AcA's artist in residency program began in 2012 and assists local artists in the development of original work in visual, performing and media-driven disciplines. We value art making as an essential component of a vibrant, engaged and healthy community, and this program strives to offer our local artists a platform to develop work and engage an audience.
Whitney Hebert is our current artist in residence, selected to set a contemporary dance work. Her piece, titled THIRST, examines the forces of desire, creativity, burnout, inspiration, and persistence through the medium of dance and water. THIRST invites the audience to plunge headfirst into the driving current of the existential need to create and the many obstacles that emerge through the process of daring to forge art.
For each residency, we like to ask the resident artist about their experience creating an original work. Read on to learn more about Whitney's background and her experience as AcA's 2018 artist in residence.
Q: How did you get started in dance? Tell us a little about yourself and your background in dance.
Whitney: I have always loved to move. There are home videos of me in diapers bouncing to a beat and twirling a baton. The baton didn’t take, but the bouncing did. I was enrolled in dancing at four years old after years of rolling around on the living room floor attempting to copy the dance moves my big sister learned in her class. I remained a student with Morgan Street Dance Company for thirteen years and found my way into teaching and choreography. To this day I am still with Morgan Street where I now act as Assistant Director. Through my college years I continued my dance education as a dance minor at LSU and UL. Last year I was fortunate enough to revisit the UL Dance Department as a choreographer and set the first installation of THIRST. Most recently I’ve reentered the dance world as a student and company member with Basin Arts after a seven-year hiatus.
Q: What was your inspiration for this residency project?
Whitney: It was a combination of things. I've been stewing for years about applying for the AcA residency, wishing to create an evening-length show, but never fully understanding what I wanted to do with it. The summer of 2017, while I was reading "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron, I came across a metaphor she created that spoke to me. She described our creativity as an "artistic reservoir" and said, "in order to create, we must draw from our inner well." Not long after, I was watching a dance documentary and was struck with an innate need to create. With Cameron’s metaphor marinating in my mind, my brain immediately translated that need into a "thirst" which birthed the entire concept of my piece. Soon after, the first draft of this project tumbled into being as if it had been begging to be formed for a long time.
Q: Tell us a bit about the dancers performing in your piece.
Whitney: I have eight gorgeous professional dancers who are all active members in Lafayette’s art community. We have a couple educators, a few active and retired dance company members, a recent dance graduate, and all are working dance instructors in the area!
Q: What do you feel like the audience will connect most with in THIRST?
Whitney: I enjoy riding the line of abstraction and accessibility in my work. I’m hoping the audience will find beauty in the movement and relatability in the theme. I’ve worked hard to marry powerful movement with arresting music and lighting (with very talented collaborative artists) in order to create an immersive experience for any viewer who attends the show.
Q: What has your artistic process been like?
Whitney: It's funny you ask, because this piece was built as an exploration and personification of my creative process. It has been a beautiful, terrifying, and tumultuous ride birthing and wrangling this project, but it has all been so worth it.
Q: What were your biggest discoveries and/or challenges throughout the creative process?
Whitney: ART IS EXPENSIVE!!
Q: What will you take with you from this resident experience as you move forward into other projects?
Whitney: Art-making is not for the weak, but it is worth every moment of the grueling effort. I am coming away with a wealth of knowledge, thanks to the AcA and their support team, and with a large notch in my director’s belt. Building this piece was a large accomplishment for me personally, and it has widened the path to creating more dance works in the community.
THIRST, by Whitney Hebert, is a product of AcA's Residency Program and an ArtSpark Grant. ArtSpark is an individual artist stipend supported by the Lafayette Economic Development Authority and administered by Acadiana Center for the Arts.