Thoughts from the 2016 Artist Retreat: Bringing Together the Art World

The Creative Capital is a huge production: with over 300 people attending and 80 artist presentations over the course of a weekend, we need some extra help. So, in the months leading up to the Retreat, we hire three Artist Services paid internship positions to assist with the event. One of them, Erin Carr, a student at NYU’s Arts Administration graduation program, wrote about her experience at the Retreat.

This summer, I spent my time as a Creative Capital Artist Services intern almost exclusively focused on preparing for the 2016 Artist Retreat at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) in Troy, NY. My experience at the Retreat was rewarding and thought-provoking, and I am still sitting with the presentations, thinking over what I learned from an intensive week there. The Retreat brought together artists, arts administrators, curators, programmers, writers and other arts professionals around nearly 80 five-to-seven minute presentations by 2013, 2015, and 2016 Creative Capital awardees. Outside of the presentations, the Retreat allowed people from different disciplines and positions in the art world to make connections. For this weekend the event helped to dissolve the separation between administrators and artists.

Before joining the Creative Capital team, my jobs at other arts organizations—one magazine, a museum and another granting organization—have sometimes kept me at a distance from the artists these organizations supported. As someone who is not an artist but an arts administrator, I am accustomed to learning about work through articles, grant applications, online research and as many exhibitions and performances as I can make time to attend. I was already familiar with some of the artists before the Retreat, but watching the presentations gave me a new perspective and appreciation of all of the artists’ work.

Hearing directly from the artists enlivened their ideas in a way that photo, video and written documentation alone cannot. Each presentation was dynamic and made palpable their passion and dedication to their projects. It was inspiring to see the wide range of subject matter and media that the awardees are incorporating into their work.


Gif excerpt from a performance of Yara Travieso’s “La Medea”

Projects ranged from Yara Travieso’s La Madea, “a live dance-theater performance, a made for camera TV musical, and a feature film, . . . performed, shot, edited and streamed in real time; Peter Burr and Porpentine Charity Heartscape’s video game Aria End about a trans-woman navigating an intestinal tract; Shawn Peters’s new media bike tour The Art of Dying Young that takes viewers to memorial mural landmarks in Bedford-Stuyvesant, South Williamsburg and Bushwick; and Joseph Keckler’s Let Me Die, a combination of “a multitude of death scenes from the operatic canon” that closed out the weekend of presentations.

These are but a few of the many incredible and distinct projects that awardees presented at the Retreat.
As an arts administrator, there is only so much one can learn about an artist’s work without hearing from them directly. However, time and resource limitations can dictate that arts organizations make programming and funding decisions without in-person interaction with their supported artists. Indeed, research, work samples and perhaps a written application (in the case of grantmaking organizations) do go a long way in understanding someone’s work and vision, but the dynamism conveyed through the Retreat presentations is difficult to capture elsewhere. This unique event brought together people from all sides of the art world, and for me, the engaging week reminded me of my excitement for the arts that drove me to this field.

To read more posts about the Creative Capital Retreat, click here.

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