A New Year's Greeting from Rachel Cook, Artistic Director Jan 3, 2019
by Kiera O'Brien
Holy crap, it’s been a year!
A year ago, I got on a plane and moved across the country. Sometimes it feels funny that is has only been a year and other times it feels like I just moved here. Your perspective shifts quite dramatically when you leave the place you grew up in; your frame of reference changes and is jolted into another realm. On the Boards is going through such an exciting transition time, and it feels great to join the organization at this moment.
Over the holidays I read the book As Radical, As Mother, As Salad, As Shelter: What Should Art Institutions Do Now?, a compilation of curatorial voices in the field responding to shared questions. The essays touch on many of questions I ask myself every day: Can an art institution go from being an object of critique to a site of organizing? Should an art institution play this kind of role? What other roles might it play? How can an institution address the dichotomy between art as cultural entertainment and art as political inquiry?
Reading over the answers from colleagues in the field, I am more and more inspired by the role art plays in our society. The words have reaffirmed my belief that art is so necessary at this moment, and that we, as members of a community, should keep asking questions alongside, in dialogue with, and directly to our art institutions. Art institutions are made up of amazing groups of passionate people, each with distinct voices and ideas about the role of the arts in society, and they come together around the mission of an organization to strive to create something that wasn’t there before.
I often have to remind myself of the artistic process, so that I don’t lose sight of the sheer will and force that it takes to create something, bring it into the world, and share it with an audience. On the Boards is a such a unique place. It is a site for creation, for experimentation, for play, for failure, for collaboration, for transformation, for joy, for rage, for urgency. And yet it is still a small art institution that is made up of a unique group of individuals—staff, board members, volunteers, interns, supporters—all of whom feel incredibly passionately about contemporary performance and supporting artists.
To do this kind of work can, at moments, feel stressful, especially in light of recent political shifts across the globe. But there is something magnetic when you realize that the work you are doing in your small community can be connected to other communities across the country and the world and that you are in this radical artistic conversation together. That is what truly inspires my every day efforts—artists, their ideas, and the amazing possibility that liveness offers to be in the present.
— Rachel Cook, Artistic Director
Photo: On the Boards' fearless leaders, Rachel Cooke (Artistic Director) and Betsey Brock (Executive Director)