Aaron Fiskradatz Brings Zoom Expertise to In-Person Creativity

Aaron Fiskradatz is a theater artist, an educator, and, most recently, a “Zoom consultant” – a technical consultant for livestreamed productions, which we all need these days. A longtime advocate of the disability community, he is also the program manager at Upstream Arts, a Minneapolis arts organization that engages individuals with disabilities in the creative arts. In his role as an Artist Career Consultant for Springboard, Aaron provides his extensive knowledge of theatre and arts education to other artists. To find out more about Aaron and his work, visit his website fiskradatz.com.

Share a little about your creative practice.
For the past decade or so, I have been calling myself a theater artist and educator, and that has pretty neatly summed up all the various things I do in a professional capacity any given day. That meant, for a long time, working as a teaching artist in addition to working as a professional actor, director, and playwright. In particular, I do a lot of work with arts organizations and education organizations, so right now that means a lot of work with Upstream Arts, which does arts programming in the disability community. I am the program manager for Upstream, so I spend a huge chunk of my time doing that work. But it’s a very flexible position that allows me not only to maintain the day-to-day programming work that we do there, but to also continue to work as a teaching artist in classroom spaces. Outside of that work, this year I’ve needed to add another category to my work: technical consultant. I’ve done a great deal of work both at and outside of Upstream helping theaters and other organizations bring their programming, their content, and their performances onto Zoom and other streaming platforms.

[“Zoom consulting”] has become hugely necessary; it just really took off. I did a couple of projects early on where I helped a few theaters put on a few plays on Zoom, and the references that I’ve gotten through that work and the reputation that I’ve developed for facilitating that work has meant that it’s been a very busy year in the pandemic for me. I’m full-time with Upstream, but in addition to that I’m spending most evenings and a lot of weekends doing this streaming work. So it’s been busy, and I’m certainly grateful for it. It’s been quite an experience.

How did you start working with Springboard for the Arts?
It was definitely an Upstream connection in the sense that it was – let’s see, it was 2019 when Springboard was one of the organizations that stepped forward to absorb some of the capacity that had been held by VSA, which was another organization that was dedicated to the intersection of the arts community and the disability community. When that organization sadly went away, there were a number of other organizations in Minnesota that stepped forward to say, “We’ll take on pieces of pieces of what VSA once offered,” and Springboard was one of them.

I came on as an Artist Career Consultant in 2019 as part of a push from Springboard to really deepen their bench around the disability community, and of course my work with Upstream speaks to that. That is what I do. In my day job, I’m working with those communities that comprise that wider community. I have other connections as well; one of the reasons that Upstream has been such a great fit for me is that my younger sister is on the autism spectrum, and so, through that family connection, I’ve grown up with that community.

I was happy to come aboard as an Artist Career Consultant, and that has been an amazing journey. I’ve felt so supported by Springboard and the team there and by coming together with the other Artist Career Consultants, and especially doing some work this past year on an accessibility committee that Springboard put together, really trying to solidify and strengthen their plans to continue on this important work.

[Being an ACC] feels like being a part of a really solid team, and it’s certainly an honor to have been selected to be a part of that team. Very professionally satisfying and invigorating to be engaged in that work with so many different people from so many different backgrounds representing so many different communities. It’s wonderful to be a part of.

What are projects that you have going right now or an idea in the making? What’s a project you’d like to see happen?
There’s kind of a never-ending stream of projects right now, which, again, I’m very grateful for, so I will continue to do the Zoom/streaming work in the near future as theaters and other arts organizations are still understandably a ways out from doing that work again completely in-person. I’ve got a number of shows coming up with various theaters, and I’m excited about it. Each one of those brings new opportunities, and every Zoom show has its own new challenge, which I really relish; it gives me a chance to deepen my own skill set.

In my full-time capacity at Upstream, we’re continuing our online work. We’re doing, in some cases, over forty online classes every week, and we will continue to do that online work moving forward. We’re also starting to strategize about what hybrid learning will look like for us when we move to a model that has both in-person and virtual programs running. In addition, we’re beginning to think long-term about when we could conceivably go completely back to in-person programming, instead keeping the virtual component as another access point because Upstream Arts, of course, is an organization that prioritizes access and accessibility above all else. We’re finding that it’s actually going to be a really useful tool to have in our toolbox, so we’re talking about what our plans are for virtual work for years and years to come. Planning around that is very exciting.

Aaron Fiskradatz Library Teaching

The other project that I’m working on right now, speaking of Springboard: I was really delighted to be selected as a Hinge Artist through the Fergus Falls office. In particular, I was brought in as a Homecoming Artist, an arm of the Hinge residency that is specifically for artists who grew up in that specific area of Minnesota who have since moved away. [The purpose of the residency] is for the artist to come back and sort of “share back” their artistic learning with that community where they grew up. I wasn’t even aware of [this grant] until I became an Artist Career Consultant and we took a field trip with the new ACCs to the new Fergus Falls office. When I was there, I made the comment to the team at Fergus Falls that it was fun to be back there, that it was an area I grew up in, and as soon as they found out, they asked, “Have you heard about this program?” So I’m really excited about the possibilities that the residency will bring. It’s a program that I’m working on with my wife, who is also a working artist. She and I were selected together for the residency, and the program that we’re developing is about theater in the community with a youth-storytelling focus, which does require a fair amount of in-person close contact, so the timeline and our approach will depend on a lot of factors around the pandemic.

What’s something you wish others knew about you?
I have a background in rural Minnesota. I live in Saint Paul now, but I did grow up in a very, very small town just outside of Alexandria with a soybean field for a backyard. I have a real affinity for and connection with that rural Minnesota experience, and I’m always interested in leaning on that part of my background and expertise as much as I can.

What else do I wish people knew about me? Ooh, a fun fact about me is that my name, Fiskradatz, is a brand new name that I created with my wife because she was a Fisk and I was a Radatz, and we decided when we would be married that we would just make a new name. Once we determined that’s what we wanted to do, we were so excited about it. It’s something fun to talk about any time we meet somebody new, and it’s a great way to screen telemarketers, too, because it’s very hard to pronounce, so we tend to know when the person who’s calling actually knows us or not.

Springboard Resources
Artist Career Consultants, available for virtual consultations: https://springboardforthearts.org/consultants/
Workshops & Events Calendar: https://springboardforthearts.org/events/
Work of Art and Handbook for Artists Working in Community books: https://springboardforthearts.org/buy-books/
Hinge Arts Residency: https://springboardforthearts.org/jobs-opportunities/hinge-residency/