Seeing as this year marks the 10th edition of the TBA Festival, we’ve developed a quite the bookshelf of all of our past guidebooks. Lining them all up shows just how much we’ve changed over the years, and how much the Festival format has come into its own. Given this big anniversary, we set out to make a few changes to the iconic book—updates to keep things fresh while staying true to the little guide we all know and love. We figured it might be fun to walk you through some of these changes (a guided tour of the guide, if you will), so first let’s look behind the scenes and see how contemporary art sausage gets made.

Design happens hand-in-hand with programming as our artistic staff make the first decisions about artists at the end of the previous year. Conversations begin early by looking at past books, programs for peer Festivals around the world, and the particular mix of artists coming to this next TBA. Once we’ve got a scope of the initial projects, we start contacting artists and writing text as early as February, working over the next few months through dozens of revisions, hundreds of emails, piles of printouts, and self-made dummy copies to nail down the exact details we want on each and every page. We design on a grand scale, imagining holographic covers, heat-sensitive inks, tear-out pages and so forth, before remembering that we work at a nonprofit, and reining in our hair-brained schemes a bit. But even if we can’t afford to make print every artist photo as a custom sticker, we still like to make sure that we throw in a few changes.

So, what came of this whole process for 2012? Well, when you pick up your book this year, you’ll probably notice that it feels different—that’s the uncoated paper stock we used. Why? So you can write on it. After years of dealing with smudged notes and marginalia in all our books, we made the change. So highlight your schedule, record that quote you wanted to remember from a talk, or jot down the number you got from the beer garden cutie. We’re so excited by your prospects that we gave you a whole “notes” spread in the back of the guide.

You also might have seen a new break-down of how we lay out the Festival projects. As an organization who supports the interdisciplinary explorations of artists, it seemed out-of-character to continue breaking our programs up into the divisions of ON STAGE/ON SIGHT/ON SCREEN/OUTSIDE, when those classifications rarely capture the works we present. After all, how many ON STAGE shows happened out in parks? How many ON SIGHT artists invited your participation beyond just observing? So it was high time we changed it up, to group projects more by their mode of presentation then their location or medium.

Short-run stage shows and performance-based projects became the PERFORMANCE section, longer-run gallery exhibits and visual installations make up VISUAL ART, late-night club-vibe shows round out THE WORKS, and contextual artist talks and workshops comprise the INSTITUTE.

For the VISUAL section, we featured big, bright, full-spread photos of each of the artists. Since most of the visual artists are developing new work for TBA through residencies and commissions, we thought it was best to foreground images of their work, and leave their polished statements for the exhibit catalogue to come.

In THE WORKS section, we tried to capture more of the energy of our late-night hub with  multiple photos for each night and colored pages. Nothing says “party” like yellow.

And the PERFORMANCE section looks the most like past years. Still, if you’re curious which way a project leans, we’ve called out the broad disciplines by which each artist identifies, noted on the upper right of each artist photo. To help you navigate between the Croatian performance projects and the Japanese music, the Mexican theater and the Congolese dance, we marked off handy little country codes in the top left of each artist page. TBA:12 is one of our most international years yet.  And, for those of you who’d like to go beyond the performances to learn about this year’s artists, we’ve called out all of the related workshops and talks directly on each artist page.

Finally, we splurged and included a bright magenta fold-out map on the back flap of the guidebook. Now, you’ll always know where to find us during the Festival!

Look how far we’ve come in 10 years…

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