While working at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, an outdoor theater in Los Angeles County with a regularly fantastic summer rep in a fantastic outdoor canyon setting, I met Kim Zanti. Amongst other titles, she is also a writer. This is an article she wrote for the Whole Life Times on The Electric Lodge. One of our partners in programs at the CSPA. Though, with the AEP, the lodge is rapidly becoming a hub of activity in the sustainable arts movement, this article gives an excellent history of where the lodge came from… a good way to understand where it is going.
Powered by the sun and amped by imagination, Venice’s Electric Lodge illuminates the community
by Kim Zanti
Robed in a white lab coat and trousers, a lone dancer gracefully crisscrosses a black box stage. He speaks of medical clinics, rectal examinations and disease, his words all the more surreal for their pairing with his ethereal dance. Gradually, his stream of narrative shifts our focus to a chronic patient we’re all familiar with, one whose air we foul, guts we eviscerate, skin we scar, fluids we contaminate. The dancer holds a stethoscope to a delicate, wire mesh model of a tree bathed in blue light. We wonder: Is the tree well? Are we well? Is there hope, doc?
In real life, the dancer, Dr. Joel Shapiro, would answer yes and invite you to join him on the patient’s road to recovery at Venice’s Electric Lodge. Powered entirely by the sun and the creative energies of hundreds of performing and visual artists, “The Lodge” is a place of transformation.
This Post was originally posted to Mike Lawler’s ecoTheaer blog on May 8, 2007. We are reposting it here to share this ecoTheater classic with new readers while MIke continues to regain his health. You can read his blog about his ongoing battle with cancer, The “C” Word, by clicking here.
Everyday I think about this subject more, and everyday I try to talk to someone who might help me see it a little more clearly. Most recently, I had lunch with Natalie George and Michael Massey, a theater professor at St. Edward’s University in Austin. He is not an expert on this subject by any means, but just having the opportunity to speak with folks and get an idea of what they think is enormously helpful. Nowadays I even dream about green theater–and the question that keeps rolling around in my brain, persistent, nagging, is whether or not it’s even possible. And, if it is, do those in power (the artistic directors, the business managers, the board members) care enough to make it happen? Or, maybe that’s the wrong way of looking at it–the question really is: do they believe the issue is critical enough to influence the decisions they make about their mission, and their funding? I’m not sure. But I have come up with a rough list of the elements that are at the center of the dilemma, the things that must be scrutinized and addressed if any of us are to help curb the world’s destructive path toward catastrophic environmental and human health dead ends.
1) The building —
The buildings that house the performing arts may be the most detrimental to the environment of all. According to the U.S. Green Building Council(USGBC), commercial buildings are responsible for 70% of the electricity load in the United States. Furthermore, the USGBC estimates that “if half of new commercial buildings were built to use 50% less energy, it would save over 6 million metric tons of CO2 annually for the life of the buildings—the equivalent of taking more than 1 million cars off the road every year.” Those numbers are staggering. What’s worse, there is only one performing arts facility in the entire country that has taken the steps necessary to reduce its impact on the environment (see ecoLogue, April 26, 2007). This is not for lack of newly constructed or renovated facilities–consider the Guthrie’s new spaces, for which they spent nearly $200,000 on “utilities” in 2005! If theater facilities did their part in reducing the negative role that buildings play in our lives, we would make enormous strides.
2) Theatrical lighting systems —
Chris Coleman of Portland Center Stage (PCS) told me last month that the necessary lighting equipment for the new Gerding Theater made it difficult to meet the USGBC LEED Platinum rating. Other areas of efficiency were ramped up significantly on the project in order to offset the amount of energy required by the desired system. While theatrical lighting companies, such as Electronic Theatre Controls, Inc. (ETC), have made moves toward efficiency (witness ETC’s ever popular line of Source Four equipment), they have a long, long way to go.
3) Material waste —
This is a subject that has come up time and again in ecoLogue–even in its short life. The fact is, theatrical production revolves around a process of creation and subsequent destruction. So much effort is devoted to imagining, designing, and building theatrical scenery–and yet, very little (or so it would seem) goes into what happens to all of it once the final curtain has fallen on a production. And even those who do consider the demise of scenery, allowing it at times to weigh heavily on their minds (see May 3, “Is Waste Inherent in Theater Production?”), can only do so much. Remember, reuse and recycle come after the all important reduce. This must become the central word in theatrical production. The problem, of course, is our fear of limiting the artistic process. No artistic director in the world wants to tell his or her creative teams to limit themselves in order that they may reduce the waste generated by their productions. But, is there a time that artists must step forward and play a role in change, rather than merely using what they may to comment on it? Reducing the use of non recyclable materials alone would go a long way in reducing a theater’s waste. Conceiving of a way to reuse and store (safely–perhaps off site) scenery would be another.
4) Toxic materials —
Just have a look at the ecoLogue entry from April 27 up there (“Monona Rossol and the toxic, unsafe theater we create”), and you may begin to understand the often toxic stuff that we theater artists work with on a regular basis. Actually, that entry doesn’t really go into detail, but suffice it to consider these fields: scenic carpentry (welding, working with foam of all sorts, adhesives, stains, finishes, et cetera), props (ditto), and costumes (including wigs, makeup, millinery, crafts and dye–all using a myriad of toxic chemicals). Of course, there are laws and regulations in place that dictate the safe use of these materials, as well as their proper disposal, but guess what? According to Monona Rossol of Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety (ACTS), most theaters don’t abide the law. As has been written here before, simply acting in accordance with OSHA and EPA regulations would help reduce harm to both the environment and theater artists themselves.
There are, to be sure, other areas that will affect the environment and human health in theatrical production, but I think the four listed above are the worst offenders.
Having visited this company, contrary to what they say directly, there is a clear philosophical difference in the production here then in other places. It is in part due to the sustainability of Portland as a whole I’m sure, but living and working in a sustainable environment, here the Gerding Theatre at the Armory, has an impact in the the back of its inhabitants’ minds. In part it seems that everyone is just happier, but easy access to lots of natural light can do that. And here it would even seem that the content is conscious of the issues that this company’s home invokes.
Willamette Week is currently running a contest in conjunction with PCS:
Together with Portland Center Stage and in celebration of R. Buckminster Fuller’s passion for the environment, Willamette Week is hosting a film shorts video contest.
Portland has been called “America’s top green city,” but it’s old news to us. With the highest bicycle commuter population the United States, most green buildings per capita and the toughest anti sprawl ordinance in the nation; it’s apparent that all Portlanders are making an effort to live sustainably.
Show us what sustainability means to you.
A $100 gift card to Kell’s Irish Pub
4 tickets to the PCS production of to R. Buckminster Fuller: The History and Mystery of the Universe
4 passes to the OMSI exhibit Mindbender Mansion
2 Runners up will receive:
A voucher good for a pair of tickets to any PCS production this season
$50 voucher to Kell’s Irish Pub
How to enter:
1. Shoot a video 30 seconds or less.
2. Upload your video to youtube.com.
3. Go to our contest channel at youtube.com/WWeekcontest
4. Send us a message with your video attached by November 3.
5. We will post it to our channel for the world to see.
Submissions will be accepted from October 1 to November 3. The PCS Art Director and Willamette Week Stage Critic Ben Waterhouse will judge the videos and the winner will be announced on November 10. The winning video will be posted on wweek.com and pcs.org
As an online museum, we take form largely in 1’s and 0’s. We’ve even dissolved our office so we’re all working from home now. The artworks and the people making them and experiencing them firsthand are all around the world. At best, those are the physical manifestations of greenmuseum.org. The gatherings we announce, the places we consult with, the artists and organizations we interlink. It’s all going on largely independent of us of course anyway. Butterfly wings and all that… But does this website have a physical impact on the world through the million+ people who have visited the site? Artists and parks and curators tell us we’ve help ed make projects possible. We also have a Calendar that comes out every year (please buy one, enjoy the art for a full year and help support our work – we earn a small percentage of sales).
The most grounded we get, perhaps, is when we collaborate with a museum or gallery space to curate a physical exhibition. So with that, we’re proud to announce Overlap in Green, a one night exhibition in San Francisco on November 8th, 2008. Please come by if you’re in the area. For those who live far away, we’ll use the exhibition as a start for an online version to share with everyone. Spreading the seeds online, may they find root in fertile soil to generate new iterations of sustainable somethingorothers. Hope the worms notice and smile.
For One more week, the Seoul Design Olympiad continues. The goal is to promote Seoul as the center of World Design, and for 21 days (14 of which are gone) this festival is celebrating the commitment to transform Seoul into an eco-friendly metropolis. The theme is “Design is Air”, talking about out connection to nature, and this centrality represents the “spirit of design in the 21st century.” They too are focusing on convergence. I have to give credit to the Indy Convergence (going into it’s second year in Indianapolis, and our second year of participation, this february) for inspiring the CSPA to use that word instead of conference, but it is nice to see it take focus away from conference.
If you’re in Seoul, you may already be there. But if you aren’t, this project, which some claim to be the largest plastic art installation (someone has called Guinness) is pretty great. We picked up on it from treehugger.com.
With bright plastic garbage collected in September, the Jamsil sports complex, where the SDO is occurring, has been transformed.
Electric Lodge Visual and Performing Arts Center, Venice, CA.
Salary: $25 per hour / 10 hours per week. (flexible schedule)
Do you love the Arts and the Environment? If so, this job may be for you…
The principal responsibility of this part-time position is to administrate a new ‘green standards’ program called Arts:Earth Partnership for cultural facilities, art galleries, performing arts companies and individual artists.
The successful candidate will serve as the main contact for both the general public and for AEP members who might have a question about the program as well as keeping the website up to date, managing the Materials & Exchange Bulletin Board and keeping track of the facility auditing process and needs.
This is a growth position as hours and responsibility will grow as the program expands.
Requires: High school graduation or the equivalent. A passion for the environment. Two years of recent, paid progressively responsible work experience in cultural programming, environmental programming or facilities operations. A degree in the arts, cultural programming, environmental sciences or a closely related field is highly desirable. Ability to handle most office software and manage websites a big plus. Good customer service skills and phone manners a must.
Electric Lodge c/o AEP
1416 Electric Avenue
Venice, CA. 90291
Arts & Cultural Facility “Green Standards” Auditor
Electric Lodge Visual and Performing Arts Center, Venice, CA.
Salary: $80 per site visit (1-3 hours per visit) (flexible schedule)
Do you love the Arts and the Environment? If so, this job may be for you…
The principal responsibility of this ‘As-Needed’ position is to audit cultural facilities, art galleries, dance studios, individual artist studios and offices to advise them on how they can gain compliance with Arts:Earth Partnership requirements necessary to become a member.
The successful candidate will be trained on Arts:Earth Partnership guidelines and sustainable practices and audit facilities that wish to join the Arts:Earth Partnership. Auditors will have an initial site visit at which they assess the facility and provide a to-do list for membership. Once the facility is in compliance the auditor returns to validate and hand them their AEP materials or advise them on what they still need to do.
Requires: High school graduation or the equivalent. A passion for the environment. We are looking for regional auditors who use hybrid or alternative fueled vehicles or prefer to use alternative transportation to and from facilities such as bus, bike or foot. Experience in environmental sciences or the eco-auditing of facilities or a related field is preferred but not required. Good customer service skills and professional appearance a must.
This Post was originally posted to Mike Lawler’s ecoTheaer blog on July 19, 2007. We are reposting it here to share this ecoTheater classic with new readers while MIke continues to regain his health. You can read his blog about his ongoing battle with cancer, The “C” Word, by clicking here.
In New York City there is a law called local law 86. Passed in 2005, it has just now taken effect, and is responsible for at least one thing in the green theater movement so far: convincing (through brute force, I suppose) Theatre For A New Audience (TFANA) to build their new space in Brooklyn’s BAM Cultural Center to meet Silver LEED status or better. Local law 86 states simply that any non City building (whether new construction or renovation) that receives either 50% of its capital or $10 million or more from NYC’s treasury is subject to the constraints of the ordinance, which requires compliance with USGBC’s LEED rating system. (It may be of note, that ALL city agency buildings are now required to meet this standard.)
I say that it convinced the historically vagabond theater company because that’s exactly what TFANA Managing Director Dorothy Ryan told me just yesterday. “Our [initial] attitude was probably, well, if the up front cost isn’t too high we’ll certainly look at it,” she said. “But other than that [green building] is a luxury.” Fortunately, with the help of city funds, and local law 86, Ryan and the rest of TFANA have come to see the advantages of building green. “The really good part of this story,” Ryan told me, “is that the more we’ve paid attention, the more we’ve learned, the more that we’ve really explored this, [green building] is something that our team has really embraced in a very genuine way.”
Ryan’s admission of TFANA’s initial unwillingness seems to be further indication of a preexisting attitude in the arts. While the typical reaction to green building that theaters and their directors seem to have (so far we can cite Portland Center Stage, American Players Theatre, and TFANA–all initially opposed to green building) may be understandable for the frequently cash-strapped arts organization mindset, it is nevertheless slightly bothersome.
So, what is it? In the simplest of terms, it is the money. Michael Broh, production manager of American Players Theatre (APT), told me recently that though everyone involved with their new theater project is happy to consider the green building option, “if it came down to building a less sustainable building, or not building at all,” he said, “I think we would build the less sustainable one.” It is here that APT and I do not see eye to eye. The benefits, in my way of thinking, of adding an indoor space and possibly extending their operating season and expanding their repertoire, are not worth adding another conventional building (or two) to the world to further pollute and contaminate. Isn’t the business of theater dirty enough? Must we add more of them? There must come a time when the artists (and, frankly, business folks) running the theaters own up to their responsibility to their communities the way they would expect any other business entity to do so. With the attitudes that seem to exist–the notion that there just isn’t enough money to build green, to build conscientiously–one can only come to this conclusion: the driving force behind these projects is nothing but self-interest, and perhaps greed.
I am convinced that if more theater managers were either forced (as in the case of Dorothy Ryan and TFANA), or just took the time, to consider the long-term advantages of building green, most of them would come to the same sort of revelations that the folks at TFANA did. Perhaps all municipalities can follow in the footsteps of local law 86–there is nothing like folks with money (be they governments or rich benefactors) putting worthy conditions on the money they dole out.
I also suggest you take a look on the article about keeping up your lighting Inventory on page 16. Keeping Up Appearances by Brent Steiner talks about how to maintain your old lights in good working order. Why is this important in terms of sustainability? First of all it will save you money on new inventory or major repairs to existing inventory. Second of all a well maintained light is a more efficient light and if you’re optics are clean and properly focused you’ll increase efficacy, meaning you’ll get more punch out of the front of the light. Third you’ll increase the safety; a short in a connector or carbon build up could hurt an electrician, start a fire or even case issues back at the rack (again getting to the issue of major repairs). Small investments of time could save you lots of money on inventory, lamps and energy, all things that we want to be conserving in theater production. It also gives you a good idea of what to do with the lights and parts you can’t use and longer (a hint, most all of lights, especially old ones, are recyclable).
I would also point you towards the idea of sharing inventory with local venues. An inventory sharing program could save you even more if managed right as then you have a greater investment in the condition of your inventory and more hands to help keep it up… as well as less things to break and get stored in the attic.
And don’t forget to check out the Article about GTI, Green Support by Mike Lawler, on page 30. You can see Mike and Gideon’s recent work here in our Archives and link to their projects.
We recently found Renourish (http://www.re-nourish.com). From their site: “Renourish is a resource for the graphic design industry. When green design is usually discussed, most people think of buildings, products or even cars, but what about packaging? Shouldn’t magazines, business cards, brochures and websites be green? At renourish, we’re helping to start the conversation on green graphic design by providing defintions, tips, and links to sustainable resources designers can use to make their work a little greener.”
While Renourish is an excellent resource for graphic designers, it is also a resource for those of us that require graphic design. I’m a big advocate of graphic design and using graphic designers. They are experts in clear and inventive communication from way-finding (signage) to brochures and on and on, visual coding is an important part of an effective communication strategy. Reframe that as a marketing strategy and you’ve got why we think this is going to be a great resource for you an your practices. If you’re looking for sustainable choices for printers, papers, inks and so on, please check them out. We’ll put a link up and you’ll always have a way to find them.
William Shaw over at Arts & Ecology just posted that Richard Woods’ installationStone Clad Cottages opened this past Saturday at Fermynwoods, near Kettering, Northamptonshire, Uk. The project is quite interesting as it re-engages people in their relationship to their surroundings, which fits nicely in Fernynwoods goal to give people a place enjoy contemporary art in tranquil indoor and garden settings. Give it a look…
“The Sudborough Green Lodge cottages are currently been renovated by the Forestry Commission for our partnership projects with them. Based at these cottages will be an exciting programme bringing professional artists to Fermyn Woods to create new works, undertake research, explore new ideas, and lead on education projects. The cottages will create accommodation and working space once they have been restored by this summer.
Fermynwoods Contemporary Art’s interest in the environment (both rural and urban), engagement with the community and contemporary practice will develop in our new venue.
To date an inspiring schedule of artists has been drawn up, including Richard Woods who covers buildings in daring retro designs, and who will be wrapping the cottages and Jacques Nimki, who researches plant life and will be investigating the most wonderful array of weeds currently inhabiting the cottage gardens and the SSI wild flower meadow. He will also be working with children from Woodnewton School in Corby.”
As someone who’s artistic practice is heavily invested in lighting phenomenology, I’m interested to see what comes of Kurt Laurenz Theinert’s residency in the spring.