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Peregrine Honig

Senior Artistic Director
The West 18th Street Fashion Show
Uncommon Voices 2020

Peregrine Honig
Photo by Phoebe Rain

Pivot. The 20th anniversary of The West 18th Street Fashion Show would not be cancelled. “We approached our designers and pivoted our project from a runway event into a full-length movie,” says artist Peregrine Honig. The senior artistic director of The West 18th Street Fashion Show turned screen writer and executive producer and enlisted singer and harpist Calvin Arsenia to star in the project.

The theme they cast out to the community in January to be translated to the runway that summer, was based on The Bauhaus, specifically Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet. The theme held as the show pivoted. “Our logo, marketing ideas, and application concept asked garment makers to consider minimalism, industry and the effects of a fascist regime on a creative population,” Honig says.

The narrative follows a creative young man navigating a global pandemic during the summer of 2020. The story was shot in iconic Kansas City spaces emptied of attendance by COVID-19 health restrictions.

The director’s cut of “Summer In Hindsight” debuted at the Boulevard Drive-In Theatre Oct. 16. Honig and Arsenia have been refining it since, planning to submit it to film festivals and competitions. 

“The 20th year of The West 18th Street Fashion proved to be incredible,” Honig said.

Q: What “new normals” – good or bad – do you see or anticipate coming out of this year?

This time in history has made us more sensitive to inequality and the fragility of democracy. I see more people being mindful and just as many being hateful. Awareness is built on patience, experience, and advocacy.

“Normalcy” and “new” are both spectral. Quantifying either word during 2020 is a book I am living in but would prefer not to read. This time in history has made us more sensitive to inequality and the fragility of democracy. I see more people being mindful and just as many being hateful. Awareness is built on patience, experience, and advocacy. We can find forgiveness in the fear of others while moving forward above the boundaries of our infrastructure to create more intelligent and humane policy. Being present is not a passive act and we now have a stronger population of people who understand the worth of their vote in and out of government. 

Q: Has anything in the past year changed your mind on your view of the world?

I am more at peace with what anxiety represents to me. Being brave is not always about spirituality or gratitude. I have created art on an empty tank with disappointment in strangers weighing me down before this year. The difference is that quarantine made no social space to refill the tank or release the valve with cocktails and laughter; no warm rooms to soften and discuss the constant blight of public violence, racism, sexism and ignorance. 

I stood in the Nelson-Atkins Museum filming a scene in the temple with the sculpture of Guanyin and being in that space in the presence of art after so many months allowed me to return to myself. Art is permissive. It solves problems and untangles us from depression. Seeking and experiencing beauty and the transformation of material into thought is a necessity. This truth is a constant. 

Q: As we look for hope in the New Year, where do you see opportunities to rebuild society’s systems better?

Many of us creatives returned to the roots of our given titles and refreshed our foundation during quarantine. Musicians practiced scales. Dancers grew stronger. I sketched from life, wrote songs with my husband, drew my assistant, and read books. Artists tend to prepare like monks because we know light is born of darkness. Our pods appear more vivid at first blush, but touch, critical discourse and collaboration can be gathered from any garden of people. 

The fever to kiss and dress up, laugh openly in a small kitchen, and dance to live music is on everyone’s cheeks. We artists can feel that heat – it pays our bills. The decadence of celebration is so close to the surface and it is about to bloom hard. There are few things more resistant or rebellious than joy in the face of inequality. Expect newness, powerful growth and surprising revelations as we start a new cycle. We have gained so much love and learned to care for each other so well. These lessons are not disposable. We have a chance to see ourselves again. 

Explore other 2020 Uncommon Voice Q&As