Bethany Lacktorin Q&A

May 16, 2022
Bethany Lacktorin is a remarkably versatile artist.

“I’ve come to admit that there’s a certain kind of exhilaration in learning how to express myself in new ways. It’s like discovering a new color and immediately, chaotically adding it to a palette of creative possibilities.”

You grew up attending plays at Little Theatre in New London and now you’re the chair of the Crow River Players, which runs the theatre. How has the community responded to your vision for the theatre?

Since forming a new board in September, 2019 I’ve been surrounded by amazing support and felt so much appreciation from the community for the work we’ve been doing. Everything from unexpected individual donations, impromptu volunteers, discounted and sometimes donated construction and carpentry work and lots of smiles, excitement and encouragement. We knew there’d be a period of transition and a fair amount of rebranding to do in the process. We’ve put a lot of energy into moving the theater forward as an accessible creative space that helps artists experiment, engage different audiences and build new relationships.

You do so many things, from putting on performance art installations to playing music to producing creative work in multiple media. Is it the constant discovery that you love about being an artist?

I think I’ve come to admit that there’s a certain kind of exhilaration in learning how to express myself in new ways. It’s like discovering a new color and immediately, chaotically adding it to a palette of creative possibilities. I’m no expert in any one of those that you mentioned. I’ve been remarkably lucky to have met and worked with artists who are indeed masters in their fields; who have acted as mentors, cheerleaders and advocates. It’s the discovery for sure, but it’s also the friendships and connections that develop when you can work in a safe space where the vulnerability of not knowing is OK.

You’ve put on work in some major art cities, including Prague. How are they similar to New London in being accepting of and supporting art?

Minnesota is such a leader in supporting artists through artist services, funding programs and residencies. Support is becoming more accessible for a growing range of artistic fields, levels, processes and projects. But to so many who do not work in the arts, art is still not as valued as a necessary part of life. We are required to find ways to translate what we do in terms that cater to a value system that wasn’t built to recognize connection as having value without it resulting in a tangible, sellable product. As a foreigner in Prague I was not able to directly access their artist support system. I received support through partnerships or collaborative agreements. So I can’t really analyze the similarities or differences in their system. But I can say I never had an argument about the value of everyday art experiences. It was not even a conversation. I was privy to more talk about the work itself and how to advance and explore in more depth the concepts you’re working with. Another thing I noticed while living in Prague was how it was no big deal that I called myself an artist. It carried no pretense. It was a job. Artists were more comfortable with calling themselves artists. But really, it’s difficult to make a comparison. Prague is over 1,600 years old with a population of over 2 million people while my rural home is 150 years old with maybe 1,400 people.

Your work My Ocean has you leading audiences on an hour-long walk through a curated environment of sound, live music, and storytelling through the Ordway Prairie Nature Preserve in Pope County, where you grew up. Have you always been drawn to place-based art?

Yes. Whether I knew it by that name or not I counted on the uniqueness of a location as a contributing factor in the work. I would write songs about home wherever home happened to be. I did sound design for film for a long time and I think that practice tuned my attentions early on. But that was just a skin deep technical level of place. And that work was mostly just me in a room by myself for hours. When I started making performances at home, outside on the prairie, the layers of everything in just one square foot of the place was overwhelming.

What has been your favorite  performance so far at the newly conceived Little Theatre?

I love them all equally. Truly. But I think the performances that have been loved by many was “The Autopsy of A Cyclops” by puppet artist Steve Ackerman. And radio theatre play,  “100 Years Ago Today” by Maria Novak, who we will be hosting again this fall.

Are you back in MN for a while?

I sure am.

What is next for you?

Right now I’m in a cohort of local instigators who are designing a New London Civic Artist in Residency program. Based on a pilot program spearheaded by the Department of Public Transformation in Granite Falls, the idea is to embed an artist in our local government who would collaborate on projects that address city-related initiatives and engage residents in planning processes. I’m hoping to be the lucky one who gets to work with the artists and build the program.