Courage, Risk, and the Joys of Collaboration

Luck—or fate—was at play when Robin Assner-Alvey (St. Louis, MO) and Sarah Nitschke (Milwaukee, WI) met, almost a decade ago, in a shared space of an artist’s residency in Northern Vermont. Our co-creative authorship emerged out of the recognition of a deep, shared interest in exploring ideas about the nature of human experience. Coming together in collaboration has allowed Assner-Alvey and Nitschke to reflect on and research deeply rooted questions that continue to intrigue and haunt our psyche. Although almost ten years apart in age, we formed a unique partnership as shared authors, on a mission to explore ideas through the creation of a body of work. The collaboration is sustaining because of mutual respect, trust and our ability to be vulnerable with one another.

Assner-Alvey and Nitschke’s similar passion, dedication and work ethic are present in our professional lives as artists, as well as in our academic careers as professors. Assner-Alvey is an artist working primarily in photography and video in the realm of contemporary art. Nitschke is a trained printmaker, sculptor and graphic designer, working in the field of contemporary art, design and filmmaking. Both have significant exhibition records as well as lengthy teaching experience at liberal arts universities.  

Assner-Alvey teaches photography and video in the contemporary studio art tradition. She is a successful exhibiting and practicing artist with her own work, as well as producing work in another collaboration with a St. Louis sound artist. Sarah leads—and teaches—in a visual art department that emphasizes client-oriented graphic design (not design for design sake.) She is a successful exhibiting artist, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, and a freelance designer and art director. It is because of these differences, that Assner-Alvey and Nitschke have found fertile ground, rich with dynamic explorations of their shared interests.

There is great safety, and potentially great disaster, in working collaboratively. Great safety resides in Assner-Alvey and Nitschke’s bond. An artistic practice that nurtures creative freedom to explore ideas, and produce creative work, inside and outside of the collaboration. Assner-Alvey and Nitschke’s subsequent friendship enables us to support each the other through challenging times personally and artistically. Great disaster can come in the form of disappointment, frustration, broken confidence or trust, or even a change of their shared interests. Assner-Alvey and Nitschke avert great disaster by releasing control, and accepting the inevitability of change. Each artist’s openness to experience their individual artistic practices (and their collaborative efforts) with compassion, honesty and, a level of comfort with the unknown has provided the foundation for a salient co-creative artistic practice and, a significant body of completed work. Through a largely unspoken bond, our co-creative practice of shared artistic authorship has triumphed for almost a decade.