Redmoon: Naming Our Beliefs and Addressing Difficult Issues

ArtsFwd asks the Innovation Lab grantees: What is one major “a-ha!” moment your team experienced during the retreat?

Rendering of floating river platforms for Redmoon’s Great Chicago Fire Festival. Image: Lin Ye

This is the second post from Angela Tillges about Redmoon’s experience in the Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts. We asked her to share some of the deep thinking that took place during their team’s five-day focused retreat. Read more from the other Lab participants here. 

What is one major “a-ha!” moment your team experienced during the retreat — and how will it influence how you move forward?

Last month, Redmoon brought together an innovation team with representatives from Chicago Park District, Cure Violence (formerly CeaseFire), Family Focus Lawndale, and the Harvard Graduate School’s of Design and Education for a week-long retreat.

Together, this team developed a prototype called The Forge, which is the articulation of the collaborative process model by which Redmoon builds relationships with community partners and engage them as core collaborators.

The “a-ha!” moments for the group came from the power of naming, both in our relationship building with partners and in Redmoon’s collaborative process. What I mean by naming is making explicit our assumptions, beliefs, and practices, and engaging partners in a mutual dialogue about them.

The innovation team did hard work, overtly considering the difficult questions often overlooked in a collaborative process; power disparities, class, race, cultural distinctions, and other issues were directly addressed.

Chicago is a city of neighborhoods and the segregation of wealth, race, and culture is a tangible in any partnership that crosses neighborhood lines. The innovation team discussed the ways in which Redmoon partners across difference, which is a practice at the core of Redmoon’s mission and artistic work.

We began to decipher Redmoon’s previously ineffable process that we follow when creating partnerships with outside organizations in diverse neighborhoods, and worked towards creating a process that can be reflected upon, refined, and ultimately shared with others.

Our innovation team will test The Forge prototype over the next several months as the standard for building healthy reciprocal relationships with our 15 neighborhood partnerships for the inaugural Great Chicago Fire Festival.

About Redmoon’s Innovation Lab project

Redmoon’s project asks: How can we cultivate a well-trained community of collaborators to build the next generation of artists, and invest in individuals in the long-term by scaffolding training from intern to apprentice, apprentice to collaborator, and from collaborator to peer artist?

About
Angela Tillges is an artist and educator currently serving as Associate Artistic Director for Redmoon, where she oversees the vision of Redmoon’s community and education programs. She has collaborated with Redmoon since 2004. As an Educator, she develops the curricular and aesthetic programming for Redmoon, which serve over 1000 students, 30 educators, and 100 emerging artists annually. As a Director, she has shaped several youth-created Spectacle events locally in partnership with Chicago Public Schools and twice internationally with the community of Donegal, Ireland. Angela speaks about Spectacle and youth authored culture, nationally and internationally, most recently at the Tate Modern World’s Together conference.

  • Alison K.

    Embracing discomfort is a difficult though necessary component of effective collaboration. In a recent panel discussion ‘Defining Open Systems: Diversity, Representation, and Equity’ presented as part of Emerging Arts Professionals SF/BA’s day-long symposium Emergence, panelists discussed the importance of building a common language (a similar process explored in a recent ArtsFwd post by Jenni Werner – http://artsfwd.org/geva-ilpa7-1/). Beyond just deciding on definitions, the panelists emphasized digging deep to uncover the history and biases shaping those definitions, and being honest in sharing those with your collaborators. The process is difficult, and will undoubtedly cause discomfort. However, it is in that discomfort that ideas are given their due, assumptions are put to rest, and progress can ultimately occur.

    I hope to hear updates from Redmoon about how going through this significant step of naming affects the collaboratively-developed prototype The Forge as it goes through the various stages of implementation.

  • Alison K.

    Embracing discomfort is a difficult though necessary component of effective collaboration. In a recent panel discussion ‘Defining Open Systems: Diversity, Representation, and Equity’ presented as part of Emerging Arts Professionals
    SF/BA’s day-long symposium Emergence, panelists discussed the importance of building a common language (a similar process explored in a recent ArtsFwd post by Jenni Werner – http://artsfwd.org/geva-ilpa7-1/). Beyond just deciding on definitions, the panelists emphasized digging deep to uncover the history and biases shaping those definitions, and being honest in sharing those with your collaborators. The process is difficult, and will undoubtedly cause discomfort. However, it is in that discomfort that ideas are given their due, assumptions are put to rest, and progress can ultimately occur.

    I hope to hear updates from Redmoon about how going through this significant step of naming affects the collaboratively-developed prototype The Forge as it goes through the various stages of implementation.

  • Katie Fahey

    Being upfront about expectations in collaborative artistic work (and life) is key. Oftentimes, our ‘best practices’ for negotiation are also plain good manners, or otherwise relatable to everyday situations. Redmoon digging deeper to address assumptions and beliefs from the outset is brave and admirable. Most become apparent as time goes on, regardless.

    Having lived in Chicago, I’ll venture there’s diversity (and tension) within any given collaborating neighborhood as well. Redmoon’s unique brand of large-scale, spectacle performance is the perfect vehicle for confronting such differences and beginning to bridge boundaries. What is most impressive is it seems administratively, Redmoon’s found inspiration in its own artistic work.

    I wonder if implementation of The Forge will pan out without getting too bogged down at the discussion phase. Anyone who’s ever worked with a committee knows making sure everyone’s voice is heard takes time. Diplomacy is also a real skill, not innate to everyone!