Grants to Support Interdisciplinary "Served" Project at Williams College

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., February 24, 2017—Williams College today announced two recent grants that will be used to support the creation and presentation of a 2018 dance project featuring workers from Williams College Dining Services.

A $25,000 Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts will be used to bring students and the Dining Services workers together in the creation and performance of a new work. Served will be a dance-theater merger based upon the movements of Dining Services workers, and will be performed by the workers themselves. Williams students will also help create a toolkit for other artists/presenters interested in using the Served process to create their own community-based artworks.

Served also received a $44,000 grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project. The NEFA grant will support creation of a new Served work at Williams, and to create similar works with employees at partnering universities, including Wake Forest University and the University of Houston. Forklift Danceworks received an additional $18,000 toward the premier of Served at Williams through a further NEFA Production Residency Award.

Served is a creative collaboration between Williams and Forklift Danceworks, an Austin, Texas-based modern dance company best known for its community-based dance projects that involve people from all backgrounds. One of its best-known projects, featured in the documentary film “Trash Dance,” involved a dance choreographed with Austin sanitation workers and their trucks.

“We are thrilled to pilot this project at Williams College with Dining Services,” said Allison Orr, Forklift’s artistic director. “It is an honor to work with the Williams community to feature the hard working and dedicated cooks, dishwashers, and other staff whose work sustains the campus.”

The project aims to broaden community awareness of the contributions of Dining Services workers on campus, demonstrate innovative art-making beyond traditional theater settings, make visible the often invisible labor of employees whose work supports campus, create a deeper understanding and more meaningful relationships between students, faculty and staff, and create a greater sense of community on campus.

Served will feature lighting and set design by Stephen Pruitt and an original score by Graham Reynolds.

“What’s so exciting about this project is the way in which it engages art to strengthen our community, to inspire these new forms of self-expression from our dedicated Dining staff,” said Stephen Klass, vice president for campus life. “It will be incredibly energizing to watch them expand on the crucial and often creative work of their jobs that sustains the campus. What an elegant way for all of us to learn from each other and about each other throughout this unique process.”

Research on the project started this January, during Williams Winter Study 2017, when three students job-shadowed Dining Services workers to learn more about their lives and work. That research will help form the basis for the project, which will bring Orr, Forklift’s Associate Choreographer Krissie Marty, and Assistant Clara Pinsky to campus for a multiple-visit residency. During their residency Marty and Pinsky will teach a Winter Study 2018 course in which Williams students, faculty, and staff will design and rehearse the Served dance with Dining Services employees. The debut performance is tentatively planned for early February 2018.


Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.