Sowing a garden for a healthy performing arts ecosystem

Last December we got invited to facilitate a session in our hometown involving Baratza, an independent theatre, and its surrounding community. Baratza (vegetable garden in Basque) was born 6 years ago with the intention of being an active agent in the contemporization of performing arts in Vitoria-Gasteiz. Since then it has actively engaged with cultural, artistic and civil organizations in the city in several projects regarding education, cultural programmation and artistic support for creators. After these years a little bit of the initial energy and focus has been lost in the process. Moreover, the ecosystem has evolved as so has Baratza’s potential users and audiences. During the last months they have been realizing and effort to mediate and attract new people to the room but these efforts are yet scattered.

In the context of the celebration of its anniversary, we were invited to facilitate a session involving various actor from the ecosystem such as: civil servants, creators, audiences, staff… The facilitation proposal was orbiting around two important elements:

  • A narrative metaphor regarding the care of a vegetable garden and the health of soil and, generally, the ecosystem in which is embedded. This narrative vehicle helped workout some future guidelines for Baratza’s strategy from an ecosystemic perspective. For doing so we used the panarchycal framework and the life cycle of a project as the basic unit. We used some of the notes and tips offered by Liberating Structures materials.
  • The use of performing elements as well as environments. The workshop was celebrated in one of the rooms used as a theatrical stage. A lot of attention was paid to keep the scenic aesthetics in lights, space distribution, music… For setting up a final presentation of the scenarios developed in the session we suggested the use of a “lambe-lambe” miniature theatre set-up. This last element was not heavily used due to the lack of time.

Agenda for the session

12.00 – Ice breaking games

12.20 – Presentation of the agenda and the ecological cycle.

Relationship with natural cycles. Creative destruction. Feeling what is about to be born. Letting go of what is already of no use to us. Creative process.

12.30 – Facilitating the dynamics: maintain, grow, destroy, be born…

We will create some profiles of people (creator, producer, neighbour of the neighbourhood, neighbour of Vitoria, political/cultural). Current needs will be identified and latents from which the model will be filled with actions and interventions. In order to sort out the proposals the elements that must take part in a healthy ecosystem (entities, relationships, resources, knowledge…).

13.15 – Baratza 2022 – Elaboration of everyday life situations involving future Baratza.

Each group will take one or more actions and images of the Baratza that is about to be born and will materialize it in a particular everyday situation that will design, create and will be staged in the Lambé Theatre in the middle of the room.

13.45 – Presentation of scenes at the public and closure

Collective presentation and open space about what each has to contribute to those scenarios.

Some of the results and conversations

Industry Paradoxes. Need for freedom and flexible and emerging creative processes but dependence on public sector funding which is governed by particular tempos and cycles and needs of control and reliability by the creators.

How can we leave the necessary space-time but still ensure a timely harvest?

The need to nurture creative communities and act as such. Re-weave networks and put in value those connections. To make the metaphor of the orchard a mark of Baratza’s work in the creative ecosystem.

How do we rethink our role as community weavers?

The need for updating and access to different publics that the room usually accommodates. Finding ways to access the most young people from their languages without losing the essence of Baratza. We can’t try to cater to new audiences from the vantage point of the past.

How do you learn to let go and make room for new coming, with its new forms, codes and practices?

The apparent paradox between artistic realization and offer a cultural product accessible to a majority.

How to generate cultural experiences that evolve with the understanding, trust and experience of the public? How to find joint maturation processes between the works and the public?

The connection to the neighborhood remains a non resolved issue. There is a desire to articulate it but lack the energy or the channels to do so. Energy is a scarce commodity. It was widely discussed where to put the energies. A very intensive event in terms of investment in a short time or a more leisurely performance and distributed over time.

What other ecosystems or energies already present in the neighborhood could be symbiotic with the ones we want to nurture in Baratza?

Search for hybridization spaces and contexts with other practices or complementary knowledge. Public institutions, academic institutions, companies, organized civil society, etc.

How could we give away our knowledge and know-how to other orchards and/or other professions?

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