Artist residencies provide both freedom and restriction: having a physical space separate from one’s own to create art opens the door for creativity and experimentation, but there is often an expectation of a completed work or exhibition by the end of the residency. The pressure to create, whether intentional or not, can crush creativity. Inequities across race, gender, class, and other identity markers have also restricted who can even access residencies and environments to explore their craft. To support the winding roads that artistry can take and to open our space to a vibrant community of artists, Freehold Theatre Lab/Studio and Jennifer Moore have collaborated to form the new Curated Residency Program. With an emphasis on providing individual and communal support through free use of our studio spaces, resources, and one-on-one sessions with Jennifer, we are excited to see what artists can create when their focus is only on the process and not the end result. The program begins this week with our first group of artists; to dive into the process of creating the program and to learn more about our first artists-in-residence, we sat down with Jennifer, a DJ and musician who collaborated with Freehold previously on Daemond Arrindell’s Auntie Val, for which she created the music.
Freehold Theatre: What is the Curated Residency Program?
Jennifer Moore: The curated residency program is an experiment that asks: “What does it mean to create like no one is looking?” The goal is to get away from the confinement of having to produce a work and showcase it. Instead, Freehold is giving artists – especially those who have historically had issues accessing spaces to create art – a physical space to focus on an idea with the support of myself and Freehold’s resources. The intention is for an artist to go deep and get out of their comfort zone. As artists, we have a lot of ideas and can get lost in their exploration but seeing something to completion or going down a rabbit hole on one piece can feel like breathing again. We’re creating this space in support of that.
FT: For this first iteration, how have you gone about choosing artists?
JM: Diversity was a big part of it. How many ways can this look? At first, I wanted to focus on different genders for our artists and have a group of at least three. Because of the pandemic, we’ll only have two artists and both are women. I will also be participating as an artist but in a support capacity. We wanted more, but it’s ok to start small and expand. Moving forward, I’d like to see a cohort diverse in age; there’s a lot of gatekeeping in the arts community, especially against younger artists. We’d also love to facilitate a space for visual artists and dancers to do workshops when we can have more people physically in the space.
I’d also like to let any artists interested in participating in the future that a social media presence or publication is not and will never be a criteria for consideration. There’s so much out there that isn’t promoted. Getting over your nerves to share what you’ve made with family and friends is already a big leap. All you have to do to be considered is create.
FT: Who are the artists for the first curated residency?
JM: Our artists are Hanan Hassan and Sophie Morada! Hanan is a Somali American poet, filmmaker, singer, organizer, and generally awesome artist. We’ve had some peripheral contact, she’s just a really fun and inspired person. When considering artists, I knew that she would have a million and one ideas to explore in a big open empty space.
Sophie is a Filipina animator, composer, and awesome young artist. She’s home from college and just doing her thing, so I’m excited to see what she dreams up. She has so so many talents.
I’m excited to see how their work can come together and really plant seeds. In arts communities of color generally and in the black arts community specifically, if someone booked space for a month, other artists would come through and share it. There’s such a diversity of art and ideas that happens in that time, and that’s part of the inspiration for the model that we have. We want to see these two artists work on their own but also have the ability to come together to grow as community members.
I want to support other artists the same way that I’ve been supported by Freehold in learning about Theatre. I have more access now and I want that to equal more access for somebody else.
FT: How will you specifically support the artists?
JM: While the artists will be working at their studio space in Freehold, I will be working at home and connecting with them both throughout the process. Basically, I want to support them however they want or need. If nothing else, there will be scheduled sessions so they can bounce whatever they’re sitting with off of me. Sometimes all we really need is for a passerby to take a little bit of interest in what we’re doing to make us realize that we’re not wasting our time creating and should actually engage with it more intensely. My role then really is loving on their idea and supporting them as they work on it.
FT: We’ve talked a lot about the pressure to create; will this program culminate in an exhibition?
JM: Ultimately, it’s up to the artist to decide what, if anything, they want to share with the public. They can even show a past work if they want to instead of what they created during their residency. Hopefully they’ll want to share and we’ll be able to invite people to experience what they’ve made, but even if they say no, we’d like to have a party or open house to celebrate them at the end of their residency. There’s no pressure. Art takes time. You can’t get around it. Artists will take 10 years to make an album, and it’s worth the time. We want to tap into that and detach from the consumer-capitalist pressures of making art for instant consumption.
FT: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
JM: I’m appreciative of Freehold for being experimental and open, and I’m looking forward to the residency!