Amy Virginia Buchanan is a musician, performance artist, producer, and cultural curator in New York City. She serves as artistic director for Spring Street Social Society, a network of artists, which she co-founded with her creative partner, Patrick Janelle. She has written, produced, and performed in two full length plays, and her third studio album, Not Us, is scheduled to be released in May. Currently she lives in Brooklyn, with Carl, her partner, and Whenny, her cat.
As a writer/performer Amy has presented small works at Little Theatre, LaMama, and Cloud City. As a collaborative artist, she has presented work at the Incubator Arts Project, 14th Street Y Black Box, Dixon Place, Triskelion, HERE, the Drama Bookshop, Brooklyn Lyceum, People’s Improv Theatre, the Brooklyn Navy Yards, the Brick, South Oxford Space, and the New Whitney Museum.
Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career?
Honestly, it started at clown school. I learned how to make things from nothing. Or better, from an idea. A phrase or a statement could inspire a whole show. And in my work, all I do, whether it’s making music, theatre, or events with Spring Street Social Society, is building experiences. Clown school taught me to devise work with an ensemble of collaborators, and clearly state what I want to make.
What about this career choice did you find most appealing?
I love that my career has built itself from what I was already doing. Every artistic pursuit of mine folds into my work with Spring Street Social Society. By continuing to perform, I stay relevant in the community that I draw from for our events. It makes me a better producer. And ultimately, no one tells me what to do. Patrick Janelle, my co-founder and creative partner, and I get to make the things we want to make, on our own time, and with the people we trust and believe in. There’s no better way to work.
What steps did you take to begin your education or training?
It began when I decided to major in theatre, despite the lack of actual job opportunities within the field. It was a brave decision. And since then, I’ve kept being brave, doing what felt right. I swapped schools after my freshman year, because I wanted a freer, more holistic training. I stopped applying to grad schools, and decided to go to clown school instead. I moved to New York and threw myself into art and work, sacrificing personal/romantic relationships. All following a dream to be happy and sustainable. I never had a goal in mind other than those two things. Happy and sustainable.
Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging?
I have been lifted up by a community of incredible and supportive peers and family members my entire life. When I called my father, an academic beef cattle geneticist, to tell him that I wanted to go to clown school, he didn’t question my decision at all. Not to say that I haven’t been discouraged. There have been plenty of people who have negative opinions about me or my work, but I have a rule for that. I don’t keep people in my life that make me feel bad about myself. I only hold onto the people that I believe in, that believe in me.
Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change?
I constantly doubt it. My job is hard. It involves a lot of work, and there is no structure that will sustain me if I need to take a break. At the end of the day, Spring Street is me and Patrick.
When did your career reach a tipping point?
Before finding independence with Spring Street, I was working three jobs. I was a barista at a cafe in Chelsea, a cater waiter on the weekends, and nannying here and there to make ends meet. I woke up every morning at 4:30 a.m., and worked all day, typically fell asleep around midnight/one a.m., and the started all over again after about three or four hours of sleep. That entire year, I was just focused on getting to where I am now. I convinced myself I didn’t need sleep. That was also the year I produced my first album and wrote the first draft of The Michael Show (my one woman show about my brother with Down syndrome). I had such hopes for the future. And when Spring Street got hired by American Express at the end of that year to creative direct a major event in November, Patrick and I saw hope for a sustainable future for us as a business.
Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?
I have a good deal of social anxiety and insecurity that I had to release, because what I do is dependent on connection with other humans. I’m still working on it, but relaxing into liking myself has resulted in creating better art, forming better relationships, and ultimately liking myself more.
What single skill has proven to be most useful?
My knowledge of emotional narrative. I understand how people feel, and know how to guide them through their feelings. So whether I’m writing songs, performing a monologue play, or crafting the flow of an event, I’m considering my audience.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Keeping both my cat and my cactus alive for the past decade.
Any advice for others entering your profession?
I’m still figuring out exactly what my profession is, so I suppose my advice would be to not look for a label immediately. To be okay with having a job that is hard to define, because if it makes you happy and you are sustainable, that’s all you need.