Kate Donnelly is a 2020 recipient of the Creation Grant from the Vermont Arts Council. Every year, artists from across our VCFA home-state receive the financial support they need to create, push boundaries, and dedicate themselves to their art. For Donnelly, receiving the grant is a chance to use live performance to explore themes of care in a world grappling with every aspect of this little-but-large four letter word.
This is what Donnelly had to say about her upcoming performance project and receiving the Vermont Creation Grant:
ON THE BODY OF WORK
My project is to create work exploring concepts of care. This work examines and contrasts the whole and the parts: The broad disparities of how (Western) society values caregiving, versus the perspectives of the day-to-day lived experience of caregiving and receiving. The work will result in a live performance for three women, video, audio, text, and objects.
The overarching themes in this project concern the reproduction and role of women as caregivers in Western, capitalistic society. This labor is systematically under-valued, under-paid or unpaid, and largely invisible—and yet, as has been made starkly clear with the Covid pandemic, fundamental to a functioning society. We hail (some) health workers and caregivers as heros in this moment, but how will we value and “see” this labor when this crisis is over? What does the present moment reveal about types of care? Is the grocery store worker a caregiver? Is the act of isolation also an act of care? Is this a moment where shifts in attitudes and values can fundamentally change? My goal is to disrupt sentimental notions of the “labor of love” and to call attention to the costs of these labors on society as a whole as well as on the lived experience. My project interrogates imagined and real experiences of care and the effect of this labor on the body and the body politic; it explores how the labor of love influences both the arrangement of social structures and simple somatic gestures or actions like sitting, breathing, or sleeping.
In this project, the choreographed performance for three women is directly inspired by my recent four-month-long experience of the co-caregiving with my sister of my mother who had terminal cancer. In the context of the pandemic, our isolation (together) served to magnify the physical and emotional dance in which we were engaged. I am also inspired by personal stories of care giving and receiving and by texts examining feminism and age, care collectives, and distance/proximity care practices.
This [Vermont Creation Grant] is crucial in two important ways. First, it allows me to dedicate blocks of time to this project, and second, it makes it possible to hire performers.
ON HER HOPES FOR THE WORK
My objective is to engage the audience intellectually and emotionally in equal parts. With intricate arrangements and combinations of humor and gravity, I aim to make room for conversation, imagination, and interpretation. This work challenges the audience to see differently, in some cases quite literally: One work invites the audience to lie down on their side and, while resting their head on a tiny pillow and watch while a small curtain is raised to reveal a surprise. This body of work encourages the audience to engage with a complex theme by encountering, and hopefully absorbing in one way or another, ideas through various physical, visual, and aural presentations.
Two exhibitions are in the works for 2021, one in Vermont and another in Florida. The exact sites and dates are to be determined. [To find updates, visit katedonnelly.net.]
ON THE IMPACT OF VCFA
My experiences with the faculty, staff, and students at VCFA had a huge impact on just about every aspect of my work. Most importantly, I came away with the tools needed to dig deeply into ideas, to think critically, to follow several paths at once, and to listen carefully. VCFA helped to unlock a door for me—I am liberated and, paradoxically, burdened. (I wouldn’t have it any other way.)
In addition to benefiting my personal artistic growth, VCFA nurtured a more extroverted me. Since graduating, I have co-founded or joined two critique groups (one local and one remote), a reading group, and a collective that is active in promoting under-represented artists, non-commercial art practices, and time-based media.
VCFA has offered me opportunities in the form of artist talks, exhibitions coordinator, and artist mentor.