Interview With SPACE on Ryder Farm’s Emily Simoness, Part II

E SimonessAs anyone who’s read Selling Out before knows, we here at Goldstar love live entertainment. That’s why we’re in this business. It’s our goal to spread our love of live entertainment to others by making it easy for them to go out often and have as many magical moments as possible. So it totally made sense for us to jump on board when given the chance to sponsor a fabulous live event that’ll help raise funds for a nonprofit artists’ program. This is a double-whammy: A night of live entertainment in support of artists who create future live entertainment! Here’s the scoop:

The nonprofit is SPACE on Ryder Farm, an artist residency program on a gorgeous 130-acre organic farm in upstate New York. SPACE has quickly become one of the premier centers for new play development in the country.

The event is the inaugural Farm in the City Gala, featuring cocktails, a farm-to-table dinner, performances from six seasons of SPACE-developed work, and an auction — all hosted by How I Met Your Mother star Josh Radnor, a member of the SPACE Advisory Board. It all happens at Manhattan’s Sunwest Studios on Monday, October 24 from 7:00pm-10:00pm.

As we gear up for the event, we wanted to share more info on the remarkable experiences happening at SPACE on Ryder Farm. So we talked to SPACE founder and executive director Emily Simoness. Check out the second half of our Q&A with her below (You can read the first part here). And if you haven’t seen it yet, check out Simoness’ inspirational talk from last year’s TEDxBroadway, where she shared how her life’s path veered in an unexpected direction, leading to better results than she could have ever imagined.

Selling Out: What are some of your goals for your nonprofit artist residency program? Have you already achieved any?

SPACE on Ryder Farm's Farm in the City Gala, NYC, October 24

SPACE on Ryder Farm’s Farm in the City Gala, NYC, October 24

Emily Simoness: We set out in 2009 to create a home away from home for the thousands of artists in New York City. In many ways we have achieved that initially stated goal. SPACE’s current mission statement is: SPACE creates an environment singular in its ability to invigorate artists and innovators and their work, and contributes to the sustainability and resourceful preservation of one of the oldest organic family farms on the East Coast. Going forward we are looking to really and truly ensure the sustainability of the farm via art. A big idea/goal for sure, but we are actively strategizing how this will come to fruition.

SO: Are you and the participants of the program still hard at work fixing up the farm?
ES: To date, we’ve rehabilitated three housing structures, put a dock on the lake, erected two stages and converted a chicken coop to a workspace. Given that the farm spans 127 acres, there is always more work to be done! One of our interns is currently converting an old boat (which sits on the property) to a workspace. We are in the planning stages of a capital campaign which we hope to launch in 2017.

SO: What are some of the programs you are working on at SPACE that go beyond the arts — such as organic farming and preservation of open space?
ES: This year marked the second year of our Creative Solutions Symposium (CSS). CSS is a fully subsidized weeklong residency for activists and human rights organizations who are creatively addressing social justice issues. The symposium seeks to support groups and individuals who are exploring innovative solutions for positive social change. SPACE offers participants a unique residency experience and creates opportunities for exchange between creative thinkers from diverse backgrounds and professional spheres.

In terms of the farm, artists are invited to harvest on Fridays (before the Union Square Greenmarket) with the farmers. SPACE also has a CSArt program (a play on the Community Supported Agriculture movement). Supporters and friends get access to farm fresh veggies as well as artist performances.

Host Josh Radnor

Host Josh Radnor

Additionally, SPACE is in talks with Ryder Farm Inc. (the landowner and family shareholder body) about pursuing a conservation easement which would preserve and protect the land in perpetuity.

SO: You touched on it in your TEDxBroadway Talk, but what is your advice about following plans versus paths?
ES: Plans are important. But, in this business, and in this life, I think we sometimes get so caught up in and bound by plans that we forget to look out for, or stay open to paths. Our fears and trepidations about a road less traveled stop us in our tracks and keep us living lives that are safe and tidy. Lives that follow a very specific and narrow plan. SPACE on Ryder Farm would definitely not be in the world – if in March of 2009,  I had not seen a path.

The path that presented itself to me with Ryder Farm and SPACE gave me so much more than I ever could have imagined. I came into contact with my extended family, I built a company that turned 6 years old this year. I’ve had the proud mama moment of sitting in the audience of 30 plus shows that were developed in part at the farm. None of this would have happened had I followed my plan (of being an actress).

Paths are not easier than plans. Just because the road presents itself to you does not mean that it won’t fight you walking down it every step of the way. Adversity. Is. Everywhere. And anything worth doing is going to be chock full of it. Every drop of blood, sweat and tears we poured into the renovation of the farm. The challenge to assemble a board that believed in SPACE as much as we did. Dealing with the municipality. Fundraising! But when I looked at the particulars of this road, at the kind of fight it was asking of me, I realized I was built for it. Suited for it. This path was enlivening. It lit me up. It is work. And it’s work I love.

Follow SPACE on Ryder Farm on Twitter @SPACEonRyder.

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