Creation Fund Helps Artist

“….transcend my geographic obscurity”

by Amy Caron

My introduction to NPN was in 2006 through a Creation Fund award to support the creation of Waves of Mu, a large-scale installation/performance work about a hot topic in neuroscience. Art+science was entirely new creative territory for me, as was building enormous installations and national touring. Heck, I had never made an evening-length work before! With support from NPN and my commissioners, Performance Space 122 and Dance Theatre Coalition, and additional tour dates with NPN Partner Out North, I took a deep breath and plunged into the most imperative yet terrifying challenge of my career.

My unexpectedly grueling creative process yielded a work that I am extremely proud of and still entranced by. I am forever grateful to NPN and presenting organizations that unflinchingly braved the logistical headaches and unconventional travel requirements that came with touring this complicated piece. In the end, my touring was extremely successful and fulfilling both in terms of performances and outreach. Waves of Mu continues to receive impressive residency offers, including a semester-long residency later this year at Duke University supported by their Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Visual Arts Initiative, and an invitation by the University of Utah to host my neuro-anatomical installation on an on-going annual basis as a teaching tool for their first-year medical students. Steady work is the answer to an artist’s prayers.

I certainly took a big leap with the work I created with NPN Creation Fund support. Looking back, I realize that the reason I didn’t have the confidence to be more ambitious with my previous work was because, without the anchors of a good starting point (preliminary funding) and the promise of a final result (touring dates), it often seemed unreasonable to even begin, much less think big. The Creation Fund provided the structural tension necessary for me to get started on my aspirations and allowed me to be much more bold artistically because I felt the new work had a secure future.

The effectiveness of NPN support really lies in the whole package you receive as a Creation Fund artist. On top of multiple touring dates and substantial funding to apply directly to your new work, you also get invited to the Annual Meetings for consecutive years. I would easily position this perk parallel to the benefits of funding support and touring opportunities, because what you can learn and achieve by attending Annual Meetings is priceless.

I knew very little about national touring and professional networking prior to becoming a Creation Fund Artist. Attending the Annual Meetings allowed me to get some pratical knowledge under my belt that translates directly into newfound confidence in my work and honed abilities to pitch ideas, initiate conversations, approach presenters with ease, understand touring, and invent my own opportunities. It is very advantageous to be invited to Meetings for consecutive years – this format is key for “getting the hang of it” and developing a comforting familiarity while also mixing it up in terms of faces you might see year to year. Annual Meetings are jam-packed with things to do. I always relish the chance to practice pitching ideas during “In the Works,” and I’ve performed in ArtBursts and led round-table discussions, plus I get to see performances by other artists.

I admire how NPN doesn’t spoon-feed formulatic career skills to artists or push networking down our throats, but rather inserts us into an environment that provides a golden opportunity for development and advancement. The Creation Fund is an active learning expeience that is functional and rooted in tangible support for artists. The Creation Fund grant covers more territory than any other award I’ve received.

It can be a heck of a job to get yourself in the right situation and yet so much of a creative career hinges creating this delicate circumstance. NPN does a wonderful job of organizing mutually benefical situations between artists and presenters at every angle. In particular, as an artist from Utah, the unending opportunities afforded me through my Creation Fund experience have been critical for allowing me to transcend my geographic obscurity. Utah is a landscape that inspires me, and I feel that the vastness of the west allows my distinct creativity to emerge, but it hasn’t always felt like the most practical career choice to live here. Through NPN support, I received exposure that elevated my professional path so much that now, I thankfully no longer feel like I have to consider surrendering where I live in order to become a success. Everyone in Utah told me it was impossible, that I would have to move to somewhere bigger to make a career out of performing. Thanks NPN – there’s nothing sweeter than proving people wrong.

In fact, I will be right here in Salt Lake City working busily for the next year solid on an installation project even bigger than my last one (oh boy). It was my good fortune that a museum director came to see Waves of Mu when it played in Salt Lake City last year. They were so impressed with my show that I was offered the commission of a lifetime – to create a massive installation about algae and biofuel for the Leonardo Museum’s grand opening in 2011. My work will exhibit for a whole year in the central atrium of this brand new science and technology museum that is located one block from my apartment. When the Leonardo’s Director handed me the keys to my very own 3,000 sq/ft warehouse where I will build this work over the next year, I couldn’t stop smiling. I know it is every artist’s dream to have space, time, and compensation to make work. I felt like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, ending up smack in my own backyard with everything I ever wanted. This current opportunity can be traced right back to the museum director coming to see my Creation Fund project – something I never could have accomplished without NPN support.

May 2010

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