Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ok, so I'm trend whoring a bit....just a little...

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Finding the border balance

So, this week marks the second official week after the KC Fringe Festival. What a crazy ride that was for me and everyone else involved.

Last year, I participated in the Fringe Festival as a volunteer. I was shuffled from venue to venue taking tickets, seating people, learning how to tech (!!) a space for the Youth Fringe members and generally running around.

If some of you were reading this blog back then, you'll probably remember me squawking about the lack of direction and general "in chargness" that the Visual Arts Fringe portion had...well, turns out when you squawk loudly enough, you get hired! And thus began the journey of organizing and herding (yes, like cows and sheep and other various farm animals) all the Visual Artists for the Festival this year.

Mind you, I can't organize my car. I don't keep a budget. I hardly remember what day it is sometimes. But, off to organizing I was. And overall, I think (think) it turned out pretty well. I was in a constant state of panic and general frenzy the whole time but aside from the impending sense of "oh god what am I doing", it was fun and a great learning experience.

Almost all of the artists were fantastic to work with. They put in a lot of additional hours to help hang, clean and dismantle all of the odds and ends that it takes to hang 21 artists in a room that is, suddenly, not as big as you thought it was when you agreed to the venue.

There were challenges with working with that many people-there always will be-but I think I at least learned a few valuable lessons about learning to listen while still drawing boundaries around which bits people say actually matter and which don't.

I also got a taste of what it means to try and fit a bunch of egos in one place. Wow. Let me tell you, there are some people in this world who need a whole room just to contain how much they think of themselves and the work they make....not to mention the work itself!

Egads. It took a lot for me to not remind certain people that yes, you have a lot of work and no, it's not all worth hanging. In fact, I would argue that most of it was pretty pointless. Ahem. I can't say that though. Not really. At least not to most people's faces. I just don't understand people who spend more time talking about their work than they do making the stuff. It seems, in most cases, at least, that their time could be better spent.

On the other hand, we had some really good work up too. This year marked a successful turnout for artists in general. The plays were great-one of our local UMKC directors put out another stellar performance called "Head" which was a sordid, sexually charged, awesome retelling of the St. John The Baptist and Solome story. Really great. 90 minutes, straight through with no intermission and some really gritty scenes that I appreciated for the honesty above all else.

Hats off to the actors as well-they busted their asses to make that play work and will continue to bust their asses until the work is deemed finish by the director/writer.

But, back to my group. As I said, we had some really great artists show this year. It makes me very excited for who is going to return and who will come out of the woodwork for next year. If we can continue to blast the quality of artists through the atmosphere like we did this year-we'll be well on our way to being taken seriously in this Festival. "Beginner gains" though can be deceptive. As the quality goes up it'll get harder and harder to out do ourselves from year to year. It's that sort of catch 22 that lets you rocket to a good middle ground but then simultaneously lose and gain ground as you try to break into the "Really Good" category. The ever elusive box called "Successful."

For those of you who aren't familiar with Fringe or the theories behind it, you can go here: and check out the "what's the fringe" page. It gives you a brief background and history on how the Fringe got its start.

Other cities also put on some really fantastic Fringes of their own-Minneapolis and Boulder are just two examples that come to mind. I'm hoping to go out there one of these days and see how they do it-but for now I"ll have to entertain myself with their websites and learn everything I can from talking to positively everyone I can to learn as much as I can between now and next year.

And yes, that means learning how to listen to those people who have been around long enough to build up giant egos and may not make the kind of art that I would make or do make (hopefully) but who have some invaluable experience and connections that make the overall experience of Fringe richer and more....possible.

I'll have pictures of this experience up shortly I do believe. I just have to bring myself to go through all of them. (c: