STREB Extreme performing FORCES
As part of our “Artist to Artist” interview series, filmmaker Catherine Gund spoke with choreographer Elizabeth Streb (2000 Performing Arts) about their new film “Born to Fly,” the human condition and making every breath count. The following is an edited excerpt from their conversation. You can listen online to the full podcast, or subscribe through iTunes.
Catherine Gund: So, I’m Catherine Gund. I just made a movie called Born To Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity, which premieres at Film Forum in New York on September 10. I’m here with the one and only Elizabeth Streb, and the two of us are going to have a conversation about what it was like to make the movie, why we did it, what we think it achieved—or didn’t achieve—and what people might get out of it. But I think we should just start with what maybe you thought, at the very beginning, about the idea of making a movie, having a movie made. What did you imagine it might be? Because I know, no matter what your answer is, it was not what it ended up being.
Elizabeth Streb: Well, for one, I was extremely excited and inspired because I know that you were around STREB and SLAM [Streb’s school and creative center], both with your children and yourself for years and years and years, so it wasn’t someone coming in that I didn’t know from the outside. I felt that you would have the worm’s eye view, the eagle’s eye view, the human eye view straight on, from the bottom up, from the top down. And I completely trusted that however you saw the story of STREB leading up to the London Olympics [where Streb staged public performances on London landmarks], I completely trusted. And I don’t think I, in my mind, fabricated what it would be like, at all. Continue reading
Ali Dadgar, “Revolusign” installation view, 2014, mixed media on panel
Taraneh Hemami (2012 Visual Arts) premieres her Creative Capital-supported project, Theory of Survival: Fabrications, at Southern Exposure in San Francisco, September 5 – October 25. Drawing inspiration from a traditional Persian marketplace, Fabrications takes the form of a pop-up bazaar featuring work by 12 California-based Iranian artists exploring decades of collective activism and revolutionary actions inside Iran and in its larger diaspora. Within a labyrinth of niches and patterned archways designed by the H. Majd Design Group, the Fabrications bazaar is a site for gathering and exchange focused on Iranian political and cultural historical moments. Market booths overflow with handcrafted and manufactured objects; a library boasts a growing collection of publications and archives; and a teahouse becomes a stage for performances, games and storytelling. Continue reading
Taylor Ho Bynum
Beginning on August 28 in Vancouver, composer and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum (2013 Performing Arts) embarks on his Acoustic Bicycle Tour, a five-week, 1,800-mile performance journey of the West Coast that concludes at the Mexican border. Conceiving of the entire trip as a kind of composition, Bynum will travel solely by bicycle, presenting solo concerts and playing with ensembles of area musicians in a variety of contexts and venues ranging from pop-up outdoor concerts to art galleries to concert halls. The endeavor is a performance art piece, a philosophical statement, a celebration of musical community and an exercise in extreme physicality.
Highlights from the planned performances include duets and small ensembles with some of the finest musicians on the coast, including trumpeter Cuong Vu (9/3, Seattle, WA), pianist Myra Melford (9/19, San Francisco, CA) and bassist Mark Dresser (9/29, Mission Viejo, CA); large ensembles of local artists performing Bynum’s compositions and conducted improvisations, including the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble (9/7, Portland, OR) and Phillip Greenlief’s OrcheSperry (9/16, Berkeley, CA); and two concerts featuring the music of Bynum’s longtime mentor and collaborator Anthony Braxton—a quartet co-led with saxophonist James Fei exploring Braxton’s classic 1970s small group music (9/17, Oakland, CA), then a concert under the leadership of the maestro at the Angel City Jazz Festival (9/27, Los Angeles, CA). Bynum will also appear at the Angel City Jazz Festival as a leader, with an all-star band of Los Angeles-area musicians performing music from his critically acclaimed Sextet and 7-tette recordings (9/28, Los Angeles, CA). Continue reading
Cry You One cast photo. Photo by Melisa Cardona.
This week, New Orleans-based performance companies Mondo Bizarro and Art Spot Productions (2013 Performing Arts) launch the national tour of their site-responsive performance, Cry You One, at the Clear Creek Festival Grounds in Rockcastle County, KY. Cry You One is an outdoor performance and online platform inspired by the disappearing wetlands of Southeast Louisiana. Part song, part story, part procession for our lost land, Cry You One utilizes the unique music and stories of Louisiana to inspire connections between people working to steward the natural world wherever they live.
I spoke with Mondo Bizarro’s Nick Slie, one of the leading artists on the project, about the story behind Cry You One, adapting the work for the Kentucky presentation, and the national tour of the work.
Jenny Gill: Cry You One was originally developed to celebrate and mourn the disappearing wetlands of your native Southern Louisiana. Now, you’re touring it to other regions. What has your process been for adapting Cry You One to the Appalachian setting outside of Berea, KY? Was it a challenge to create characters for the performance that hold the same relevance for you personally as the original characters for the Louisiana iteration?
Nick Slie: The best way I can explain this is to take you back a couple of years. In 2009, I attended my first Clear Creek Festival. The festival is an annual, multi-disciplinary event, now in its 12th year, that brings several hundred Kentuckians from rural and urban communities together with artist-activists and other great people from throughout the south and across the country. The intention of the Festival is sharing good music and art, building community, and inspiring all of us to live more sustainably—in harmony with nature and with one another. Started by the renowned singer Mitch Barrett over ten years ago, the festival features nationally recognized music and theater acts next to edible food walks and rocket fuel workshops. Continue reading
Left: Book cover for “Song of the Shank,” published by Graywolf Press; Right: Photo of Blind Tom.
Jeffery Renard Allen‘s Creative Capital-supported project, the novel Song of the Shank, is being published by Graywolf Press on June 17. At the heart of this remarkable work is Thomas Greene Wiggins, a 19th-century slave and improbable musical genius who performed under the name Blind Tom. As the novel ranges from Tom’s boyhood as a sightless, probably autistic piano virtuoso to the heights of his performing career, the inscrutable savant is buffeted by opportunistic teachers and crooked managers, crackpot healers and militant prophets. In his symphonic novel, Allen blends history and fantastical invention to bring to life a radical cipher, a man who profoundly changes all who encounter him.
Song of the Shank is already garnering tremendous critical acclaim, including a forthcoming review on the front cover of the New York Times Book Review that calls the novel “masterly” and praises Allen as “a prodigiously gifted risk-taker.“ In the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Jeff Calder calls Song of the Shank “a landmark of modern African-American literature,” and concludes, “Reading through this sagacious volume is like stumbling on a crooked monument covered in celestial carvings, something that aims for the stars and ends up reconfiguring constellations.” In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews raves, “If there’s any justice, Allen’s visionary work, as startlingly inventive as one of his subject’s performances, should propel him to the front rank of American novelists.” Continue reading
On May 19, The Village Voice presented its 59th annual Obie Awards, celebrating achievement in the Off-Broadway and off-off Broadway theater. We were thrilled to hear that Lisa Kron (2000 Performing Arts) received a 2014 Obie for the musical theater work Fun Home.
Based on the graphic memoir by lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel, Fun Home dramatizes Bechdel’s coming-of-age and her relationship with her closeted gay father. The critically acclaimed musical adaptation ran at The Public Theater from October to December 2013. Along with Kron as the playwright and lyricist, composer Jeanine Tesori and director Sam Gold also received Obie Awards for the production.
Quintan Ana Wikswo and Kenny Fries
At the 2013 Creative Capital Artist Retreat, awardees Kenny Fries (2009 Literature) and Quintan Ana Wikswo (2013 Emerging Fields) discovered deeply compelling intersections in their work around the Jewish/queer/disabled body in Germany. To their great delight, they realized they’d both be working on those intersections in Berlin that autumn—Kenny to begin a new book, and Quintan to exhibit her interdisciplinary work at The Jewish Museum in Berlin.
The pair immediately devised a plan to organize a salon-style gathering of Berlin-based artists, activists and scholars whose work focuses upon gender, disability, ethnicity and genocide in Germany. When Creative Capital stepped in with financial support through the Grantee Gatherings program, Kenny opened the doors to his apartment and a stimulating, provocative and profoundly generative event took shape. Continue reading
In this episode of the PBS web series The Art Assignment, 2013 Performing Arts awardee Jace Clayton (aka DJ /Rupture) challenges you to take a walk from where you live and find the quietest place. Here are his instructions for completing this “art assignment”:
1. Go outside and talk a walk from where you live or are staying at the moment.
2. Continue until you’ve found the quietest place possible.
3. Take a moment to absorb it. Then document the place through photography or video. Upload it to your social media platform of choice using #theartassignment.
Read more and join the conversation on the Art Assignment YouTube page.
Eric Dyer and Matthew Porterfield
On April 22, the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA) announced the 13 artists selected for the inaugural Rubys Artist Project Grants. Awards from $2,000 to $10,000 were made to support artists that reflect a diversity of talent and creativity for projects including immersive theater, interactive media experiences, documentary film and musical composition. We were thrilled to see two Creative Capital Artists among the roster: Eric Dyer and Matthew Porterfield, both 2012 Film/Video awardees.
With a vision and initial funding provided by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, the Rubys Artist Projects Grant program was established by GBCA in 2013 to support the region’s gems—the local creative community of performing, visual, media and literary artists. The Rubys were inspired in part by Creative Capital’s own Ruby Lerner, and the name pays homage to Ruby as a visionary leader in the realm of arts funding. We could not be more proud of this tribute and the fact that the Rubys grant program is already benefiting Creative Capital artists!
The next round of Rubys grants focuses on the Visual Arts and Literary Arts and opens for applications on May 1, 2014. Details on the application process as well as downloadable grant guidelines are available at http://baltimoreculture.org/programs/rubys.
Ben Cameron, Program Director for the Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and Ruby Lerner, Creative Capital’s President & Founding Director
Ruby Lerner: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Ben! A bit of background, before we get started: In 2011, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation asked Creative Capital to partner with them to launch and oversee the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards Program (DDPAA), which announced its third class of awardees yesterday. I know that we’re both so excited to begin working with this extraordinary roster of artists. We talked about the birth of DDPAA in an interview for this blog back in April 2012, so we thought it would be interesting to do a “Part Two” now about what has been learned over the past few years working together to bring the program to life. We had a similar discussion on a session at last year’s Grantmakers in the Arts conference in Philadelphia.
Thinking back on the initial vision for the DDPAA program, what do you think the biggest changes have been (if any) to adapt the program to the needs of the artists? Continue reading