An initial consortium meeting was held in October 1999 at the University of California Berkeley Art Museum. At the conclusion, this gathering of nearly thirty artists, scholars, writers, curators, educators, cultural critics, and meditation practitioners agreed that they wished to meet periodically, continuing the exploratory, open-ended nature of the discussion and allowing structure and product to grow out of process. A Steering Committee and Content Consultant Committee were developed and met several times with the support of a Consultant Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Grants from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts are making the planning and programming possible.
Eight consortium meetings were held between April 2001 and February 2003. Consortium meetings were aimed toward investigating the manner in which contemporary art practice resonates with Buddhist thought, and developing a shared understanding of this territory with a common grounding in historical and other issues that focus as well as frame the presentation of relevant works. Projects emanate from this shared conceptual foundation and are undertaken according to institutional and local community needs. New modes of intra-organizational cooperation are being tested as projects are developed collaboratively and/or the impact of individual efforts magnified. The process of undertaking AWAKE is also providing a forum for institutional practitioners to rethink their own work and gain input from fields that cross professional, geographic, and institutional/ departmental lines. Thus, AWAKE is addressing the professional need for new avenues through which we can think creatively and productively about the arts, culture, audiences, and humanity.
Consortium meetings aimed to address these goals. Issues for discussion were generated and the first white papers commissioned during a six-month early planning phase, September 2000 through February 2001. Agendas were developed out of the proceedings of previous meetings, with guidance from an advisory Content Consultant Committee composed of specialists in the fields of Buddhism, Aesthetics, Cultural History, and Cultural Criticism. Consortium meetings of approximately thirty people were held quarterly at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Marin County. Meetings included coming together to share a meal and program ideas in the evening, shifting to issues the next day. Each session focused on specific areas of inquiry, and included presentation/discussions led by white paper authors, artist/creators, and other specialists; along with presentations of potential projects by consortium members.