Essay by

Kirk Lynn

In Search of the Artistic Home

Essay by

Jamie Gahlon has asked theatre artists from around the country to talk about their personal search for an artistic home. Kirk Lynn continues this series.

What makes an artistic home?
How do I understand this question? The first thing that comes to mind is the answer to the question: how do you make a home for an artist in this world, this economy, this culture? I think of sustainability, community, resources. I think all of these things are easier to find collaboratively. Making alliances with other artists is a great idea, a great pathway toward an artistic home. There are easy ways to begin this. Go to classes. Join writer’s groups or director’s guilds or a union. Invite artists in your community to your house once a month for a party or a brunch. Split the cost of the beer or the food. Wahlah, you’ve got a collective relationship. Expand from there.

Part of the spirit in which we work is developing a relationship with dissatisfaction. We want to do better. We want to learn more. We want to work harder.

But then this other understanding of the question starts to creep into my mind. Do artist’s have homes? Part of the spirit in which we work is developing a relationship with dissatisfaction. We want to do better. We want to learn more. We want to work harder. These desires spill out into our lives pretty easily. If artists sometimes have reputations for being cantankerous or egotistic I think it might be because the dam broke and some of our passion flooded out into our regular lives.

It’s good to pack up all your things and move on, sometimes. I want to live in the woods. I want to live in Paris. I want to live in isolation for a year. I have a baby who’s almost two years old. I have a company in the Rude Mechs with which I want to make all my work. I want to make a solo show. I want to write novels. I want to make a permanent home for myself at the University of Texas. I want to start my own devised theatre program somewhere else. I never want to teach again. I definitely never want to answer any more questions for public consumption.

Building a space/a community/a family/an institution/a friendship that can contain all these impulses and a thousand more is important and hard. I think a lot of the work is learning to allow others in your community/family/institution/friendship to operate from the same multiplicity and contradiction that you don’t bat an eye at in yourself. At least, that’s what I need to practice these days in order to keep building my own artistic home.

Where and how did you find yours and what does it mean to you?
The Rude Mechs is my essential artistic home. I think they sort of found me. I was willing to make work with them in any style. I was willing to change my expectations about what it meant to be a writer. I was willing to read and study and work every morning, and invite the ideas of others into my work. I was willing to give my work to the service of others.

My relationship with my wife, Carrie Fountain, is also, in part, an artistic home (I say "in part” cause it’s also 10,000 other things besides). Many of the same practices apply. A willingness to adapt to her needs. To communicate my own needs clearly so that she doesn’t have to guess after my moods.

Without these homes I wouldn’t write. I wouldn’t know how. I wouldn’t have been able to see myself sober. I wouldn’t have any connection to God. I wouldn’t know how to pray. I would be a remarkable asshole.

How can one create and/or build an artistic home for others?
Make room in your life. Stop watching TV. Stop playing fantasy football. Make three hours a day you can dedicate to someone else’s desires. Practice desiring the things the people you love desire. Confuse yourself about who you are. Throw out every CD you listened to for the last ten years and start listening only to music you steal from your friends. Never return any book you borrow from anybody—once you read it, it’s yours—if the original owner takes it back, she’s borrowing it from you now. Stop being an expert about everything. Stop being an expert about anything. Ask your friends for help with your new project, which is in fact their project, too.

What is the artistic home of the future?
Collective structures are back. I didn’t even write this. I googled interviews with other Rude Mechs and copied and adapted shit they said. I trolled through your Facebook page, Jamie, and copied and adapted shit you said. Collective structures are hard to maintain, but when they break apart they multiply. There is probably a current or ex-Rude Mechanical in your town. I recommend taking this person out for a drink, laugh with this person, tell stories, take him or her home. See how far you can get. They took me all the way.

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Thoughts from the curator

Theatre artists from around the country reflect on their respective "artistic homes."

Artistic Home

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Kirk, this is so great. I live with the Art Monastery Project (www.artmonastery.org), a similar, idealistic arts organization. We believe in similar principles...but somehow it's so nice to hear the same struggles, pitfalls, and challenges reflected back - as well as the glory and hope, of course. Thank you for your thoughtful post.

Kirk, thanks for the honest, pragmatic perspective, and also Emily and Laurie your comments. You know this "artistic home" thing works on so many different levels. I have friends who have formed a group for mounting theatre productions, there is a definite 'sharing resources' attitude. Two of them are playwrights. It's nice to know that we all support each others endeavors, bounce off ideas, suggestions, refer to other connections. We'll send scripts [or parts of scripts] we're working on to each other for feedback [which is usually helpful and insightful]. It's this kind of 'community attitude' that nourishes the creative process and outcome, and I'm grateful for it.

This is wicked beautiful, Kirk. "Practice desiring the things the people you love desire." This I believe! It is indeed the (sometimes exasperating) practice of ensemble. Over the years, I've had so many of those moments in our seemingly endless meetings with the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble where I've just had to say to myself, "OK, give in. Let him, let her, have his, have her turn." Taking turns? Is this a viable artistic practice. Hell, yes. How else can you allow your fellow ensemble members surprise you? How else will anyone in your ensemble be allowed to make those "mistakes" that all the artists over all the ages have always told us are so necessary to the process of making art? How else will you know the true meaning of forgiveness (thanks, Emily, for your knowing response). How else will you and your fellow ensemble members (and I daresay, your audience) experience joy?

Little did I know watching your Pale Idiot all those years ago that you all would go so far. I thought you were a bunch of young punks who wouldn't last a year. Thanks for all you have brought to Austin, and beyond. I have only one thing to add about the notion of artistic home: forgiveness. My artistic home(s) have been the places that I've been forgiven: for the bad idea, for the missed deadline, for the talking too loud and behaving badly at the wrong time. Aren't we lucky to have fallen into this Velvet Rut?