The NYC Seed Group was planted in 2014 at West-Park Presbyterian Church — now The Center at West Park — as a collaboration initiated by the Open Program of the Italy-based theater group the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards. By now a sort of fluid community comprised of people of various ages, backgrounds, boroughs, and professions, we meet once a week to sing together primarily songs of U.S. folk traditions. We also team up with the Open Program twice a year to produce The Open Choir Movement: free, public events at both West-Park and the Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx, including Open Choir, where anyone can come sing with us; Public Conversations on various related themes; and One Day: A Festival, bringing together professional artists, community art groups, and various communities. Last fall we worked with the OP to create a conference at West-Park around issues of mass incarceration in the USA. Spring 2018 marked the first open, public Seed Group sessions.
We have a two-fold aim:
Our work aims towards achieving artistic competency and integrity, while searching for that something inside “art” that can only come alive relationally and in turn serve to enliven, strengthen, and bind a community by bringing people into extra-ordinary contact with one another.
1) As curious artists, we pursue artistic research while continuously honing our craft. We are guided in this through our collaboration with the Open Program. In the vein of the Open Program’s decades-long research, we meet regularly to work on songs drawn from Afro-diasporic and other songs, particularly of various U.S. traditions. We, with the Open Program, recognize and approach these songs as vehicles for remembering, restoring, and nourishing the dignity, creativity, and unknown potentialities of human spirit. Thus, our work dovetails with that of the Open Program’s search to discover and articulate something which is perceived as being at the very core of theatre: the moment of immediate contact between human beings.
2) Drawing on over 40 years of combined individual experience of community work and mentorship, the Seed Group collaborates with the Open Program to bring our work on songs to a greater and more diverse community throughout NYC through a regular series of OPEN CHOIR encounters. We believe this work can serve to enliven, empower, and inspire individuals and communities, uncovering something essentially shared and precious in human experience.