Artistic Innovations: Unplanned Detour


When Tara O’Nay was diagnosed with cancer midway through her Artistic Innovations project, she started on a path that was miles from what she anticipated.

Dysfunctionalware was proposed as a series of dinner dialogues and a participatory art experience which establishes a shared work space for people interested in combatting racism by spending an evening exploring their personal experience in their own skin. It features a set of china dishware illustrated by local artists with images intended to spark dialogue about what being “white” may encompass, allow, provide, influence, and get in the way of. Guests sit and eat a meal, bite by bite uncovering the artists’ images as facilitators guide the table through discussion.

Says O’Nay, “I reflected a lot on what I want to see in the world, what I want to create with my life and art, and how to build a foundation for that. It was extremely scary, really. There was a lot of depression and anxiety. I think a lot of artists struggle with that sort of thing, it’s not like it was a first for me. Cancer is a nice reason for it that people understand up to a point but it could have happened without the cancer just as well. Sometimes I worry about applying for things for that reason—what if something happens, if my capacity changes.

I appreciated M-AAA working with me to adjust the scope of the project in the last several months of the grant period. I would have loved to have even more dinners, to create more sets of dishes to sell so the illustrators involved could get paid more and people could host their own groups in their homes using the materials we were putting together. But Artistic Innovations enabled a pilot project that can then grow organically where communities might want to take it, without as much full-time effort, should we ever set to making more dishes, or as one attendee suggested, offer the option of buying the pdfs to print on paper plates.”

Do you have a pilot program you want to introduce to the world? A work or performance you’re ready to debut between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020? The call for Artistic Innovations Letters of Intent is now open. Learn more and apply by Oct 15, 2018.

Artistic Innovations LOI