For their YIELD performance, SPARK! looks back
How does one belong? What does it mean to engage with the land beneath us? Where does belonging begin? Searching for answers to these and other questions, SPARK! Creative Lab’s YIELD: WE BELONG TO THE LAND took to the grounds of our new home. Through 10 weeks of open workshops creatively investigating our collective presence at 11 NW 11th
St., YIELD responds to Maren Hassinger’s sculptural installation, Nature, Sweet Nature, through in-depth, community dialogue and multidisciplinary artistic responses.
“It’s encouraging to me to see people in the community feel free to exercise their creativity,” says dancer, choreographer and SPARK! Production Coordinator Jessica Ray. “To exercise new ideas, to jump in and just try something new. ... I love seeing people move and access movement in a new way. It was really rewarding to be able to walk into a room and ask people to try, and they went ahead and did it!”
From panel discussions in Workshop 1’s Tilling the Soil and musical workings of Workshop 3’s Sowing the Seeds to the collaboration of dance, music, theater and visual arts in Cultivation (Workshop 6), YIELD’s six-part open community engagement calls for intimate investigation.
“I think it’s the same for all workshops,” says Soundpainting artist and SPARK! Executive Director Nicole Poole. “[People] haven’t really been invited to think metaphorically. Here, they’re learning from each other; they’re asked to tap into a deeper engagement than what we get in our day-to-day life.”
Through these inquiries into shared human experience, YIELD reimagines and reminds us of the importance of community in a pandemic-to-endemic world. Guided by participating artists, experts and community members, workshop attendees experienced the physicality of art-making. They encountered moments of spoken word in the form of a collaborative poem, sonic and rhythmic composition, kinesthetic responses in movement and visual creations composed of repurposed and interactive elements.
“For me, there is no difference in the work we are doing in SPARK! and the work I am doing, personally,” Poole says. “A catastrophe is an opportunity to respond either by shutting down or by being very expansive and letting your heart break wide open. Choosing the latter is very vulnerable, on a personal and collective front. But the reward is so huge. By expressing our vulnerability, we are actually getting to know each other. Beyond our labels, beyond our titles.”
Standing in alignment with Oklahoma Contemporary’s mission, SPARK! keeps accessibility at the forefront of their project, constructing and rethinking ways in which to better serve every part of the Oklahoma City community.
“People are hungry for it, a hunger to be seen, a hunger to contribute. Everything changes when people know that they’re valued,” Poole says. “The arts in general, when you think of contemporary performance or contemporary art — there’s an assumption or an appearance that that’s ‘high art,’ and it belongs to the privileged class. Creativity belongs to everybody. … Knowing that everyone has crafty ways of navigating so many different spaces, we also have to be very intentional about the invitations. How are we reaching different communities outside the bubble? How are we finding out what are the barriers to your participation?”
This Thursday, May 26, this 10-week exploration comes to fruition in a multidisciplinary performance stretching through the grounds of Oklahoma Contemporary. And while the final performance will be one of love, engagement and inspiration, it is not the only thing worth noting, as Poole and Ray remind us the process is in fact the product.
“Yes, we are creating the culmination of all these weeks of work and time and energy and artistic merit,” Ray says. “But at the same time, through working those things out in the room, through conversations, through having awkward moments, through having blissful moments, you are going through a transformation as an artist and as an individual.”
“This is less a presentation and more an invitation for everyone to experience, really, the transformative power of art,” Poole says. “This is a living collage of who we are at the moment in time. And I think everyone will find something they can key into.”
How does the land inform us? How might the exploration itself create new pathways? For belonging? For community? For human flourishment? By public contribution, personal discipline and collective, creative growth, Thursday’s concluding performance of YIELD: WE BELONG TO THE LAND offers something for all.
“There’s going to be a lot that takes places on the 26th,” Ray says. “I think there will be dance people will connect to, sounds and music people will connect to, words — the poems are beautiful. And the visual art pieces are really cool and interactive. There are so many layers to this piece — if people can just walk in and be open, and take a moment to experience any part of YIELD, then I think we have accomplished something. Because we’ve started a new dialogue, a new dialogue in the city about what performance can look like and what it can be.”
Images: SPARK! artists. Photo: Zach Seat. YIELD poem. Photo courtesy SPARK! Creative Lab. SPARK! artists. Photo: Zach Seat. Participants in SPARK!'s theater workshop. Photo: Zach Seat. SPARK! visual art piece in progress. Video:Featuring members of Spark! Creative Lab company and the OKC community, in process to build material in Dance & Music (March-April 2022). Photos: Zachary Burns.
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