Last spring, Tamara Rivera ’21 job shadowed SMG employee Maria Porquillo, who has worked for more than two decades at Olin Library. Once a week, Rivera met Porquillo at the library to observe her movements and rhythms, and ultimately choreographed a piece for Porquillo to perform on stage. This fall, students will participate in a similar multidisciplinary dance project titled “WesWorks.”
This October, Wesleyan will present a multidisciplinary dance project titled “WesWorks” that transforms the ordinary, mundane, and skillful movements of facilities and custodial employees into a performance accompanied by live, original music and stories told in the workers’ voices.
Led by Allison Orr, the choreographer and artistic director of Forklift Danceworks, a distinguished fellow in the College of Environment, “WesWorks” will teach students techniques of community art practice through performance.
In these Q&As, we speak with Forklift Danceworks employees and Wesleyan alumnae Gretchen LaMotte ’18 (click to read), choreographer and programs manager and Penny Snyder ’16 (click to read), communications manager for Forklift.
Penny Snyder ’16
“There’s nothing in the world like going to a Forklift show. It feels almost utopian … It’s really an emotional experience to me because there is a throughline of trust that flows between the choreographers, the performers, and the audience,” Snyder said.
Wesleyan Facilities, Custodial Staff Celebrated through Performance
On Oct. 14, Forklift Danceworks will present WesWorks, a performance that celebrates the skilled movement and the often unheard stories of the people whose work sustains the daily lives of the Wesleyan campus.
In this Q&A we speak with Penny Snyder ’16, who works as the communications manager for Forklift. At Wesleyan, she majored in English and received High Honors for her general scholarship thesis on art museums, architecture, and public space. She is an incoming graduate student at the Lyndon B. Johnston School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
Penny Snyder ’16
Q: Hello Penny! How were you first introduced to Forklift Danceworks?
PS: During my senior year at Wesleyan, I was a student member of the College of the Environment’s Think Tank on Urban Environments and Urban Engagement. There, I met Allison Orr and Clara Pinsky ’16 who made her senior thesis with Allison and the other student member of that think tank. As I was working on my thesis on urban development and public space at art museums, it was exhilarating to be in dialogue with people researching and working on the same issues in academia and the real world.
After working for a year in communications at a planning and design firm in Boston, I moved to Austin to work at a museum and started volunteering for Forklift and attending performances. I figured if I hung out for long enough Forklift might have room for me. Then Allison finally called me in December of 2019 and asked if I’d help out more officially!
Q: What personally made you want to stay involved with Forklift after Wesleyan?
PS: I always felt connected to Forklift’s belief that everyone is creative and that art can exist in many forms and settings outside of traditional arts institutions. I grew up in Oklahoma, a place where there’s not a ton of traditional (or even non-traditional) arts institutions, but nonetheless, is a place I’m deeply tied to and holds inspiration and potential for me.
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On Oct. 14, Forklift Danceworks will present WesWorks, a performance that celebrates the skilled movement and tells the often unheard stories of the people whose work sustains the daily lives of the Wesleyan campus.
Gretchen LaMotte ’18
In this Q&A we speak with Gretchen LaMotte ’18, choreographer and programs manager for Forklift Danceworks. At Wesleyan, LaMotte majored in science in society while working for the Center for the Arts’ Creative Campus Initiative, Zilkha Gallery, and the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance.
Q: Hi Gretchen! In October, Forklift will host the performance of “WesWorks,” featuring members of Wesleyan’s Physical Plant staff and campus custodians. Can you describe the process and the goal?
GL: “WesWorks” is about honoring, celebrating, and supporting the people whose work sustains campus life. The core of the process is relationship-building, which we do by spending time with partnering employees on the job, working alongside them as much as possible, and interviewing them about their work. Because we’re visitors to campus, we’re working to support students to be part of that process, and we’re lucky to be building on seven years of work between Physical Plant, students, and Forklift.
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