merch to texting a note of encouragement, there are so many ways to tell your creative peers, “I see you. Keep doing your thing.” Friends, please don’t underestimate the power of these gestures. Most of us are not making significant money doing this. Sometimes, as Juliana Finch shared on Episode 051, we’re even on the verge of hanging it up. In times like those, a real or virtual high-five can truly give us the extra oomph we need to keep going.

Watching those bands last night, after more than a decade, made me so grateful for the pathways — hell, the life — that opened up to me thanks to them. I’m aware, too, that sometimes now I’m the one in a position to offer support to folx just getting started. Helping each other is one of the things that makes our creative community so strong and I’m honored to pass the torch. I know how much it meant to me.

We want to hear from you, Soapboxers! Drop us a line and tell us about a person or group or venue that gave you an opportunity or had your back. Share this blog post and tag them with a note of thanks. Looking for other ideas to support artists? Check out ASBX’s Respect the Work infographic and podcast episode.

I see you. Keep doing your thing.

‘Til next time!
MT