Artists Restore Humanity
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with both an old college professor and a local artist. Comparing both conversations I found some striking similarities; both came from backgrounds with troubled family dynamics which is arguably the foundation of every artist. Independently, yet simultaneously – they have taken their personal experiences and embedded them into ridiculous institutions [by way of teaching] with the objective being either to entertain or report possibilities in real-time.
Collectively, all three of us are teachers, writers, and visual artists; captivated by distorted truths attempting to integrate them with genuine realism. One believes the creative process is individualized with hopes of gaining perspective. The other is steadfast at creating safe spaces for P.O.C’s regardless of their gender identification.
The Professor who Restores Herself
I remember being a sophomore at Augsburg College and enrolling in Sarah Myers Improv Theater class first semester. One of our first assignments was viewing the stage play “Neighbors” featured at Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis. To be frank, the production blatantly and [to some] disrespectfully discussed racism. The show was so captivating I saw it nine times! As a young creative, I both intrigued by the artistry of the writers but also offended by the intolerable stereotypes that cowered over the actors.
The healing that Myers offered me as a young, Black woman has forever indebted me to her. For the first time, at 19, I had my first real conversation on race with a middle-aged white woman. Unbeknownst to me, then, Myers had her own share of discrimination by simply being Jewish. A bisexual Jew.
Sarah Myers, a native of Chicago, IL, and active professor at Augsburg College, utilized expressive are in her stage play, ‘I Do Today’. Myers, a self-proclaimed “Bi first – queer now” woman of Jewish faith said that writing the play was a healing process for her. She is an introvert and doesn’t share specific moments of the play publicly because, well – “people make assumptions”. Myers “draws from personal ordeals” with something she has a strong emotional connection to for her creative process.
Whether it’s in front of or behind the stage (she prefers to be behind the scenes) Myers battles with internal issues that would surely perplex her professional community. What are Jewish laws for being bisexual? Can you be bisexual and have a heterosexual marriage? That’s one for the theologians.
The Revolutionary who Restores the Culture
I had the pleasure of meeting Keno Evol 3 years ago in a kitchen, on the south-side of Minneapolis. Ganja blew on the balcony and hood politics discussed in the kitchen. A room full of Black people is so poetic; influenced by recreational substances harmoniously engaging in the most relevant conversation of their lives.
Keno Evol is a local artist, performer, spoken word artist, dancer, and director. He spent 3 years in the foster care system as were his 8 siblings. Evol now sits as the founder and executive director of Black Table Arts, an arts-based organization centered on conjuring other worlds through Black art, connecting creatives and cultivating volume in Black Life.
He is also the founder of Black Lines Matter [sharing the same acronym as Black Lives Matter] a “writing arena where social politics meets the poetic”; centered on producing historical and contemporary protest projects by Black poets awhile building Black comprehension. An atmosphere that is “free to the public yet highlights and produces premium Black writing” is the mission. His personal goal is to “constantly hold a free space for us to invite more folks to the table, sharpen our swords and lead with love”. *Black Table Arts meets bi-weekly on Saturdays from 6-8 pm at The Loft Literary Center Room 303
She Who Restores Life
After speaking with both artists I reflect on the times I did something creative to counter pain. It’s effortless to get something either over-the-counter or “under-the-table” to reduce the imposed upon melancholy. Artists are never normal because we are too complex like a contradicting oxymoron. Writing, however, keeps me sane, sober and solvent.
I recalling leaning on my pen more than my pipe to inhale forgiveness and exhale domestic violence, sexual violence, and low self-esteem. I’ve been molested, physically assaulted and raped. Uniquely, I have a tattoo, orbiting my ankle, that reads ‘Dance, Laugh, Sing’ – a daily dose of remedial acts.
As artists, where do we lie down our vulnerabilities when our audiences want silly little anecdotes about love and relationships. A reader once actually told me to write more about my romantic relationships. Perhaps if she knew what all I was still applying Preparation-H to she wouldn’t be so eager to exploit me all in the name of creativity. How ironic is it, though, that my personal pain cleverly disguised as creative works shall be the remedy for her ailments.
My responsibility as a creative is not just to honor humanity but dammit to restore it. Often times it is a tedious expense to invest in humanity but to give up would leave the wound uncovered. In the words of the Notorious B.I.G. “we can’t change the world until we change ourselves”. I saw we can’t heal the world’s problems until we hear our own; the cure
Photo Cred: augsburg.com, blacktablearts.com & Pinterest