FIRST! And to get y’all’s attention, let’s talk about...
I fully believe that quick and easy bathroom access is one of those things we have earned as humans. Add to that the fact that there are people with digestive disorders, incontinence, and many other physical ailments, which they haven’t caused or deserved, who may need fast as a priority. Not to mention a little bit of privacy. I feel we should make it a higher priority design-wise and in the spaces we choose, that this should be addressed as a disability accommodation... for the sake of human dignity. If not, the elderly and the ill slowly give up living in the world, and/or face traumatic embarrassments and physical pain in order to participate in it. We can do better than that. And port-a-potties can go anywhere.
For vulnerable artists, food is a vital part of maintaining balance and health. Ideally, one would have access to a kitchen with cookware, both in work environments and at home (in this case I am discussing “home” as the artist’s residence while working on the road). In my experience, homestays are preferable to hotels for this reason. This means that anyone with dietary restrictions can choose to prepare their own food, saving time, stress, and money, while avoiding pitfalls like accidental poisoning, or trying 10 different restaurants and still living on trail mix (unless they have a nut allergy!). You get my point. If not an option in the work environment, a refrigerator, microwave, and tea/coffee makers can all be real life savers.
Vulnerable artists traveling should have rooms with walls and doors. Couch crashing and shared rooms are awesome… but not for those who have issues that affect sleep and/or overall feelings of safety. Lodgings near the work area in times of travel are ideal. Alternately, stipends for taxi/uber and/or public transit are helpful and can take stress (physical, mental, or financial) off the artist.
Many professions have different expectations for compensation. Most of the vulnerable artists I know are not independently wealthy. Many of them have out-of-pocket costs to maintain their balance, and have obstacles that may limit their work options and income. Freelancers in particular are vulnerable to getting the sh!t end of any fallouts. Particularly when travel is involved, and a vulnerable artist risks changing their routine environment for one that an employer has created, I think it is fair to ask for an up-front deposit. This ensures that they are not going energetically into debt first, and risking loss that they might not be able recover from should a project be derailed or deemed unsuitable upon arrival. In accepting, you both enter a good faith agreement to do what is humanly (and financially) possible to honor the work.
SCHEDULE AS A DIALOGUE:
This is a broad concept that would require some pre-planning. Inviting a potentially vulnerable artist to give feedback on the overall schedule and how it meets their needs would be welcome. It may not always be possible, and it may not always change things, compromises are certainly expected and honored. Inviting them to view/ review gives them the opportunity to express issues that might come up based on timing, and gives both sides some agency and time to think through potential issues and solutions that might arise. It turns any “difference” into an opportunity to grow the process more organically together.
As a heads up on the travel side of things, it would be great to allow 1-3 days of adjustment in a new city before work begins. This allows a vulnerable artist to establish a healthy physical grounding (getting some extra rest, resetting any necessary practices, finding local food sources, etc) and allows them to scope out any potential hazards.
BALANCED PHYSICAL WORKLOAD WITH MODIFIABLE EXPECTATIONS:
This is very much tied to the previous concept. Vulnerable bodies may have different workload requirements. Things may fluctuate, and much energy is spent managing direct conditions, and/or (potentially) living in hypervigilance trying to identify what will happen next and how to deal with it. Ideally a group work schedule is built around a “reasonable expectation for normal bodies” with modifiable expectations and offerings for vulnerable artists.
In the layout of a day, speaking from personal perspective, I find mental energy and/or quiet physical practice best suited for the morning hours, and harder physical practice in the afternoon/ evening (though not too late, for those who have sleeping issues). Performance days of course would be modified. Energy may vary based on a person’s condition. Some people may only have X number of “good hours” in a day, and that would be good to know going in. Difference does not mean “negative”, it likely means the vulnerable artist has developed other skills to deal with their environment. For example, I write, administrate, and make costume in addition to perform, which has suited the fluctuations of my health over the last ten years and given me a well-rounded skill set.
It can be frustrating, but it is not controllable, that things may come up unexpectedly, interrupting anticipated timelines. *Hopefully* when this happens, there are tactics in place to handle it flexibly. Obviously compromises are expected. A supportive response for an expression of an unanticipated need (...and keep in mind, these “expressions of need” may be steeped in pain and not “neat”), would be to a.) not question its necessity, b) allow absence to be an anticipated variable and c) make adjustments/ modifications where it is possible to do so without compromising “too many” needs of the group (a grey scale).
Sometimes all that is needed to reset and re-join the group is a short retreat. This can ward off trauma reactions and other downward spirals, some physical, some emotional. Having a quiet place that an artist can rest, meditate, or privately loose their shit for a moment (whatever suits!), can allow them to keep going for the rest of the day. This room should have the possibility of some light and sound control (even if that just means an on/off switch for the lights, and earplugs or ipod). I like the idea of a pop-up tent that could be pitched in any workspace, but obviously a room would do ;)
SPACE TO NOT KNOW
In life, we cannot know all “the things”. The only constant is change, and no one knows better, perhaps, than the chronically vulnerable artist. In a hopeful world, we are all just learning and trying to better ourselves continually, understand our purpose, and do right by our relationships. This involves plenty of getting up, falling down, and getting back up, trying to improve upon our conditions and attempts. Know that everyone you support will be thankful, will live better for it, and will have more to give the world because of it.