About NON:op Open Opera Works

MISSION + VALUES

NON:op Open Opera Works strengthens ties across communities by producing immersive, interactive, and multi-disciplinary performances and installations for virtual, indoor, and outdoor public spaces, pairing them with complementary discussions and salons.

Collaboration is fundamental to NON:op’s evolving programming and organizational vision as a facilitator for artistic experimentation and creativity. NON:op centers community in its non-hierarchical and non-directive organization structure, and reflecting its core values, deploys innovative artistic platforms where people may collectively work towards a more just society.

VISION

NON:op strives to be a leading, multi-arts presenting organization, embedded in Chicago communities through its commissioned artists and productions, while engaging with citizenry regionally as well as internationally.

The vision is dependent on valuing anti-racist work, on collaboration across the arts and with individuals and organizations external to the field, and on humility and recognition that understanding and radical access comes from the de-centering of our inherent decision-making power and resources.

PROGRAMMING INITIATIVES
  • Unheard Voices. Provides opportunities for meaningful participation in the creative process from all who care to participate. (Programs include Blood Lines, SAY THEIR NAMES, American Biography, L’sGA: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and The Gas Heart.)
  • Individual and Community Experiences. Enables long-term partnerships and collaborations in which artists and organizations work together to create opportunities for meaningful and sustainable impact in their communities. (Programs include Aural Architecture/Aural Neighborhoods, HEAR BELOW: Listening to Chicago Underground, and Viral Silence: Community Portraits in Response to COVID-19.)
  • Artist Commissions. Provides economic support to artists of color and with disabilities and to others who have been historically marginalized or devastated by recent government policies and the pandemic. (Projects with commissioned artists include Viral Silence: Community Portraits in Response to Covid-19 and L’sGA : Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.)
HISTORY

Composer Christophe Preissing gathered a group of like-minded artists to found NON:op Open Opera Works in 2012 to present non-linear, non-hierarchical stage works. NON:op’s early history included performing original opera (f(H2T) from here to there and Thunder, Perfect Mind); adaptations of works by Samuel Beckett, Gertrude Stein, and Sam Shepherd; installations at the Harold Washington Library (SUS: the long thin wire at EAR TAXI 2016) and Augustana Lutheran Church (Blood Lines, 2019); FEED Salons with food, beverages and performances; and workshops and panel discussions.

In 2017, NON:op began producing issue-oriented programs and diversifying its artist and audience base—partnering with Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Bodies of Work: A Network of Disability Art and Culture (BOW), and middle brow beer (donates 50% of profits to social causes). NON:op’s 2017-2018 season included COMING TOGETHER, a concert of four historical pieces with a documentary film and panel discussion on immigration, and ON THE CUSP, a panel discussion on disability representation in the arts and program featuring four theatre works from the historical avant-garde with performances by artists with and without disabilities. Beginning in 2019 NON:op has been dedicated to socially relevant programming with un/becoming: a pygmalion story, a staged performance that challenges the Pygmalion myth of what it means to be a woman; the installation Blood Lines: remembering the 1919 Chicago race riot; the HPSCHD@50: Every Neighborhood Is a Universe festival in 2020, and Viral Silence: community portraits in response to COVID-19.

In 2020, in the wake of the pandemic, NON:op shifted its public programming to a virtual and participatory model and created an online newsletter and platform, NON:onLINE. In response to the killing of George Floyd, we refocused our mission and vision around facilitating radical access, experimentation, and creativity across communities while working collectively towards a more just society. To that end, we reorganized our programming around three initiatives: Unheard Voices, Individual and Community Experiences, and Artist Commissioning Program. With a focus on artists of color and artists with disabilities, we commissioned six Illinois artists/teams to work with and within their communities to create new work in response to COVID-19 and three artists of color to respond to the systemic injustice against Black citizens. We are working in partnership with Northeastern Illinois University interns, Northwestern University volunteers, and community members on SAY THEIR NAMES—a project that seeks to identify and humanize Black Americans killed by law enforcement in the United States since 1919—and with Roosevelt University on L’s GA : Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address—a project that commissions new responses to Sal Martirano’s L’s GA and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. During the pandemic we adapted Aural Architecture, our partnership with Open House Chicago, and Hear Below: Listening to Chicago Underground, our Chicago Pedway soundwalk partnership with Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology, to respond to Covid-19 precautions.

In 2021 we began producing hybrid in-person / live-streamed events including three Viral Silence programs (Carbondale, Urbana, and Chicago Illinois) and On the Cusp, a hybrid in-person / live-streamed event exploring “otherness” and power (September 2021). We continue to produce hybrid events in 2022 including Hear Below: My Pedway Soundwalk (five small-group, in-person guided soundwalks), a second season of Viral Silence programming (Chicago and Bloomington Illinois), guided and self-guided soundwalks as part of our Aural Neighborhoods partnership with Open House Chicago, and a statewide series of concerts of responses to L’sGA : Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, created and performed by artists of color in November.

NON:op will continue to produce hybrid in-person / live-streamed events and participatory projects that enable our audiences to choose how they wish to engage with us and that enable NON:op to reach a broader, more inclusive audience.