Practice Lab

PRACTICE LAB 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. 

Current Programs

EmergeNYC

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 at BAX!—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.

Drag Performance: Between & Beyond Gender

Created and facilitated by Kelindah Schuster, this program engages artist cohorts with the histories of drag performance and nurtures the development of new works, providing both in-person and virtual spaces to explore a full range of gender expression, taking drag beyond what we see in popular culture. Through group games, writing prompts, discussion, and solo and collaborative movement exercises, we give ourselves permission to express the full range of who we are and can be while releasing narratives about how we “should” move, express, or dress based on gender norms we’ve inherited. We experiment with the tools of pantomime, clowning, lip sync, caricature, structured improv and intuitive movement to build towards in-process drag performance acts.

MBDance: GLORIOUS BODIES

Join MBDance once a month, January through June 2024, for a public workshop series, GLORIOUS BODIES: EARTH –AND SOMATIC– HEALING SERIES CENTERING BLACK AND BROWN TECHNOLOGIES. Based on themes from MBDance’s/Maria Bauman’s current dance-ritual-artwork, These are the bodies that have not borne, the work is rooted in Earth stewardship and indigenous technologies for healing our bodies and the Earth together; uterine health and the under-discussed plight of Black women and other womb-carriers dealing with disproportionate levels of uterine fibroids, endometriosis and other reproductive challenges; the variety of ways that queer people, especially Black and Brown queer people, conceptualize family-building–from the economics of scientific interventions to the emotions of considering if/how/when/with whom to parent; collective memory and harnessing magic to affect our futurity.

Access Artistry Learning Circle

The Access Artistry Learning Circle is a space for exploration of access practices and disability culture for a cohort of representatives from NYC-based dance/performance/movement arts organizations. In early 2024, this cohort will convene in 4 modules that will cultivate anti-ableist political analyses and the structure and support necessary for sustainable institution-specific technical expertise. Recordings and documentation from these convenings will become part of a public course to be released later in 2024. This project is stewarded by Kevin Gotkin, Ph.D., and Madison Zalopany, administered with BAX/Brooklyn Art Exchange as part of the Disability Artistry Initiative, and funded by the Ford Foundation’s Arts Futures program.

ROTATIONS

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.

D.R.E.A.M

Led by Perel, the Dance, Radicality, Embodiment, and Access for Makers mentorship program centers the complex questions about disabled artistry with honesty and transparency about the need to discover the answers collaboratively, acknowledging that what works for one artist might not for another. Perel has learned that what is necessary for them as a working artist/mentor is to be able to bring their own research and practices into the mentoring relationship.

Past Programs

Access, Artistry and Disability Conversation Series (2022-23)

Across the cultural sector, institutions are having very similar conversations about access and disability. Often disability initiatives are activated in response to a particular grant, only to disappear when funding is no longer available, or dissolve when a key staff member moves on from an organization. This is sapping the momentum that would be possible with regular convenings for organizations and their staff to share ideas and incubate initiatives. A higher level of communication and commitment from the field is sorely missing and urgently desired.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated many access efforts by arts organizations. When we were all forced to close our physical doors in 2020, many organizations pivoted to online platforms and began to integrate access features for blind, low vision, Deaf, and hard of hearing artists and families into the fabric of the programming, web design, and user portals, some for the first time.  

There is a shared recognition that access measures are not temporary needs: we must adjust as a field to invest and incorporate accessibility in thoughtful, sustainable, and expedient ways so that we can more effectively serve our students, audiences, and artists. How can we collectively bring equity and access lenses to every decision we make across policy and programming, and cross-institutional practice in order to uphold field-wide respect for artists?

We collected resources and created a Framing Disability Justice site for our cohort.

QTPOC Sankofa Dreaming

Created by BAX AIR (2017-18) Maria Bauman, QTPOC Sankofa Dreaming was 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 2022 pilot and performance, the program was expanded and offered throughout the year.

Open Space

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. 

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.