Multi-faceted artist Wendy Woodson offers her best advice for overcoming the many challenges of being an artist today.
Wendy Woodson has an expansive portfolio that, at first glance, might seem without direction. She is a choreographer, writer, director, video artist, artistic director, and professor.
But Woodson’s expansive portfolio starts to make sense when you hear her advice for those looking to pursue a career in the arts: “Say yes to as many different kinds of projects and opportunities that come your way until you can’t keep saying yes because there’s too much on your plate,” says Woodson.
As Roger C. Holden Professor of Theater and Dance at Amherst College, Woodson knows firsthand that being an artist in academia is always a challenge. The arts are often misunderstood in a university setting, in terms of the deep research and process that they offer and require. So, it remains important to “persevere with your own creative impulses and visions in spite of the many hurdles that are part of being a practicing artist in today’s world,” Woodson says.
In addition to teaching, Woodson serves as artistic director of Wendy Woodson & Present Company Inc(luded), an organization she founded in 1980 to create and present original work in dance, theater, and video, in collaboration with other artists. Since then, Woodson has created more than 100 works for the stage, for site-specific locations, and for video exhibition. These works have been presented throughout the U.S., Europe, New Zealand, and Australia at venues that include the John. F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Smithsonian, and more.
Most recently, Woodson directed Sourcing the Stream at Amherst College, an immersive video, sound, and performance event that looked to the stream as a source for inspiration, solace, reflection, and reaction. For each performance, nine dancers experimented with different ways of spontaneously creating material. The performances were followed by a talk with the dancers and audience members, allowing for unexpected reactions and interactions to influence the evolution of the project.
“I like to make connections between different ways of knowing or learning, and I believe that this is one of my strongest assets as a teacher and artist,” says Woodson. “I also rely on improvisation and collaboration to develop work. I like to respond to the moment, to think on my feet, and to work with the responses and input of collaborators.”
Relying on improvisation and collaboration to develop work, Woodson encourages a sense of performance that heightens an awareness of the body as a home, a container, and an active playing field that manifests ideas, values, and memories.