Jan/Feb 2014: At this time, the Open Program was in a self-produced residency in NYC, offering workshops and presenting their performative works. During this period, opportunities for the Open Program to perform and sing with communities in the city also arose, with especially meaningful encounters with the congregations and choirs at the church of St. Augustine Our Lady of Victory, in the Bronx. These exchanges inspired and moved many of us to follow their work, and the Seed Group was then born from a series of Open Choir sessions initiated by the Open Program at West-Park Presbyterian Church. A number of NYC-based individuals coalesced into this budding collaboration, which continued to grow through a number of intensive meetings and work sessions. Our long-distance collaboration with the Open Program (based in Italy) was creatively and persistently maintained throughout the spring and summer, with a second visit of the Open Program co-organized by both parties in summer 2014.
February 2014: a Seed Group member, in collaboration with Brooklyn College, organized a Master Class with the Open Program for Theater and PIMA (Performance and Interactive Media Arts) students.
March 2014: a new Seed Group member had such a profound response to the work and their wish to continue the exploration with the Open Program prompted them to organize an independent workshop for herself and fellow artists in NYC, with a focus on Motions, one of the Open Program’s intense physical training work.
June/July 2014: A second residency with the Open Program in NYC, during which time, the Seed Group worked very closely with visiting Open Program members and director, Mario Biagini, to deepen our artistic competency and skills, and to begin to formulate and pursue the particular nature of our intents and desires toward a collaborative long-term endeavor. Throughout the two months, we co-hosted a second series of weekly Open Choir encounters at West-Park, attracting and working with many new people as well as returning participants. Once again, a number of us were given the opportunity to visit a number of vibrant communities in the city, to sing and share fellowship with them, along with members of the Open Program, including St. Augustine and the Community of Hope – a ministry for the homeless at the Manhattan Church of Christ. The culmination of this residency was an evening of vibrant conversation, warm fellowship, and song, our Public Conversation: Performing (and) the Sacred: A Living Exploration of Artistic and Community Practices.
July 2014: a Seed Group member organized a public Master Class with the Open Program at Brooklyn College focusing on Organic Behavior and Intentional Action, working together with songs of tradition, and demanding physical training followed by a film screening of “Fragments film”, Workcenter performances fragments. Seed Group members were able to participate in continuing their work here.
July 2014: the Open Program, the Seed Group, and West-Park co-hosted their first Public Conversation: PERFORMING (and) THE SACRED, a living exploration of artistic and community practices. This project brought members of diverse existing communities of faith, secular communities-in-formation, and practicing artists to explore questions about the nature of human contact, meeting, and work through the arts as well as at the intersection of the artistic and the spiritual.
The format of the PUBLIC CONVERSATION is an inclusive version of a panel-discussion, where invited ‘experts’ from various disciplines in the humanities (including academics, clergy, and artists) sit together with other attendees in order to encourage active engagement by all on equal footing. Our event included practical work on song, shared food, and lively discussion. It was both a great success and a tantalizing provocation: it gave us, among other things, an opportunity to question the definition and parameters of ‘expertise’ within our field of interest and action. At the same time, we asked and attempted to begin to address (perhaps through shared song and food above all else) some pretty big questions: How do we live and express belief? How and why are we moved to create ‘art’? For and with whom else? Why? The success of our first event demonstrated a need to continue this discussion (and soon!), so we have resolved to reconvene this February 2015. Stay tuned for this event!
Since January 2014, hundreds of New Yorkers have participated in these events, and the Seed Group experiment continues every week at The Center at West Park and around the city.