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  • Building Communities, Not Audiences:An urban ink Manifesto1
  • Diane Roberts (bio) and Edited by Joanne Roberts

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Mayahuel Tecozautla in Arrivals at Vancouver’s Co(Lab), November 2009.

Photo by Diane Roberts

urban ink’s mission is to ignite and inspire revolutionary voices that transform our world. We collaborate with artists and communities to push cultural boundaries through the creation and production of innovative Indigenous and cross-cultural performance works.

Our goal is to ultimately create, through every ui project and event, an “indigenous cross-roads”—an electrifying playground where anything can happen. This demands vigilance, honesty, and a strong stomach for danger.

1. At urban ink we build audiences through our communities; they are not mutually exclusive but inextricably intertwined

urban ink projects have always had a community-building component to them. We’ve always found a branch of our root system in the many communities in which we find ourselves: urban, rural, national, and international.

We don’t consider audience and community as separate, because we’ve always been part of the community and we always involve the community in the development of the play.

We form or grow our audiences while we’re developing the work, building the community around the work and cultivating audiences from established relationships. [End Page 72]

2. We are creatively curious, deliberately interdisciplinary, and emphatically intercultural

The ui mission statement and complementary values open up a plethora of possibilities for defining community, and that’s what gives the company its many facets.

The ui community is complex. We’re not just a local company, not just a theatre company, and we’re not just working with aboriginal and intercultural artists.

The ui community is complex. There are circles within circles and concentric circles and lines through circles. We are spun and woven into the richest of fabrics, reflecting a diversity of cultures and experiences that lend themselves to many different forms of artistic expression.

3. Our approach is grassroots, our community is complex, our vision is multifaceted

Every community we touch is different from the last one. Community artists—often with no formal training—feed the urban ink ethos. This community is the lifeblood of urban ink, and it is in no way homogenous. Our artists may not follow a Western theatre/performance paradigm, and this can be both rewarding and challenging from both an artistic and audience-building perspective.

There is an audience for community development work. We inadvertently foster a curiosity in potential audiences based on our work in communities. People are really interested in what we do and are intrigued by how we can bridge the communities they’re unable to—not just within the arts but in all sectors.

4. We are the conduits through which anything can happen

Because we have different types of artist-driven facilitation we learn together how to facilitate and create the balance in the room and adjust the program spontaneously. We walk a fine line between balancing our expectations and gauging and responding to the complex undercurrents within communities and individuals.

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Valerie Sing Turner, Kevin Loring, and Matt Ward in Confessions of the Other Woman by Valerie Sing Turner, March 2012, at Vancouver’s Performance Works, co-produced by urban ink, Visceral Visions, and Vancouver Playhouse in association with Shadbolt Centre for the Arts.

Photo by Tim Matheson

5. We don’t have handles; we shift all the time

Our strength is in the way we work with artists and communities. We take on an issue because an artistic or community project drives us in that direction. This dynamic and fluid approach enables us to respond to and give voice to community concerns.

6. We stay true to the community connection and cultivate a long-term investment in the outcome

We learn from the communities we serve and the stories they want to share—we take our lead from them.

There’s a word between truth and honour to describe our relationships with communities. We walk into the fire. Sometimes you can see the potential for the project but have to adjust your expectations and keep opening the...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 72-74
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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