Grass Stains Puts Artists in the Field

Immersive Project Spearheaded by Pioneer Winter Collective

Michelle F. Solomon, ATCA, FFCC

Niurca Marquez


Niurca Marquez

Right now, six artists are engaged in conversation, tossing around ideas and creating original plans that will combine their art, whether it be dance, visual art or performance art, that will use Miami not only as their backdrop, but as an element that will shape and become a part of their work.  Their mentor for the four-day immersive is an expert in site specific works, Stephan Koplowitz.

It's all part of  Grass Stains, a project by Pioneer Winter Collective. The project is supported by  The John and James L. Knight Foundation Knight Arts Challenge, followed by a matching award from the Florida Department of State Division of Cultural Affairs.

This is Grass Stains' inaugural year. On Friday, Koplowitz and the six artists he has mentored will share their visions at a free public talk at Spinello Projects.

"Out of 54 artists, the six strongest applicants were selected," says Winter. It just so happens they are all women.

"This is a great thing for a performance initiative that hopes to stimulate new leadership in the site-specific realm, as males tend to dominate most directorial and choreographic roles of prominence.”

The artists are Jenny Larsson, Agustina Woodgate, Marissa Nick, Hattie Mae Williams, Niurca Marquez, and Ana Mendez.

 Panelists were Mary Lisa Burns, dean of dance at the New World School of the Artists, and Anthony Spinello, founder of gallery Spinello Projects, plus Koplowitz.

Left: Stephan Koplowitz; Right: Hattie Mae Williams


Left: Stephan Koplowitz; Right: Hattie Mae Williams

Each receive a $5,000 fellowship per artist to fund their site works and will work both in the studio and in the field with Koplowitz. Their in-studio mentoring will take place at Miami Dance Studio in Wynwood.

Friday night's talk will include an unveiling of their six premieres and an announcement of the sites.

This is a way for artists to be immersed in Miami, according to Winter. They are taking their performances out of the theate and will be presenting the works for free. That means audiences don't have to worry about the costs associated with going out for a night of dance or theater – the cost of a ticket and everything in a night out on the town which adds up. "I think audiences have been desensitized to seeing the same performances in traditional spaces. The moment you take the works out, audiences will see them in a whole new way," says Winter.

Q&A with Stephan Koplowitz

MAZ: What do you believe your experience, background, expertise bring to the works?

SK: I've been creating site-specific performance works for the past 30 years and Pioneer invited me to work with these artists to simply share my experiences and some of the "best practices" I've learned during my career. I've had the good fortune of working in a variety of different contexts both culturally, architecturally and environmentally.

In addition, I've learned much about how to produce this work from the point of view of budgets,technical aspects, marketing, documentation, etc.

Perhaps one of the main concepts that I bring to these artists is the idea that creative artists need to be involved in the producing decisions when creating this kind of work. The two aspects are so thoroughly intertwined that each influence the outcome of the artistic product.

What does it mean to you to be a mentor for this project?

SK: I see my role as a facilitator and resource. I am working with mature experienced artists and I want to be available to help them any way I can as they see fit. My time with them will be spent in conversation, asking them questions and bringing some of their concepts and ideas into focus as much as possible in the days we will be together. I am really here as a "consultant,"but the truth is, I am still learning myself with each project I complete. I look forward to learning quite a bit while in Miami.

How does the dance come out of the site and the site come out of the dance?

SK: My approach to making site-specific work is to think of the chosen site as the "script," the text, basically the entire inspiration for all creative decisions. Basically, I try to not have any preconceptions or bring any pre-made material to the project. With that in mind, the dance and site become intertwoven so that yes, the dance comes out of the site and the site is ever present in the dance.

Why is this grant so important to Miami as a community?

SK: What is exciting is that this grant will generate a great amount of creative energy that will be felt in several different communities of Miami (simply from the fact that six artists will create work in six different parts of Miami) but each artist's production will engage many different types of collaborative artists and create new partnerships with institutions and neighborhoods.

How challenging is it for dancers/choreographers/artists to work site specifically?

SK: It depends on what level of site specificity. If an artist is only interested in using a site as a frame, backdrop to an idea they already have, or even to bring an already made work and "re-frame" it, then there isn't too much challenge except for the challenges of working on site. If an artist wantS to make a work that is thoroughly inspired by the site, then I believe this is challenging and quite labor intensive from the moment of conception to dealing with working in an environment that could pose many challenges in terms of permissions, weather, terrain, etc. There's also the question of budget and raising the necessary funds to mount such a production...(something all performing artists face!).

There is a visual artist included in Grass Stains. Does that approach differ?

SK: Yes and no. There could be different production issues pertaining to the content but conceptually there is much overlap.

Can you speak about Pioneer Winter and his commitment to Miami dance and supporting Miami dancers and the community?

SK: I am so impressed with Pioneer on so many levels. His love for Miami and commitment to Miami is inspiring. He is interested not just as a working creative artist but as a member of the greater Miami community. I think Grass Stains demonstrates without a doubt his generosity of spirit and at the same time, his discipline in both structuring this commissioning process.

On a personal note, I feel quite honored to be a part of Grass Stains and to have the chance to dialogue with these six artists and to have a window into one aspect of the Miami artistic community. I'm also thrilled to be working with Pioneer and helping him realize his vision for this innovative program. It's great to see (and work with) someone who is interested in building bridges, collaboration and helping others.

Friday, January 8, 2016 at Spinello Projects / Free and open to the public
7221 NW 2nd Avenue, Miami, 33150
6:30 PM – Complimentary beer sponsored by Concrete Beach Brewery
7:30 PM – Public Talk

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