Gedeelde grond (Shared ground) 5 – listen to the new podcast episode with Lana Willems

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Monty Arts Centre serves as a presentation venue for performing arts and a platform for meeting, exchange, and dialogue. Since 2022, Lana Willems has held the position of general and artistic director.

In these polarizing times, as we search for effective ways of living together, Lana believes that the key lies in fostering more connection, also in the arts.

Her focus at Monty is on building connections among artists, audiences, and partner organizations at various levels. The arts center addresses questions such as: how do artists work? What are their needs? How can we support them? What do colleagues do? Where can we strengthen and complement each other, especially in the service of those artists?

Central to all these efforts is mutual knowledge and understanding, and for this, talking and listening are essential: discussions about needs, possibilities, and limitations are vital. These needs extend beyond production or financial considerations; topics such as welfare and safety have gained prominence recently.

“I think the whole welfare debate is a response to a kind of boundless commitment that existed in the past and that was perhaps implicitly expected or imposed. If you wanted to work in the arts – whether it was as an artist or an actor or within an arts organisation – a kind of boundless commitment was expected of you. While such commitment has led to valuable outcomes and a positive dynamic, it is also not illogical that you lose people, that they get burned out as a result.”

Today, we observe a greater focus on welfare and safety in production processes, but that requires time and energy. Lana notices a shift towards a more collective way of working, in which every voice is important and needs to be heard. This also increases the need for clear agreements on managing all that input and on who ultimately makes the decisions. 

“I sometimes have the feeling that, in the pursuit of well-being and equality, there is a reluctance to make decisions, engage in debates, or address conflicts. As if conflict stands in the way of well-being … “

“I think a good conversation, in which we really hear each other, should allow for differing opinions.”

For Lana, a safe environment encourages disagreement, recognizing that productive outcomes can arise from friction and conflict. 

“I still think that a performance is allowed to be abrasive and ask difficult questions, and should not immediately appeal to everyone. Not every performance has to be comfortable for everyone. A performance should not necessarily be offensive, but it should continue to spark meaningful conversation.”

For the future, Lana envisions the arts sector as a large network where we all understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, fostering complementary and reinforcing collaborations – with and for each other.

Recorded: November 8th 2023 in LOD studio’s in Ghent.

Read the full transcript of this episode (in Dutch)

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