September 22, 2012

Spotlight on New Faculty: Ian Garrett

Ian Garret Ian Garret

New Production/Design faculty member Ian Garrett takes a moment to answer our questions about his creative work and research, his return to teaching and what the future might hold for him here at York

Please tell us about your work outside of teaching, your research and/or creative work.

I'm really trying to figure out the new balance between my teaching at YorkU and a number of outside projects. I continue to hold a director position with the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts (CSPA).  One of the big questions right now is to figure out what to do with the fact that, now that i'm in Canada, we should also use the spelling Centre. A lot of my previous work in sustainable development and the arts has happened under that umbrella. Right now, we're closing out the last round of our award for sustainable production at the Edinburgh Fringe. We partnered with Festivals Edinburgh, the organization that coordinates between Edinburgh's festivals, to provide complimentary inquiries into how work is being done in the setting this past year. Also, we're drafting our impact report on the Fusebox Festival in Austin,TX. We'll publish the findings from both by the end of 2012, and have issue 9 of our quarterly to compile. On my own, I'm also programming the sustainability component of World Stage Design in Cardiff next September and serve a member of the Twin Cities Sustainable Theatres Group. Also, I contributed a chapter, entitled “The Carbon Footprint of Theatrical Production”, to the new book Readings in Ecology and Performance,  edited by Wendy Arons and Theresa J May, which came our this past May around the third Earth Matters on Stage Festival/Symposium.

Creatively, my projects are split between design and producing. I was involved in 6 shows at the Edinburgh Fringe this past August. I did the production design for and produced Kristina Wong's “Going Green the Wong Way” (which also ran in Los Angeles in july and is touring in a condense format in the US right now), designed the lights for Jliilan Lauren's (Author of “Some Girls”) solo show “Mother Tongue” and returned for the 5th year as producer for CalArts Festival Theater at Venue13.

About Venue 13…

Oddlie, one of the CalArts Student shows.

 I just learned that Matthew McCray's “Eternal Thou”, which I designed in March, is going to be remounted at South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa, California next June. I'll also be returning to the Indy Convergence (, a 2 week pop-up residency for the development of new work in Indianapolis, as resident designer for the 6th year in May (I'm also on staff there, so we're deep in planning now).

What is the Indy Convergence?

And I'm involved in an experimental mixed-realty theatre project that's playing with everything from Holograms to Second Life that's in it's infancy. (Here's a video of my co-producer Patty Rangel talking about the tech.)

Something that people may not realize is that I'm also heavily involved in the administration of dance. I'm vice chair of the board for DanceUSA, the national service organization for professional dance in the US (like the Canadian Dance Assembly), where I work with the technology, branches, and strategic planning committees and the affiliates working group. This is a video I'm in from the last conference.

What has your first month of teaching been like? or Where were you teaching before you came to York? How does York compare?

My first month teaching at York has been really great. I really enjoy teaching and working with students, and am thrilled, almost surprised, by the high level of engagement and ambition. I previously taught at the California Institute of the Arts, which is a pretty different institution. It's solely an arts school, offering only BFA and MFA degrees (except for 2 programs). It is as though FFA weren't part of York as a whole. It is also pretty evenly split between undergraduate and graduate education, but almost entirely practice based with admissions based nearly entirely on a student's portfolio. Though I did my graduate work there, I came from a background in Architecture and Art History, so I missed the greater theoretical context and academically focused side of the education. That's something that I feel has a greater integration in the York environment. My own field of research and interest sort of sits in this area between theory and practice, covering both site eco-activism through performance as well as sustainable building methods, so I feel like York is really a place where that research can thrive.

Also, it's just nice to be working with students of any stripe again. I actually left CalArts at the beginning of 2011 to take a position as Executive Director of an arts service organization focused on marketing and communication in Houston. Though I love management and infrastructure to support the arts, and I was part of a team developing an Arts Business Certification at the University of Houston, it wasn't the same. That organization merged with another, allowing me to return to teaching as a result of the restructuring, as everything started coming together with York. So it feels like the right place and the right time in a very serendipitous way.

What are looking forward to, now that you're at York—what's on the horizon for you?

First and foremost, I'm extremely excited about this appointment. York's commitment to sustainability AND integrating this in the arts makes it a unique and extremely special place. I had been working on the level of integration that York has committed to while I was at CalArts, and it never came together. This work was always in addition to everything else I was doing or teaching. So to be in a place that fully embraces this pursuit, it's a little like being handed a fantastic gift. I'm excited to take full advantage of now being encouraged to throw my full effort behind this pursuit. We're in prime position to be entirely ground breaking, and I can't ask for more than that.

As I get more settled–being new to York, Toronto and Canada–I'm looking forward to a number of projects. York's partnership with Canadian Stage will be looking at sustainability soon. The Canadian Institute of Theatre Technology has started a sustainability commission with which I'm looking forward to getting involved. The Grand Theatre in London, ON is interested in housing some new exploration into resources used in performance. I'm extremely excited for how sustainability with be discussed by the global theatre community in Cardiff for World Stage Design. And, I'm hoping to get students involved with things like the Indy Convergence and Edinburgh Festival Fringe, unique working environments which I call home.