At Tenlegs, we’re a huge believe in collaboration between artists. We do it ourselves by working with other arts organizations to find other ways for artists to connect and prosper! Meet our latest collaborator, CultureHub. We interviewed Billy Clark from CultureHub about their programing and upcoming CoLab Summer program.
Can you tell us about CultureHub as an organization? What happens at the organization on a day-to-day basis?
CultureHub is an incubator for creativity that connects artists from diverse disciplines and cultures by providing networked environments in which to collaborate, experiment, and explore. We grew out of a 30+ year relationship between La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York City – which is one of New York’s preeminent experimental and international theatres – and the Seoul Institute of the Arts, which was the first arts school in Korea. La MaMa and SeoulArts were looking for new ways to collaborate, build their relationship, and extend their respective global networks, and the internet seemed like the perfect way to do this. We incorporated independently in 2009, and have grown to include partner hubs in Manchester, England and Los Angeles in addition to Seoul, and have held numerous programs involving hundreds of artists from dozens of countries.
Day-to-day activity at CultureHub runs the gamut from live networked performances for hundreds of people in the La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre, to research and development in the studio with resident artists and technologists, to testing out emerging 3-D imaging technology.
Who runs CultureHub? What are their backgrounds?
I run CultureHub with a pretty tight-knit team – we’re like a family. Our Production and Media Coordinator Lindsey Medeiros and our Technical Director Jesse Ricke both came out of the Masters in Media Studies program at the New School – Lindsey’s is into political and media studies, and has curated a bunch of our programs and designed a networked game for the New Museum’s “Ideas City” Festival, Jesse is a musician and media artist and teaches at CUNY City Tech. We have a development and administrative manager who comes from a performance and theatre production background and came to us from La MaMa, where she worked in the Development Department. My background is as a performer and experimental theater maker.
What are some of the most innovative things that CultureHub has done?
Building on a long tradition of innovation – the founder of La MaMa, Ellen Stewart, was a pioneer in both creating new types of spaces for artists to work in and also in bridging international communities. The reason we started CultureHub was to extend her vision and we saw an untapped potential to use digital technologies to that end.
In some ways what we’re doing isn’t that new – the idea of networked collaboration & artmaking has been around for decades – Nam Jun Paik experimented with it in 1977 – but there are very few places that are dedicated to researching and developing the skill set and practice for this type of work – most of them are in very closed systems, we’re doing it in a more open and transparent way.
We’re working in a very experimental vein while being really rooted in community. An example is we’ve done a project with musicians in four different countries performing to an interactive visual score that changed based on audience movements within our space - we’ve also facilitated a collaborative play reading about violence against women between Guatamala City and New York using a $30 piece of hardware. At our essence, we’re trying to build bridges to connect people from diverse disciplines, cultures, and locations.
What are the most critical things that an emerging artists needs? How does CultureHub help?
The needs for emerging artists have shifted in recent years because now everyone can be their own producer in whatever field and use their own networks for distribution, which is kind of amazing because now you can produce a piece of work and distribute it all over the planet. But the reality is that in order to do that you need a very diverse set of skills. So you’re not only the singer/songwriter, you’re also your own sound engineer, you have to do your own marketing, edit your own videos, etc. – even Keith Richards self-distributes when he’s not making music with the Rolling Stones.
So the idea with the CoLab is to bring young people at the high school level, or just coming out of high school, and to capture their imagination at this key point in their development to bring them into an experimental space and introduce them to ideas, tools, methodologies that might open up their minds to diverse avenues and possibilities. I know that when I was in high school I had a teacher that brought me into the theater program – I was doing experimental theater and I didn’t know it, because I didn’t have any context for what that was – and it’s often our mentors that help us set a course for our lives. It was our hope here that we could bring people into a professional art making environment where they can connect, ideate, prototype and pilot their own projects and ideas and in the process learner the broader skill of collaboration. As the name entails, it’s a Collaborative Laboratory for emerging media makers. The ability to collaborate is essential.
Tell us a bit about CoLab summers, what does the program entail? What mediums does the program cover?
The CoLab summer program is a free, 8 day intensive from June 24 – July 2 in our studio on Great Jones Street. The modules are:
“Poetry, Beatmaking and Found Sounds:” Led by Hip Hop Artist and educator Fabian “Farbeon” Saucedo and a professional sound designer and recording engineer, students will learn to write, record, and mix original compositions. A session getting them out of the studio and exploring the soundscape of New York will cover sampling, sound remixing, and using “found sounds” in recording.
“Motion and Animation:” as mentioned, this workshop will be co-taught by puppeteer/choreographer Federico Restrepo and digital artist/animator Nick Fox Gieg. Students will tell stories using movement to drive animated avatars created using a number of technological tools, including the Xbox Kinect.
“Urban Gaming” students will take their cell phones, IPads, tablets, and digital cameras out onto the streets of New York to design and develop their own interactive games.
“kinect_hacks” allows students to hack and analyze the inner workings of the Xbox Kinect to create their own interactive sound and 3-D video projects. This workshop empowers young people to feel ownership of the technical devices that are so prevalent in their lives.
Who participates in CoLab both as attendees and teachers?
One of the main ideas behind the CoLab is to work in a collaborative way, so we started with the teachers, to create a setting where we were also teaching in collaboration. Since CultureHub is centered at the intersection of media and performing arts, many of our CoLabs combine these two areas.
Students range in age from 15 – 20 in our “student” track and 21-25 in the “mentor” track. They will take classes together and the mentors will receive additional enrichment in leadership and mentoring.
The response so far has been incredible: some students say they never realized the things they were already doing – gaming or hacking a Kinect – could be thought of as an art form. Another student said, “This is everything that I’m looking for. I’ve just been wondering where I was going to get encouragement to do it.”
Aside from CoLab Summers, what other events are coming soon that people should know about?
We have tons of events year round – performance, festivals, workshops. We’ll be launching our next season in September, so stay tuned!
What’s the best way to get in touch with CultureHub?
Our website: www.culturehub.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We love having people visit the studio and we love hearing from people working out in the community, so if you like what you see, or you want to share anything with us, get in touch!