I sit on a board. As opposed to sitting, bored. They are different things. I don’t know why or how – I doubt it’s genetic – but I love meetings. I love strategy. And I love supporting emerging artists. So it makes perfect sense that I should sit on the Board of Shopfront Contemporary Arts Centre.

I had in my early 20s, due to the energy and vision of Alison Richardson, thrown a few of my plays on at Shopfront – though I was never closely lined with it’s programs… When returning from Canada I applied for a job there – a job I was curious about, but ill suited for (clearly – I didn’t get it) …. and then at my first playwriting course with Hilary Bell, I got to know Nerida Wood Shopfront’s General Manager (whose play I later directed at PACT in 2007)… Now, I sit on the board – I read board papers – I represent Shopfront at OZCO and meetings here and there. I cheerlead. I furrow. And as a board member I also interview the Artslab residents as a Board Representative.

In early 2010 I met 6 young artists who had prepared a pitch for Artslab 2010 – a 6 month residency. Five artists were accepted into the course. All of them from different backgrounds – with completely different angles and thoughts on their practice or as TJ Eckleberg had phrased it – “their artistic enquiry.” I had known, previously three of the applicants. I had been approached to have coffee with Clara MacDermott earlier in January and gave her a run down on opportunities that were available to her. Sime Knezevic I had commissioned as a writer for Stories from the 428. Alice Cooper had auditioned for Stories from the 428 and had applied for Off The Shelf – she was back from training in France and was eager to be back in the swing of the arts scene in Oz. Sybella Stevens had just come from graduating from Bathurst and Aslam Abdus-samad had an interest in film. So there were really only two applicants I hadn’t met before when they had presented to the panel. Based on the application, presentation and interview – five were selected.

From that point onwards I kept in contact with Clara, predominantly – mainly because I always seek to encourage and support those who seek encouragement and support… and frankly – she’s a really nice person (always worth supporting the lovely I think).

When their mid point came around I was there at the industry showing – and provided feedback to the artists. And much of my feedback came in the form of someone who is interested in text based theatre. Chris Ryan however, was there and could crisply articulate responses to the works… I doubt I was as much use to them – but I offer tea, encouragement and genuine congratulations.

Then the Artslabbers plunged into the major project “At The Drive In” a grand scale site specific zombie-fest at Hazelhurst Gallery in Gymea. (which I have written up here: http://augustasupple.com/2010/09/at-the-drive-in-shopfront-theatre/ )

You can imagine how sad I was when the dates of the showing for the Artslab final presentation was during the last week of Brand Spanking New… I had followed these artists from pitch to project – and I was missing their opening night. But such things happen, I suppose – I really do try to get to everything I want to – but some times I just can’t. For these guys i was determined. The last night of Spankers was the 6th Nov and I had to bump out the show that night (I got home at 1am) then I had to be up at work at 8am… worked all day, went to the open day at Fraser Studios, went home thinking it started at 7pm (the rest of the shows for Artslab started at 7pm), wrote a post on MKA.. checked my email and discovered at 5.30pm that it started at 5pm. I ran from the house, jumped in a taxi – called Saskia to apologise and say I was on my way – cried in the taxi out of disappointment/fatigue/guilt/sadness – arrived at Carlton by 6pm – but I had already missed Clara and Sime’s work.

I’d missed Clara’s work. She was the only one who came (made an effort amongst her lead up to her show) to come and see the first week of Brand Spanking New. I was knocked back on my heels when I saw her in the foyer of the New Theatre. I’d missed it. Now just the offer of a taped version.

In my haste to get to the theatre I bumped into one of my fellow board members who had seen the first two and was very impressed with the quality of the work. (it was her first Artslab showcase)… She saw Clara’s and Sime’s work, and I was able to see Aslam, Sybella and Alice’s works. Seeing these works inspired us to be better board members (not that we are bad- but really – it was very inspiring to see this show)

Needless to say I deeply apologized to Clara – and she, being a lovely person -said it was ok.. but really I am yet to make it up to her – perhaps coffee’n’cake somewhere?

Anyway, what I wanted to say about Artslab is that there is something truly amazing about artists being offered support over such a span of time – offered support to investigate their interests. Their project. Then having an intergrated experience. This is not “training” – this is cultivation of curiosity – something that Shopfront has Always done and strives to do – is make the youth the centre of their art making – NOT the instruments of other artists art -making. And where else can emerging artists (and multi-disciplinary artists) be fuelled to be curious and invested in their own passion project? Perhaps this is why Paul Capsis (currently in/written-developed his personal story Angela’s Kitchen at The Stables) has maintained a unique and vibrant curiosity? Perhaps this space/time/support is exactly what is needed to keep fuelling unique and dynamic new work?

I can’t properly review the suite of Together Alone Alone Together , because it is an incomplete suite of work – but I can say – I was utterly stunned, absolutely thrilled and completely engaged/touched/inspired by the work I saw at Shopfront that evening. Not because I am a board member – but because I am a person. My allegiances aside – the work was strong, individual and completely owned by the artists. Utterly brilliant.

And Clara, I missed out. I really did. I’m sorry. I promise – I’ll buy you the best cake ever.