Northwest arts panel: What's changed since 9/11?
It's already a cliché to ask an artist: "How did the events of last Sept. 11 affect you, and your work?"
But cliché or not, the past year was one of fears, opportunities and challenges for the people who entertain us and engage our imaginations — not due just to the terrorist attacks, but also to the seismic economic, political and cultural shifts that followed.
And what's next? We put that question to a group of locally (and globally) plugged-in Seattle artists and arts administrators at a roundtable confab recently. And they responded fervently — reflecting on their own work in Seattle's dance, pop music, theater, literary and visual art scenes, and sharing their visions of where American culture seems to be headed — and where they would like to steer it.
The discussion took place at the Seattle Times offices in early August, moderated by Times theater critic Misha Berson.
Misha Berson, Seattle Times: There's a big general question that maybe we can graph at any angle you'd like: Do you see American arts and culture changing pretty significantly in the last year? Or do you think that's been kind of overstated?
Graney: I just came back from a women's meeting called a women's working group of national people of South Asia and presenting arts organizations and artists and women. We had a discussion about this and really looking at patterns in arts organizations of the past and dealing with sort of different economic and emotional tragedies and how did we look at those in the past and what were the ways that we could learn to deal with those things. One common thing I think about I'm sure we've all been to New York several times since then and I think it is a tragedy there, geographically certainly, but I think that it affects us all emotionally because we are a very rich, spoiled country, we have never had anything on our own soil. I mean, there's a lot of wakeup calls about that and I think the effects on the arts, especially in the movement arts in my field and also in the prison work I do (which is completely now unfundable), is a measure of how we integrate into our community because people should be coming to art to express their sensibilities about tragedy. It has had a marked change on everyone that I know, not just emotionally but really in terms of how are you connecting with your community and what do you feel is important. ... (People are) looking for an emotional sensibility about stuff and they want to connect. People are looking at things that are important and whatever important is to them, and my hope would be that they would come to their community arts center or art scene and express that through what they see or what they engage in.
Steve Sneed, Seattle Center: People focus on what becomes important and you see that manifest itself in a number of ways: It seems that they don't spend their money in the way they did before. They look at what's important. They invest differently.
I know we saw a drop in ticket sales, theater, arts events and so on. But at the same time, the artists begin to think also about what is important and they try to speak to this tragedy or speak to the things that are important, it seems. I think that's a key thing because I've been trying to think about these questions. For instance, I've seen hip-hop artists who will sort of use some of the Middle Eastern sound and music in their work.
Allison Narver, Empty Space Theatre: I would absolutely agree. Every theater artist I know — and particularly after 9-11 — began to really focus on the reason we do the work we do and what the urgency behind it is, what the immediacy is, what purpose it actually serves or does it actually serve our community and how integrated are we really? And if we're not, then why are we doing it? And those are the questions I sort of heard everybody sort of talking about throughout the course of this whole year. Certainly that was the compelling question: Why do we do this? What is the urgency, what is the need? Where is the need and are we addressing the need in our community and is our community asking us to make this art? ... One interesting thing we found was our single tickets doubled this year, subscriptions remained pretty much stable. It felt like there was this sort of desire to get bodies in front of other live bodies and have kind of an — experience. There was something fed that was really direct.
Berson: There was a lot of speculation and talk about, well, is this going to make us less frivolous as a culture where certain things that were important just aren't anymore of is it going to make us want "comfort food," you know, just want to escape. And I was wondering if you have any observations about that?
John Feodorov, visual artist: I think that — assuming there is a differentiation between arts and entertainment — that there is that need, to be surrounded and saturated with reminders of our newfound or new-realized vulnerbility. It can be daunting when you're trying to work eight hours a day and come home and feed your kids. My worry, as artists, is that we fall into that, that we would fall into distractions, creating distractions instead of addressing issues. I believe there is a seperation between arts and entertainment and, as artists, we take on that responsibility. The thing is that whether people are more interested in having those issues addressed or investigating those issues, I don't know.
I don't don't really see a lot of change in the arts, as a visual artist. The artists that have been doing political work are doing political work and the ones that aren't, aren't. At worst, September 11th becomes something to be exploited, something to, "oh, here's something I can latch onto." But, at its best, it doesn't just address the issue. It's a much bigger issue: I mean terrorism isn't something new to this country. There's been massacres in this country propagated by the U.S. government, propagated by its own citizens, against Indian peoples, against African Americans. It's not new: It's new for the dominant culture. I think that, as artists, that needs to be addressed, that it's not just September 11th books.
Narver: Also, lest we forget, this is a country based on revolution and some people would go as far as to say that the founding fathers were terrorists in a particular way. It's really important for us not to forget where we come from as a country, in that sense, to not think that our history is a placid, peaceful one in this country.
Berson: What about you, Dave, because you're working in that area that criss-crosses commerical entertainment and art?
Dave Meinert, Fuzed Music: I think that it doesn't have so much of a direct effect as being a cultural shift, but that it has heightened where music was already going. The music business was already hurting, was already reacting to, I think, President Bush as opposed to Clinton. I think there's a more rebellious factor coming up... As soon as Bush got elected I was like, "This is great!" In the aspect that rock is going to come back, punk rock is going to come back because it has something to react to. I think that 9/11 forced Bush more to the forefront than he was and forced the underground music culture to be rowdier and more aggressive in its head-butting with mainstream culture. The music business was already going down. It's helped that the economy is doing worse, it has increased the slide, but it was already headed that way. It wasn't like we were up here and 9/11 happens and all of sudden we were down here. We were on our way somewhere and 9/11 made that change faster.
I haven't seen a ton of songs about 9/11 or about Osama bin Laden other than Eminem, maybe Bruce Springsteen. Sony Music, I think, has made a whole marketing campaign on Bruce Springsteen trying to save their label based on 9/11, which I think is sick. Unfortunately, it takes an artist that has some sort of integrity, maybe, at least in the '70s. The whole thing is about how he's capturing this whole post-9/11 thing which I don't see existing so much. If that was the case, there would be a lot of songs about 9/11.
Sneed: I wonder how people will respond, the public. Will they buy his record because of the theme? Because I'm looking at September 11th as it's coming up and there are a lot of events happening this time, a lot of attention given. At the Seattle Center, we did the flower vigil a couple of days after and a massive number of people responded, came out. I wonder if people are going to do the same thing on the anniversary, are they going to respond? Are the public looking for artists to feed them in some way? I'm just curious.
Narver: Because that flower vigil was so beautiful. People needed to be there, it was the need of the community to gather there and be together at the moment. It just makes me... I don't even remember what I was saying...
Sneed: It was different. Last year it was more immediate. Now, we are remembering. There are concerts, there are a number of different things to attend. Will people go in mass numbers?
Feodorov: It could be marketed now. When I was there a week after it happened, just seeing the spontaneous outpouring on Union Square... Really, a lot of artists would be jealous of that: The beauty and sincerity of that. There is something to be said about the honesty of grief. But now, there's sort of that — thing. Once you've thought about it, it no longer becomes experience. It becomes this manufactured memory.
Matt Brogan, Seattle Arts and Lectures: I think it's hard to say, aesthetically, what 9/11 is going to do. I think that if you look at the 19th century — the Civil War was the major trauma — what if you tried to find the great Civil War novel... you know? It had an enormous impact on the culture, but it's not because then you have the famous Civil War poem or novel. I'm not sure that we're going to get the famous... Bruce Springsteen is one instance where we have an album out now that's supposed to come directly out of it. But I don't know how much artwork we're gonna get, or good artwork that's going to be related to those events.
I think the other issue is that we don't know the end of the story yet. What I experience with most people is this waiting, a kind of waiting going on. The impact, I think, depends really on what happens. We don't know what is going to happen with this "War on Terrorism." Another thing is that I think the business side really has changed, clearly. That's really hard to divide off from the economy and the bursting of the bubble. So much of the funding stuff is really about the economy tanking and the state money — the state is running deficits, the schools are running deficits... You know, it's all this stuff. Which, obviously, 9-11 impacted the economy in a significant way, so it does feed in. I know for us, the big impact for us, at least here, has been the economy, not 9-11.
Berson: Well then, lets talk more about this real Seattle angle in the last year, which is that we were a big part of the dot-com revolution.
Meinert: I thought that something happened in the music scene here. One, a lot of legitimate people left the music scene to work for dot-coms. There was a creative suck that happened that was too bad. And it also put a lot of people into the music scene who had nothing but money. And they had corny ideas and they started stupid record labels, they started stupid production companies, they built stupid recording studios and they put out a lot of bad music and sucked a lot of artists into that thing that thought, "Oh, wow, this guy has $500,000 and he's going to fund my career and I'm going to be huge now; I'm better than every other band that has been creating music and struggling as artists for real." It created this thing and I am so glad it's over.
Narver: I grew up in a very different Seattle. I was gone for seven years, basically when the dot-com revolution happened, and it was a completely different city when I came back. Just even seeing downtown Seattle feeling like Rodeo Drive, so kind of gentrified and boring, I'm sorry, just one franchise after the next. And I felt, "Well, where's the Seattle I grew up in?" I'd rather live in Tacoma where at least there's still some character there.
Brogan:I think one thing that has changed is a kind of hype. I think there was always this idea in arts organizations that we've got to get the dot-commers, we've got to get the dot-commers, where are they? And the fact is that most of them had very little involvement in the arts, they weren't donating to the arts, everyone was searching for them. Certainly, some of the Microsoft money has moved into the arts, but it's amazing how much of the arts in this town is still dominated by the generation of people from the World's Fair. There were some organizations who were hip enough to attract dot-com interest for a short period of time. So, I don't know, it will be interesting to see if there is a dot-com bubble for arts organizations.
Narver: Our theaters aren't fancy enough for all the World Fair's people. My board is almost entirely comprised of either dot-com folks, high tech folks, Amazon, all those sort of Seattle businesses. And, you know, they're younger and I'm grateful because they've given incredible support. I think that, maybe, is an exception. Certainly, ACT, Intiman and the Rep sort of swap board members on a regular basis but most (of those) guys won't hang out with us.
Feodorov: Not speaking as an arts commissioner, by the way, art survives poverty and some of the best art comes out of poverty. The affluence that was in Seattle — it's still here sort of — was spawning a lot of crap. Though the income was increasing, the sophistication wasn't. It ended up being a lot of money spent on frivolous art. So, it didn't really help the arts in the city.
Feodorov: It kind of leaves out the fair-weather artists. You're gonna continue to do it, right? Whether you're funded by the Allen Foundation or not, or by the Seattle Art Commission or not. I think it's almost necessary. I mean, there's always going to be crap. The thing is that there's just a lot more people making it right now. The question then becomes, "What is the expectation of an artist?" I think that the loss of funding may actually be a good thing.
Graney: I think that broadly and culturally, I understand what you're saying, but from a personal point of view, I think that's terrible.
Berson: Despite the fact that the arts economy is more depressed, there still are a lot of people going to the theater, going to the symphony, going to art museums... What's that about?
Narver: Speaking for the theater, theater should have been rendered obsolete a long time ago, what with TV and film and everything else. But there's a reason it still exists and that's because there's a need for it and a desire for it and, again, it's an experience that can't be replaced by any other.
Berson: You had a show right after 9-11 about Laramie. "The Laramie Project," which was about Matt Shepard's death. Did you find audiences shrinking away?
Narver: Absolutely the opposite. That show broke records in terms of single-ticket sales. We opened in the middle of November, just about two months later. Chay Yew, the director, said "Should we go ahead and do this?" For those of you who don't know what it's about: the Matthew Shepard incident, being killed in Laramie and everybody's reaction to that. There was some need that was being addressed, some questions that were being raised that people were hungry for because it certainly didn't try to give any answers. I think that's really important to continue to give questions and not answers when you go see a piece of art.
Brogan: In our ticket sales, we've had the best year we've ever had in terms of last year and our season started October 4th. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that people did want to be in places where they felt safe and engaged with artists, in our case writers speaking to them. They didn't want to just be at home watching CNN.
I think that some theaters and museums would be hurt if they really had a lot of tourists, if their income was based on tourists. Because we certainly had a lot fewer tourists coming in. In the past year, I'm sure that really affected a lot, especially the larger institutions. But for us, we're not really drawing on tourists. People here in the city really wanted to come out and see things and feel like they were engaged and part of a community.
Sneed: In a lot of the events we do see more attendance but I think also the cost of producing arts and entertainment in the city has definitely gone up. The economy itself — the cost of living, rent, gas — just living is more expensive, so I imagine that drives the cost for your artist, for production people. The cost of doing business is higher. For us, security is an issue. For that entire campus, it's such a draw, in terms of space. It's just more expensive security-wise; we have to put into practice all these different ways in which to get people on campus, to unload, which means people get paid more, to do more things. That has to be a factor. Well, why is that the attendance is up unless it's subsidized with grants and so on, you know: theater, opera, arts organizations?
Berson: So, the general perception that if you have high ticket sales you're doing great, is wrong.
Meinert: In music, we don't get grants so much, at least in popular music or whatever you want to call it. The opera gets grants, rock bands don't. So, we're reliant on ticket-sales. I think also, there are some interesting shifts. What's that theater — you guys are going to kill me for this — on 4th, between Stewart and Virginia?
Narver: Annex Theater!
Meinert: Right. That closed, that shut down and now the Vera Project is able to move into that space, which is great. The rent is cheap. So there's a positive thing that's happening too, with the economy going down, it's allowing a thing like the Vera Project, which before was considered...
Narver: What is that?
Meinert: The Vera Project is an all-ages venue that is partially funded by the city — much more partially now than it was before — that's youth-run and they train youth. So, there's a space now there for that. There's some positive things that have happened with that too.
Sneed: That sort of connects to the thing driving this sort of quality... When you have this challenge financially, certain things will rise and survive. I know for the cultural festivals I work with, they're always challenged by money and resources, yet they're driven to explain who they are in these cultural festivals, who they are as people. But, what I see, is the creativity rising in the way in which they present their festival. Collaboration also, working with other folks to diminish the cost.
Berson: (to Narver) I just want to ask you, since you worked on 'The Lion King' and you had that experience of working in sort of big commercial theater... I mean, that exists in Seattle too and it's doing rather well. We have two theater companies that bring in very large productions, we just had this huge hit with Hairspray. Do you feel like you're fighting against that or that both things can exist? Same with music: You're dealing with artists who, in a way, people every night have to make a descision, "Am I going to go see Bruce Springsteen or am I going to go to a club?" Is there a way these things can happiely coexist for the moment?
Narver: I think that if they don't coexist, it's not a healthy community. It's sort of like, can the Rep and Annex exist in the same town? They have to. It's apples and oranges: A completely different set of resources, a different mission, different audiences typically, different ideas, different values and I think that a healthy community can support both of those things because they canbecause often fringe is done in reaction to a larger or more commercial kind of theater, or typically in my experience with music. There is a reaction to something kind of larger, more commercial, more mainstream and I think it's a kind of tension that's healthy.
Feodorov: I think that the economy is harder though as you start moving up, in terms of the institutionalization of organizations. The bigger you get, the harder it is on those organizations because they really rely on contributed income, grants and things like that and do things that are risky. As that money starts drying up for those organizations, then they really have to cater sort of strictly to the audiences and to selling tickets and then, it sort of becomes more challenging to do work that is more interesting and risky. For smaller, more grassroots organizations, you can do it kind of on nothing in these ways. It doesn't have to be huge like the opera. Any level of institutionalization, you start running into those questions of what kind of risks do you take versus what kinds of audiences and how many people do you need to buy tickets.
Berson: But how long will young painters, young musicians, young actors be willing to subsidize? That was easier in Seattle, wasn't it, before Belltown got outrageously expensive?
Meinert: I think a lot of that has to do with those costs, with living costs. There's an interesting thing with funding and taxing in what Seattle as a city takes and gives. Seattle gives grants to big arts organizations. They take taxes from small arts organizations. And that's an interesting thing that I think Seattle should get away from. I think we should not tax from any arts events with a 1,000 or less people. Or if we're going to, we should give money back to those events. And, what happens is that we pay admissions tax on small events that goes to the baseball stadium and that's wrong. But somehow we have to come up with a system that recognizes what you're saying, which is that in a time like this, the bigger things end up taking less chances so it's up to the smaller organizations to take those chances. And we need that, but we need to figure out a way to also support those smaller organizations which may just be reducing costs.
It may not be giving them free money but just reducing costs.
Narver: And I would say that having worked in smaller and larger organizations, I'm right now at Empty Space which is in the middle and that's a very different place to be because we're not fringe theater which I love, like Annex, and we're certainly not Intiman, ACT or the Rep so we've got to figure out sort of how to we go ahead and produce with courage and integrity and still sort of meet the bottom line, and it's a tricky balance when you get to be sort of in between, hanging inbetween.
Feodorov: Now, the school district is basically taken arts out of the curriculum altogether. And that's what is going to support an art scene. The thing is that we're shooting ourselves in the foot. Who's going to start an emerging art scene? In order to keep that healthy, I really think the city — they have an authority over the school district — I mean, that needs to be addressed. I mean, I know that's something in the arts commission that we're really pissed about. The thing is that we should be concentrating on it... I know we're getting off the 9-11 subject, but as far as maintaining a vital arts scene in this city and constantly trying new things, it has to be there.
Meinert: We've addressed this in the music community and it's been conscious. I think (and a lot of people think) that the rise of artists like Britney Spears is a direct result of kids not being taught music. They don't know anything about it. They want to be entertained, which is part of music, but they don't know anything about music, so it becomes more about entertainment. Britney Spears is not an artist. She's an entertainer, a great entertainer. And, consciously she wanted to be one and I don't slight her for that but she's also not a singer. She's not a musician and I think this is a result that kids don't know music so they have no way to judge this. At the same time, locally, we've been very conscious of the fact that kids aren't being taught music in school. They're not having that experience, so when they come out of school, they're not getting involved in music. So, we've been very conscious about trying focus on the all-ages scene here. Last week, we won a huge fight in that. But the Vera Project is a part of that: getting kids involved in music when they're young is a big part of keeping a local music scene going and I think all arts organizations are going to have this same fight now that we have less money in school. Well, I shouldn't say we have less money to support arts in school; school districts are choosing not to support arts. So, we need to do it as a community or we're not going to have that interest and energy.
Berson: Some people are kind of upset when artists get involved politically. Of course, I'm thinking of the national scene where you have people testifying and so on and they're sort of thinking, "What the heck does Alec Baldwin know about anything?" How important do you think it is for artists in this community to be involved?
Graney: I mean, with that, you don't have representation unless you have artists on anything. To me, it's defunct. I don't respect anybody who doesn't have artists on a panel or on something having to do with the arts. That means to me that the people aren't very intelligent because you're a voting citizenry and people who have the most knowledge about the field are the people who do the work, in my opinion. So, I think that thinking that artists aren't citizens is just a very odd perception. Alec Baldwin could be some Yale scholar and we don't know that. I think that trying to get celebrities to speak on things when they really clearly don't know anything about is ridiculous. I think it's very very key and I think that that shows what community, how you're looking at your community and how you look at your constituency and are they represented.
Narver: For me, my involvement as an artist politically is just inevitable. I get angrier and angrier every day that I'm alive. ...at the world and the incredible injustice and I will always be, my work will always be integrated with politics at some level. I also come from a family that is very politically oriented and involved. Who I am is a part of the work I make, particularly as I grow up.
Sneed: I think it's extremely important for artists to be involved poltically. Politics and art need to be intertwined. People do look at artists and say, "What do they know? They don't have anything to say. They're just artists. They just paint or they just sing." But when you look at all the things we've been discussing and talking about here, if you're not involved politically then you're not connected to your community, to your society, you can't comment on it, you can't speak to it. Even if it's just artistically or if it has something to do with the restrictions and the things like the all-ages venues or how small arts organizations are taxed is an interesting thing you bring up. If you're not involved that way then you're looking at a city where, what you say, there are more people who attend arts events than go to sporting events.
Meinert: I think this is the really important point: that the arts community is not politicized right now. And it should be because there are more people involved in the arts community than any other community. And I say this more about the music scene because I'm not involved in the overall arts scene so much, but in the music scene, if you look at the sheer number of people going to see music every night of the week, if all those people voted — which they did, I have to give credit for in the last election: A big reason why we have Greg Nickels instead of Mark Sidran, I think, is because the music community went out and voted. But, if they would do that in every election, we also wouldn't have Margaret Pageler, wouldn't have Jim Compton or Jan Drago. We'd have more progressives involved in city politics. I think that's true nationally and I think it's really important that the music community become politicized if they want to be heard.
Narver: I couldn't agree more. I also think that — a lot of people disagree with me about this all the time — I think that work can't help but come from context, comes from your own cultural context and so it represents some kind of political point of view whether it's intentional or not and so I think that it's always integrated and I think that it's easy — I'm going to just speak for myself — it's easy for me to not accept responsibility for the fact that every piece of work I make is somehow inherently political. So, I need to stand behind that just because it comes from this current cultural context.
Brogan: I think the artists in this community are very involved. I think that if you look at the arts commissions of King County, if you look at any panels... I mean, panels always look like this: there are artists on them. I think that what we have not done a very good job of is involving the audiences. The large numbers of people who are involved in the arts are not the artists. If you sit on panels for grants, there is not representation of the reader, in our case, or the theater-goer, things like that. You always have artists there, partly because they're easier to identify, "Oh, let's get Pat there on our panel," but, even in this, where is the audience member, where are those folks? Because they outnumber us by thousands to one. And that's what we haven't been very successful at.
Graney: I was going to say that I think we have to be really careful about putting out platitudes about everyone. Everyone is active in the way they see fit. Some people will do a big piece, they'll do a big public art piece and that is their political contribution. I feel comfortable coming in and talking about it, but I know people who don't but they do act out in different ways and they do really speak, fervently doing community activities (and that might be a church activity, but they are visible in their community). I think we have to be really careful about how we say what that activity should be because some people just aren't going to do that.
Meinert: I think it's wrong to put on artists the responsibility that they should be political leaders. I think the role of artists is to be artists and art in itself is political, I think. If you go to a music event and that artist is getting you to transcend your everyday bullshit life and to think about other things, that's probably doing more for you than being involved in gathering signatures. I think artists and art events have a unique role in society. I think it's up to other people to, in a way, to collect signatures and go pound on people's doors and get people registered to vote. I think the artists need to create
Berson: As we wind down this thing — this is great, thank you so much — I wonder if we can go around the room and identify a trend that you're seeing locally or nationally in terms of the arts.
Brogan: I think in literature there's been a renewed interest in poetry. Some of it is very directly behind 9-11. What I hope in terms of Seattle, is that we become a little less parochial and construed and start thinking about how we want to create, produce, present art no matter where. That we just look at ourselves as a country in a world and that we start focusing and producing great work that would matter if it was put on in Boston or Tacoma, or wherever it was put on. And a little less of this sort of patting ourselves on the back.
Sneed: One of the things I was struck by with the cultural festivals is their purpose. I work with approximately 13 of them, and they all have one single purpose, which is to dispel stereotypes. So what you find is some incredible artwork ... at the root of their drive is to tell the world who they are.
John Feodorov: I would have to say that from the 9/11 incident and thereafter, hopefully, what will continue is this interest and awareness of what is happening around the world as far as the arts. I don't know that's necessarily blossoming in Seattle maybe, but there are two things actually, that and I teach for this after-school program called ArtsCorps. The kids are just amazing, and to see sophisticated work coming from ten-year-olds is wonderful. I think that and these all-ages shows are incredibly important and the city needs to continue supporting that.
Again, going back to the school district and the Seattle Arts Commission: We can't fill that gap, we just don't have the funds anymore. So, the question becomes how do we promote arts for the youth when we don't have the funding or the authority to do it? So I'm very very ambivalent about the arts here. There are many activists that I don't like but I see hope, but that hope is very fragile.
Meinert: As far as artistic trends, I think meaning is coming back into music, or at least into mainstream music. It's been in underground music but some things are coming up from the underground like jam bands ... everyone hates that tag but jam bands are typically a group of great artists who are great improvisers and are playing music not to make pop music but to make music with each other and communicate with each other. That's getting more popular which I think is great. Punk rock is coming back. And I don't mean Sum 41 or Blink 182 punk rock., but like, the DIY, they're a grassroots kind of music, almost a folk rock in a way. That's coming up. And, to me personally, a really exciting thing is soul music, which I think is coming back in hip-hop and rock and a lot of things and I think those are really great, positive trends in music. At the same time, the propagators of non-meaningful music, like Universal Records and Sony are collapsing and I think that's a positive trend. that they'll pick up
Narver: The things I hear over and over from people I talk to, all over the country and Seattle that is exciting to me is the desire really to create a community and network of people around the country, around the world that artists can work with, a desire to really tap into different traditions and create a way of working together that is meaningful and have substance and is practical.
The other thing that is not a new trend but that seems to be coming back in different places around the country is to really examine the nature of the theatrical space and to recognize that any space is a theatrical space, whether it is the Seattle Center Fountain filled with flowers and people coming together to mourn an event or underneath a bridge, that theater can be made just about anywhere with any set of resources. It doesn't require a big black box with lots of money, in fact a lot of times that's the worst theater: the theater with the most money. I think there's kind of a movement back where people are kind of looking for simplicity and directness in the way they make their work.
Graney: I have a hard time accessing lots of contemporary dance, personally. I think that artists are having to look at that and they're having to look at their community based on really wanting to break through. I think they're realizing that it's self-referential. I think that you're looking at a center in New York and what's going on there, the provinciality of dancing in New York and the incestuousness of that. It's determining a national aesthetic and then it's determining the funding of the national aesthetic because that's where all the foundations are, so it's an interesting kind of paradigm that going on now. I'm a pretty optimistic kind of person, so I think that's kind of changing. It started changing about ten years ago when people started looking at where community stuff is. But stuff like the American Festival Project and things going on — I don't know if you all know about that but those are all community-based projects in the South In the South, people have been doing theater and community way before anyone else was thinking about it 20 years ago. Really radical, music theater stuff. So, those people are kind of coming to the forefront a little more and that's really exciting. Dance has been really dominated by a trust-fund aesthetic because the only people who really survive in it have created what the aesthetic is. So, people from my background, which is very poor working class, have been a very big minority. Now, we're coming to the table and actually identifying that there's sort of an issue there. It's been an interesting change and I feel people are welcoming and looking at that, which is very exciting for me.