When artist, activist, ASL interpreter, and former circus artist Brandon Kazen-Maddox arrived in New Hampshire to spend the summer with theater, opera, and film director Kevin Newbury, the pair didn’t actually know each other all that well. They met in December 2019 and crossed paths a few times while working and traveling. But once they were both in New Hampshire for the summer, the creative and romantic connection was instant. They felt instant chemistry. As Kevin recalls, “It was just like, ‘do you want to spend the rest of our lives together and make work together?”
Erin Washington thinks a lot about lineages as a descendant and as a future ancestor. As an artist and educator based in Atlanta, Erin recognizes her relatives who participated in the Montgomery bus boycott and supported her creative ambitions by taking her to auditions. She also recognizes her spiritual, creative ancestors like Audre Lorde who paved the way for later generations of Black artists and thinkers.
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Peter Michael Marino is a theater producer, performer, director, and educator. And in 2020, he really missed the theater. A lot. So, he took inspiration from a Victorian trend called “toy theater,” learned a whole new set of skills including puppetry and digital performance. He created a show inspired by the movie “Planet of the Apes.” The final result is PM2 Entertainment’s “Planet of the Grapes Live,” starring a cast of grapes and corks and supplies from craft stores. Currently, it is in an open-ended run with tickets available for June performances from the Cincy Fringe Festival.
Lowell, Massachusetts only has one professional orchestra. Founded by Orlando Cela, who serves as its music director, the Lowell Chamber Orchestra “provides the area with an ensemble that presents music at a very high level, of all styles and time periods, entirely free to the general population.”
Michaela Ternasky-Holland is proudly multi-hyphenate in her interests and her career. She is a creative strategist, consultant, dancer, documentarian, public speaker, and storyteller. Currently, she is working with Mixed Asian Media Festival to present a wide-ranging collection of work made by and about mixed Asian creators.
Since 2012, MIPSTERZ has been a home for Muslim artists and creators. The initial group formed during Ramadan, realizing that if the different groups of Muslims breaking fast every day were grouped into cliques like a high school cafeteria, they didn’t quite fit in with the yuppies, the investment bankers, or anyone else. They belonged with each other and started to jokingly refer to themselves as the Muslim hipsters.
When news of Cecilia Giménez’s restoration of the “Ecce Homo” fresco became international news, most people saw a meme and got a quick laugh. The restoration has been called the Beast Jesus or Monkey Jesus and is one of the most notable failed restorations of our time. It spawned internet fame for Giménez and countless jokes and riffs. It also ended up bringing new tourist attention to Borja, the Spanish town where Giménez and her restored fresco lived.
Robbi Hall Kumalo resists easy description as an artist. She identifies as a creator, a healer, and an educator. She has a decades-long history as a performer for audiences of all ages, but primarily for audiences of young people. Her work combines song, dance, storytelling, poetry, and more. For years, she has toured to different cities, towns, and schools and performed for millions of people. She has worked as a solo artist and in collaboration with others.
Valeria Solomonoff is deep in the world of Argentine Tango. She co-choreographed “Evita” at New York City Center, received awards from ACE and HOLA for work like “Tango por Ellos,” “Tango Fever” and “Doña Flor y Sus Dos Maridos.” She performed for the President of Argentina, created the first all-woman tango company (Tango Mujer), and has taught at NYU Tisch, Hunter College, Smith College, and Mount Holyoke College.
2020 laid bare the ways that our current systems have been failing artists for a long time. It has also shown us new forms of collective organizing and power-building in the arts and among creative communities. We saw the limitations of individualistic, atomized approaches to succeeding or surviving in the arts, as well as the fragility of formal institutions like museums, galleries, and nonprofits. We have been inspired by artists coming together collectively, pooling resources and sharing information to help support the broader creative community. If we are building a better, more equitable arts sector in the coming year(s), we need to nourish that community.