I’m Sarah Muehlbauer. I am an artist, writer, and performer, and I’m here to talk to you about a contemporary circus project called OAK.

Oak combines elements of death defying spectacle with visual art and storytelling. It’s a physical and spiritual journey narrative using movement and abstraction to tell a universal story. I’ll be performing solo, using aerial rope, hand-balancing, and a custom made Treadwall (a perpetual bouldering wall) designed for projection and staging—combined with speaking and live drawing.

The piece has come along in stages over the last year—and it’s reached the point for me to pull together installation elements—that means covering studio space, equipment costs, training time, and money to pay my collaborators—since I will be working with musicians and a projection artist to create a truly original piece. It’ll premier in Philly because of my gallery connections there, but ultimately is designed to travel to theaters, galleries, and alternative venues throughout the country.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT??

The arts in America are, like almost every field, going through rough times. This acts doubly for our place in contemporary circus—since we are still bursting onto the scene without the history, training, and recognized support other countries have for creating theatrical work of this nature.

Opportunities are rare and competitive, and often pigeon-holed to a nightclub or corporate event markets. It’s much riskier, but ultimately sooooo important, to establish more than a spectacular view of what circus artists can say with their bodies, but what they speak with their hearts.

Our field is hurting for venues and cultural recognition to expose the medium, and through many conversations I’ve had with curators, all that it takes to change that is A.) high quality, boundary-pushing work, and B.) someone who knows both fields and who can flesh out the relationship so that both sides and agendas are considered and complementary. With my background in Fine Art, I am uniquely positioned to do so.

What I have also been chipping away at, is that in addition to my own work, I have the ability to serve as a PRODUCER and CRITICAL WRITER in this field, leading others to opportunity. This all stems directly from my schooling and experience as an independent artist, and it’s what is being asked of me right now.

THE ORIGINS OF OAK: 

Oak is a project I arrived at after taking the last year to travel and research, looking for my place in the contemporary scene. It began in a notebook in Philadelphia, evolved through training in Montreal (the world circus capital), through research in the UK and south France with some of the most cutting-edge practitioners world-wide, Circa Contemporary Circus. Then it was back to Philly to work with a local director, and some time off to train, plan, and process—a bit of a sabattical in the Midwest.

I am finally ready to launch into full-development, and having just come off the Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival and the discussions led by Circus Now—I see see clearly the vital importance of establishing the connection between Circus and Visual Art. It’s a doorway that’s open, but has to be walked through, and I believe I can create the path.

Please consider helping make this project possible. It means quite a lot to me and the other artists involved—but it also breaks ground in establishing a sustainable future for US circus.

For more information and to donate see Sarah’s kickstarter campaign here.