by Highways Performance Space Co-Artistic Director Patrick Kennelly

Patrick Kennelly

Patrick Kennelly (photo by JC Earle)

Being an emerging leader in the live arts, the bigger part of my personal artistic/administrative mission has been:  what is the next evolution in performance and theater, and how do we not only make that happen, but also continue to sustain it? In the seven years under the mentorship of Highways Performance Space’s Executive/Artistic Director Leo Garcia, I have been allowed a perspective of the myriad of artistic and administrative strategies and solutions that are possible to make this happen (and how they have been, and are continuing to be, implemented).

Now, with the resources of the NPN’s MLI initiative, I have begun to undertake the nuts and bolts of maintaining our space’s recognition and health in the increasingly vibrant Los Angeles arts community. Most importantly, the initiative allowed me to become forged with Garcia’s commitment to Highways’ mission of community outreach, particularly to the underserved Latina/o and LGBTQ constituencies, and bringing these marginalized voices to a more mainstream community. I have learned a great deal about the struggles of these communities and the myriad range of expressions within them – giving me a compassionate and acute desire to align it to my own aesthetic interests.

BEHOLD! A Queer Performance Specialist

Through the period of the initiative I was involved deeply in the fundraising, curation, production and presentation of two projects tied to this mission, Highways’ ongoing Latina/o New Works Festival(s) and now summer-long BEHOLD! A Queer Performance Festival. I am going to write specifically here about the work done on the BEHOLD! festival.

The LGBTQ community and its liberation movements of the ‘80s and early ‘90s is inextricably entwined with Highway’s founding and mission, particularly the space’s organizational leadership in the fight against AIDS. Garcia mentored me through putting together a diverse yet clear program that reflected the complexity of the community and its history while expressing a range of aesthetic techniques – from visual-arts based performance installation to spoken word narrative, and many things in-between. Part of the festival involved taking our practice outside the comforts of our space in Santa Monica. Putting together this subset of the larger festival I was able to express my own interests in the bare-bones roots of performance in Los Angeles and reach back to Highways’ raw, guerilla beginnings. Using a warehouse in West Hollywood, a series of stark, satirical performative happenings took place throughout September 2011.

Because of the DIY nature of our organization, everything is done in-house, and involves specific, targeted research, development and curation. This is parallel with assessing the costs of making viable the type of wild experimentation we espouse. I believe the insights and contacts made during the process of the initiative have not only strengthened my understanding and implementation of the organization’s mission, but also developed my administrative sense of how to execute this in a way that is realistic within the current cultural economy. Through this whole process, I have been emboldened to raise the stakes of what is possible with the resources at hand.

The Mentorship & Leadership Initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, MetLife Foundation, American Express Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

October 2011

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