Maelstrom Collaborative Arts Stays Flexible and Creative with “The Wandering: A Story in Time and Space”

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PHOTO BY KAITLIN K. WALSH
  • Photo by Kaitlin K. Walsh
Maelstrom Collaborative Arts kicks off “The Wandering: A Story in Time and Space” on Thursday, October 8, 2020 at 5:30 p.m.

The event, which is a collaboration between 32 artists, dancers, painters, writers, musicians and performers, tells the story of a group of strangers brought together under mysterious circumstances and comes on the heels of the The ACTIVATE Storefront Window Residency, which is part of a six-week residency program showcasing physically-distant, socially-relevant work in the Detroit-Shoreway and Cleveland communities.



“The show tells the story of a group of people brought together by a catastrophic accident,” says Jeremy Paul, Executive Artistic Director of Maelstrom Collaborative Arts. “In the aftermath, these strangers begin sharing the same dream each night and gradually begin to shape and change it, creating an alternate reality in dreaming that allows them to process what happened and find new ways to connect with each other. The event space is structured so that the audience physically explores the ways in which this dreamscape began, grew, and eventually ended, with each artist creating a ‘dream shrine’ that represents a different phase of evolution for this dream.”

Maelstrom Collaborative Arts (MCA), which aims to serve the growth of innovative artists at the borders of diverse genres, disciplines and media, was forced to cancel the majority of its 2020 season due to the Covid-19 outbreak.



They needed to find alternative ways to connect with their audiences in a way that was safe and socially conscious with regard to physical interaction, while concocting a platform for their artists to express themselves.

“With traditional performance off the table, we have been working towards other ways to safely engage audiences and artists while also using our experience with creating immersive theater and environmental storytelling," says Paul. "This show is a cross between 'Inferno,' an explorable, multimedia adaptation of Dante’s Inferno that we created last fall, and 'The Last Day,' a pseudo-escape room we developed in 2016.”

As exhibition spaces continue to challenge themselves as to how to stay relevant and connected to their participants with the help of ACTIVATE, MCA, sticking true to its mission, perseveres and innovates in face of a challenging time for the Arts across the world.

“The ACTIVATE Storefront Window Residency was a way to experiment with innovative methods for making and presenting live art in a COVID-safe way, says Paul. “It also created a sense of shared-space, with audience members and passersby standing on the corner of 54th and Detroit witnessing something unusual, out-of-the-ordinary—- and then being able to talk about it, both with each other and the artists present. Watching the sunset against the window panes while music played, or an installation shone brightly from behind the glass was a magical moment for a summer that was fraught with so much discord.”

MCA is capturing the national moment to try and gain an audience for the many who feel voiceless or undermined. There is strength in diversity of ideas and approaches, and particularly in the field of the arts, and “The Wondering” is a great example.

MCA challenges the Arts community in Cleveland to consider hurdles certain artists face in Cleveland.

From their website: "We believe that there are real, systemic barriers to equitable engagement in the arts that must be dismantled and that equal access regardless of race, sexuality, gender identity or culture is essential to a vibrant Cleveland arts community. We believe that equity is an active process that requires individual and systematic work every day to achieve it, and that it is the only way we accomplish our mission and vision."

I asked Paul to elaborate on what challenges artists face here in a Cleveland.

“Cleveland is a deeply segregated city in both the traditional racial and classist sense of the word, as well as in the way resource scarcity and inequality create artistic silos by discipline, geography, and community. These divisions help to propagate the existing systems of gatekeeping that have overwhelmingly favored white, straight, cis men.”

MCA calls us to task to stay open minded and to relish in our differences. It also reminds us why multiculturalism ultimately makes for a more buoyant society.

Another intriguing project MCA is working on is “The MCA Pen Pal Letter Exchange,” where they asked people to write anonymous letters to unknown friends with the greeting, “Dear [Blank].”

They received about 50 letters back and some exchanges have been ongoing.

“MCA Pen Pals was really popular and we did it 3 times; people ended up writing, drawing, painting, and crafting some pretty amazing stuff- one person sent a home-made face mask, and another person sent a hand-crafted fortune teller! It was both playful and incredibly meaningful during a scary and quite uncertain time.”

The Wandering is limited to only one audience member at a time (or two if they are from the same household), who will be required to wear a mask during the experience. All art will be installations or otherwise made remotely, but there will be live elements and environmental changes as the audience moves through the space and experiences the story. Tickets for this event begin at $25 per person. You can visit their online box office here.

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