There are a lot of people in New York City waiting for their big break, hoping not just for the right opportunity, but any opportunity. Where, though, are the ones who are making work on a regular basis, who have either gotten their break or, more likely, made their own opportunities? Well, thanks to the MADE HERE Project, you can get up close and personal with a wide array of these rare breeds from the comfort of your computer screen.
Kristin Marting and Kim Whitener, the Artistic and Producing Directors, respectively, of prominent downtown performing arts organization HERE, are the originators of the MADE HERE Project. They began the project, a documentary web series about the lives of performing artists working in the five boroughs, in part because of the burnout they were seeing among fellow artists. After trying to counteract the trend on a small scale, through career workshops and discussions within their resident artist program, they looked for ways to reach more people.
Most of the artists featured in the project come from non-traditional performance, which stems from the fact that HERE primarily showcases experimental theater, puppetry and performance art. But for this project, "non-traditional" takes in a much wider swath, including everyone from contemporary downtown fixtures like Taylor Mac and Julie Atlas Muz to established artists like Anne Bogart (founder of Siti Company) and Kate Valk of the Wooster Group, to those outside the mainstream, like breakdancer and hip-hop artist Rokafella, as well as the Chinese Opera company Chinese Theatre Works.
The project's director, Chiara Clemente, has covered similar terrain before with her well-received first feature, Our City Dreams, which chronicles the lives and work of five NYC-based artists: Nancy Spero, Marina Abramovic, Kiki Smith, Ghada Amer, and Swoon.
Topics covered in the MADE HERE series cut across every aspect of working and living as a performing artist in New York, from real estate to side jobs to raising families. As Marting noted, "Sometimes artists are looked at as elitist or snobbyâ�‚�¦ but they're struggling with the same issues that others in the city are."
The project is a great example of society's ongoing drift toward total transparency. A similar and equally successful project focused on a very different NYC industry, Made in Midtown, examines the city's garment industry. Both projects not only reveal unique urban economies and ecosystems, they also serve to illustrate the time and effort that goes into things that many New Yorkers interact with casually on a regular basis, without fully understanding how they came into being.
Just about any city dweller is likely to find something of interest in the highly digestible MADE HERE videos, while the more intrepid among you can catch one of the live screenings and discussions (the next one is on August 9 at the Bronx Academy of the Arts and Dance). Let's just hope these aren't rare glimpses of endangered species.
(photo credit: Chiara Clemente)