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Supporting Creative Process at Meany

October 1, 2018

Every season an average of 25 artists and ensembles arrive at Meany Center to perform on our mainstage. They are here for an evening (or in the case of dance companies, three) during which they perform a finished work and then they are off to the next engagement.

Over the past two years, however, Meany Center has hosted a small sub-set of artists who are not here to perform. They’re not here to teach or produce a finished work either (though some do). Instead, these artists are here simply to dream--to tinker, invent, discuss, experiment and to seriously play, all in the name of creative research.

Funded by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Meany Center, in collaboration with the Schools of Music and Drama, the Department of Dance and DXArts, has produced something truly radical: an artist residency where the focus is not on the finished work, but rather the creative process.

For the artists who participate in this project, the experience has been life changing. For musician and composer Garth Knox, the chance to experiment with the university’s collection of rare instruments developed by Harry Partch “challenged my sense of form and musical intention, and inspired me to explore my own instrument in a way I had never done before.” Choreographer and videographer Margarita Bali commented on the luxury of being able to create away from the pressures of daily life. She also noted that though producing a finished word was not a prerequisite for the Fellowship, “I could not help myself; it was important to me to come home to Argentina with material that could have the potential of a finished creative work.” Indeed, Bali produced a 22-minute videodance filmed on various stairways across Seattle, which she plans to show at several international festivals.

For Meany Center, the project has been equally life-altering. This new role of supporting open-ended processes as opposed to functioning only as a presenter has given us the opportunity for deeper relationships with artists whose residencies vary from a few weeks to several months.

More important, the Creative Fellowships Initiative has fundamentally altered the conversation around public engagement with artists and their work. By focusing on pure research rather than simply product, the Initiative creates opportunities for the public to engage in the actual process of creating—an experience that can only lend greater appreciation of the artistry of the finished works they see on our stage and elsewhere.

We are grateful to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for making this important work possible.