Sometimes, there's nothing like a sense of community to keep an artist motivated, inspired, or simply functioning with a sense of purpose and belief. Even when centered around performance, art can be a lonely business, so it's good to have others with whom to celebrate (or commiserate).
Yet it's one thing to wish for that community -- another thing to attempt to create one. As most performing arts groups already know, it's an endeavor with its own challenges and rewards.
Red Shirt Entertainment is a New York-based entertainment company that recently took this leap itself in October, by announcing a new ongoing series of “Red Shirt Artist Salons,” events which take place on the second Sunday of every month at Red Shirt’s headquarters, at 18 West 23rd Street in Manhattan, on Sunday, December 9, 2012.
The concept for the series was inspired at Red Shirt by the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance, a rich cultural movement born in the early 1920s and 1930s when black artists exploded onto the arts scene in their own voices, with rich and varied achievements in music, literature, dance, theatre, and more.
"It was a time in which artists of the American Theatre would gather together to both network and to share their many creative ideas and talents in a stimulating environment," described Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, the company's Producing Artistic Director, who spoke with feeling on the project in a recent telephone interview. He sees the salons as a way to foster community and dialogue in a way combining the arts, timely issues, and a sense of community.
"During the Harlem Renaissance, after Sunday masses or services, a lot of the artists of the time -- Fitzgerald, Baldwin, and others -- would meet, have these salons, and they would talk about politics, civil rights, strategy, and art." He sees the same combined sense of turmoil and hope today. "What an interesting time we're living in now. We have so much art happening, and we felt, let's take the spirit of that and bring it to the American theatre artists."
The salons offer a combination of networking, entertainment, artistic brainstorming and discussion, as well as attention to vital business aspects of the performing arts. "There's also a business aspect to the salon where we talk about important practical stuff, like health care, fundraising, how to market yourself better, and more," explained Maharaj.
From Politics to Superstorms
Thus far, after two successful salon events, the series is proving to be a rich resource for mutual support between performing artists from singers, to actors, directors, writers, producers and more, while also creating new networks and connections. The first salon event in October focused on how the election was expected to impact the quality of life for artists, and each ensuing monthly salon has centered around a similar theme (in its first event post-Superstorm Sandy this Sunday, December 9, the theme will be "compassion."
As the Red Shirt Artist Salon” gains traction month-to-month it will serve as an avenue for performers to showcase their work. "It's been going great," added Maharaj. “Many of these people have been flying under the radar for far too long,” he said. "Now is the time for them to have their gifts and voices heard."
"We are very excited to offer this platform to artists and view the event as an opportunity to enrich the American Theater community," added Red Shirt Founder and Executive Producer Frank O’Brien. "The free flow of art is not only encouraged here, but expected."