I remember the first day I walked into 20 cooper square. I was worried that I was going to be late; I wanted to make a good impression on my first day as an Arts in Action fellow on April 17th, 2017. Though I am not one to stress about time to the point where it’s self deprecating, something about this opportunity demanded my complete and utter attention before it even began. Ebony Noelle Golden, the founder of Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative (BDAC) walked in a minute after I arrived, and I suddenly dove head first in an experience that would stretch and transform the way I experience the world around me for years to come.
My Arts in Action fellowship began at the whiteboard. Ebony went through her business model, the organizations she was currently working with, in addition to her current project 125th and Freedom which will be debuting this September. We talked through workshops I would be participating in (all of which incorporated the theme of creative emancipation), expectations, and what I wanted to get out of the experience. I admired the fact that Ebony actually listened to me when I was speaking…I was beyond thrilled to meet someone who is able to balance empathy and a rigorous work ethic. To be human in business, and in the movement. It’s necessary and completely possible, folks.
Before I knew it, my first weeks began: starting with a workshop on creative emancipation at SUNY downstate, then prepping for interviewing artists from a residency program BDAC is conducting a field survey for, participating in more workshops with the Laundromat project, making phone calls, conducting more interviews, going to see Jennifer Newman’s work The Geneva Project at BAAD!, and much more. I can confirm that my fellowship is in fact an Arts in ACTION fellowship.
I’m a watcher. I love to inspect people, situations, energies. The ways people communicate, move, and breathe around one another. I’ve done an immense amount of witnessing in terms of the way Ebony’s world works. What does it mean for someone to be constantly living and breathing their work? In Ebony’s case it means it’s her purpose; perfectly mapped out in a manner that is completely unique and honest. In a manner where she is not only advocating and living her liberation through her work; but additionally for the liberation of black artists, of artists of color, of artists with disabilities. BDAC’s work is paving the way to freedom: sometimes a loud smack of thunder, other times creeping silently in the dark. Little do you know BDAC is coming, little do you know that BDAC is always five steps ahead. That’s what happens when your work is committed to truth and deep listening. It’s about what’s beneath the surface…
Ebony has told me time and time again that caring for yourself is the work. It is ingrained into the calendars, into the work ethic. Some days Ebony and I will go to MIST in Harlem to get our work done in a lively environment, other days we break bread together, laugh together, or simply breathe together. The two of us have it figured out collectively, and Ebony has it figured out individually, but I would like to speak for myself. Since I have gotten to New York my life has been in complete flux; movement, movement, movement. Borough to borough, house to house, lugging a suitcase from place to place. I’ve moved ten times. Throughout this movement, I’ve learned that routine is imperative. I need time to exercise,to flex and stretch my body, time to sing in the morning. Eating regularly is non negotiable, and there is no replacement for sunshine on my skin. These past months have been a learning opportunity, as my body has been sending me messages so that I am able to understand that deep care for myself is also a part of my job description. Not just Ebony’s, not just Ebony and I’s, but mine individually. It is essential, and it is my living and breathing and my arts in action. Once these joys are naturally a part of my routine my work can become my living.
The past months have taught me the essentials. Though my brain is constantly swirling with new thoughts and concepts and learning methods to breathe and live and create in this world, I feel beyond blessed to be a part of BDAC’s work…The ways that Ebony and BDAC have required me to be and think in the world are a medley of challenging, natural, and freeing. Arts in Action is simply about living more fully with an alert mind and a powerful consciousness surrounding what you are breathing in, and what you create when you breathe it out. I look forward to embodying “Arts in Action” more fully, authentic in my role, wider, with breadth and depth. Here is to the next weeks. May they be rich, may they be fruitful.
Along with my Arts in Action Fellowship I have gained the opportunity to be a part of the Public Performing Arts Fellowship (also through BDAC). The theme to this year’s fellowship is creative emancipation. I have been developing my own work “Planting Seeds In Shadows”, in addition to creating collective work, learning from incredible teachers such as Aiesha Turman, Shola Cole, Renee Rises, Ebony Noelle Golden, and many more. I have been lucky enough to be a part of the behind the scenes planning: communicating with master teachers, syllabus development, making announcements, etc. It has been an excellent opportunity for gaining insight on building a sustainable, creative, liberatory framework, then actively participating within the framework; allowing it to transform me on various levels.
In addition to both fellowships I am a performer in Ebony Golden’s 125th and Freedom. Here is her artistic statement:
“Ebony Noelle Golden’s 125th and Freedom is a public performance art project comprised of ten choreopoetic rituals staged along 125th Street between the Harlem and Hudson Rivers. The piece venerates the radical legacies of The Underground Railroad, The Great Migration, and 125th Street to explore migration, gentrification, and creative emancipation in the wake of large scale political, economic, cultural displacement. The performance seeks to collectively source tools and strategies for collective resistance and resilience that can withstand systemic oppression that is inextricably tied to living in a society that values ‘profit over people’.”
125th and Freedom: A Choreopoetic Ritual Performance is debuting September 17th and 24th, 2017. Check it out here: Facebook Page
For additional information on Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative, follow the following links:
Photo credit: Gaia Robinson
North Star Fund has partnered with Antioch College to provide students co-op opportunities and in the Fall 2015 cooperative work term, Antioch College student, Greta Treistman ’17, took advantage of that opportunity. Aside from the fabulous chance to live in the “Big Apple”, Greta joined North Star Fund and quickly fell in love with the team, its mission, and the victories for humanity they were propelling through the work they did. Alongside her team at North Star Fund, Greta managed the grant cycle. This allowed her to meet with a wide number of organizations working to tackle the various political issues in the city and to help redistribute grants to those organizations to further their causes. In meetings with the various organizers, Greta was introduced to the creative and innovative solutions they were generating to help garner more attention from politicians and community members to further improve the situations of those in need.
Encouraging other students to select North Star as a co-op, Greta states “If you’re at all interested in community organizing or urban political issues, I would strongly recommend you go to North Star…as a group, they have a really incredibly thoughtful and critical analysis of what their own role is in the non-profit world, including the power dynamics between funders and organizers. The perspective of the people that worked there was really nuanced.” She truly enjoyed being able to become aware of, analyze, and assist in improving the current political issues in the five boroughs.
For her second co-op, Ellie Burck ’18 finds herself in the wonderful city of Chicago working as the Creative Intern for Ink Factory. Ink Factory specializes in graphic recording and has a mission “to create visual experiences that inspire and engage.” The hope is to transform the way in which communication occurs through the art of visualization. As a part of this creative and dynamic organization, Ellie is able to take part in various projects from creating an email-based newsletter template, to maintaining social media accounts to share the great work being done at Ink Factory, and even generating content for new projects! Through personal connections, Ellie was able to self-design her co-op with Ink Factory allowing her to join personal passion with academic learning, and ultimately helping her expand creatively. Pictured above is a visual syllabus that Ellie created and submitted as a portion of her Work Portfolio course. Ellie is very excited about the rest of her co-op in Chicago, and is looking forward to bringing the skills she’s learned at Ink Factory to Antioch College!
Check out the Ink Factory blog here to see Ellie Burck featured!
*Illustration by Ellie Burck
Spencer Glazer ’17 and Myrcka Del Rio ’17 are currently in Nepal with Clubhouse International on their third Co-op. Spurred to action by news of recent devastation in Nepal from the 2015 earthquakes, the pair embarked on a Co-op journey of a lifetime. Spencer and Myrcka spend much of their days volunteering in a local school in Kathmandu with students across all ages teaching lessons in various subjects. Despite the tragedies from the quake and destruction to schools, “the kids still show up everyday, happy and ready to learn”, says Spencer. Through the gracious hospitality of a host family, they have been able to attend various festivals, ceremonies, and even a wedding. They are also following closely, the current political efforts of Nepal’s new Constitution and complex relationship with neighboring India. Talk about meaningful international and cultural immersion! Click here to view their tumblr page and follow their fabulous adventures! To donate to those affected in Nepal, click here. Keep up the good work, Spencer and Myrcka!