November is a month for gratitude, so we wanted to take a moment to recognize our many amazing co-creators. Although Dot Connector Studio is a business, it’s also a network—rich with former and future clients and creative conspirators. 

Sometimes we work on projects and ideas for years before they see the light of day, or mature into a production or a service we can offer. We trade time and expertise, cheer one another on, share observations, and edit one another’s articles and grant proposals. As people dedicated to social change and creative exploration, we know that times are tough, the media and arts industries we work in are often in crisis, and new interventions and operating modes are needed. All too often, the work we feel in our guts to be the most vital doesn’t fit into a traditional business model or discipline. 

That’s why, over the past year, our founder Jessica Clark and Associate Director Evan Walsh have been incubating a set of collaborations that we hope will serve as proofs of concept for more to come. Several complementary themes thread through: the importance of self-care and discovery, the need to set intentional agreements with one another that run counter to the often extractive and relentless logic of capital, and the pressing importance and creative vigor of interdisciplinarity—a difficult practice to resource in a world of silos. 

Emergent Expressions

In the spring, Evan and Jessica joined forces with Bristol Baughan and Robert Sinclair to create the Emergent Expression(s) Fiction Writing Program, which took place online between January and May. It was born out of Bristol’s personal desire to find an alternative to an MFA program that combined writing, futurism, personal transformation, and regeneration. She explains: “Unlike many more traditional writing classes, this one was not critique-style, but rather focused on the practice of presence, noticing what wants to emerge (creatively), showing up for whatever that is, healing the relationship to my creative self (in community), and creating a writing practice to cultivate craft and live this as a lifestyle.”

We experimented with the class itself as an example of an emergent expression. One element was “The Creative Tree” artifact exercise created by Evan and Rob, which was considered a highlight by many participants. Together, we explored the roots, soil, and leaves of our creative foundations. Bristol then used a version of this tree in a workshop at the HATCH conference at Caux Palace in Switzerland around the Inner Development Goals. Overall, the class was a life-changer for several of the participants, who reported quitting jobs, starting new ones, kicking off or revisiting writing projects, and making more time for their own creative processes. Learn more here.

The Interstitium

Do you ever feel as though the work you do is crucial but impossible to explain? That’s what Jessica was discussing with social entrepreneur Jennifer Brandel a few years back when they alighted on the metaphor of “the interstitium.” At that point, this newly developed facet of our biology was just becoming visible: a fractal, honeycombed network that runs throughout the body, which moves more fluid than the vascular system. What made it suddenly detectable? Literally: a fresh way of looking—a new sort of microscope that allows researchers to study living tissue.

What if our social systems work in the same way, lubricated by people who serve as connectors, flowing between organizations and ways of knowing, unrecognized by traditional arbiters of career and status? Struck by this insight, Jenn and Jessica continued to pull the thread, eventually ending up in conversation with the scientists who had first spotted this new structure. Learn more about Jenn’s journey to flesh out this concept—and what it teaches us about how “interstitionaries” shape our systems—on an upcoming episode of Radiolab and in her forthcoming piece in Orion.

The Salon

Led by Dot Connector’s Evan Walsh in collaboration with Pola Pucheta and Irynka Hromotska, this collective centers 50+ emerging LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and women-identifying visual artists, documentarians, facilitators, cultural organizers, producers, editors, educators, art administrators, and futurists. The Salon is committed to intentional community-building, abundant care, authentic connection, and renewal. Governed by a spirit of reciprocity and deep inquiry into the interplay between the creative, spiritual, and emotional selves, members embolden one another to stay true to an artist’s compass to navigate our fractured society. 

Salon members first gathered virtually during the early stages of Omicron in 2022 as a response to the convergence of the spiraling isolation of the ongoing pandemic. We were contending with the increasing pressures on creatives to monetize their spiritual, emotional, and creative labor to survive in our society. How might we break free from the ways in which national and global crises have completely shut us out from our creative desires and energy? The group’s call to gather is inspired by Toni Morrison’s concept of the “Clearing”—“a healing space […] to come together in order to provide comfort for [our] trauma.”

In 2022, Salon members created a communal collage, above, that mapped what inspires them to create art, what moves them closer to themselves, and what they might need to let go of.

The Salon’s goals this year include:

  • Constructing new frameworks and shared language on how emerging queer, BIPOC, and women-identifying artists aspire to relate to each other as a field of emerging practitioners—grounded in our humanity, not in our job titles or CVs
  • Embracing creative collaboration
  • Practicing community-weaving in a period of incredible volatility and uncertainty
  • Reframing record-keeping and archiving not as a process of extraction or exploration—but rather as an intentional, communal process of sensemaking, storytelling, and pattern-finding