Member Spotlight: In Full Color
When Summer Dawn Reyes found herself frustrated trying to get meaty, non-stereotypical Asian and Hispanic acting roles, she realized that one solution was just to write the roles herself. So, she did. Once she realized how valuable it was for her as a woman of color to be able to express herself fully and authentically as a writer and performer, she expanded her vision to help other creative women of color.
In Full Color, based in Jersey City, N.J., is “an award-winning organization that empowers women of color through education and the arts. [They] lead a storytelling revolution called Authentic Representation in theater, visual art, comedy, music, dance and other media.” Every year, they create and produce a performance including monologues, songs, and more centering the diverse experiences of their creative community. In Full Color has performed at colleges, festivals, corporate offices, and government institutions. They’ve also expanded into creating print goods like journals, coloring books, and more.
Summer Dawn Reyes shares how In Full Color uses storytelling to give women of color creative outlets worthy of their talents, while promoting empathy in audiences.
Tell us about your work or project. What inspired it and how do you hope it will impact people?
In Full Color empowers women of color (WOC) through education and the arts, and also elevates BIPOC [people] of other marginalized genders. We lead a storytelling revolution called Authentic Representation in theater, visual art, comedy, music, dance and other media. We empower women and other BIPOC [people] of marginalized genders to be their best selves. We also educate, entertain and engage audiences of all colors and genders about diversity, equity, inclusion and justice.
I'm Summer Dawn Reyes and I founded our company in 2015 – or rather, our company grew from a stage show that I started producing. As an actor of color, I always found it was hard to find Asian or Hispanic roles with great depth and without offensive stereotypes. As a writer, I took things into my own hands and started writing my own roles. This was incredibly empowering, and I quickly realized this was something other WOC needed, too.
Thus, In Full Color was born, a place where marginalized folks could share their stories in their voices.
We love creating opportunities for marginalized artists to share their work authentically and also get paid! We also hope our audiences can grow empathetically through our programs. I only know my lived experience, and am always learning so much about others through In Full Color. And it's made me a passionate advocate for so many others. Art creates empathy, and empathy creates change. I hope our work can empower artists, enlighten audiences and engage communities in creating a new future for all.
Describe the process you've taken to bring your project to life. What's been involved?
We've worked with over 200 artists since our inception, including mostly BIPOC and woman-identified artists. This group is also 16% LGBTQ. For our mainstage show, we do an open call for submissions and receive monologues and poems from around the country. We then select the best 12 or so for production and rehearse with writers and actors of various experience levels. Over the course of only three rehearsals, each performer learns how to best bring their story to life. We usually put the show on in Jersey City, N.J., but presented virtually in 2020 due to COVID-19. We've partnered with numerous local theater groups to host the show in the past, but were excited to present on our own.
Our other projects include performances and workshops for schools, governmental agencies, companies and other clients and some fun things we like to do for ourselves, like publish coloring books or wellness journals. We also run a comedy series and have organized concerts! We collaborate regularly with artists to help them grow while also staying true to themselves. Now, we're also looking to offer virtual and in-person educational programs for women of color in art, career, culture and wellness. COVID-19 has been a huge challenge for us but also a moment of learning and growth as far as our technological and teaching skills go.
What have been your biggest challenges with this project or with your work?
The most challenging thing for us has been fundraising, mostly because our only full-time worker is me, Summer. While I have an amazing board of four powerful women artists and activists, the vast majority of work is done by me: creating our business strategy, doing client outreach, performing, directing, designing graphics, posting to social media, managing our inventory, and more. While our small crowdfunding fundraisers have been successful, I'd love to develop relationships with long-term, sustaining funders including corporate sponsors.
For you, what is the relationship between art and social change? How does your work fit into that relationship?
Art creates empathy, and empathy creates change. Those are the two most important guiding tenets for me as I continue to grow In Full Color. While our work is powerful on a purely artistic level, there is an undeniable political and social undercurrent to what we do. We believe that when we give marginalized folks access to Authentic Representation and when we hear people tell their stories in their own voices–whether it be through theater, music, dance or even visual art–we give audiences a chance to truly understand that person. That understanding leads to empathy, and that is the powerful catalyst for real change. It's hard to hate from up-close, and art brings you incredibly up-close.
Glennifer Braker performs “WOMAN” - Photo Credit: Dan Joseph
What has been most useful to you about your Fractured Atlas membership? Which tools, resources, or services have you taken advantage of?
Fractured Atlas has been a huge blessing for us because it offers us access to funds we could not otherwise collect. For example, being able to offer our supporters a tax-deduction for their donation is a big incentive for some of our larger donors and folks who regularly support multiple nonprofit causes. It has also allowed us to apply to grants including the Literary Arts Emergency Fund, which allowed us to print our major 2020 publication, the "how to destroy the patriarchy in seven days" wellness journal. This created paid work for three artists and two other women of color who acted as product testers. The project will also help people of all genders and colors grow in multiple areas to become their best selves and better activists, too.
What was your first big win with Fractured Atlas?
Our first big win was being able to execute our 2020 annual fundraiser through Fractured Atlas's crowdfunding fundraising platform. We were able to meet our goal of $1,500 needed to produce our annual show on a virtual platform and for the first time, able to pay every single one of our performers. This project created paid work for 16 artists! We also exceeded this goal by about $1,000, which I matched with a personal donation to Black Lives Matter. It is so important for us to not only uplift and prioritize Black voices, but to also support anti-racism and pro-Black political action.
Cast of In Full Color 2019
What advice do you have for other artists or organizations using Fractured Atlas services. How can they get the most out of it?
Be super consistent and clear in your outward communications when you are asking people to donate to your project. Make it clear that donations are tax-deductible, and give people direct links to your fiscal sponsorship page. Make it as easy as possible! But of course, also make sure that you're not losing the opportunity to communicate your mission and why donating is so important. Keep your Fractured Atlas profile up-to-date and also have information on your website or social media about making donations to your project.
Any upcoming events that people should know about? What's next for you that we should be keeping an eye out for?
We are working on three big projects in the expansion of our Education initiatives. One is the expansion of our school tours -- we are now offering virtual performances and workshops to high schools, colleges, universities and other learning institutions all over America! We also just published our "how to destroy the patriarchy in seven days" wellness journal featuring art, poetry and fun, introspective prompts that help you grow in areas like body image, altruism and knowledge about other cultures. We're hoping to get this book into as many hands as possible this holiday season. Lastly, we're launching a series of virtual workshops on topics in the areas of art, career, culture and wellness. Interested folks should learn more at INFULLCOLOR.ORG.
To follow In Full Color’s work, you can sign up for their mailing list and follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. To support their efforts, you can donate to their Fractured Atlas fundraising page.
About Nina Berman
Nina Berman is an arts industry worker and ceramicist based in New York City, currently working as Associate Director, Communications and Content at Fractured Atlas. She holds an MA in English from Loyola University Chicago. At Fractured Atlas, she shares tips and strategies for navigating the art world, interviews artists, and writes about creating a more equitable arts ecosystem. Before joining Fractured Atlas, she covered the book publishing industry for an audience of publishers at NetGalley. When she's not writing, she's making ceramics at Centerpoint Ceramics in Brooklyn.