June 23, 2014
Meet our 2015 Commissioned Artists!
Can you tell us about an experience during your Fellowship with The LP that inspired you or shifted how you approach your creative practice?
By far the most inspiring part of my experience as a Fellow was working with my teammates—Ro Garrido, Priscilla Stadler, Sasha Phyars-Burgess and Seyi Adebanjo—and our partners at the Kelly Street Garden.
From the beginning of our process we were all incredibly generous with each other, while also challenging and pushing each other to grow. We would joke that our brains could not have worked more differently. And what a gift that is—to be in process and community with others whose hearts are in the same place, but whose minds offer a different vision and view of the world. Through what The LP calls “cross-pollination and collaboration” we were able to accomplish something together that we never could have alone.
In many ways the Fellowship deepened my creative practice of listening. I have become a more open and trusting listener, with a deeper understanding of the power of listening and being heard.
Please tell us of an artist, curator, activist, or project that has influenced you or inspired you?
2002. Reynolds Auditorium. Duke University. My mother took me to see Urban Bush Women perform. While I can’t tell you the names of the pieces they performed, I vividly remember my response. I sat rapt in my chair. I felt like I was moving with them as they jumped and swayed and sang. After the concert I danced with my sister and my mom, moving my body in response. I thought, “This. This is the kind of work I want to be a part of. I want to be a part of something that speaks and moves like that.” It touched me on a deep level, even though at the time I couldn’t fully articulate what the “what” was. Now, I realize it was the way they powerfully weave together art, activism, and community, moving from the strength and truth of the stories of women of color. My young self was already gearing up towards that path and seeing those powerhouse women work it offered me an example on a new level.
After that performance I began to follow and research their work and methods, and in 2011 I had the opportunity to attend their Summer Leadership Institute. To move, work, sing, sweat, laugh and learn from Jawole Willa Jo Zollar (and Liz Lerman, another of my sheroes, who was in attendance) and the many fierce women in the Urban Bush Women circle, was a dream come true and an important step in my growth. As I continue to grow up and into myself and find my way as an artist, cultural worker, and scholar, I am blessed by the many Urban Bush Women who continue to inspire me as my teachers and colleagues.
Please tell us about a place in your neighborhood that is personally meaningful to you, and why?
I grew up in a small city in North Carolina. Now, living in NYC, the massive amounts of pavement and people, while inspiring, can also get overwhelming. I’ve come to recognize that my exhaustion is often due to a nature deficiency. I grew up around trees and forests and creeks and animals. I regularly searched for crawfish and created fairy homes deep in the forest. I could always escape to a favorite tree or a quiet patch of grass to recharge. I woke up to the sounds of birds chirping and at night time I could see all the stars. Sometimes in NYC I forget the stars exist, as there are so many lights that shine closer and brighter.
Now I live in Inwood, and my little refuge at the top of Manhattan is very intentional. On my walk to the subway I pass two parks filled with old growth trees, I hear crickets chirping, and I can escape into the forest if needed. I live right where the Harlem River wraps around the top of the island. I witness the tides of the river coming in and out and I can peer across this stretch of water and space that skyscrapers can’t access. It brings me back to the basics, reminds me there is power beyond humans. Even in this city—which is one big display of what humans can create and build and make and do—there are things we can’t build and forces we can’t control. And I remember that this river, and all life, is a part of me. We exist because of it and we thrive when we respect and work with it.
What is your favorite book, film or song about NYC?
Take the ‘A’ Train (Happy to celebrate my transportation lifeline!).