075: Risk, trust, and vulnerability. Best practices for creative collaboration with interdisciplinary musician Wendy Spitzer

If you’ve ever been involved in a collaborative project, if you’ve ever co-created work with another artist, then this conversation with interdisciplinary musician and artist Wendy Spitzer is for you! Get your notepad and prepare to let it transform the way you make work. Wendy Spitzer outlines the framework for safe collaboration, describes best practices, and gives examples of co-creating with other artists. We also discuss two of her local projects that involve co-creation between artist and audience-participants. (See below for the one coming up!)


SEEK Raleigh program at Dorothea Dix Park

Dix in Sound in Situ: Incorporating original music, interview snippets, hotline recordings, narration, and found sounds, Dix in Sound in Situ is a new traveling audio installation by Felix Obelix (aka musician and interdisciplinary artist Wendy Spitzer). Visitors to Dix will listen to the installation on headphones as they walk a one-mile loop through the park, experiencing the collapse of time and history, and connecting them to the artist, to the place, and to the sounds themselves. Opens May 31, 2019 ***

Wendy Spitzer
Photo credit: Ilme Vysniauskaite

Wendy Spitzer is an interdisciplinary musician and artist with a diverse output spanning music composition and performance, visual and community artmaking, writing, research, and modes of participatory inquiry. Her projects have been funded by Raleigh Arts; Downtown Durham, Inc.; the Durham Arts Council; the Orange County Arts Commission; the Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology; and the Strowd Roses Foundation.

Under the moniker Felix Obelix, she has released two albums of original compositions: The Tick of the Clock, the Beat in the Chest on the Pox World Empire label (2010) and The Ringtone Album on the Potluck Foundation label (2013). Other experiences have included a time capsule project, the organization of a genre-bending music festival, original scores composed and performed live to silent films, studio session work, a choir commission, theatre and soundtrack scoring, as well as solo and group visual art shows.

Wendy Spitzer has a Bachelor’s of Music in Performance from UNC-Chapel Hill and a Master of Music in Creative Practice from Goldsmiths College, University of London (UK), which culminated in a final thesis entitled, Trust Them With Your Weird and Strange Notes: An Arts-Based Research Perspective on Vulnerability and the Social Dynamic in Creative Collaboration.

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questions for wendy


You have provided a beautiful umbrella for our conversation to shelter under today. And that is your graduate research on Creative Practice, more specifically your exploration of “how the social dynamic and issues of risk, trust, and vulnerability play out when people collaborate on creative projects.” Let’s start by talking about this more broadly and then dig into your framework and best practices for artists who work collaboratively. The title of your dissertation is Trust Them With Your Weird and Strange Notes: An Arts-Based Research Perspective on Vulnerability and the Social Dynamic in Creative Collaboration.

Why did you make this your focus? How did you pursue this study?

Would you take us thru your framework?

What are the factors involved in developing trust? What are the risks?

What is vulnerability for creators?

What is an ‘ideal’ collaborative/co-creation state? What are the benefits? What does it look/sound/feel like?

Best practices?


There’s a spectrum of co-creation and collaboration. We can do this artist to artist, and we can also do this with artists and audiences (or participants, if that’s a better word for the people who come to experience the creative work). I’d like to touch on two local projects that you engaged in that have an interesting collaborative/co-creative experience for the audience.

First, let’s talk about Portraits in Common.

From Wendy: “Portraits in Common – part of Downtown Durham, Inc’s Public Space project last year. With my collaborator Douglas Vuncannon (photographer), we paired up strangers at a Third Friday artwalk in Durham’s downtown last August. Participants were tasked with finding the most unusual thing they had in common. They wrote this on a board and had their portrait taken. I made a video of all the portraits and scored the music to it. A community/participatory project that exceeded my expectations for it.”

What did you witness when the strangers came together? What surprised you about this experience? How did these concepts of risk/vulnerability/co-creation come up?

Second, let’s talk about your upcoming project for the SEEK Raleigh public art program at Dorothea Dix Park :

“SEEK Raleigh is a temporary public art program that engages artists to use unique, non-traditional interiors, structures, and outdoor spaces for site-specific, performative, and participatory installations and experiences. These temporary, experimental projects are designed to introduce the public to new, diverse, and thought-provoking experiences as well as create opportunities for artists to extend their creative practice. Through these experiences, both the artist and the community will find novel ways to learn and share the stories of our City. This spring, the Raleigh Arts is working with community partners to launch the SEEK Raleigh program at Dorothea Dix Park, one of the City’s most important historical sites, as a broad stage for performance, installation and experimentation while  the entire community’s focus is on the site. Future iterations of the program will activate parks and other public places across the City of Raleigh, bringing art to new and unexpected places.”

What inspired you to develop a project like this? I’m interested in the ways you are setting yourself up to be inspired by ‘outside’ forces like the history of the place, the soundscape of the location, the responses of people who call in — can you say something about that and whether/how it feels collaborative?


As an artist, you have an incredibly diverse output — loads on interdisciplinary projects and collaborations, you work in multiple media yourself — so in some ways you defy categorizing (which I Iove). You’ve mentioned that occasionally this diversity make it difficult for you to present a concise narrative for your work. So my question is — what do you think ties these different projects together? What makes sense about it to you?

Anything else?

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