Abu Dhabi: Empowering women through the arts

Abu Dhabi - Linsey Bostwick, Director of Artistic Planning, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, talks about female participation in the cultural field and creating art in these turbulent times.


Purva Grover

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Photo/Ryan Lim
Photo/Ryan Lim

Published: Tue 20 Apr 2021, 5:57 PM

She’s not afraid to call a spade a spade, and on top of that, she’s all about solutions to fix what needs attention when it comes to female participation and representation in the fields of culture and art. Linsey Bostwick, Director of Artistic Planning, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), joined the staff of the Arts Center after many years of producing works in New York City and internationally. She has worked on the producing team of Pomegranate Arts with artists such as Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, Lucinda Childs, Robert Wilson and Taylor Mac. She is a long time creative/producing collaborator with Big Art Group and has worked with Cynthia Hopkins, Susan Marshall, Nina Winthrop among other artists. Bostwick has been published in the Yale Theatre Journal and the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, among others. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington in Theatre and a Master of Fine Arts from Brooklyn College in Interactive Performance and Media Arts.

The Arts Center at NYUAD has supported women in the arts since its inception in 2015 and continues to celebrate the work of female artists. And Linsey has been playing a prominent role not only on stage but also behind the scenes. She is extremely keen to increase women’s participation in the cultural field and as a champion of arts provide opportunities to the artists to express and celebrate their female identity. She is keenly involved in the female-focused programming at the Centre, and in a conversation with City Times, she throws light on the female perspective of arts.

Women’s participation in the cultural field is an important barometer to measure female empowerment. Your views?

The arts have always been a ripe space for change and growth, but also an organic space for catharsis and expanding our capacity for compassion and empathy. Having women at the forefront of the cultural sector also means that women will have a voice in the vision and the funding allocation which helps to expand the perspectives and scope of the field.

Can arts be a form of expression for women and girls celebrating their female identity?

Yes, the arts can create a space for women and girls to celebrate their identity as well as to explore what it means to be their authentic self, but it’s also important to note that female artists should have space to create work that explores all their creative ideas, not just identity-specific themes.

Tell us more about the female-focused programming at the Arts Center and how the University supports female artists and students.

At the Arts Center, we have a commitment to female-led projects as well as artists from all of the communities that make up NYUAD and the UAE, generally. Our support involves not just offering opportunities and a venue for these artists, but also enveloping them and their ideas into a residency model, which involves having the artists engage with our community in an educational setting. We also offer the expertise of our technical team who can support the artists in bringing their vision into a reality, especially emerging and student artists.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 was ChooseToChallenge. How did you seek to do the same?

This is a great initiative because during this time not only did we see the performing arts field go through a major crisis but also elevated social movements that reverberated around the world. For myself, I chose to challenge how I can use my privilege as a leader in the art field to find spaces to share this platform with other people and their work to innovate and build community.

We’re living in an age of anxiety; how do artists keep creating in this era?

Artists must go on creating, they have to; this is what makes them artists. For those of us working on the programming and presenting side, we must continue to find platforms to support and foster this creation despite the context we are experiencing so that we can discover ways to confront and move through this moment and come out stronger.

Artistes are often asked to work for exposure, haggled with to sell pieces at a discount, or even told that ‘art is a plan B hobby choice’ and not a profession to pursue. How do we fix that?

Those of us in the art in the art world, especially in leadership positions, have a responsibility to support artists and other organisers across the fields to think about how important it is to pay artists fairly and to look at their labour especially during this time when work is experienced virtually. How do we work to be transparent with artists, how can we clarify the commitments that we’re all making? How do we help define what is fair pay? These are questions that we take seriously at the Arts Center. For emerging artists, it’s important to remember that there is no one path to being a successful artist nor one correct timeline and where you are now is not forever. My career has shifted and transformed many times over the last twenty years and I am so thankful for that evolution.

Three female stereotypes she wishes to fight

• That mothers can’t be fierce.

• That women’s empowerment is only about women.

• That women’s empowerment looks the same for all women.

“You deserve a seat at the table. If you don’t know that you deserve it, find people in your life that remind you that you do. Once you’re there, look around to see who is missing from that table and create pathways to get them there.” - Linsey’s message to women

Watch out!

Rooftop Rhythms is the Middle East’s longest-running open mic night. Join leading and up-and-coming spoken word artists, poets, and musicians presenting original material. Experience culturally diverse voices with a line-up that features open mic nights and poetry slams.

When: Friday, April 30 @ 8pm

Where: Streaming on NYUAD’s Facebook, YouTube, and nyuad-artscetner.org

The Arts Center is home to NYU Abu Dhabi’s Theatre, Music, Film & New Media, Visual Arts, and Interactive Media departments, bringing all the arts under one roof. Its resources include a complex of theatres and performance venues, a project space gallery, rehearsal rooms, film editing studios, classrooms, and workshop spaces.

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