PRACTICE LAB, as a programmatic platform at BAX, promotes artist-led initiatives that center curricula focused on art and social justice. Led predominantly by queer, disabled, and artists of color, its intensive, cohort-based experiences prioritize mentorship, collaboration, and collective learning, and honor intergenerational learning and lineage of forms often unacknowledged by higher education or classical arts training.
PRACTICE LAB provides the infrastructure and scaffolding to ensure the sustainability of these artist-led initiatives.
Below are the variety of programs that compose PRACTICE LAB.
EMERGENYC is an incubator for artist-activists interested in developing their creative voice, exploring the intersections of art and activism, and connecting to a thriving community of independent practitioners—most of them BIPOC, women, and LGBTQIA+ folks. First launched in 2008 at NYU’s Hemispheric Institute—and now housed at BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange in collaboration with Abrons Arts Center—EMERGENYC offers varied entry points into art and activism, prioritizing process, discovery and reflection, and fostering a brave space for experimentation, risk-taking and community-building. Through in-person and virtual annual programs, EMERGENYC encourages participants to take interdisciplinary leaps, mix styles and traditions, and develop incisive new work at the intersection of performance and politics. Over the years, EMERGENYC has activated a strong network of artivists—in NYC and beyond—who have built solidarity across differences, challenged dominant narratives through cultural resistance, and engaged in artistic world-making together.
ROTATIONS acts as an exploratory online workshop space where each cycle consists of a series of 8 movement classes taught by different Mad, Deaf/deaf/HoH, chronically ill, sick, and disabled dancers artists. The priority is being together and learning from one another. As a means to create a collective resource, all techniques and curricula are open-source.
Theater to the People
Theater to the People: HOME seeks to inspire greater community organizing and resilience by building creative, social, and political alliances between people from a wide variety of ethnic and economic backgrounds through their act of making theater together. The series of bilingual (Spanish/English) theater workshops is focused on providing space for recent immigrants to share their stories and build community with other people who have called Brooklyn home for generations. We bring together as many perspectives as possible on what Brooklyn could be: new immigrants, people who identify as first-generation Americans, people who have lived here for generations, and people who might identify as “gentrifiers”. Together, we aim to create a theater performance that explores the questions and tensions of a global capitalist system that sets us in competition and conflict with each other. Instead, making theater together has the possibility of uniting us in a shared poetic process. Ultimately, we hope that our theatrical collaboration with a diversity of community members will lead to new ideas of what a “sanctuary city” can really mean, especially considering how the problems of income inequality, gentrification, forced migration, and climate change will most likely intensify in coming years.
New to Practice Lab and curated by BAX AIR 2019-2020 Johnnie Cruise Mercer, this is a monthly movement/theater workshop series hosting a shifting roster of BIPOC artists in class, creation, and conversation. The series invites participants to occupy space together, focusing heavily on black embodiment, being, and reflection. Each four-hour session is divided into three separate sections: Open Company Class, Open Practice, and Open Conversation.
QTPOC Sankofa Dreaming
Created by BAX AIR (2017-18) Maria Bauman, QTPOC Sankofa Dreaming is a weekend festival for queer and/or transgender people of color in Brooklyn to build community with each other, access power through performance practice, and see themselves centered in performance and in curricula that lifts up the histories of queer makers of color. Following the summer pilot, the program will be expanded and offered throughout the year.
An extension of nia love’s (BAX AIR 2016 -2020) larger and on-going work, UNDERcurrents, this is a multi-faceted collaboration that invites audiences and communities to probe the seam between catastrophic history and quotidian memory and tend the textures of kinship bonds within practices of domesticity and generational care. Various entry points to the larger work invite participants to inhabit a world of memory, sharing meditations on ontology and offering a gradual yet consistent encounter and collective sharing that weaves and unbinds narratives out of the abyss of historical inheritance. nia will pursue multiple modes of audience engagement including: Dance Without Walls intergenerational workshops, Epic Memory Lab (EMLab), open rehearsals, workshops, multi-generational roundtables, sharing and listening spaces, and outdoor cyphers as well as an array of renewed modes of care and restoration, situated in the community, and expertise in the developing a more expansive vernacular that fortifies Black and Brown voices within the organization and globally.
Drag Performance: Between & Beyond Gender
Created and facilitated by Kelindah Schuster and stemming organically from the adult classes they’ve taught at BAX, this offering will be developed as part of Practice Lab in the fall to engage artist cohorts with the histories of drag performance and nurture the development of new works. Much like Needing It, created by Dan Fishback to foster the work of emerging queer performers, Kelindah’s drag program will expose participants to the lineages of drag performance and provide a brave space to explore a full range of gender expression through performance, pantomime, lip sync, gesture, tableau, reveal, improvisation, and written reflections—taking drag beyond what we see in popular culture.