Creative Communities

I’m fascinated with theater and improv groups like Second City, Upright Citizens Brigade, and Steppenwolf. I’m especially interested in their founding stories: a bunch of young people wanting to do something new gather a bunch of friends and start a thing. I guess rock bands form that way too. And avant-garde musical ensembles.

Writers and painters? They don’t have to practice for performances so they are less likely to be in groups that get together like a rock band or theater group might.  But they do have people that they get feedback from. My partner is a writer. The writing part is solo but he meets regularly two different groups to give and get feedback on work in progress.

Then there were the great design movements and schools like the Bauhaus, Arts & Crafts, and Black Mountain College. They all had physical spaces in which they met and worked and gave each other feedback. Spaces with workshops and tools! They believed so much in the change that they were trying to make that they wrote and published manifestos!

Digital work has changed the dynamic of creative communities. These groups are more dispersed. Sometimes this works out really well. People who have a hard time finding a group of like-minded people in their own town or city can find like-minds on the web. But other times distributed groups feel, well, distributed. I’m not saying that creative communities in the olden days were better than the communities we have today. But there was a focus and a presence in those communities that’s getting lost. And we need to get it back.



Laurie Metcalf on the founding of Steppenwolf

Amy Poehler on founding Upright Citizens Brigade