A gathering of makers
It’s 2016. Irene and Oscar have just finished theater school in NYC and they’re feeling both lost and liberated in their artistic paths. While they rejoiced at their freedom to create without limitation, they no longer had a safe space and supportive community with which they could collaborate. They noticed too that their friends and fellow artists were also feeling the same way, finding it hard to create in isolation.
Inspired by French Enlightenment era salons, they decided to host a series of gatherings in their small apartment on the fifth floor of a Chinatown walk up. They didn’t know much about what they were getting themselves into, they didn’t even know if anyone would show up! But they sent out an invite, bought some snacks and Trader Joe’s boxed wine and waited. February 20, 2016 marked the first “Working Titles”, a gathering of makers. Their small living room was packed with young, budding makers eager to share their work in a nurturing environment.
It was such a success that Oscar and Irene continued to host Working Titles every month over the next two years and watched as ideas slowly turned into creations. Over time, participants became members, and members grew into a community. Cultivated by unconditional support and receptivity, Working Titles is the backbone of Make/Shift.
By fall 2017, Working Titles had become an incubator for several makers and their developing works. But Irene and Oscar knew their work in crafting this community had only begun. Members wanted to be held accountable. They wanted goals and deadlines. They wanted to see their work through to the end. But in a four-hour slot every month, it was impossible to help makers develop their work on a deeper level.
So Irene and Oscar began Spotlight Series, an event that featured one maker and their working title. Spotlight Series gave a maker the opportunity to work one-on-one with Irene and Oscar to develop their work and present a draft of it to a public audience. The inaugural Spotlight Series featured long-time member, Claudia Rivera and her play, As We Let Go. Like the first Working Titles, As We Let Go premiered in Oscar and Irene’s new apartment in Astoria - an upgrade from Chinatown.
Spotlight Series was wildly successful in how it helped makers continue achieving their goals. So Irene and Oscar kept at it. They produced five more Spotlight Series over the course of 2017-2018 while still hosting Working Titles every month!
But as any maker would know, just because you present one version of your work doesn’t mean that the work is over yet. You’ve got to take a break, reflect, then go back to the drawing board and improve. Which is what Claudia Rivera did with As We Let Go. Between October 2017 and May 2018, she continued working on her play, writing draft after draft until she was ready for the next phase in her creative process - a semi-realized workshop production, later to be dubbed by Make/Shift as Shop Productions.
At this point, Irene and Oscar knew what they had to do. They needed to help see Claudia’s work through to the end. And so in May 2018, Make/Shift was formed, an organization founded in the fostering of makers in the process of poeisis: the shift from muse to making.