When we first showcased Tara Rynders as a Colorado Creative in the spring of 2014, she was pioneering the realm of immersive performance with You & Me, the most intimate of micro-experiences, in which audience members moved alone among stations to meet one on one with a multi-disciplinary stable of artists, healers and performers before all coming together at the end for a community meal. Then, Rynders balanced life as a dancer, event-maker and as a committed registered nurse; now she’s added the role of parent to that equation, but has still found time to blend her many stages of practice for The Clinic: First, Do No Harm, a new immersive vehicle for sharing incandescent moments of understanding with an audience. We asked Rynders to explain what the new performance, which opens October 18 at Rose Medical Center, is all about. She answers that question and a few more for the Colorado Creatives Redux series.
If you died tomorrow, what or whom would you come back as?
A big colorful bird with bright, bright feathers that fall out easily so as I flew over my home, my children would find my feathers and create something beautiful.
How has your creative life grown or suffered since you last answered the CC questionnaire?
Grown and suffered: These two are so intertwined for me. I look back and feel so much joy from giving birth with my partner, Tim Rynders, to our incredible twins, Soren and Femka, who are now three. I look back with sadness, regret, frustration on my brother’s passing; he suffered from mental illness and physical illness, and died way too soon. I am beyond grateful for my incredible calling as a supervising nurse in the infusion center at Rose Medical Center. Every day I meet incredibly brave hearts, fierce hearts, young and old hearts, hearts who are ready to die and hearts who would give anything to keep living. I am daily reminded of my calling to sit with these incredible beings on their journey to wherever they are going. I am reminded of the privilege it is to be with someone in this way. I am reminded of the gift it is to be a nurse.
My creative life has shifted into the constant pull between making art and motherhood and realizing at times that this is actually the same thing, just materializing in a new way. The struggle is real, and my energy feels fractured as an artist, mother, dancer, nurse and professor. At the end of the day I know without a doubt that the most important thing in my life is my family. I also know how important it is to show my children through example how to be a passionate, creative, committed human being that tends to oneself and the world, alongside consistently showing up daily for them through unconditional love.
It’s a challenging time for artists in the metro area, who are being priced out of the city by gentrification and rising rents. What can they do about it, short of leaving?
We need housing, affordable artist housing and studio space. I would like to have every developer who tears down a home and rebuilds to give some percent of overall profit to funding artist housing and artistic projects in Denver.
As a creative, what’s your vision for a more perfect Denver?
For me, in my limited perspective, in order to create a more perfect Denver, we need more diversity. We need diversity in schools, in government, in galleries, in friendships, in playmates for our children, in leadership, in places of power and authority, in performance, in our police system — everywhere. I am so tired of staring at the same faces every time we ask for change. Those faces are not diverse, and they do not represent our country. We must all vote and create this change so we can change the narrative and change the faces who are making decisions on our behalf.
What’s your dream project?
My dream project is this right now — the living, the creating, the grieving, the mothering, the sobbing, the laughing, the dancing, the falling. It is all of it rolled up into getting woken up early in the morning by screaming children when I barely slept the night before, the kisses that come alongside the tender I love you, the fear of not being enough, and the joy of remembering I am more than enough and I have everything I could have ever hoped for. It is easy to forget that these moments are continually creating my dream project, and this is what I have always hoped for. Thank you, Susan, for reminding me.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
The performance First, Do No Harm is the beginning of a yearlong art-based residency at Rose Medical Center, supported by the Arts in Society Grant. I feel so grateful for this grant that has enabled me to bring both my art and nursing together.
What is First, Do No Harm all about?
First, Do No Harm is an immersive experience that shares love, loss, life and grief through the lens of nurses and patients' family members. This performance kick-starts The Clinic, which involves using the arts with nurses to help address self-care, compassion fatigue, burnout and creating authentic connections between nurses and patients.
First, Do No Harm was written by Edith Weiss and is co-directed by myself, Lia Bonfilio (NYC) and Jadd Tank (Houston), with original music compositions by Jake Wherry. This project has by grown leaps and bounds since its first inception in my mind two years ago. We now have over fifteen local artists, dancers, musicians and actors performing and collaboratively creating together. It is incredible to have a vision that is much greater than myself and to watch as all the parts start to come together. Each artist brings their own gifts and talents, and the result is something I could have never done on my own.
I remember first realizing I was supposed to bring art into the hospital setting after a hospital visit I had as a patient with an ectopic pregnancy. I learned so much as a patient, and I desired to do whatever I could to help create stronger connections between patients and nurses, because this relationship was what carried me through one of the scariest moments of my life. I remember at one point passing out in my hospital room and yet still being able to hear everything that was happening to me. During this, my nurse grabbed my hand, whispered in my ear and said, "It’s okay, I am here with you and you are going to be okay.” I remember thanking her in my mind for remembering me, because I was so scared and I couldn't speak.
Nurses are so vital to our health care system and vital to the health of human beings. The touch, the gaze, the depth of knowledge of the disease process explained, reassurance — all of this creates healing. This show is important to me because I believe it gives voice to nurses and seeks to remind us all that death doesn’t need an invitation, but neither does living.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I am inspired greatly by my fellow Colorado women artists who are using their art to create social change and supporting other women as they speak their truth. These women are all my favorites and have all taught me what it looks like to be a feminist and a woman with a strong artistic voice. I feel so lucky to live in such close proximity to them: Laura Ann Samuelson, Michelle Ellsworth, Nikki Pike, Louise Martorano, Edith Weiss, Laura Shill, Kate Speer, Lauren Beale, Jess Webb, Kat Gurley, Angie Simmons, Katie Elliot, Brooke McNamara, Beth Osnes, Erica Randall, Libby Barbee and Ondine Geary.
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Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Women are in the midst of creating a culture shift in response to our current events. I believe this creation is being led by strong, fierce women who are ready to create change and are standing together to make this shift happen. I believe the arts are our biggest tools to do this. I believe it will go beyond women getting noticed and will be about changing the narrative and giving voice to marginalized humans in all sectors and communities, and bringing these voices into places of power and authority. Women are showing up, and midterms will mark the beginning of this power shift. A lot is shifting already, and we are only getting started.
The Clinic: First, Do No Harm runs Thursdays through Sundays October 18 through 28, at 7 p.m. nightly at Rose Medical Center, 4567 East Ninth Avenue, Cherry Street entrance; find tickets, $35, at brownpapertickets.com, and find more information online.
Learn more about Tara Rynders online.