New Exhibition, Block Island Airport Gallery

Kate Wilson at Block IslandThe Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) is pleased to present works by artist Kate Wilson on exhibit through September 18, 2018 at the Block Island Airport Gallery. The Block Island Airport Gallery presents the work of contemporary Rhode Island artists in quarterly exhibitions.

Kate Wilson is a fine artist who blends photography and graphic design to transform reality by elevating ordinary objects into fine art on a grand scale. Each artwork has a love note or positive word, hidden within to ignite wonder & curiosity.

Graduating from Skidmore with a BS in Education & Liberal Studies, studio art concentration, Wilson has taught both elementary school and studio art. She furthered her studies in the RISD CE graphic design program, and taught herself the art and craft of photography.  She has run her own graphic design and photography business before devoting herself full-time to fine art. Exhibiting widely throughout the New England region, Kate is represented by Candita Clayton Gallery in Pawtucket and Atelier Newport.

Exhibitors for the Block Island Airport Gallery were selected by juror Lisa Robb, Block Island’s public schools arts educator.

The Block Island Airport Gallery, a partnership between the Rhode Island Council on the Arts and the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, promotes outstanding work by artists living and working in Rhode Island.  The gallery will present art to an ever-changing audience of local, national and international travelers.

About RISCA: The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts is a state agency supported by appropriations from the Rhode Island General Assembly and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. RISCA provides grants, technical assistance and staff support to arts organizations and artists, schools, community centers, social service organizations and local governments to bring the arts into the lives of Rhode Islanders.

About RIAC:

The Rhode Island Airport Corporation operates T.F. Green Airport, the Block Island Airport and four other general aviation airports in Rhode Island. A long-time supporter of public art in Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Airport Corporation has worked with the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts on a number ofpublic art commissions.

 

Droppin’ Knowledge: If the truth is told, the youth can grow.

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Left to Right: Eric Axelman, Oliver ‘Syde-Sho’ Arias & Taylor Lomba

The African-American proverb ‘each one teach one’ reflects a time in history when slaves in America were prohibited from learning how to read, do math, or anything that resembled gaining an education. It reflects the responsibility for every person to pass on the knowledge by teaching someone else. A local nonprofit, Pushed Learning and Media, has taken this proverb to heart- they visit middle schools, high schools, and universities, using a hip hop based curriculum to “promote critical thinking on the complexities of privilege, identity, and oppression,” and producing short documentaries and social justice based curriculum. Founded in 2016 by three friends, Eric Axelman, Oliver ‘SydeSho’ Arias, and Nikolos Gonzales, they came together as artists and educators to develop a bicultural and multiracial teaching cohort model. I had the opportunity to sit down with Eric and Oliver to talk about their organization, the evolution of their own racial biases, and their goals for the future of Pushed Learning and Media. Note: interview edited for length.

Precious: Thank you guys for taking the time to sit with me, much appreciated. Ok, let’s get started! Tell me about yourselves.

Oliver: I’m Oliver Arias, my artist name is ‘SydeSho’, I am the Program Director of Pushed Learning and Media.

Eric: Indeed! I’m Eric, Executive Director and co-founder of Pushed, SydeSho and I brought it together in 2016 and I’m also a hip hop artist – I rap; but these days I do a lot of film making as well, about half hip hop anti-racist work and half film making. It’s all anti-racist work, but right now the film making is on a variety of topics. So, right now the major film we’re working on is about the American-Jewish relationship to Israel/Palestine.

Oliver: A major part of the organization itself uses hip-hop culture as a vehicle or tool to open the conversation with youth, teachers and/or organizations about race, racial inequality, and social injustice – just about everything that’s going on in the country and what’s happening in local areas. So, specifically with Providence, we talk about the demographics and how now it’s predominantly a city of color but also touching on the fact that over 90% of the kids in the Providence public school system are of color but about 70% of the teachers are white. The racial disparity in the Providence school system and having the ability to have these conversations with teachers and students about instances people of color face every day is what we want to bring forth with our work but these conversations never happen; so, we use hip hop culture to engage in these dialogues, using relevant artists to talk about these topics.

Engaging students with a difficult yet all too common issue for people of color with instances of just ‘sitting while being a person of color’, ‘walking while being a person of color’ and ‘driving while being a person of color’ are everyday occurrences people of color will face. The reality of the matter is people of color will forever endure microaggressions and racial biases no matter how successful, well dressed, and/or educated.

Eric: You know, racism is kind of like the elephant in the room in all educational settings and all our educational settings are either majority students of color with white teachers or just all white students and white teachers. So, we basically have this system where white people are in control of the educational systems and then just never talk about it or the racial dynamics. In Rhode Island, you know, most of our work is with students of color but we also work with schools that are predominantly white. There are a couple of pockets in Rhode Island where the schools are relatively balanced but they’re the exception to the rule, and the rule is its basically all students of color or all white kids.

Precious: How have your own experiences prepared you or not prepared you for the racial disparities you see in your community and the world?

Eric:  I was told a story by a white RI principal, as a kid he was caught doing graffiti once, the cop asked me where he was from and instantly *snaps fingers* he was let go. It was like he told him what school he went to and immediately he was let go. And, as a white person, I can name many examples from my own life where I’ve broken the law, not in huge ways, but clearly broken the law and cops have noticed me breaking the law and have done nothing. I think about how intensely segregated Newport and Providence are, and what we do is use the unbelievably obvious nature of segregation in American society as a jumping off point to talk about the larger impacts psychologically and structurally of how racism operates. And I think segregation really underpins a lot on how it operates because we are so physically separated, the great majority. I grew up in rural Maine, so both physically separated on a large scale and then also in our individual cities, so again, you can grow up in rural Maine and never interact with a person of color and you can be in Newport in a city that is fairly diverse and never interact with a person of color. It took me a long time to process how very racist the area of Maine I grew up in is and if a person of color would walk by in my town, the stares would be so shocking. Our white neighborhoods in the inner cities can also be racist just as the rural areas, they might be more liberal and progressive on things but they’re just as racist and ignorant of the lives of other people since they’re not interacting with them in the same way.

Oliver: When I’m on the east side.. *pauses* when I’m walking you can feel it; and that’s the thing about racial tension, it’s something you can’t point out on paper or really pinpoint but people of color know that feeling all too well.

 

Precious: Of the schools you’ve visited in Rhode Island and the New England area, from predominantly minority public schools to predominantly white private charter and/or academy schools, do you see there is a lack of cultural competence between the students and teachers?

Oliver: It’s interesting because a lot of the teachers that work in Providence are predominantly white but they also don’t come from here. I can safely say they are not immersed in the culture or understand the situation of the kids and where they’re coming from. There are situations where [students are] mostly kids of color and the teachers are white, I still feel like there isn’t any cultural exchange where they’re learning from each other; because they’re just there to sit in a room and learn about an academic subject. There are no talks about how they grew up, a child expressing their situation at home, and of course we don’t want to get into a student’s private life but also, we want to break down those barriers. I think when a person of color can express their experience it can open sympathy or empathy for the individual and there’s more of an understanding as to why he/she is acting out or misbehaving.

Eric: You know…Every person of color must deal with, in most cases of their life, being the only person of color in the room whereas a white person can live their entire lives and never have to be the only white person in the room.

Oliver: A person of color can almost never escape having to interact with a person who is white versus a person who is white can find a situation where they don’t have to interact with a person/people of color.

Eric: And sometimes even when the white person does go into those situations its often as a position of authority and even myself dealing with my own internalize racism and things I’ve done is a difficult thing. One of the first teaching gigs I got was I had just graduated from college, so I was very qualified being a college grad *sarcasm* and was hired by an inner-city arts program and it was my first time working with students of color – I should not have been hired. I didn’t know how to interact with the kids, they thought I was this random white dude coming in. My first interaction with them was as an authority figure, it was a five-week program and I did not do a good job, I failed those kids. But often again white people including myself come in and take positions of authority with very little knowledge of the context and it doesn’t serve the kids or the teacher. I mean I also think that white people can obviously do a good job and can interact with people of color BUT if you don’t have that cultural context then you’re just a white authority figure and it’s not good for you or for them and you’re just going to be living a stereotype to a certain extent.

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When it comes to teachers, particularly white teachers in predominantly minority schools, I believe having a level of cultural competency is imperative to an overall multicultural learning experience. The ability to have awareness of your own cultural identity and views about difference, and the capacity to learn and build on the varying cultural and community norms of students and their families can help close the gap in education where cultural diversity receives scant attention. While some if not many students may remain in their homogenized communities through higher education and adulthood, teachers still have a responsibility not just to themselves but to their students as well to introduce multicultural curriculum that’s inclusive about ‘the other’.

Precious: How do schools reach out to Pushed Media and Learning? Are schools reaching out to you because they’re having an issue with these topics amongst the students?

Oliver: When we first started this work, you know and with every organization you must put the work in yourself and get out there. We’d done a few other schools which had given us our first opportunities, we made sure to document our time and experience with the students from past schools and from that they were really impressed with our approach, the way we interacted with the kids and of course our hip hop opening that really drew them into our presentation. Some schools have reached out to us and let us know what topics they’d like us to touch upon, like cultural appropriation and police brutality. Some schools are just more general, they just love our open discussion with the students. At this point, we’ve gotten a network of schools from private and boarding schools who want us to come out and have these conversation with their students. We also wanted to bring these conversations to cities like Providence with kids of color, Eric and I have totally different experiences and what’s great is that we’re able to come to a middle ground and talk about our experiences so openly and realize these instances happen all the time.

Eric: When we work with kids of color we are confirming this stuff is real and having outsiders confirming that is a positive thing and it’s not my place to tell people how messed up the world is and it’s a painful thing. I realize I’m a white dude telling you this and I’m so sorry this is how the world is but at least I can be open and honest and confirm what you already know. And often, we, as white people, we don’t really want to deal with the repercussions of racism and that’s because we don’t have to and I think it is positive to have white people be very real and honest.

Precious: So, what does the future hold for Pushed Learning and Media?

Oliver: We will continue to do the work with schools that we’ve been building relationships with, including expanding to Boston Public Schools, to just spread our message as much as possible throughout the country and if there’s an opportunity to go international, that would be cool. Obviously, we want the organization to grow. We want to have a broader staff, people that come from different backgrounds and perspectives that have different stories to tell. We’re giving the male perspective and there’ve been times where we’ve gotten called out by women because we don’t understand what it’s like. My whole goal with Pushed Learning and Media is specifically educate kids of color on the actual adversities they’ll face. My main goal is to educate them on American history and the way it plays a role in structural racism in America.

Eric: This is the first time we’re getting invitations from colleges and universities to share our curriculum, so that’s really cool for us. Unfortunately, we are still part time and it’ll take a while before we can be full time with Pushed Learning and Media, and we’re currently working on a nonprofit status for the organization. We really try to challenge kids to think about what their racist perceptions are of other people, even if you have good intentions they ultimately grow up in a place that’s racist, I grew up in a place that was ultimately racist. Often its painful for people to have to deal with their own internalized racism even if you don’t mean to be racist you’re going to have racist thoughts.

 

Artist Spotlight: Becci Davis

Roots United.

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Photo Credit: Danielle Klebes

Rebecca ‘Becci’ Davis, an interdisciplinary artist originally from Columbus, Georgia now residing in Wakefield, Rhode Island, has established herself as an artist who has created work she believes should be received universally, pieces that on some level could be understood by everyone. While attending Lesley University College of Art and Design in Cambridge, Massachusetts pursuing her MFA, she began thinking about her practices and goals she set in place, creating and talking about artwork that was very personal to her was a way to reach the masses. “It was something that happened very naturally, not on purpose…I was still making the same kind of work but I wanted to put more personal narratives in my work.”  I think it should go without saying, when an artist creates a body of work it’s developed with a personalized aspect coming from within, drawing you into their personal narrative to better understand their work and who they are as an individual artist.

As cosmic energies and stars would begin to align, around Thanksgiving 2015 Becci received a promotional email from Ancestry.com for a free trial to discover more of her familial heritage, ‘I thought to myself, oh this will be fun but I probably won’t find anything.’ Like many African-Americans who are descendants of slavery here in the United States, records of family history are usually few and far between, but with adamant research and “completely obsessing,” Becci stopped making her other work and began to focus more of the efforts on her family history. “As the days and weeks passed, I realized I can’t continue making the work I was making and I found myself thinking about it [family history] all the time because there was so much. And I thought what I was doing outside of my practice at the time was so much more rich and complex and it was more ME, it was like…not discovering myself because I’ve always known these stories but realizing that my story had value to someone other than me.”

In 2017, Becci created a video, “Isaiah’s Inventory (Fog Follows Rains)”, one of the pieces she submitted that resulted in the 2018 RISCA Fellowship in New Genres. This piece details the inventory and appraisement of the estate of Isaiah Parker from Harris County, Georgia. Isaiah Parker was the slave owner of Becci’s ancestors. This video was a depiction of how the value of life could be broken down to a simple dollar amount. Having value in one’s family history can come with great pride and reverence. However, as Becci recites the name, race, and monetary value of each slave on the Parker Plantation, it is a feeling of worthlessness. Keeping true to the times, as the video progresses, take notice of the objects used in this piece such as the fountain pen with black ink on cotton rag paper, the unwritten names of the slaves along with their prices is very telling of the erasure and disregard of human life that can be so easily purchased and then forgotten about like an inanimate object.

Going forward, Becci continued her work drawing on themes of American-Black culture, crafting ideas and choosing different mediums to get her narrative across in pieces like ‘Collard Archive of Modern History’, the process of creating ‘life-like’ collard greens by casting handmade paper into molds and using library catalog cards under the subject heading of ‘modern history’ as pulp. A staple vegetable used in soul-food/southern cuisine, collard greens have a cultural connection with Black Americans. Becci Davis has what she calls a complicated relationship with the food, and the greens have been the source of rich culture and significance to her work.  Through her art, Becci finds ways to bring forth both cultural histories and significance by dispelling the notion that Black History is separate from the American History narrative: “because Black history is American history – it’s our shared history, it’s not separate from US history. It needs to be one people, I think that the idea we have two separate histories, we are two separate people and worlds is a lie.” 

Collard Archive of Modern History

Collard Archive of Modern History

In addition to being the recipient of the 2018 RISCA Fellowship, Becci is also the 2018 Creative Fellow at the Providence Public Library, where her work centered around the exhibition program & series, Hair Brained.  This series collection and interactive performances, which is being held at the Providence Public Library from March 1st – June 30th, focused on hairstyles throughout history and the ways in which hair defines and reflects culture, self-identity, agency, and politics.  The interactive performance piece, ‘Beacon Beauty Shop’ created by Becci was “‘something that sort of honored the idea of beauty shop culture and African-American culture but also served as a bridge or way of access in to Black hair for people who didn’t understand.” Walking into a beauty salon is an experience that we’ve all had at some point in our lives, “this isn’t something that divides us, this is something that we have in common.” The real cross-cultural experience came from her salon menu options from a wash-n-wrap, press-n-curl, and a relaxer/perm where some of the “clients” weren’t familiar with some of the hair techniques. In the African-American community a perm and relaxer are one and the same, a process to permanently straighten/relax your roots to become very straight. “Culturally our process is different – although I grew up saying “perm”, I made sure to put it as “relaxer” because culturally there’s a difference. When white people think “perm”, its turning already straight hair to curly and when we say “perm” we are PERMANENTLY straightening the roots.”  The goal of this interactive piece was to demystify Black hair and Black beauty shop culture, the creation of ‘Beacon Beauty Shop’ was the first step in trying to make that happen. “I think people came in expecting me to play in their hair, which is fine but when they realized there is this moment that we shared together listening to other people’s stories was something I got a lot out of – I enjoyed that exchange.” 

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Rebecca ‘Becci’ Davis, an artist who honors personal experience, oral narratives and events from past, present and future. “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” – Thomas Merton

Artist Spotlight: Katherine Chavez

Death Becomes Her. The Intimacies of Death. Death is Healing.

27880071_1670680746359723_1127433463570366464_n(1)“Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.” Artist Katherine Chavez – who prefers Kat –  dives into healing, self-care, and what it means to be intimate with death through painting and printmaking. A native of Los Angeles, Kat is in her third year as an undergrad student at Brown University with a focus in Art History (Latin American Art) and Visual Art (Printmaking). In LA, Kat jumped into the art world working as an intern at The Box Gallery, Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, and NOW Art LA in Los Angeles, California. She spent five weeks as an artist assistant for Soy Artista Youth Arts Program, working with youth ages 5-24 in printmaking and photography during the summer. Soy Artista is a program based at Self-Help Graphics & Art in East LA. “While working with Soy Artista, it was great to be in a space where the community can come in and think about what is meaningful to them through art making; also learning that creating art is not something just for a few people but for everyone.”

cuerpoAs the daughter of artists, her father a sound engineer and mother who studied dance in college, she grew up creating art. She grappled with the idea of what it meant to be an artist and whether she could apply that label to herself. “I think growing up I never really saw myself as an artist because I never thought I was the best drawer or the most incredible painter. It wasn’t until I moved to Rhode Island, when I took an art class which I really enjoyed. But then I would see other people who were much talented than me, and I thought ok, I can be interested in the arts but I don’t think I’m going to be an artist.”  While trying on her new label, Kat continued to struggle with finding her place in the community: “I only really found my place there since leaving California, part of that is because I didn’t really discover myself as an artist until I got to Rhode Island; so now when I return to LA I’m finally able to engage with communities that I didn’t think I could.”  Growing up, Kat was fascinated by a variety of art disciplines, and was drawn to the possibility of learning how to make the pieces she loved. Her interest in learning went into overdrive when she took a printmaking class taught by Lara Henderson. For Kat, the fascination with printmaking was not only the process, but linked to this history of printmaking in the Chicano community. As a Mexican-American, the heritage of this artform is important to her culture and artwork. “Printmaking was something I latched onto – it has my heart. I think it’s because it’s based on this kind of not being focused on just making one object but many. It’s not limited, a multitude of things can be shared.”

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Through her printmaking and painting Kat Chavez has used her artwork as an exploration of healing, “the repetitive process of printmaking is therapeutic to me, so is painting but sometimes I feel more drained putting all my energy into a single thing.” One of her professors at Brown suggested she submit her work to an open call for a show at AS220’s resident gallery, ¿Se Aculillo? | Are you scared?, curated by Benjamin Lundberg Torres Sánchez.  It was month long multi-discipline show exploring a variety of artist’s reckonings with fear. “This was the first time I ever submitted my artwork, having my first two pieces in a gallery and it was a validating experience for me.”
Hasta Luego (2016), a crafted box and print project, explored her relationship with her grandparents who passed away before she was born. This piece challenged the idea of celebration versus sadness in death, to contemplate what it means to have kinship with family in the wake of their passing, and losing the last generation of family who spoke Spanish fluently. “In making this project it was kind of like; how do I get to know these people [my grandparents] that I never knew and can I know them as being dead – how can I grow to know despite never really knowing them. It made me feel like death is the end of a physical form and not the emotional or spiritual form. Not sure how to describe it, but I definitely feel an emotional presence from my grandparents.”

Kat’s interest with becoming intimate with death and a celebration of those who’ve passed on connects with her culture and heritage, especially Dia de Los Muertos – a Mexican holiday which focuses on the remembrance of family and friends who’ve died and to help support their journey to the afterlife. She believes it’s important to engage with death because it is an inevitable thing, “I’m very interested in flushing out what exactly death is and one of the main things I say is, I want people to be intimate with death. Lots of us are afraid of it and some are not. I’m not at peace with it but I think in creating work around it and asking people to kind of think about it, I am seeking to find a way to be at peace with death. My artwork is an exploration of healing.” Kat will be graduating from Brown University in May of 2019 and her hopes are to work in community-based art practices that look at art more of a healing practice than any business element.

“The focus is healing and art can do that.”

Meet Bristol Garden Club and Diana Hoffman

Raincatcher Kennard parkProject Grant for Individuals
Project Name: Garden Sculpture Project – “RainKeep”
Organization: Bristol Garden Club
Project: Allison Newsome will create an aesthetically pleasing and functional garden sculpture for Mrs. Perry’s Garden in Bristol’s Thomas Park at Silver Creek. It addresses a critical need for water in gardens not served by any municipal source. The rain harvesting sculpture will stimulate and enhance a wide range of educational opportunities for children and adults in the community.
Exploring the purpose and function of the rain harvester will complement the learning of sustainability, conservation practices, and environmental science and climate topics for adults and children. As a focal point to raise public awareness, the rain harvester will be integrated into the Bristol Parks and Recreation Department’s rain barrel campaign. This program is aimed at developing understanding and encouraging the use of rain barrel technology for water conservation and environmental improvement.
About the Organization: The Bristol Garden Club is an educational and charitable organization promoting knowledge of gardening and flower arranging, protection of the environment and encouragement of civic planting as well as charitable activities that further these objectives.

Diane Hoffman project picTeaching Artist Roster
Artist: Diana Hoffman
Discipline: Visual Art
Artist Bio: Diane’s professional artwork is inspired by the environmental concept that the more disorganized, over grown and rambling “nature” appears, the more life it can sustain. Her studio practice explores animal typologies, layering and pattern blocking to contemplate buoyancy, fecundity and collapse. She uses multi-media to make her work including paint, silkscreen printing, digital printed fabric and found textiles.
Diane has over twenty years of experience in undergraduate education. She has taught art classes at Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design and Leslie University of Art and Design and others. Diane loves teaching drawing, painting, digital collage and more.

Meet Butler Hospital and Kirsten Volness

Butler Hope Healing Community ExhibitionArts in Healthcare
Organization: Butler Hospital
Project Name: Multi-Disciplinary Healing Arts Residencies
Project Coordinator: Wendy Grossman and Laura White Carpenter
Participating Artists: Len Cabral, Christopher Johnson, Teri Pimley, and Kerri Peterson Weaver

Project: Butler Hospital’s Healing Arts 2017-2018 Multi-Disciplinary Residencies Program, a nine-month project (September 2017 – May 2018), will host a variety of artists and expressive arts therapists for a series of workshops and short-term residencies on each of the hospital’s eight inpatient units. The goal of the residency is to provide quality arts experiences to our inpatients, their caregivers and staff, which help patients move forward with their treatment.

Through a series of groups in movement, music, visual arts, creative writing and storytelling, we strive to create a comfortable space for creative self-expression to take place. This in turn allows for connection, joy, a sense of peace and hope.

More concretely, we also will use the arts as a tool for engagement in treatment for mental illness and addiction recovery during the short stays that our patients experience, which typically last from five to 10 days. This allows for a broad integration of the arts into the culture of Butler Hospital and permits us to serve as many patients as possible.

About the Organization: Butler Hospital treats psychiatric, substance use and neurological disorders and serves as the flagship mental health teaching hospital for Brown University’s medical school. Butler is a member of Care New England Health System. The hospital’s mission is to: Provide treatment for psychiatric illness in an atmosphere of dignity and respect; Contribute to knowledge through education and research; Continuously improve the ways we serve our patients and our community.

Kirsten Bio picProject Grants for Individuals
Artist Name: Kirsten Volness
Project Name: Verdant Vibes New Music Concert Series
Project: Verdant Vibes is a new music ensemble and concert series bringing together artists and musicians creating new work in a variety of genres and media, acoustic and electronic. This season we will present a three-concert series of music selected from our international call for scores, local and regional guest artists, and collaborations with young writers from the Manton Avenue Project, an afterschool playwriting program based in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence. We will work with the students on composition and performance of a new project, Olneyville: the Operetta!

18055642_776072662571353_6649634511345034880_oThis summer we posted our public, free, and inclusive call for scores for all types of new music that fits our core ensemble’s instrumentation, regardless of style or genre. We encouraged submission of electroacoustic and multimedia works, as well as proposals for collaborations from artists of all disciplines that do not fit the mold of a standard call for scores. opened this summer and received 750 submissions from around the world. We received over 750 submissions from around the world, and have been very fortunate and successful in attracting fantastic local, national, and international composers and other collaborative artists to work with us and present their work to local audiences.

We will continue to emphasize the work of RI artists (one show will feature local composer/performers) while including music from composers from all over the world. We believe combining local music with music from outside Rhode Island on our concerts helps expose our growing audience to exceptional new music from a variety of communities. We will encourage composers from out of state, who are able and willing, to attend our rehearsals and concerts, with the aim of providing a fruitful exchange between these creative communities.

Artist Bio:
Kirsten Volness is a musician, composer, and teacher who has been involved in the creative community of Providence and greater Rhode Island for eight years. She is co-founder/director and pianist of Verdant Vibes, plays piano with NYC-based ensemble Hotel Elefant, collaborates on unique multimedia projects such as Meridian Project (astrophysics+new music/media), Tenderloin Opera Company (homeless advocacy music/theater group), and is an affiliate artist of Sleeping Weazel. As inaugural Composer-In-Residence, Kirsten also curates the First Fridays chamber music series at the Music Mansion in Providence. She teaches privately and at the University of Rhode Island. kirstenvolness.com

The mission of Verdant Vibes is to present opportunities for a diverse group of composers, performers, and audience members to come together to experience new music. We aim to accomplish this not just through our call for scores and performances by our core ensemble, but through our collaboration with unique and diverse guest artists, accessible and eclectic performance venues, talented students, and curious and enthusiastic audience members. We hope to grow on the successes of this project thus far, and to continue to strive toward the goal of a strong and inclusive new music community in Rhode Island.

Rose Weaver: The arts help us to heal, in community

When art conveys an aspect of human experience, it can touch people’s lives in profound and meaningful ways. Rose Weaver tells a story of how her artistic work helped her and others to deal with difficult and complicated family losses.

Writing plays, storytelling, composing songs, and singing are analogous to food and water for me. Without them I would not have survived an abusive past living under Jim Crow laws or gender discrimination since birth. Looking forward, I know I cannot endure the future if being an artist and receiving artistic grant support is forever taken from me.

Spruced physically, spiritually, and mentally in their abundant guises, performing and writing provides me the artistic means through which I find personal and professional freedom and salvation.

“Memories are the lifeblood of a family’s identity.” My play, Skips in the Record, a RISCA 2004 Fellowship winner, is a tragic comedy about a southern black American family coping with Alzheimer’s disease. Through three generations of women, it focuses on the fear of losing memory, history, thoughts, ideas, recognition and the urgent desire to preserve all of these. I witnessed my grandmother’s steady decline and death from complications of Alzheimer’s. I saw my mother’s struggle as a caregiver who could barely read prescription labels.  A few years later, as my friend and colleague Sylvia Ann Soares’s mother moved deeper into Alzheimer’s disease, again I saw first hand how devastating the disease is to the caregiver, the patient, the whole family. I needed to write and capture my experiences in order to better understand, ease my fears, heal, and to help my community comprehend the scope of Alzheimer’s whole body deterioration.

Skips in the Record was one of my thesis plays at Brown University as a mature MFA student of fifty years old. A one-act play in the beginning, it was not until I was awarded the RISCA Playwriting Fellowship in 2004 that I was able to have the time and resources to create focus groups, do extensive research, and expand the one-act play into a full length script. Performances were welcomed by hospitals, churches, community organizations and even First Night Providence at Trinity Rep.

A few months ago, another dear friend, Pamela Lambert, who acted in Skips in the Record along side Sylvia Ann Soares, confided in me that as a result of her acting in the play over the years, she is presently able to better care for her own mother who is losing the battle to the disease.

An executive who worked with an Alzheimer’s organization said, “Skips in the Record is successful and highly regarded by the audience as an excellent and innovative approach to educate the community about Alzheimer’s disease.” Education using the arts allows a person with no education or one with multiple degrees to benefit on a visceral as well as intellectual level from the messages in artistic representations.

ROSE WEAVER is a playwright, vocalist, and performer. She is currently Artist-in-Residence at Brown University’s Rites & Reason Theatre.
To read more art stories, visit Rhode Island Art Stories. To contribute your own, email: mka [at] mkimarnold [dot] com.