What are the elements of a really great collaboration?
This is a question that the team at Cultivation Center has been exploring recently. And you can bet we were delighted when we realized that our friends at The Catamounts: Theatre for the Adventurous Palate have developed a recipe for highly effective (not to mention delicious) collaboration through their FEED events- offered three times a year in Boulder County. As Amanda Berg Wilson, “the Cats” co-founder and artistic director confesses:There is no easy way to describe FEED. On the surface it looks like dinner theater. But dinner theater it is definitely not. These collaborative happenings – between The Catamounts company performers, local farmers, food artisans, brewers and distillers – is more a mysterious play for each of our senses that leaves the audience fully satiated. Collaboration at this caliber is art. One that the Cats have honed through confidence in their process. As Amanda describes it, “ a real dance of all the elements (of collaboration) that moves beyond basic connection.”
But how does a self-described “tiny organization” wearing “many hats” through “only so many hours in the day” (sound familiar?) create such magic with others in similar situations? “You can feel when collaboration doesn’t happen in an integrated way,” shares Amanda. Over the years, she’s made notes and passed along a handful of tips. Lucky us.
1. When determining who they want to work with, the Cats look for creative alignment. “If we get a strong sense that a potential collaborator is really excited by the possibility of doing something different, like Ozuke” says Amanda, “that’s who we want to work with.”
2. The Cats know that they need to be flexible. Amanda shares, “ Collaborating with people in different industries causes their schedule to become part of our schedule. Sometimes we’re bound to the timeline for a great Wild Woods brew.”
3. Being clear about expectations up front is key. “We want everyone to bring their A-game and excitement to FEED projects,” professes Amanda. “We ask for this in our initial approach to a new collaborator so they can determine if they’re up for that or not from the get-go. And if someone isn’t a good fit, that’s okay!”
4.The Cats have built a template for effective collaboration through their learning curve. “ I love how we build a shared vocabulary over time,” says Amanda. “ Pretty soon you start to see a collaborator likeHeirloom Food Truck become so excited about a project that they come to the table with ideas driven by topical research that they took on themselves.”
5. Stand strong behind your idea when assessing potential collaborators. “FEED productions requires us to work in a way that is cool, creative and HARD,” says Amanda, “ we uphold these ethics so that people vet themselves. Because of this, finding aligned collaborators has become less trial and error over time.”
These are just a few insights provided to us by Amanda showing how FEED collaborations are “revelatory in a way that good art can be”. If you want to experience FEED for yourself, check out WILDtheir upcoming event at Lone Hawk Farm featuring foraged foods created by Hunt & Gather Wildcrafted Foods. We look forward to raising our glasses with you.