A Way In

August 15, 2012

Hi! I’m Siobhan Groves. If you’ve called the Painted Bride in the past 3 years, I’ve probably spoken to you. In August 2009 I started working part-time in the box office and since then have worked my way up to Audience Services and Rentals Manager. When I started working here, every weekend I would get a glimpse into the world of the Bride, the myriad of offerings on stage and in the galleries, and see or hear something that was entirely new to me.

And it was thrilling. It was addictive. It’s still the reason I’m excited to come to work every day. Because I don’t have a background in fine arts, world cultures, or even arts administration. My background is in theater. Specifically musical theater. Meticulously musical theater. Obsessively musical theater. And that life-long focus meant that my intake of artistic expression was… narrow. Well informed and varied, but always through the same artistic lens.

But at the Bride.. OH at the Bride there’s installation art, calypso dance and jazz piano! Artists are painting on the walls and building houses in gallery! Musical legends are playing tabla and a performer is sailing an ocean made of blue tarp! Everything is new to me, and everything is accessible because of the quality of the work.

Despite being a novice, no matter what knowledge I lacked, I know that what I’m seeing is important and valuable.

But that lack of knowledge, that lack of context, is something I’ve continued to reflect on during my time here. Some people are willing to jump feet first into an artistic experience, but what if someone is afraid they won’t enjoy a performance because it’s a little unfamiliar? If they aren’t from a similar cultural background, will they understand the show? Worst of all, what if they think the Bride is unwelcoming, because they find the programming so foreign?

The work at the Painted Bride is of such remarkable quality, that it is my personal opinion that all a new audience member needs is a way in. Some context, some frame of reference to get them started on an artistic journey with John Hollenbeck, Yemen Blues, or Lionel Popkin. Something to pique their curiosity and get them in the door. Because once you’ve been to the Bride, you know how special it is; what a warm, welcoming and joyful place it is to experience art.

So I’m here to help everyone find their way in. This season, I will be researching each show from the perspective of a novice and passing that information along to you. I’ll be collecting context, trivia, and making connections to inform and deepen your experience at the Bride. It will show up in bits on facebook and twitter, and gathered here on the blog to provide a primer for each show. I hope my curiosity will inform your understanding, and help you to engage further with everything the Bride has to offer.