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.”

all prints

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.”

David Vieira: The experience of community

One of the co-founder of The Arctic Playhouse Theatre in West Warwick, David Vieira wants to share his love of live performance and community.

Art — in particular, theatre and live music — has always played a pivotal role in my life, starting when I was a teen through now in my 60s. I learned about the world through plays and music. Even if I wasn’t always aware of it, I was learning about life and about living with other people as I was being entertained.

Now that I am older, I am trying to pass on the importance of live entertainment and the arts by being part owner of a community theatre. With two partners, I founded a non-profit theatre in West Warwick three years ago. Seeing the responses of the patrons and the dedication of the hard-working actors and performers has convinced me even more about the value of the arts.

More than ever, it is important to get people together to experience live music and theatre. With our cell phones and computers, and video games, we can be very isolated. The theatre does not only entertain, it gives us the shared experience of being together.

DAVID VIEIRA is part owner of the The Arctic Playhouse Theatre, a nonprofit community theatre in West Warwick. He is a husband, father, and grandfather.
To read more art stories, visit Rhode Island Art Stories. To contribute your own, email: mka [at] mkimarnold [dot] com.

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.

Video and Pictures from RISCA’s 50 Anniversary Rally at the State House

Rally Capitol TV

Click on this image to see the Capitol TV video of the “Rally for RISCA’s 50th”

Thanks to all of you who attended RISCA’s 50th Birthday party at the Rhode Island State House on June 1st!  We had a great turnout, and a lot of fun.

The highlight of the event was our 50 Speakers for 50 Years of Public Support for the Arts in Rhode Island, when 50 arts and political leaders in our state took 60 seconds apiece to creatively express their support for public funding for the arts.  And it was VERY creative.  Click on the image above to see the video, courtesy of Rhode Island Capitol TV.

And check out pictures of the event on the RISCA Flickr page, courtesy of photographer Lew Place III.

RISCA’s Adrienne Adeyemi joins New Urban Arts Director on RIPR interview

On the off-chance that you weren’t listening to Rhode Island Public Radio on Thursday morning, May 25th at 6:51am, you missed RISCA’s Adrienne Adeyemi join Dan Schleifer from New Urban Arts talk about New Urban Arts at 20 and the threats public funding for the arts are currently facing.  Thanks to modern technology you can listen at your leisure by going to http://ripr.org/post/ri-artscape-new-urban-arts-20 .  Enjoy.

ripr

Grateful for the recognition – Pell Awards 2017

2017-05-23 10_52_50-Randall Rosenbaum

Last evening (May 22nd) was the 21st Annual Pell Awards, an event hosted by Trinity Repertory Company to “celebrate outstanding contributions in the arts.”  The event was held in the spectacular new Waterfire Art Center in Providence.  RISCA was honored for its 50 years of support for the arts in Rhode Island, and shared the stage with a distinguished group of awardees:  Joe and Sally Dowling, Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, and screen and stage legend Jessica Lange.

It was a thrill and honor for RISCA to be recognized for the work it does on behalf of the arts in Rhode Island. I tried to express our gratitude in my remarks while accepting the award on behalf of the RISCA board and staff, but for me personally the best expression of our work is in the achievements of others. I couldn’t help but feel a thrill when Joe and Sally Dowling talked about their personal engagement with Trinity artistic directors and actors over the years, and how their commitment to an art form and an ensemble has meant the difference, not only for them but frankly for all of us who love the arts in Rhode Island.

I have long admired Ricardo Pitts-Wiley. He has a strong and steadfast commitment to the arts as an actor and director, and an unending work ethic. It has, sadly, been a challenge for African-American artists to build a career in the arts in this state and this country.  Frankly, agencies like ours struggle with the most appropriate ways to equitably support work by African, Asian, Native and Latino artists, and Ricardo has been one of our toughest critics, which – perversely, I know – makes him one of our most important friends.  In spite of the challenges – and with the help of his wife and partner, Bernadette – Ricardo has built Mixed Magic Theatre into an important company sharing the work of the African-American experience, among other works, with a Rhode Island audience.

Finally, I was moved by Shura Baryshnikov‘s introduction of her mother, Jessica Lange.  Shura talked about how her mother’s work and approach to life helped to shape her own as a dancer and performer, and how that inspiration is finding root in her own daughters’ lives.  This reminded me of the importance and influence of community. We Rhode Islanders take for granted the small size of our state, which I believe is one of our greatest advantages. Shura is the co-artistic director of the Doppelganger Dance Collective, and this young company has been influence by the dance, and the music, and the theatre and visual and literary arts it sees all around it.  Generations of theatre artists have been influenced by the work of Trinity Rep, and it has spawned a number of important companies and ensembles in our state.  The Rhode Island Philharmonic and its Music School have an outsized influence over the growth of music in Rhode Island. And the list goes on.

So, sure.  RISCA was absolutely honored to be recognized for 50 years of work on behalf of the arts in Rhode Island. We’re grateful to Trinity Rep and others for the award. But for those of us who work at RISCA, the excitement of helping to grow and support the arts in Rhode Island is, indeed, its own reward.