Happy New Year, friends! As we turn the corner and blast into 2019, it seems only appropriate to take a quick look back at some of the things that made 2018 such a special, often exciting, and sometimes unexpected year at BLIXT! Here’s our “top 10.”
10. Special Projects
This year we found ourselves taking on new contracts for some great organizations and businesses and increasing our grant writing activities for others. We also stepped in as interim coordinators for the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues at the Lied Center, which threw us right back into the the throes of what we born to do: High impact production. As a result got to spend a fantastic day with Nadine Stossen and even grabbed a photo with Jon Meacham! We will continue to assist with E.N. Thompson this winter, until a permanent coordinator is hired.
9. THE GRUMBLE PROJECT
This year, upon the connecting of very helpful dots by UNL Law Professor Anthony Schutz and with the guidance of the Weibling Entrepreneurship Clinic, we officially created a nonprofit called The Grumble Project! The Grumble Project is where our Wuzzlewubbies (read below) project resides, as well as being the home for all future endeavors where arts and social services intersect at BLIXT. Our mission is this: To create high powered arts for humanity! You can expect a bevy of new works, podcasts, and philanthropic pursuits from The Grumble Project in days to come!
8. New Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Curricula
This year, thanks to research, time spent in numerous classrooms, and through our participation in Bridges Out of Poverty with the Food Bank of Lincoln, we were able to begin to think more wildly about curriculums we created and to unapologetically add an SEL emphasis to all our work with students. This led to project-based, “whole child” learning in the classrooms we visited and culminated in some very exciting projects including the creation of a “Problem Simulator” for Math and English learning. (If you are a teacher, administrator, advocate, or elected official who would like to learn more about this work as well as evidence of learning, please connect to us online or by calling 402-817-8176).
7. Mourning Hope
We were honored for a second year by working alongside and learning from our mentors at Mourning Hope Grief Center who have been instrumental in the creation and support of SNOWCATCHER (please see below) as well as in helping educate us about child grief and bereavement. A highlight of our year was volunteering at Camp Erin in Ashland, which serves children ages 5 - 15 who have experienced the death loss of a significant person. We also learned more about young adult grief support groups and recently received an Nebraska Arts Council grant that will help us further intersect performing arts and healing throughout Greater Nebraska this spring.
6. Grandma Didn’t Get Run Over By A Reindeer, But The Neighbor Did Destroy the PlayLab.
One frosty winter morning in December, Becky got a call from the folks that own the building where the PlayLab was located. They reported that their had been an accident and that Becky should quickly drive to the PlayLab and report back. Petra was in Greater Nebraska teaching Poetry Out Loud, so Becky made her way to the PlayLab only to find that a neighbor had accelerated when he meant to break, and caved in the wall of the PL with his vehicle. No one was hurt. The PlayLab was destroyed. With the help of volunteers, we moved close to 200 blankets (see below) from the smooshed PL to Becky’s sister Chris’s house and thanks to a friend, Lori, we were able to quickly move into our temporary work space, located at 5034 Old Cheney Road in Lincoln. It was a former luxury cat hotel, and is very charming and quirky. We call it The Cat Patch. All’s well that ends well, but if anyone has thier ear to the ground, we’re looking for a permanent home in months to come…
5. Holy Flarp! #divideandconquer
So, here’s the thing: Becky and Petra are good at a lot of the same things, but are really good at quite different things. This has always served us well, and allowed us to take on a variety of exciting projects with “aces in their places”. This year, we hit a milestone in that not only did we split parts of our project load in ways that helped us each bring our best to the table, but we actually became so busy, that we split projects! That means that while one of us may offer the other support from our shared workspace, sometimes only one of us is the “lead” of a project we’re working on. We’ve found that this works well, and allows us to accommodate the needs of our clients and serve students of all ages in exciting ways. We are quite strategic about what assignments are given to each partner, and happy to report this model is working quite successfullly, so we’ll be sure to utilize it more in 2019.
6. 48 Hours of Events
This year we were fortunate enough to work alongside amazing partners and clients. For example, we stepped onboard at our second home, the Lied Center for Performing Arts, to assist with development and their annual OnStage event. Only 24 hours later was the Lincoln Arts Council’s Mayor’s Arts Awards, where Becky gave a speech that was a call to action for Arts Education Advocacy. While our responsibilities for both events were quite different and required different levels of time commitment, we found that it made for a pretty jam-packed 48 hours. We also know that this is what we love most - to be a part of or to pull off something bigger than us from the ground up and to do it with passion and intentionality. Here is the video of Becky speaking at the Mayor’s Arts Awards, elegantly hosted and produced by the LAC.
5. We Got Picky
This is the first year we said no to things that aren’t the best fit for us and started to really curate our projects based on desire rather than building assured contracts. So far, this has been a great move for us and allows us the autonomy we want. Already we find we can bring our best work to the table by securing the best matches in terms of alligned partners, projects, and dreams. We like to go big and are always looking for partners who are action people who feel similarly.
4. Letters To Eleanor by Paul Shaw, in collaboration with the LGBTQA Resource Center at UNL
If you know us, then you know that new works for the stage is our jam. In 2018 we were lucky enough to partner with LGBTQA Resource Center Director Pat Tetreault and her staff to bring a new work to life at the Willa Cather Dining Hall. This joyful experience allowed us to mentor other artists into the kinds of positions we often fill and culminated in a beautiful staged reading on campus.
3. TheatreWorks USA Click, Clack Moo!
At BLIXT, we’re big believers that when you see a chance, you take it, and last year we were given the chance to bring an Equity tour of TheatreWorks USA’s Click Clack Moo to several Title One Schools for Spring Break! We chipped in our own funds, got some support from others, too, and the result was over 500 children who experienced a play about warmth, empathy, and teamwork at no cost to schools or families. For many of the children who participated, this was the first play they ever saw! We also provided curriculum in tandem with the experience and held learning sessions in relation to the production at Clinton Elementary School.
We’re still pretty overwhelmed by the SNOWCATCHER experience. SNOWCATCHER is a one woman show, (commissioned by the Midwest Theater in Scottsbluff and the Lincoln Arts Council) written and performed by Becky, that tackles (often physically) childhood grief, set against the backdrop of the Children’s Blizzard of 1888. We performed at Beatrice Community Players on the 130th anniversary of the storm. We held 4 public performances and one free matinee at the Lied Center for Performing Arts, sponsored by the Lincoln Arts Council in celebration of their 50th Anniversary. We spent weeks with 5th graders at Campbell Elementary School and 3rd graders at Clinton Elementary School who saw the matinee, who we also got to teach in their own classrooms. This built a special rapport and created the ideal conditions for meaningful, personalized arts learning. We extended and revised curriculum for young adults statewide this fall. We are considering taking SNOWCATCHER to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. We are still reeling…
In January 2018, we realized that because of our work surrounding SNOWCATCHER and themes related to the Blizzard of 1888, we were missing an opportunity to bring local kids warmth and to draw an unmistakable parallel between navigating poverty in 1888 and in 2018. From our PlayLab, we dreamed of creating a blanket drive to help provide bedding to children in Title One Schools in Lincoln. With the guidance of our friends Michaella Kumke (and the Food Bank folks) and Dr. Marilyn Moore, we did some research and connected to Lincoln Public Schools to put a plan in action. Long story short, since that time we have provided over 550 blankets to students at the following elementary schools in Lincoln: Campbell, Clinton, Arnold, Elliott, and West Lincoln. We love this work and will continue to collect new or homemade twin sized or larger blankets through the winter of 2019, with hopes to deliver at least 250 more before March. (If you’re reading this and not from Nebraska, sometimes it’s cold here through April)! We hope to grow our drive every year, and will the help of great community partners (for example, Lincoln Orthapaedic Group were generous donors this year!) we know we can bring more blankets to more kids who need them the months and years to come!
Well, like with most lists, we’re certain we left out some pretty cool stuff here, but we’ve hit upon many of the highlights. We are grateful to do work we love, with people we love, to improve the community we love through high quality arts. We look forward to serving our state and region in 2019 - it’s already looking like it’s going to be an incredible year!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Becky and Petra