Artist collaboration: a good idea? The word “artist” conjures up an image of a person who is too creative for their own good – the lone artist, the tortured creative soul, right? No one else can understand the complexities of their work, of their creative mind, and they are forced to work alone. Misunderstood, and underappreciated.
The only problem is that the above is a FALSE image. The truth is that an ENORMOUS part of being an artist is being a collaborator. When was the last time you saw a professional performance or show that was completely produced, created, designed, written, marketed, built, and performed by a single person? Large-scale and professional projects are created through collaboration because collaboration brings with it an astounding amount of opportunities and possibilities.
Some of these opportunities are obvious: a lighting designer is probably going to do a better job of lighting a show than a choreographer. But the less obvious opportunity is that a lighting designer also brings a new perspective to the piece as a whole, and may see things differently than the choreographer does. They offer a second set of eyes and a new perspective toward achieving the goal of the piece and communicating with the audience. If there is only one artist working on a project, that means there is only one perspective on the effectiveness of any given piece. Multiple perspectives are a huge reason why collaboration is so valuable to artists. It’s also what makes collaboration difficult at times.
Any artist who has been part of a collaboration knows that everyone is going to have their own ideas of how a project should go. There WILL be conflicting ideas, and there will be arguments. The only way to keep the project moving forward is to be able to communicate your ideas effectively – which means a collaborative artist needs to be able to talk about their work and vision. If the collaborating artists can only communicate with ‘I like that’ and ‘I don’t like that,’ a project will never move forward.
The key to being able to make decisions as a team is to understand the purpose of their project. Everyone needs to have a common goal to work towards. With a goal in mind, artists are able to evaluate whether or not a certain idea helps the project to achieve its goal. The process becomes much less about personal opinion and more about doing what’s best for the piece as a whole.
Being able to talk about art is an immensely important skill for artists. Any artist aiming to become a professional or even to make a large-scale project will find themselves at a standstill without this skill. My advice: start practicing. Start talking about your work and start practicing how to work with other artists toward a common goal. Start collaborating NOW.