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Photo: Kyoung’s Pacific Beat’s PILLOWTALK (The Tank, Jan. 2018). Photo: Walter Wlodarczyk

ILI Fellow Kyoung Park guest blogs on Arts Leadership and the future of his own practice.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Arts Leadership. Last year, I realized Kyoung’s Pacific Beat has outgrown its current limits and that I need to re-imagine its future for the long-term. It was easy for me to imagine what we’d strive for creatively, but I was stumped by what it’d look like to paint that picture in numbers and what it’d take to make it happen. I think of my mentor, Lee Breuer, who started as a playwright and director, and did not return to his creative writing until his 70’s, having lived a life in the theater teaching and directing. I think of Abe Rybeck, who reached out during a moment of crisis to tell me that he, too, started as an artist and then spent a lifetime building an institution.

Immigrant Poets in New York (Performance Project @ University Settlement, Nov. 2014). Photo: Zach Williams
I think of the non-profit industrial complex and what it does to our path as leaders in the field. I think of the way red tape and financial metrics hinder our access to resources to thrive. I think of the way I spent 15 years without a Greencard, watching an entire industry and my peers flourish within a system I was granted little to no access. I think of the independent arts scene in which I learned to make the work because there are alternatives to the non-profit arts world.

The Creative Team of Kyoung’s Pacific Beat’s PILLOWTALK (The Tank, Jan. 2018)
​I think of Nello McDaniel and Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York supporting me build our organization from idea to company based on our ensemble’s artistic practice. Letting the way we do our work inform the way we organize. I think of how my community-organizing background led to the question of whether our company was an arts organization or a movement, because it kind of looked like the latter.

Wilfredo Hernandez and Kyoung H. Park at The Field’s Activate Equity (Gibney Dance, Mar. 2018)
I think of the way The Field Leadership Fund Fellowship provided me with the financial and arts management resources we needed to learn how to develop a business practice and implement a multi-year strategic plan for the first time, finding partners, supporters, and funding in a way I didn’t think it was possible. I remember executing the plan after the fellowship/funding period was over, being like: we are approaching the finish line but financially still remaining exactly where we were to begin with. And that’s when I was like: what’s the point?

Kyoung’s Pacific Beat’s PILLOWTALK at the Consortium of Asian-American Theaters and Artists “Radical Acts” Festival (Victory Gardens, Chicago, Aug. 2018)
I’m now in two new leadership programs thinking about what’s next. As part of my Association of Performing Arts Professionals Leadership Fellowship Program, I finished Ken Foster’s book, Arts Leadership, Creating Sustainable Arts Organizations, and find myself delighted to see Ken’s approach to arts leadership going back to the work of Nello. I’m also excited to be in an arts leadership program that discusses practice and commerce while acknowledging how globalization, business management, living systems, and systems thinking need to be integrated into arts leadership and arts organizational theory. I like that being an arts leader is a philosophical inquiry. I like it that being an arts leader is learning to be a leader in your community.

“Feminist Perspectives on Building Intersectional Communities,” A PILLOWTALK Long-Table (Victory Gardens, Chicago, Aug. 2018)
Through Intercultural Leadership Institute’s Fellowship program, I’m in a learning pod where we’re examining alternatives to the 501c3 model. Because historically it was designed for the privileged. Because over time it has proven its limitations. Because I am, and forever will be, an immigrant, queer Asian Latino artist, whose work serves the community we belong to, and not the privileged, generalized “mainstream” that expects to be served in five million dollar, non profit institutions.

Kyoung’s Pacific Beat’s Homebase (Brooklyn, Feb. 2019)
But I imagine what it’d be like to have those kinds of resources. To imagine a future of abundance where you can pursue your loftiest ambitions with the kind of financial support that has been historically denied to you. To have space for not just your art practice, but your community. To not imagine a world, but build a world. To not just write it in words, because it has always cost nothing to write them, but to literally go to the earth and lay the foundations of the home you imagined when you first got started.

Kyoung H. Park was born in Santiago, Chile and is the first Korean playwright from Latin America to be produced and published in the United States. As Artistic Director of Kyoung’s Pacific Beat, he writes and directs devised theater by collaborating with artists, non-artists, and local communities to rigorously explore sources of violence, transforming personal and communal experiences of oppression into peace messages made public through performance. Kyoung is author of DISORIENTED (“Kyoung’s most intensely personal play”—American Theatre Magazine), TALA (“an epic tale of the historical, hysterical, and personal” —New York Theater Review), PILLOWTALK (“very much of this moment”—The New York Times) and many short plays including MINA, which is published in Seven Contemporary Plays from the Korean Diaspora in the Americas by Duke University Press. Kyoung has been a resident artist at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, BRIC Arts Media, Performance Project @ University Settlement, and is a member of the Ma-Yi Writer’s Lab, NYTW Usual Suspect, and co-founder of The Sol Project. He is recipient of numerous fellowships including the 2018-2020 APAP Leadership Fellowship, 2017 Creative Mellon Fellowship, 2015-2017 Field Leadership Fund Fellowship, 2014 Target Margin Theater Inst. for Theater-Making Fellowship, 2009-2011 Columbia University Dean’s Fellowship, and was a 2010 UNESCO-Aschberg Laureate. Kyoung has received grants from the Arvon Foundation (UK), GK Foundation (South Korea), Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant, TCG Global Connections, and has been a grant panelist for the NEA, TCG, and ART/NY. Kyoung currently serves in the Dramatist Guild’s Devised Theater Committee and holds an MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University.