One of the things artists struggle with is to find a place to do their work. Somewhere they can create and rehearse and dream. Real estate, especially in large cities is difficult to find and expensive when you do. You need money to rent a space, you need a space to create things that will bring you money. It’s the chicken and the egg all over the place.
As someone who is graduating soon I am truly coming to appreciate the ‘free’ spaces that are provided for me at my university. We have these rooms that, when not in class, are open to us to run around to our hearts content. When I leave and have the desire to create works with my peers, I don’t know how I’m going to find a place to put it up other than my (most likely tiny) living room. Which in all honesty, is a fine place to make theatre. However, when you have a town of living room art, it seems to me that something could be done about this.
I spent a semester at the Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford Connecticut and on my return people asked me what the O’Neill was like and I responded with “it is the theatrical home I never knew I had.” Built into the institution is a nurturing boarding house of sorts for artists who need a place to get away and work. All during my semester people would show up in our dining hall working on writing their next play, or directing their next show, even coming to just move and work on their teaching strategies. I think this model is extremely useful for cultivating a sanctuary for artists. I hope that other theaters and theatrical institutions take a page from this book and keep a room or a space open to housing or renting (cheaply) to other artists. I know that should I ever feel at a loss with my art I can return to the O’Neill and be welcomed with open, eager arms. Everyone is struggling. Everyone is passionate. The theatre world is small but powerful. I think it is our duty as artist to foster other artists.
More than artists helping artists, I believe we need society to step up and value arts as an integral part to who we are as humans. I believe that it is the duty of our government to foster the growth of arts in this country. We need more government-funded property that is dedicated to cultivating the growth of young artists. In the summer there are parks but in the winter, where are the free open spaces that can be made readily accessible for a group of artists to get together and work? Just as local little leagues can rent out the baseball diamond in the park, a dance troop should have a place they can reserve for a couple of hours to move. A space in a town or a city, that is funded by the government, just enough to keep it running, that welcomes those who wish to create. A place that can feel like an escape and a destination all in one.
Maybe this will take many years but I definitely feel it is not out of our ability to make free, creative spaces begin to pop up around the country. What a beautiful sight that would be.