In Search of the Artistic Home

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

What makes an artistic home?
An artistic home is a place where there are opportunities for community-building and for cross-cultural dialogue. There is also the search for a collective truth: when the courage to share is met with an artist’s deep listening and the product is not only a new play, but an unquantifiable joy, reverence, and sense of empowerment. A place where audiences can say:  “Yes. You see us. You understand us. Thank you.”

That summarizes art at its best—that it reaches out to people, echoes a collective truth, and creates deeper understanding in a world of diverse human experiences.

That summarizes art at its best—that it reaches out to people, echoes a collective truth, and creates deeper understanding in a world of diverse human experiences.

Where and how did you find yours and what does it mean to you?
I found it through community organizing. Through volunteerism. By protesting for social justice. You see, an artistic home isn’t merely a physical place—it’s an emotional home.  I found it through the words of Luis Valdez’s Pensamiento Serpertino, Tú eres mi otro you.” / “You are my other self.” When I find a place, a community, or a company where I recognize my other self, and where I am recognized in return, I find a home.

I’ve been a nomad for most of my professional life. Thus, I have not found a single artistic home. I’ve found home(s), plural, all over the country. The element they have in common is that commitment to theatre that is by, for, about, and near its community.

How can one create and/or build an artistic home for others?
I think it has more to do with attitude than with space or even money. To make an artistic home for others, one has to be willing to really see the artist(s) coming in, really hear them, and most importantly, be changed by them. If it’s going to be somebody’s home, they have to be empowered to paint the walls and rearrange the furniture. Maybe even build on an extension—that would be great.

Making an artistic home for someone requires a lot more than hiring them to do an artistic job you’ve picked out for them—though that is an honor, and I honor it. But to make a home for someone, you have to share decision-making power with them. To make an artistic home, the artist has to be able to participate in choosing what to work on, how to work on it, for how long, and what success means.  Having a seat at that table and a real influence on the results shows the difference between having a job, and having an artistic home.

What is the artistic home of the future?
I think increasingly we will find our artistic homes in one another, more than we find them in buildings or cities or towns. The chord of artistic home-ness will ripple under our skins when we encounter other artists whose missions intersect with ours, and who are ready to trade, share, learn, and teach. We’ll surprise ourselves by finding artistic homes in people who are not like ourselves—not from our own ethnic backgrounds, economic classes, or gender or sexual orientation. We’ll naturally include online space in our artistic homes, collaborating wirelessly and connecting with our audiences without geographic limits. When we gather in person, wherever we are is our artistic home, any space is a performance space, and the audience is always welcome.

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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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