NET/TEN Shareback: Ninth Planet and Michael O'Bryan-Community Arts and Public Health: A Report

Ninth Planet and Michael O'Bryan

NET/TEN 2018-19 Exchange

June 24, 2020

  • #ninth planet
  • #michael obryan
  • #homeworld

Ninth Planet (Philadelphia, PA) consulted with cultural strategist and youth advocate Michael O’Bryan (Philadelphia, PA) to design a new model of community responsive programming. Using Homeworld, a performance experience for 3-to-18-month-old babies and their caregivers, they reimagined their work to extend beyond a singular artistic experience and create potential for long-lasting community building opportunities.


Community Arts and Public Health

In late 2017, Ninth Planet began an endeavor that would change the course of our artistic practice for the better. We started with a simple prompt: what would it look like to create an immersive performance for babies? Out of this question came a million conversations, a million more questions, one show and a nearly three-year process that brings us to this report.

In October of 2018, after nearly a year of fundraising and experimenting, we premiered our original show Homeworld, for babies 3 - 18 months and their caregivers in Philadelphia for free with over 100 families. Every aspect of the show was built in collaboration with a team of babies and caregivers who helped steer our artistic impulses on choreography, design, facilitation and more. But along with the show's many successes, came certain limitations as well. Our audiences were majority white, largely middle to upper class, and comprised of those who had the resources of time to find out about our performance without much marketing or notice. As a group of performance makers who hold identities across the spectrum of race, gender, ability and sexuality we knew that our work with Homeworld could be even more potent if we were able to bring the show to communities who are left unconsidered in public programming for families.

As a company, we saw that the need for work of this type was great and were given much helpful feedback from our audiences about how we could make the experience of Homeworld safer, more inviting, and more accessible to all families.

Ninth Planet Co-Artistic Directors, Sam Tower and Nia Benjamin, began an expansive plan to center the work on communities we know are not given access to free and engaging performance experiences in our city.
Our goal was to focus on providing Homeworld to families who are low- income or experiencing poverty,
to those dealing with house insecurity or houselessness, and to pivot our audience to be made up of a majority of non-white families. Through conversations with trusted friends and educators, we were immediately brought to the public health sector to begin imagining partnerships.

Click below to download "Community Arts and Public Health" as a PDF: