MAKING A SCENE Headlands artist-in-residence and playwright Tina Satter explores feminist and queer dynamics
in her play 'House of Dance.'
In the calm of the windswept Marin headlands, an artist's imagination can run as wild as the flora and fauna outside. Indeed, the Headlands Center for the Arts campus at Fort Barry is such a place where artists can fully immerse themselves in their art.
In operation since 1982, the 2,100-acre arts center comprises nine rehabilitated military barracks (circa 1907); boasts subsidized artist living quarters and studio spaces with expansive views; and features exhibitions, lectures, performances and communal dining.
Open to artists of all disciplines and at all stages in their careers, the nonprofit strives to invest in artists whose work will have an impact on the cultural landscape at large.
With the rarity of subsidized opportunities, it's not such a bad idea to start rethinking about writing that book, filming that documentary, staging that production or producing that art collection you've been contemplating.
"Headlands is honored to be very beloved by the local community, and is the recipient of long-time support from many foundations and individuals here in the bay, as well as nationally and internationally," says communications and outreach manager Vanessa Kauffman. "That said, we run on a very lean budget and are experiencing some growth which requires increased support and revenue."
Designed for Bay Area–based artists, the Affiliate Artists program provides partially subsidized studio space and public presentation opportunities for artists like David Janesko. Formerly with the U.S. Geological Survey, Janesko is a geologist and interdisciplinary artist focused on engineering test models that manipulate sound, light and found objects into geologically based, multimedia works of art.
Offering geological tours of the Marin Headlands landscape is one of Janesko's pastimes; experimenting with obsolete mechanical products and different types of lenses is another. Other works in progress include earthquake sound recordings, a collage made from crude oil spillage, and comparative clay models that outline the growth rate of a fingernail in tandem with changing landscapes. Eager to explore as many ideas as he can during his time at Headlands, Janesko confides, "This is all I really want to do."
Each year, the Headlands Center for the Arts awards 45 local, national and international artists in residence with fully subsidized four- to 10-week residencies that include housing, flexible studio space, chef-prepared meals and occasional travel and living stipends, when available.
Among the artists in residence selected for the summer of 2015 is director-playwright Tina Satter of New York, founder of the critically acclaimed Half Straddle theatre company.
Overjoyed at being invited to the Headlands this summer, Satter admits, "My normal life living in NYC is very hectic and fractured, bouncing between rehearsals, teaching, the administrative needs of my company and just day-to-day survival. At Headlands, I will have the amazing luxury of getting to focus a majority of my time on my creative process, and will get to work in a way that allows me to deeply consider ideas, work with given elements and test them out before it's worked on collaboratively.
"The biggest thing is how it will hopefully train me to slow down," Satter adds.
Satter's theatrical troupe delves into feminist and queer dynamics in relation to the larger social fabric. "I think of the projects we make as performative laboratories to deconstruct the preconceived—we're always trying to make something you've never quite seen before and working to reframe known idioms and situations usually presented to us onstage."
A prime example of Satter's distinct theatrical aesthetic is her 2013 production House of Dance, a four-person play featuring the choreography of Hannah Heller, which tells the story of a young transgender tap dance student preparing for a competition.
During her tenure at Headlands, Satter will be working on the conceptual design, script and lyrics for her upcoming production Ghost Rings, a theatrical song cycle about two female friends, one of whom wills the universe to make her pregnant with the other person's child.
In describing this new production, Satter says, "The show creates a narrative of friendship, desire, parenthood and different kinds of family, with the song cycle designed to operate as a live-action graphic novel that allows the piece to be both harrowingly funny and moving."
Slated for an April 2016 premiere, Ghost Rings will be performed at New York Live Arts with musician-composer Chris Giarmo.
To date, more than 1,200 artists have passed through the Headlands Center. Fancy seeing your name among these artists? Here's your chance. Interested candidates in the 2016 Artist in Residence program may submit applications between April 21 and June 5, 2015.