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Posted May 18, 2023
(written by Ithaca College intern Caleb Grassi)
By encouraging 10 young artists to share their unique mental health journeys through art, Bree Barton (left in photo) is helping the Ithaca community hear the voices of those who often go ignored and feel less alone.
Bree Barton is the author of several young adult novels published in seven countries and four languages. Bree teaches dance and writing and loves connecting with readers of all ages. Zia Erases the World is her middle grade debut.
Barton received our Strategic Opportunity Stipend grant for her project Naming the Unnamable: Youth Stories of Resilience and Survival that was shown in the CAP ArtSpace in January of 2023.
Through an open invitation, she found young artists who have struggled or are currently struggling with homelessness, political migration, violence, racism, misogyny, and homophobia. Using artistic forms from film to writing, these artists created works for the larger exhibit which would focus on the personal fallout of these often too-abstract-to-identify-with themes.
Today, the news makes many feel desensitized to the sorts of stories Naming the Unnamable addresses. When asked how we can overcome this desensitization, Barton said,
“For me, the answer is always about empathy and connection. If I'm at home scrolling through my daily feed of heartbreak, I feel hopeless. But if I'm out in the world connecting with live human beings, hearing their stories in their own voices—told with wisdom and vulnerability and truth—it gives me hope. That's what I felt, working with these ten young artists. Hope. They reminded me that stories have raw power, and the more we can give marginalized youth (and disenfranchised people more generally) space to tell those stories, the more we wake up. Action begins with awareness. Stories are so much more effective than statistics at catalyzing change.”
Reflecting on the artists she worked with, Bree noted,
“I'd love to be in their lives for a long time—to see them take the world by storm. My priority with this project was to make each participant feel 100 percent safe and supported; I checked in with them often to make sure they felt that way. It's a big ask, to bring in ten artists between the ages of 11 and 23 and say, ‘Hey! Talk about your mental health journeys, your most vulnerable personal stories—and do it in a public forum!’ I felt very protective of them every step of the way. My sense was that the opposite happened: they felt seen and heard. My dream was that it would be a validating, uplifting, hopeful experience—and from what they've shared with me, it seems like it was.”
Art like Barton’s continues to foster these sort of connecting experiences in Ithaca and grows not only awareness for our community’s marginalized, but a hopeful ambition to make systemic changes.
Posted April 11, 2023
(written by Ithaca College intern Caleb Grassi)
Ithaca, not only a college town, but frequently rated the best college town in America, is not a stranger to nightlife.
There are many bars with regular and guest DJ spots; what’s lacking for local artist West Fox are DJs who deviate from the largely white mainstream culture.
Fox is the recipient of CAP's Artist in Community Grant for their Reclaim the Dancefloor DJ Project, which will train artists in live mixing, leading up to the Reclaim the Dancefloor inaugural event in summer of 2023 at the Forest City Lodge.
The project will be a part of the Dia Spora Collective, a group of queer, transgender, and non-binary Black, Brown, and indigenous Ithaca artists whose goal it is to represent their cultures through the arts.
West notes the existing legacies of these cultures in the venue they chose for the event: “Performing at Forest City Lodge #180 (and attending events there) is what inspired me to pursue this vision - as a Black fraternal organization, there is a hallowed air to its halls, its history is of resistance, community, and joy. Being able to host events at FCL #180 where Black, Brown, Indigenous, Melanated Peoples (BBIMP) are able to share their joy and in doing so cultivate spaces for freedom of expression is as close to my vision as I could get.”
West, who likens their musical vision to that of the Soulquarians from the late 90’s (an artist collective including such prolific musicians as Erykah Badu, Questlove, and D’Angelo), seeks to train artists who are already engaging in the duality required of BBIMP artists to hold unabashed joy and righteous anger, in the technical skills of live-mixing music. Their vision is for the Dia Spora Collective to learn how to produce music collaboratively.
When asked about their ideal nightlife experience, West shared an anecdote: “The other day a friend and long-term resident of Ithaca shared a memory with me of the active, accepting, and abundant dance community here in Ithaca centered around ecstatic dance that existed pre-pandemic. When describing how those events made them feel they said “liberated!” The dance-floor was the first place I felt free & it delighted me to hear tales of how Ithaca cultivated its own version of the 90s and 2000s dance revolution. It also tells me that Ithaca is a space where intentional, transformative, and liberatory dance events can thrive.”
“I’m drawing from my own lineage,” West says “while also shining a light on how structural racism works to divorce non-white people from the joy and freedom we created amidst persistent and intentional tribulations. This ideal I’m referencing comes from my experience attending warehouse events in the Lower East Side of Manhattan as a teen as well as ballroom events at the LGBT Center in the West Village. There was a shared purpose, determination, and desire to experience freedom and joy, or so it seemed.”
Posted February 14, 2023
(written by Ithaca College intern Caleb Grassi)
Taking "Cirquest" to the next level
Seth Hunter Koproski is not afraid to blur the boundaries between artistic disciplines. He has lived in Ithaca for seven years, in which time he has worked as a graduate lecturer at Cornell and built relationships and began collaborating with local artists.
In October 2023, he was awarded a CAP SOS grant to continue his series of stage performances called “Cirquest,” an exciting blend of circus, theatre, and puppetry at this summer's Hupstate Circus Festival, a multiple-day festival in Ithaca featuring performances by dozens of circus artists from all over North America. In 2022, Koproski directed 'The Fighter's Tale', a fifteen-minute section of the show featuring circus artists based out of Circus Culture and the work of local shadow puppeteers."
The SOS grant is helping Koproski take Cirquest to a more serious place. He says, “An overarching goal is certainly more emotional depth and refinement-- the first Cirquest was very lighthearted and intentionally so, but I think the show can go to more emotionally involved places while keeping the fun and joy of the circus artform.”
Koproski credits his love of fantasy video games in inspiring Cirquest. Nintendo’s Zelda series, for example, is known for blending different aspects of the art world from playing magical instruments to donning shapeshifting masks as it walks the player through its rich, mythic storylines.
Cirquest seeks to create something similar with the addition of puppetry, circus, and our local community of puppet and circus artists. He is also introducing a strong participatory element from the audience. Koproski states, "The overarching structure of Cirquest has the audience vote on which performers they want to see perform their acts, and this is designed so that the audience has a 'buy-in', they have to make a choice that affects the media in front of them the audience and must deal with their regret or satisfaction with that choice, much like video games which require input from their players. Theater often seems to have an awkward and cranky relationship with new technologies, but these games have been part of my artistic and personal ethic since I was young.”
You can see Cirquest live at the Hupstate Circus festival all around Ithaca this summer. Stay tuned for dates!
Check out Seth's Cirquest instagram page
(Right Photo Credit: Amy Cohen)
Posted November 13, 2022
(written by Ithaca College intern Ellie Brewster)
A Book Tour Made Possible
Local author Sorayya Khan was awarded a SOS Grant to embark on a tour for her latest book, "We Take Our Cities With Us: A Memoir."
While Sorayya has published 3 novels, this is her first book tour. Khan was encouraged by peers to tour and she wanted to put 100% effort into promotion in the first month post-release. Sorayya applied for the grant to help cover costs for her 1990 mile journey.
Khan is known for her three previous novels "City of Spies" (winner of the 2015 Best International Fiction Award), "Five Queen’s Row," and "Noor." She has published 13 essays and had writing featured in several anthologies.
When asked about the grant’s impact, Sorayya said: “The SOS grant makes possible my book tour for my memoir. It's often said that the first month after the publication of a book is pivotal, which makes speaking at bookstores and meeting readers important. I'm using the funds for my East Coast travel -- DC, Boston, Cleveland, Portland -- where I'll be in conversation with writers Claire Messud, Lily King, and Dan Chaon. I'm excited about the adventure, which wouldn't have been possible without the generous CAP funding!”
Posted October 11, 2022
(written by Ithaca College intern Ellie Brewster)
The Power of Creating Public Art
For over 40 years, OAR of Tompkins County has been protecting the civil liberties of those incarcerated in the Tompkins County Jail through their ReEntry services, Assigned Counsel intakes, and charitable bail fund.
This past summer, OAR applied for and received a CAP Creative Recovery Fund (CRF) grant so that residents at their Sunflower House and Endeavor House could go on a guided tour of Ithaca’s beautiful public murals. After the tour, residents designed and painted their own mural. (CRF's focus is on racial justice, economic recovery and improving the lives of people in our County.)
The tour and the mural was guided by Caleb Thomas, coordinator of IthacaMurals. The mural was painted by four residents on the Endeavor House and depicts a phoenix & features a poem written by an OAR client, Jason W.
OAR’s goal for these projects was to build relationships with OAR residents to help them feel more socially involved. Sunflower House resident Keegan Y said “It made me feel like I was being included in the community. I think it’s important to feel that way, to be a part of something. It gave me a reason to get out of the house, socialize, and see/make cool art. The project helped me feel more like a regular person. I believe there should be more of that in the ReEntry Community.”
Richard S, a resident of Endeavor House, remarked “It made me feel good to keep my word by helping out the mural project and socializing with all the other residents and volunteers.”
Douglas P, another Endeavor House resident, said “ It was awesome to know that an idea of mine came into fruition (the phoenix bird). It gave me a sense of worth and it was cool that my friend Josh was able to add his own poem to the mural piece.”
Michael F, also a resident of the Endeavor House, commented “It influenced my creativity and inspired me to do similar work at a different level. I would like to be a creative development consultant. The grant helped us get closer to our clients by offering something fun and inclusive to collaborate on. The mural project was a good bonding experience that gave us an opportunity to be creative by painting a mural that we were all proud of. By working together out of the office, it strengthened the client-worker relationships we have with our Endeavor House residents and other OAR clients.”
OAR continues to provide housing and supportive services to formerly incarcerated individuals, seeking to reduce recidivism and improve members’ ways of life.
Posted September 6, 2022
(written by Ithaca College Writing Intern Grace Condon)
The Best Curriculum: The Value of Collaboration
CAP's Creative Recovery Fund grant has a primary focus area of arts events that address racial justice. The Village at Ithaca is one of 12 grantees and received funds for "Seats at the Table."
Young people (ages 13+) used their creativity, passion, and research skills to reclaim 12 found/used chairs and through decoupage, paint, and other techniques, transforming the chairs into the testimonials and depictions of the Black agents of freedom who came before them. Finished pieces for this ongoing project, were displayed this past July at the Ithaca City School District Diversity Symposium.
Sarah Wolff, Program Educator, came up with the idea while she was walking down her road and noticed an old chair up for grabs in her neighbor’s front yard. Her experience as an educator mainly revolves around teaching poetry and writing, but she has actively been exploring new forms for metaphor beyond the written.
Her idea was to transform waste (old chairs) into a symbol of empowerment detailing a complex history of oppression. The chairs serve as an accessible metaphor for reworking biased systems in the pursuit of providing, protecting, and nurturing all people so... seats at the table come to fruition.
The group of teenagers, mostly young Black men and women, worked out of Sarah’s garage and yard. It was reassuring for Sarah to see young men use their artistic expression to tell their shared history and communicate ongoing challenges their community faces. “I love seeing moments like that happen; It showed me the value of collaboration,” Sarah said, “A table came to exist...We had our table.”
The chairs serve as a reclamation of a history that has neglected to be included in much of the curriculum in today's education. Sarah mentioned this might be the best curriculum she has used as an educator, which goes to show just how involved and impactful the project was. This was “A chance for them to practice advocacy on a small scale,” she said.
Merging history with abstract expression, some of the chairs, such as the “Ida B. Wells Throne of Truth and Justice,” were celebratory of Black agents of freedom. Others, such as the “Maternal Mortality Chair,” confronted past and current challenges the system creates. The CDC published a statistic which found black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than white women. The reality is there are racial disparities in access to and quality of healthcare.
This project bears many questions: Can chairs representing truth and justice have their place at the “table”—current social and political structures—or are these chairs meant to provide a seat for the community they represent at a table that is coming to exist irrespective of the “table” that for so long they have not been welcome to?
School administrators and educators who had the opportunity to view the chairs at the symposium were impressed by the students’ craftsmanship, collaboration, and scholarship. The assistant principal of Ithaca high school was in tears after the chairs were presented.
Though they have made great progress, transforming twelve chairs, the project is not over. “It is not a done deal,” Sarah says. “It’s still evolving.” Ideas for the chairs continue to emerge and there is the possibility of future exhibitions.
Posted July 10, 2022
(written by Ithaca College Writing Intern Grace Condon)
The Kids Were Spellbound
State of the Art Gallery (SOAG) is a cooperative fine art gallery located at 120 W. State/MLKL Jr. street in Ithaca, and they have been recipients of multiple CAP grants for many years!
SOAG is a cooperative, operated by 25 artist members Their exhibits change monthly with May featuring a show titled “Wings, Petals, and Leaves” by Margy Nelson, Carla DeMello, and Diana Ozolins, which captured observations of nature in paintings, digital prints, photographs, and paper sculptures.
One of SOAG’s intentions for the use of the 2022 CAP "GAP" grant was educational outreach. They achieved this in cooperation with Beverly J Martin elementary school and local artist, Katrina Morse. The students of Ms. Jessica Custer-Bindel's kindergarten class visited SOAG in early May for a tour of the exhibit. Ms. Custer’s class did an art detective activity created by Katrina which made for a fun and engaging tour!
On their way out of the exhibit “The kids were spellbound,” Nancy, an SOAG volunteer says. “They asked, ‘who gets to show their art?’ and ‘can we show our art in a gallery?’”
This ignited the idea for the students to have their very own show. For the three weeks following their visit, the kids worked on their art projects with materials supplied by SOAG. Their work was displayed for gallery night on June 3rd. The kids got to proudly share their capability with their parents who came to see the show.
“What a project!” Nancy said, “It was transforming for the kids and others at BJM.”
The imagination and ability of Ms. Custer’s kindergarten class— pottery and sculptures incorporating recycled materials, nature paintings, nature photographs, and insect huts— all of which pertain to their science curriculum— are on display at the Community School of Music and Arts. The exhibit is titled “L'atelier” (French for studio).
The CAP grant covered costs for SOAG’S educational outreach project and materials for Ms. Custer’s students' art projects.
“I would hope to have more of these outreach projects,” Nancy says, “since young children are at an impressionable age when they can be stimulated by a memorable involvement. I would predict that several of the kindergarten children either pursue art or incorporate it into their lives as they grow older.”
This is a project that encouraged creativity and curiosity. It is important to make kids (and adults) feel like their expression is valued; kudos to Ms. Jessica Bindel-Custer and SOAG volunteers for achieving this.
SOAG will continue to introduce students of all ages to the world of art. Their next program will be in the fall with the New Roots school high school students.
posted June 3, 2022
Yen Ospina’s Mystical Colors
Yen Ospina recieved a 2022 CAP Artist in Community Grant to paint a mural at the Women's Opportunity Center. More information is below.
(by CAP Board member Judith Pratt)
If I weren’t out of walls to put art and books on, I would want at least four of Yen Ospina’s paintings: her “Aqua”, her “Mariposas”, her “Escarabajo”, and her “Bosque Oscuro.” And that’s only from page one of her website that shows her fascinating art.
She turns these paintings into greeting cards and T-shirts. She also paints murals, and sells bead earrings that she imports from a Colombian indigenous tribe from her hometown, the Embera Chami, the “people from the mountain.” They are a hunting and harvesting group who are suffering from colonization, climate change, and forced displacement.
On her website, Ospina writes: “I will create almost anything! Portraits, Family Portraits, Animal Portraits, Icons, Posters, Album Art, Logos, and more!”
Ospina describes her painting style much better than I can: “My work centers on themes of power, mysticism, and visibility. I use a core color palette of ochre, chocolate, cinnamon red, earthy orange, and a deep dusty teal.”
See these colors on her paintings at https://yenospina.com/
Ospina is the daughter of Colombian-born immigrants, and a “proud latinx queer artist.” She is self-taught, honing her style over “a period of deep introspection.”
Then she created a mural, “Justia,” for OAR (Opportunities, Alternatives, and Resources for incarcerated people.) Of that mural, Ospina wrote, “We need to keep fighting because there’s so much happening right now - people being murdered in the streets, kids in cages, Colombia... This mural is a reminder to myself & others that art can be powerful. I didn’t get political until painting this mural. Now I’m inspired. I hope everyone feels it when they see it. Keep fighting.”
“I care about people that are targeted with injustice,” said Ospina. “I care about the treatment of women and people of color, and I want equality for all. I find it important to give because it is the right thing to do. Being united and supporting each other is what helps to fight against the people that are constantly making us turn on each other.”
Her murals can be seen all over Ithaca, including at the Sciencenter, Press Bay Alley, even on a fence along the South Hill Recreation Way. Now she’s working with the Paul Schreurs Memorial Program to paint a mural in the Women’s Opportunity Center. It will have an unveiling on Wednesday, June 17, from 5-7 p.m., at the Women’s Opportunity Center. There will be a silent auction and refreshments.
Check out her murals at https://www.ithacamurals.com/yen-ospina.html
While she paints, Ospina said, “I listen to the monologues of movies. I replay movies over and over again! All-time Favorites : Blade Runner, Alien, and The Big Lebowski.”
“I'm thankful that CAP exists, said Ospina. “It has given me the opportunity to network, and in the past, I have received grants that have helped me through some rough times. It has helped me when I lost my job during the pandemic. CAP helps artists in need, and I'm thankful for it.”
“The arts have been used to express what is constantly going on in the world. Creating something out of nothing is the most fulfilling thing to me. When I try to explain what arts mean to me, the thought is too overwhelming. Words can't describe how it makes me feel, I just express it the best I can with color.”
Yen Ospina has a gift for color. If you have space on your walls, consider buying some of her brilliant pieces.
posted May 11, 2022
(by I.C. CAP intern Madeline Mecca)
Josh Oxford is a composer and former musician, originally from Cortland, New York. Oxford, who received CAP’s Strategic Opportunity Stipend (SOS) grant, plans to use the funding to finish recording an album. The album will consist of recordings of his arrangements for trumpet, horn, tuba, and trombone sonatas, as well as the Concerto for trumpet, bassoon, and strings. It will be released through PARMA records.
In 2010, Oxford experienced a near-fatal car crash, which left him with severe complications from an internal decapitation, a broken hip, and shattered humerus. As a result, his performing career was swiftly ended, and he dedicated himself to writing music. Since then, he’s written numerous compositions, one of which—an arrangement of the Hindemith tuba sonata recorded by Aaron Tindall for his album This is My House—garnered international attention. “However, people were primarily interested in performing it as a backing track; it’d be like classical music karaoke. After years of refusing to release just the audio, I’ve finally relented,” Oxford mentioned.
He cites the inspiration for his upcoming album as something deeply rooted in his life:
“Back when I was in high school, I was obsessed with Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. They used to reorchestrate and rearrange different kinds of classical music— from Bartok to Copland. Fast forward to when I was accompanying (probably at Cortland High School), I had to play the Hindemith trumpet sonata. I thought it would be cool with a drum beat behind it, so I arranged the first movement for my band The OXtet. Professor Frank Campos heard the arrangement and encouraged me to orchestrate the other two movements to perform on his recital. After the performance, the rest of the brass faculty asked me to arrange their Hindemith sonatas. I then sent the arrangements to Schott Publishing for permission to record but didn’t hear back affirmatively from them until after my life-changing car accident.”
Despite the setbacks, the project will still see the light of day, with great help from the SOS grant.
Oxford also recently received his Doctorate of Musical Arts from Arizona State University.
Of his next endeavors, he said, “It’s looking like academia will be the next step,” in addition to the music he’s writing for his band, The OXtet, and a saxophone dance suite for alto and ‘tape’— “a prerecorded audio track made in Logic.”
You can hear Oxford’s music and purchase his compositions on his website, joshoxford.com.
posted April 5, 2022
Jim Self, an Alabama native currently based in Ithaca, NY, is an artist working in painting, performance, writing, and installation. He has received past CAP grants, and the latest is our 2022 Artist in Community Grant, funded by New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. The grant awards artists funds to create new work, while also sharing that work in a significant way with a local community of their choosing.
With his work spanning decades, Self is determined fill a need in the community. He views himself as an ‘elder activist’ and this identity seems to help shape his art. Rather than shying away from becoming a beacon of representation, he embraces it and focuses on providing a warm, welcoming space.
Self’s inner world shifted upon his father’s death at sixty-six years old. As Self reached that age, he developed a deeper sense of his own mortality and noticed more similarities between his father and himself, both physical and mental. The shift began to inform this stage of Self’s career—a complex exploration of what it means to transform and develop oneself through the years.
Self’s current project, tentatively titled Walk, Talk, and Beyond, is focused on establishing a dialogue surrounding aging. He describes it as, “a multiple layered project including performed memories, community conversation, movement dialogues, and informal showings on the subjects of LGBTQ senior expressions, the aging moving body, memory and legacy.” Each performance of this project will see Self performing excerpts of his previous works, Override and Mama Mat’e. Those excerpts focus on the relationships between a parent and their child. Override examines a father/son relationship, while Mama Mat’e examines a mother/son relationship.
For the next portion of the performance, Self will be joined by Kathy Lucas, a dancer, trainer, and movement therapist also based in Ithaca. Together, they will hold a dialogue on social issues and incorporate expressive body language, sounds, and words. Following this, Lucas and other artists will be invited to share excerpts of their own work.
Combining his previous work with direct social dialogue is a testament to Self’s engagement with the community. He seeks to strengthen that connection, upholding their feedback and allowing it to become part of his creative process.
As he welcomes the opportunity to commune with others while still utilizing his introspection, we see how deeply his history is embedded in each piece of work he creates, ever expanding upon his artistic journey. It is a radical display in a time and culture where novelty and youth are valued over wisdom and lived experience.
Walk, Talk, and Beyond is set to be performed at the Cherry Art Space in June 2022.
Learn more about Jim at Jimboself.com
posted March 3, 2022
Ann Reichlin is a locally based artist and the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, including two fellowships from the New York Foundation for Arts in the category of Architecture/Environmental Structures. She has been a professor, a university artist-in-residence, and her site-specific installations have been at sculpture spaces throughout the region. Her current installation, Transient Room, can be viewed at Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site in Philadephia.
Ann received CAP's Arts Education Grant for two upcoming artist residencies at Caroline Elementary School. One, a Puppet Theatre Workshop will be in the first grade classroom. The puppet makng and theatre play will simultaneously supports their literacy goals and is designed to stretch the children's imaginations.
The other project is Ann's "Make Way For Play" project, originally created in 2015 for the kindergarden classrooms (funded by CAP in 2015-2017) as a way for art-making to foster creative thinking, problem solving, social skills, early literacy, and joy for the process of making art!
Ann's highly interactive curriculum gives her the opportunity to engage in one-on-one teaching with the kindergarteners. The 2022 curriculum, “Make Way for Play: Wilderness Case Study”, is intended to teach young students the art of sculpture. It involves each child selecting an animal from among the species they’re currently studying in kindergarten. The children create a small replica of the animal, constructed with materials including plaster gauze, wood, acrylic paint, and armature wire. Following the completion of their animal, each child is able build two habitats for it: one based in reality and the other based in imagination. Ann's project serves as a companion to Caroline Elementary’s Wilderness Case Study—an experiential learning-based program focused on six-mile creek, which is adjacent to the school.
Ann is passionate about this type of interactive learning, observing the difference in how the kids react to the relationship between play and learning:
“When the kids made things they could play with, they really engaged with the work in a different way. The sculptures became avatars of play, so the kids could go and play in each other’s environments and play with the animals. And then they made written stories out of them!”
She recalls one student in particular being excited about the opportunity to create his own art—he wanted to be able to wear his animal’s habitat.
"I helped him make a sash, so that he could carry the animal’s house like a backpack. I have this picture of him carrying it around, and I thought, ‘That’s joy, that’s satisfaction’. That’s what makes it worth it. That was really memorable because of his joy in having been able to accomplish that.”
The final stage of this project is the Wilderness Case Study Celebration, in which the students can present their projects to their families and school community. This last element is one of the most vital, as it transforms the curriculum into a family experience, resulting in memories the kids will surely remember for years to come. It also serves as a testament to the whimsy of children’s imaginations, allowing them to be completely free with their creative expression while learning about the natural world.
CAP’s grant provides the time and resources for Ann to thoroughly delve into teaching the students. It is a wonderful opportunity for children to witness a dedicated artist in action, offering them a taste of what learning and creating is all about.
More information on Ann Reichlin and her art can be found on her website, annreichlin.com.
posted February 7
Groton Public Library
The Groton Public Library has been a Community Arts Partnership grant recipient for over 20 years. Through this long-standing relationship, the library has been able to execute their vision of delivering wholesome entertainment to the community, focusing especially on the local youth.
As a nonprofit organization, the library relies on grants as their main source of funding. Through the grants, they are able to offer programs full of imagination and intellect, as well as opportunities to get children engaged in reading—all of which is offered to the public free of charge. “Without the Community Arts Partnership money, we couldn’t do those kinds of things,” noted Sara Knobel, Library Director.
Making the arts accessible is a major priority of the library staff. “When people get stressed, they turn to art,” Knobel commented, “that’s the first thing they do.” She is aware of the obstacles people face when trying to attend events—most notably, lack of financing for travel, tickets, and food. Her goal has been to eliminate these costs and create an affordable, family-friendly space.
Prior to the library’s current offerings, which include reading programs and live performances, Knobel noticed a significant lack of arts entertainment available in the small town of Groton: “Quite often, the [Summer Reading] programming I did here in the summer was the only exposure.” She took the initiative to change this, gearing up the library to offer free theatre performances from groups like Merry-Go-Round Theatre. She highlighted the importance of exposing youth to the performing arts, especially in a time where opportunities to do so have become more limited.
The library is also committed to providing access to talented performers who can thoroughly enrich the experience of their audiences. Knobel cited Tom Knight the Puppeteer as one example, praising his ability to maintain the interest of an easily distracted young audience: “They were too young. Suddenly, he just stopped and said, ‘Hey, kids, let’s do something different’. He got down on the ground with them, and said, ‘let’s do a little dance, let’s do a little wiggle’. He just changed the whole thing. After that, parents came to me and said, ‘that was fantastic, thanks for doing that, my children loved it’. People were starved for things like that.”
These efforts have had a significant impact on the local residents, outside of just providing entertainment. Knobel observed that she has witnessed Groton children grow up to pursue theatre. “Sometimes, all it takes is a taste of something to go, ‘oh, I have an interest in this’, and they follow it, and they pursue it. I’ve seen it time and again,” Knobel said of the long-term effect arts accessibility can have.
Moving forward, Knobel hopes to continue creating more opportunities for kids to get out of the house and safely engage with creative endeavors. “I’m doing more things during the day for the kids—more with books, more with arts and crafts,” she explained. Information on upcoming events can be found on the library’s website, https://grotonpubliclibrary.net/events/
posted January 9
(2021 Specific Opportunity Stipend and Creative Recovery Fund)
Clockmaker Arts is an Ithaca-based theatre, film and artistic training studio founded by Artistic Director, Elizabeth Seldin (left - taken backstage at the State Theatre).
They do a little bit of everything--productions, teaching, theatre, and film, all designed to empower individuals through creative expression in a process oriented, trauma informed and courageously healing approach.
“It’s not what we do, it’s how we do it,” Elizabeth said in an interview with CAP Ithaca College intern, Aldi Alvarez. “We do project based work, and we also have theatre classes and training workshops. But mostly it’s about working with individual artists or a group of artists on projects by helping them cultivate healthy practices within collaboration, as well as empowering practices through the process of what they create.”
Clockmaker Arts was initially founded by Seldin as a theatre company umbrella for an original solo performance Off-Broadway musical that she created and was directed by fellow Clockmaker Artist, Evie Hammer-Lester and through their partnership the company began to grow.
2021 featured an original musical written by Carley Robinson and Elizabeth Seldin (both pictured below), and directed by Gabriella da Silva Carr called “In Case You Forgot” which dealt with themes of social justice, performed at the State Theatre.
“If I had to pick three words for Clockmaker Arts, it would be ‘healing’, ‘magic’ and ‘play’,” Seldin says. “The basic principles that have always been true regardless are that we create performances, we support artists, and we have an immense amount of fun doing it while cultivating courage with our artists that breeds amazing opportunities to grow and transform in honest conversation within the work."
When asked how Covid-19 affected their services, Seldin reflected that Clockmaker Arts actually benefited in some ways from the pandemic. Their classes, online due to the pandemic, have actually opened up the opportunity to work with people internationally.
Having shows online meant that they didn’t have to work with the sort of limitations that could otherwise bring challenges to a live performance. Their online performances “What Haunts You,” and “What If In A Snowstorm,” provided the opportunity for them to work with a cast based in NYC, Northern Ireland, Ithaca, Virginia, California, and Sweden!
Clockmaker Arts received CAP's "Specific Opportunity Stipend (SOS)" and the "Creative Recovery Grant"
When discussing the grants Seldin said, “When you get a grant, it’s a reminder that your work matters. It’s money that gives you the ability to do what you need to do and love to do. And because of the two grants, I am able to have enough faith in myself to know my work matters.”
“There’s nothing better than being in collaboration with other people,” Seldin said when asked about what the best part of Clockmaker Arts was. “I love how brilliant everyone is. I love that I get to witness it, support it, and play in collaboration with it. Working with people and getting to see how incredibly different they are and celebrate that as well as bearing witness to seeing the beautiful dance between individuality and the core of human understanding that all people experience such as anxiety, grief, love, and is simply incredible. It just makes life alive, brilliant, colorful, healing and worth engaging in. It’s just a gift to connect.”
At the time of this interview, Clockmaker Arts has many different budding projects going on that will be broadening their horizons, ideas which include interactive theatre and cultivating a training studio to not only teach aspects of theatre (like acting, dancing and singing), but also one that incubates a stronger community and a desire for practice.
“A lot of theatre is ‘You get this role’ or ‘You try to perfect a specific aspect of the training,’ and that’s not what I’m about at all,” Seldin said. “Because I think everyone is super talented and I think everyone can learn anything and I think it’s about cultivating a space that encourages that. It is about ‘the practice.’ It is about the process. And at the end of the day it is about having fun.”
To learn more about Clockmaker Arts, visit ClockmakerArts.com
posted December 7
THIS is Ithaca
(2021 Specific Opportunity Stipend Recipient)
THIS Is Ithaca is a podcast, created by Marietta Synodis (left) and Florenz Gilly, that celebrates and explores the culture of Ithaca through interviews and personal accounts of the people that make this city what it is.
“Each episode is an audio portrait of a member or members of this community,” Marietta Synodis says in an interview about THIS Is Ithaca and the process of starting it. Currently, there are 6 episodes in the podcast, each one focusing on different peoples, from bus drivers to dry cleaners to their most recent episode showcasing Ithaca's mayor.
“In 2019, we interviewed over 30 people,” Marietta remembers. “Each episode is 10-15 minutes of just the person speaking in their own words. You don’t hear me or Florenz, just the subject talking...talking about their life and about living in Ithaca. It’s a snapshot of this community."
Covid delayed the project, but they were able to bounce back quickly. With CAP’s SOS Grant, Marietta and Florenz were able to begin working on their website to give the podcast a tangible home. The grant allowed them to learn web design and, once the website was finished, released their first episode.
(Left: Florenz Gilly) “I started working in radio in 2009,” Marietta says upon reflection about her career. “I hadn’t been doing radio professionally since about 2013 but I had been involved with WRFI, our community radio station here in town. I produced a series for them that documented the 2017 Community Reading of Michelle Alexander’s book "The New Jim Crow." I also deejayed a show where I had guests come with mix CDs from their life.”
When Marietta came to Ithaca, she had only planned to stay for six months. Seven years later, Marietta is still here, contributing to the community in a variety of ways, creatively and organizationally. “I just fell in love with Ithaca. I really, really fell in love with this town.”
So when the opportunity presented itself to create a podcast about this community, Marietta jumped on it. “I feel like Florenz and I really compliment each other in how we explore and approach Ithaca."
"One of the things I love about the project is the interview process. With radio, it’s so intimate. It’s just you and the person you’re interviewing and a microphone. There’s no camera. People forget about the mircrophone. You can get really intimate and vulnerable with people. I felt like each time we sat down with somebody, everybody had a fascinating story. It doesn’t matter what they do or where they come from, sitting them down and giving them an hour of your time, the natural storyteller in a person comes out and I really love that.”
Marietta was enthusiastic about planning for a second season and has many ideas, including working with Story House Ithaca to help create a place where people can tell stories. “We’re plugging away,” Marietta concludes. “We’re gonna continue editing and producing because we’ve got lots of content still.."
To learn more or listen to THIS Is Ithaca podcasts, including the most recent interview with Mayor Myrick, please visit https://thisithaca.org/.
posted November 1, 2021
Beyond Art Collective
(2020 Artist in Community Grant)
by CAP's intern, Adri Alvarez, IC Writing Major
CAP's Artist in Communty Grant funds are from New York State Council on the Arts and are designed to help local artists in making new work AND sharing the work with our communities in our a significant way.
The Beyond Artist Collective received this grant and created the amazing “BEYOND” installation, an interactive art gallery that opened in Ithaca last summer and ran until this October in Center Ithaca on the Ithaca Commons. From the minds of the Beyond Arts team (Doug Shire, Laurence Clarkberg and many others), Beyond brought you away from the simple art gallery and directly into the creative visions and senses of the artists that bring them to life. Working beyond simple visual arts, Beyond utilizes sound and interactivity to bring you into a world that you could only dream of.
"It often happens that when you receive a great gift, you want to return it to the community that gave it to you,” Shire said when talking about Beyond. “And I would say that the Beyond exhibit is absolutely a gift to the community.”
30 artists contributed to making the Beyond Arts Lounge everything it could dream to be. Originally planned to open in 2020, it was delayed to 2021 due to Covid-19 pandemic and, after so much hardship, positioned itself to remind people of the impact art can have on our lives by offering a safe space to explore, think and express themselves.
“That was really what kicked it off for us,” Shire said on his experience working with CAP. “Not just financially. When someone gives you a grant, it’s kind of like they’re confident in you. They believe that you can do the thing that you proposed and they’re giving you the resources to make it happen. And that’s a good feeling, it really is.”
When asked about Covid, Shire talked about how they were able to turn it into a strength. “During the Covid months, we just continued to make art,” he said. “That we knew would one day be in the space. In a way, it made it better, because we had more time to build stuff. It’s better now, almost two years later, that we had all that extra time.”
Beyond is an exhibit about, in Shire’s own words, maximalism, the direct opposite of minimalism, where it focuses on always seeing things no matter where you look and about living in the space.
Frontlining it is Sparky the Giant Rideable Unicorn, a massive puppet unicorn that lights up the night sky. Designed by Doug Shire and Laurence Clarksberg, Sparky has toured the east coast, providing joy to all who sees it, and it is currently back home in Ithaca. This is in addition to several other exhibits. There are strings that when pulled on create various sounds, video games to be played, fortune telling skeletons, an alterable geographics map, all tightly packed into a wonderland of neon lights and sounds. It truly feels like you’re walking into the mind or heart of an artist.
“It’s more than an individual expression,” Shire explained. “But more like an expression of the community.”
When talking about inspirations for Beyond, Shire explained that “I have been to other interactive art spaces around the country that have been inspiring to me also… There’s a way that you’re invited to engage and play with the art and not just look at it. In other words, you can be an active participant instead of just a consumer.”
Shire and Clarksberg plan to public art for the Winter Lights Festival, happening at downtown Ithaca Commons this December. They also hope to find a space to make a permanent immersive art experience in Ithaca. “It could be a pretty cool addition to the community,” Shire said.
Doug and Lawrence wrote a nice article after they got our grant about their inspiration here.
posted October 2, 2021
Civic Ensemble's "Delia Divided," with Executive Director Julia Taylor
(2021 "Grants for Arts Programs" & Creative Recovery Grant)
by CAP's ntern, Adri Alvarez, IC Writing Major
The Civic Ensemble is a local theatre company that seeks to explore the social, political and cultural challenges our community faces through the dramatic arts and seeks to be a positive change in our community and to help people tell their own unique narratives.
This past June they performed an online staged reading of "Delia Divided," a play that explores the complexities of mental health, the criminal justice system, and racism. “Delia Divided is a new full length play that was written by a professional playwright, Judy Tate,” Julia Taylor, Executive Director at Civic Ensemble, explains. “Local audiences might remember Judy from her play Fast Blood, which was produced in 2018. Judy collaborated with our ReEntry theatre program to write this play.”
The ReEntry Program is composed of creatives who have dealt with incarceration and the justice program. “It’s a supportive community for creating original work,” says Taylor. "The Re-Entry Theatre Program started as a class, but evolved due to the excitement and enthusiasm from the people involved, eventually growing to be able to constantly work on new productions throughout the year. There always is conversation on the next stories we want to be telling.” Performances are followed by dialogues with the cast to help form a stronger bond between members of the community.
The ReEntry Theatre Program has already produced four plays (including Delia Divided) that share the stories about those who have been impacted by incarceration, providing creative outlets and forming bonds with the society at large to inform them of a part of life they may be unfamiliar with.
Delia Divided centers around a young, black woman as she dealt with the challenges of the foster care system, the criminal justice system and her own mental health. The staged reading was made possible in part by a CAP "Grants for Arts Program" and the Creative Recovery Fund, a new CAP grant that centers around the community's recovery in the areas of racial justice, public and mental health, economic recovery, and climate disaster. “Our goal of this play is to not just show how these systems and how these themes play out in our community,” Taylor said about the show. “but to engage our community in dialogue about these questions.”
Delia Divided was originally planned to begin production last Spring, but was delayed due to the pandemic. “This play, with these people involved, needed to happen in person,” Taylor said.
“It’s been really challenging,” Taylor said when reflecting on the pandemic. “A lot of our programming couldn’t really continue in the way we had planned. We created a whole play on Zoom. We just premiered a new play last week that runs this month, called Stepping Into My Shoes, at the Re-Entry Theatre Program, based in oral histories interviews that they conducted. We found ourselves on Zoom and we were like ‘How can we do theatre in Zoom,’ and we said, ‘we can tell stories, that’s what we do in Civic’. We pivoted, we’ve tried to figure out how to be creative and how to create theatre following the form we're. So we’re online, we’re telling stories online. Let’s make a play that’s audio based, Let’s make a play we don’t have to be in person for.”
Civic Ensemble plans to have a fully staged production of Delia Divided in May, 2022, to coincide with mental health awareness month. They are also starting their next community based play soon which will explore “What does it mean to be well?” which they hope can be by the end of 2022.
To learn more about Civic Ensemble and their upcoming productions, please visit https://www.civicensemble.org/.
Posted July 30, 2021
Walking on Water Productions with Priscilla Hummel
(2021 Grants for Arts Programs, and SOS Grant)
by CAP Ithaca College Intern Isabella Grassia
Walking on Water Productions (WoW) is a non-profit musical theatre company in Tompkins County. Their goal is to encourage the expression of local artists through musical theatre and provide opportunities for the community to come and enjoy new and existing works.
Pandemic Challenges: Like many other theatre companies, WoW had to turn to the unfamiliar medium of virtual theatre. The company decided to put together a cabaret-style video, reprising some performances of WoW’s past, showing behind the scenes of their creative team, and teasing at a potential production to come.
This first production was meant to be one special show for the interim, but it soon became apparent that the interim would be much longer than originally anticipated.
Production of Comfort Food: WoW’s second production during the pandemic would be something different: Comfort Food - a three-act musical featuring a solo performer in each act, written by Rachel Lampert and Larry Pressgrove.
Reimagining Theatre: The musical had to be reimagined as a kind of “movie musical” according to WoW founder and producing artistic director Priscilla Hummel. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, actors were given direction via Zoom and had their pod members film them, using their own kitchens as their sets. A CAP SOS Grant helped with production costs.
"A Year with Frog and Toad" goes live!
As the restrictions have been lifted, WoW has begun to set its sights back on live productions. Like many other theatre companies, their most recent production, A Year with Frog and Toad, opted for outdoor performances that took place at the CRS Barn Studio.
“Outdoor performance just seemed to be the best way to transition back,” Hummel said. “The community could feel more comfortable and safe as they ventured back into crowd settings, especially families.”
More Family Friendly Productions: Based on the classic book series by Arnold Lobel, Frog and Toad was intended for more of a family demographic than some of WoW’s past productions. Hummel said that this was a conscious choice for their return to live theatre, “We had a lot more time to re-examine our mission statement and our vision [during the pandemic].”
“One of the things that we had discovered, in terms of our commitment to creating multi-generational theatre, is that most of the work we had done up to that point had catered a little more toward the adult demographic. So, we wanted to more actively seek out a production that would cross more generational lines. Frog and Toad really came to the surface because it had the potential to cater to kids who are young readers, and there are a lot of adults who would recognize those books from when they were kids.”
Hummel said that WoW will look at more family-oriented musicals for their next productions, continuing the work to recenter their focus on multi-generational content. However, as things open up more and Walking on Water can put on more shows, they are hoping to have a healthy mix of productions for adults and children. WoW is hoping to expand its education programming outreach with middle and high school students as well. From assisting schools with their drama programs to writing and acting workshops, WoW hopes to help foster a passion for theatre in students.
NEW: WoW's NoW (New Original Work) Program: Walking on Water plans to shine the spotlight on new musicals which haven’t been put on stage before. Their new program, WoW’s NoW (or New Original Works), will allow new works to be submitted for consideration. A panel of diverse theatre artists will narrow it down to a selection of three musicals which WoW will produce in a series of staged readings. Audiences will also have the opportunity to vote on which piece they’d like to see as a full production and the winning musical will be produced by WoW as a world premiere the following season. This program will launch sometime in the summer or fall of 2022.
For information on Walking on Water Productions and to get the first update on their upcoming shows, visit their website: https://www.walkingonwaterproductions.org/ or follow them on FaceBook or Instagram.
Posted July 30, 2021
Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz
2021 Artist in Community Grant
(by CAP Ithaca College Intern Isabella Grassia)
Local artist Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz is a recent recipent of CAP's 2021 Artist in Community Grant for Regio, a production of contemporary dance, storytelling, and puppetry that addresses the issues of safety that Latinx migrant workers, specifically in meat supply factories, had to face during the COVID-19 pandemic.
About Juan Manuel
Juan Manuel specializes in mediums of dance and visual media to give voice to social issues. He has taken part in several international artist residency programs and his award-winning choreography has been presented all around the world. He is currently teaching at Cornell University and working on a book about the role of choreography and performance during anti-immigrant periods in the United States.
Juan Manuel says that his goal as an artist is to create less oppressive environments in the world we live in. Much of his work touches on topics of race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender. He strives toward his goal with performance art that “offers the potential [for audiences] to listen intently, witness [social issues] with care, and find ways of critically identifying systemic injustices.”
Telling stories about the experiences and struggles of Mexican and Central American immigrant communities is also a goal of Juan Manuel’s, coming from a migrant family himself. He believes it is important to represent the complexities and specific details of these Latinx people’s lives as opposed to how they are often represented: in characters and generalizations.
In July 2020, Juan Manuel traveled across the country for his postdoctoral fellowship at Cornell University. During his journey, he listened to the podcast Latino USA. It was there that he first heard about the Children of Smithfield, a group of children who protested the unsafe conditions of the meatpacking factories their parents worked in. Though the story was focused on the kids, Juan Manuel considered the position of the parents. He considered the powerful choice of having to decide between one’s safety or livelihood and the livelihoods of their families.
“Whether you show up to work, knowing the precarity of the conditions, reveals something very powerful about the people who choose to make this decision,” Juan Manuel says. “[They work] despite being aware of the dangers to themselves and their body.”
One of the most eye-catching elements of Regio is the puppetry. While Juan Manuel was inspired to include puppets in his project from taking his toddler to a children’s show organized by Lilypad Puppet Theatre, the ones in Regio are no hand puppets. Juan Manuel had seen the giant 11-foot tall Mojigangas years prior when he visited Mexico in 2012. He was struck by their “other-worldly and magical” qualities but wondered how they would function with more dynamic movement.
His experimentation of combining the Mojigangas with movement and dance was the perfect way to merge his long-held desire to work with the puppets and the challenge of following social distancing guidelines in a dance performance.
CAP's “Artist in Community” Grant helped cover the costs of materials for the puppets and to compensate the artists who collaborated with him on this project. Being in a new area and building these new relationships with fellow artists, he believes it was especially important to pay them for their time. Juan Manuel is grateful to CAP for giving him the ability to honor those values and support all the moving parts of Regio.
Since arriving in Tompkins County, Juan Manuel has received a warm welcome from the Latino Civic Association and the Ithaca Puppet Pod. Both organizations helped Juan Manuel gain his footing in this new environment and provide support for the development and production of Regio. For more information on Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz and his work, visit his website: http://www.juanmaldape.com/
Posted June 27, 2021
The Stolen Joy Project
2021 Grants for Arts Programs
(by CAP Ithaca College Intern Isabella Grassia)
The Stolen Joy Project, launched in October 2020 by the Village at Ithaca, is a collection of stories from people of color about their experiences with institutionalized racism in the school systems. The project’s Instagram, @stolenjoyproject, features photos of black and brown youth when they were first faced with these incidents or photos of them in the present day, coupled with their stories.
When reading through these different experiences, it becomes immediately clear why the project is called Stolen Joy. Kids tell their stories of being painted with stereotypes by their fellow students and teachers, being told they would never amount to anything, and being purposely let slip through the cracks. The collection illuminates the true prevalence and severity of racism in our school systems to this day.
Village at Ithaca’s goal for the project is to amplify the voices of people of color by collecting their stories on a safe and supportive platform and have their voices be heard.
To further elevate these stories and allow them to be seen and better understood by a wider range of people, the Village collaborated with the Kitchen Theatre to create the Stolen Joy Film Project, funded in part by the Community Arts Partnership’s “Grants for Arts Programs” (GAP) Grant.
The short and powerful film features multiple stories, all originating on Stolen Joy’s Instagram, and presents them through the art of monologue, featuring local actors and directors, and filmed by local filmmaker Shira Evergreen. (The film HERE premiered at the Community Arts Partnership's Spring Writes Literary Festival.)
Meryl Phipps, the Executive Director of Village at Ithaca, says that she hopes the project and film can be used as a tool for learning and advocating for change. “This is a chorus of voices, of universal experience, that is really the reason why we needed systemic change decades ago and why we’re advocating for various policy shifts in order to eradicate these types of experiences.”
Village at Ithaca received CAP’s GAP grant to help fairly compensate the actors and contributors who worked on the film. Being able to support the local actors, cinematographer, and directors was very important to Village at Ithaca and they’re grateful to CAP for helping them to do that.
There have been a few screenings of the short film so far, including at our Spring Writes Literary Festival, with the hope that it will soon be available online for a larger audience. To find the trailer and any updates on the film, visit Village at Ithaca’s website or view the screening from the Spring Writes Festival here.
The Stolen Joy Project is ongoing and Village at Ithaca encourages people of color to share their experiences by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information and to read all the stories featured in the Stolen Joy Project visit https://villageatithaca.org/stolen-joy-project/ and https://www.instagram.com/stolenjoyproject.
Posted June 27, 2021
The Freedom Institute of Art and Advancement (FIAA)
The Freedom Institute of Art and Advancement (FIAA) is a new organization in Tompkins County: a melding of several different organizations with the common goal of bringing the arts to Black, Brown, and Indigenous youth. The United Dance Troupe, The Community Music Education Program, Black Hands Universal, Kitchen Theatre Company, Black Girl Alchemists, and SmarfArt, after having worked together so closely in the past, have come together with the goal of making their programs more accessible for kids and teens.
This new organization will allow for the fantastic programs already being hosted by the aforementioned organizations to be held under one roof. Harry Smith, the CEO and Founder of Black Hands Universal, says that the collaboration was obvious: “The programs that we have created already all involve the arts. It only made sense, rather than doing everything separately and individually to just work together. That would allow us to access and [impact] more kids, and get them more of the arts.”
Harry also talked about the importance of bringing the positive mental benefits of the arts to these kids. “As far as mental health, COVID has seemed to put a lot of strain on pretty much everybody.” He says, “There are multiple ways that one can express the things that they’re going through. [...] We just want to give them an outlet to express all these things in a positive way.”
The FIAA wants to host programs and events that feed the minds, bodies, and spirits of marginalized youth in Tompkins County. The organization plans to make spaces for visual art, music, dance, poetry, moviemaking, theatre, and many other mediums that both children and families can engage in. These programs also have the potential to provide educational experiences as lots of them combine the arts with research, history, current events, philosophy, biology, communication, and writing.
In addition to the arts, the FIAA plans to provide resources for learning various life skills that are not necessarily taught in schools. Banking classes, mortgage education, business classes and programs facilitated by Ithaca College and Alternatives Federal Credit union will provide essential skills that teens and young adults can utilize in their adult lives for years to come. The FIAA also hopes to provide opportunities for young people to find work due to its connections with local unions and its budding pre-apprenticeship program.
The FIAA aims to make a place where disenfranchised youth can build a community and have access to spaces where they can explore the arts, gain lifelong skills, and feel free to express themselves however they like.
In affiliation with the FIAA, the Community Unity Music Education Program will be holding the first summer camp in the West Village since 1979. There will be various programs available for toddlers up through adults and opportunities to volunteer and help out at all of the programs too! All of this information and more can be found on the Black Hands Universal website: https://www.blackhandsuniversal.com/.
Posted May 27, 2021
Story House Ithaca
(2021 Grants for Arts Program)
(by CAP Ithaca College Intern Isabella Grassia)
Story House Ithaca is a new organization dedicated to fostering community in Ithaca and making a space for people to come together to make and share stories. The organization hosts and organizes events of all sorts surrounding mediums of storytelling as varied as poetry, photography, and puppetry. Story House aims to bring together Ithacans of all interests and backgrounds and make a space for them to explore and celebrate the wonderful world of storytelling that this city offers.
Story House Ithaca received a Community Arts Partnerhship “Specific Opportunity Stipend” (SOS) for its inaugural project, Pandemic Dreams: A Post-Covid Fantasy. Pandemic Dreams was a community-sourced video project and event with the theme of life after the pandemic. Organizers encouraged participants to “unquarantine their imaginations” and send in short videos for this event.
A few of the contributors were Story House Ithaca’s very own organizer, Lesley Greene; professional puppeteer, Scott Hitz; the world’s coolest ten-year-old, Ian F.; and many other local and not-so-local people seeking to showcase their creativity.
Though varied in their styles, each video sought to express the hopes and fears for what life will hold after the pandemic. Story House Ithaca hoped for contributors to take what can sometimes seem like an all-consuming present and set it aside to look towards the future. This event sought to make a space for people to explore their feelings as the light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic comes into view, whether those feelings are good, bad, or funny.
Story House Ithaca is grateful to CAP for making their first official event one to remember and opening the door for them to continue to put on great events for the community. All the videos submitted for the Pandemic Dreams project can be found on Story House Ithaca’s YouTube. Story House has other events in the works to be announced soon but would like to hear from anyone who has an idea for an event. https://www.storyhouseithaca.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/StoryHouseIthaca/.
Latino Civic Association
2021 Grants for Arts Program
(by CAP Ithaca College Intern Adam Dee)
The Latino Civic Association of Tompkins County (LCA) is a volunteer organization that unites the Latinx community of Tompkins County and provides a platform for cultural, social, educational, and civic expression. Members strive to strengthen Latinx identity and promote solidarity, cultural pride, and civic engagement.
The LCA has been receiving the “Grants for Art Programs” (GAP) grants for several years now in order to fund their annual ¡CULTURA Ithaca! events.
These events help to share Latinx culture with the Ithaca community through easily accessible arts-based educational events. The project was founded in 2010 by Carolina Osorio Gil and Debra A. Castillo, who wanted to address the lack of Latinx art, culture, and educational activities in Tompkins County.
¡CULTURA Ithaca! is led by three co-directors: Azucena Campos López who is a clinical psychologist and dancer, Enrique González-Conty who is an Assistant Professor of Spanish at Ithaca College, and Paulina Velázquez who is a Lecturer in the Department of Art at Ithaca College and a multimedia artist. The co-directors and a number of volunteers will present arts programs during Latinx Heritage Month.
The Cine con CULTURA Latinx American Film Festival is a program that started five years ago and has grown very popular. The event is programed by festival director Enrique González-Conty in collaboration with Cinemapolis, Cornell Cinema, the Tompkins County Immigrant Rights Coalition, No más lágrimas/No more tears, the Multicultural Resource Center, FLEFF, Ithaca College, Cornell University, among other organizations, to share and celebrate Latinx filmmaking. The film festival is sponsored by several programs and departments at Ithaca College and Cornell University as well.
The Latinx Art Exhibition is currently curated by Paulina Velázquez. This is one of the latest major events at ¡CULTURA! Where several Latinx artists from Tompkins County have shown their work. The public has had overwhelmingly positive responses to the event, that the last two exhibits where asked that they extend the show for another month. Just as last year, the exhibition will take place both in person and online in order for people to enjoy the show from the comfort of their own homes, and different parts of the globe
The latest major event at ¡CULTURA Ithaca! is a Dance Performance. Choreographed by Azucena Campos López, several dance pieces are celebrated as “a central element in the everyday life of Latin American countries. It is a reflection of the history and traditions of every country, one of the strongest key elements of their identity.” The event will feature traditional dance numbers from different regions in Latin America as community members share their heritage through dance during Latinx Heritage month.
Through ¡CULTURA! Ithaca, the LCA hopes to share and represent Latinx and Latin American stories, enriching the cultural landscape not only for the Latinx community in Tompkins County, but for anyone who wishes to learn about Latinx and Latin American cultures. For more information visit: https://www.culturaithaca.com/ and https://www.lca-of-tc.org/
Posted May 27, 2021
(SOS Grant 2021)
Kenneth McLaurin is a stand-up comedian, storyteller, screenwriter, actor, poet, producing and performing artist who has been awarded several of CAP’s grants over the past year. He calls himself “The Funniest Person You’ve Never Heard Of,” but his recent projects and productions, as well as being named Ithaca’s Best Comedian, have seen him gaining more well-deserved attention.
In such a politically driven world, Kenneth sees comedy as both a way to escape the turmoil around us as well as dissect the issues: “Some people like to use comedy to get away from the mundane things in their life, but other people, they like humor as a way to engage and critique politics. Satire is humor and it’s critical. They say, historically, the court jester was the one that could really say the things that other people couldn’t.
Last October, Kenneth received funding from CAP’s SOS Grant (Specific Opportunity Stipend) to create a short film, The So You Think You’re Anti-Racist Competition, as well as promotional material for the project, including a theatrical trailer. He is shooting the film at the Kitchen Theatre, under social distance regulations, and will screen it as part of the Kitchen Sink series. Kenneth has also partnered with local movie theatre Cinemapolis to have a limited theatrical release. This will be Kenneth’s first time pushing a project beyond local live performances, taking the work to film and preparing for sale and distribution. Creating a marketing campaign for the film on social media will allow Kenneth to extend the reach of his work past his local community to entertain new audiences.
The So You Think You’re Anti-Racist Competition will explore themes relevant to today’s culture and social movements: “I really want to explore the idea of what anti-racism is, what allyship is, and let people look at what’s going on from a black person’s point of view. With what's going on in the world, especially in ithaca, allyship is really big and people are into bettering themselves and becoming allies. I think its interesting to see allyship and being woke and being a good person in general, and make a competition out of it. I think its a good method to show the funny ways that people approach allyship.”
Kenneth also received a GAP Grant (Grants for Arts Programs) through the non-profit he works for as an educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension, for the All Black Everything Arts Festival (ABE). ABE is a four day virtual festival that celebrates the stories of Black Americans through their art. Both local and national black artists come together to share their art and experiences as black artists with the Tompkins County Community. Each day showcases a different artistic genre: music, performative and literary arts, visual works, and arts and wellness. All the attending artists are recognized in the art world, whether that be national acclaim or local recognition. The festival was hosted online and was totally virtual.
Through Cooperative Extension again, Kenneth received another GAP Grant for his project, Ithaca is Black People Too, a virtual community show that showcases Ithaca’s rich Black history and culture. Kenneth, along with his wife Elbonee “SingTrece” McLaurin, perform as Singing Notes and Slinging Jokes, a performing artist couple where Kenneth works his comedic magic while SingTrece sings with her gorgeous and powerful voice. The duo perform, produce, and record the show, which was created through community generated and original music, poems, and stories that will focus on Ithaca and diversity in an uplifting manner. Using the Kitchen Theatre to record the show, Kenneth and SingTrece would premiere it across different social media and digital accounts online. They would then go on to release it across Tompkins county by providing it to multiple social organizations who would also post it online.
The last grant Kenneth received was an Arts Education Grant for Stories From Not Old People. Kenneth, along with Chris Holmes, the founder and creative director of Little Whale Productions, will be working with a small group of high school students to teach them digital storytelling. Through 6 workshops over the course of 8 weeks, Kenneth and Chris will help the students learn how to share their own stories through the use of technology. The theme for this project is 2020, as it was a year like no other, and the participants will create 2-5 minute digital stories exploring their experiences. Through this project, the two teachers wish to make students feel empowered and confident in their voice and recognize they can be an instrument for change.
Kenneth is grateful to CAP for helping him reach new audiences and pursue his goals of empowering his community: “For me specifically, CAP helps me connect with an audience that wouldn't really find me otherwise. As a local black comedian, most of the people who are affiliated with CAP wouldn't have been able to find me without promotion. Through their social media feeds, they probably don't have much information on black comedians with smaller followings. But CAP helps me to present my art and my story, these experiences as a black person living in Ithaca, to a wider audience. They’re also great in helping me to connect with funders who see me as worthy as one of the many nonprofit theatres and want to help me create more stuff!"
Posted Feb. 24, 2021
Greater Ithaca Activities Center
(2021 Artists in Community Grants, Arts Education Grants, SOS Grants)
For many years, the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC) has been awarded CAP grants for multiple programs.
In 2021 alone, GIAC received funding from CAP's SOS grant, Arts Education Grant and Artist in Community Grant for their senior breakfast arts programming, after school programs, and more!
Whether it is studying different cultures from around the globe, training in several forms of dance, or learning technical skills for stage productions, the participants in GIAC’s projects have gained confidence and opened themselves up to new fields of interest. Despite restrictions due to COVID-19, the GIAC staff has done incredible work to ensure that the students in these programs will get the most out of their experiences. With community events being cancelled and limits on transporting GIAC participants, GIAC has turned to providing community performances virtually.
The GIAC Jumpers is a group of 2nd-5th grader students who engage in African Dance and Drumming Cultural Exchange through dance, jump and step. The youth participants are taught African Dance, Tap Dance, Hip Hop, Jump Rope, and Step over the course of the school year and during the summer . The students learn about black culture, and world cultures through art.
Watch a video of the Jumpers HERE!
The program was first founded in 2015 by GIAC staff member Jackie Green, who is the Program Leader for the GIAC Jumpers. Fellow GIAC staff member Candice Wade joins Jackie as the Program Assistant 2021. Collaborating with Nana Kwasi Anim, the founder of Wassa PanAfrika Dance Ensemble, has developed an on-going relationship with the Jumpers over the years and joins them as a master African Drumming and African Dance instructor.
Dance and other physical forms of expression are important to maintain in the time of social distancing. According to Ms. Greene, " I feel like dance and all forms of self expression/ reflection are more important now than ever before. The GIAC Jumper program helps our youth grow and become ambassadors and change makers. Advancing their knowledge and life skills, helping with mental, physical and spiritual health. Now more than ever people yearn to feel connected since we have to socially distance. Dancing is a way to feel apart of a bigger community while also allowing your body the ability to express our deep inner emotions, not to mention the physical fitness/calorie burn with dance, Jump rope, and STEP."
Elizabeth Seldin, a graduate of Ithaca College’s Theater Arts Program and the co-owner of Clockmaker Arts, acts as the Tap Dance and Theater Specialist for the Jumpers in 2021. Elizabeth will also help create a virtual performance of a play called The Hope Project, performed by the Jumpers.
Through dance, song, scenes, movement and spoken word, The Hope Project explores themes like: “How do we look at the soul and not the skin without ignoring covert and overt racism," My truth needs to be heard we are stronger together," and’ “How do we have conversations about race with kids and explore that between adults.” Ms. Greene "believes the theme of The Hope Project is relevant to today given the times we are currently in. With people socially distancing, isolating, and being left alone with their thoughts & truths it really makes inequality, inequity, and injustice stand out more. The Hope Project aims to mitigate that with a glass half full mindset, in a time of despair we call on the youth to use their voices and shed light on what the future could be! Using their talents and skills to identify these issues with suggestions so we can together develop a plan and create change as a community."
Also funded are the GIAC STEAM Team Theatre, short plays performed by 2nd-5th grade students who not only act, sing, and dance, but also control the behind the scenes and technical aspects of the show. This program was led in 2020 by GIAC staff member Courtney McGuire who worked alongside the director of Running 2 Places Theater and the lead theater consultant for the STEAM team, Joey Steinhagen. Janet Olsen, a volunteer with Running 2 Places Theater also assisted with theater education.
The STEAM Team had students focus on learning science, technology, engineering, math, and the arts to expose them to the world of theater. Two teams of participants, one for the performers and another for the production members, worked together to put on performances with positive community messages! Ms. McGuire shared "Receiving the CAP Grant to fund our STEAM TEAM productions has made it possible for GIAC to purchase quality scripts for age-appropriate productions and content. Having the ability to provide kids with a non-athletic outlet for their creative energies has enabled many of them to learn, grow and flourish. Youth who struggled with reading have gained confidence in their abilities by learning their lines and working with the other actors. Kids that enjoyed the technical aspects found their home running lights and sound and assisting with event marketing."
A brand new funded program introduced by GIAC celebrates Cultural Heritage Months through Virtual Art. Jay Stooks, a GIAC Program Coordinator and professional artist, created and supervises this pre-teen project for 2021 in order to promote art education and expand their cultural awareness through art, music, food, history, and more. The cultural heritage months being celebrated in this project include: Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Month, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Chinese Lunar New Year Month, Asian History Month, and several others. This program will cater towards pre-teens from 6th-8th grade and will provide them with an understanding of many world cultures. It will help students create art on their own and learn how to teach others about different cultures through virtual platforms.
Kerry Phillips, GIAC Deputy Director says "It is essential that GIAC provides quality cultural arts programming through its School-year and Summer Camp programs as many participants are unable to afford to take extracurricular lessons elsewhere due to financial constraints many families experience. By developing arts programming at GIAC we ensure our youth receive an enriching arts experience and outcomes providing for physical activity, art exploration, self-development, study of cultures, and learn to use art as a vehicle to share their voices and perspectives."
Posted January 20, 2020
Mee Ae Caughey
(SOS Grant 2020)
Mee Ae Caughey has received quite a few grants from CAP over the years in support of her career as a local dancer, choreographer, video artist, and producer of shows! She uses art as an engine to empower and bring visibility to marginalized communities, and serves as a dance documentarian for local dance performances to share with audiences via online streaming.
And that’s just what she did in collaboration with local dancer, professor, and producer Jim Self with “Visceral,” five outdoor solo dance performances that were video recorded and edited by Mee Ae, and prominent local filmmaker Marilyn Rivchin.
Each solo performer/choreographer (Kathy Lucas, Amanda Moretti, Indira White, Megan Nicole, and Lauren Cranidiotis) performed at an outdoor location of their choosing with a small audience of 2-4 people, also of their choosing. Not only will this have a great impact on the audience (both in-person and virtual), but also on the dancers themselves.
Mee Ae: “Visceral will help to re-establish that important connection between performer and audience in a safe way, and also give the dancers a space to release and express the emotions they have been experiencing throughout this time, in a safe space created by people they trust. Having filmed 3 episodes already, I can attest to the fact that this experience has meant a great deal to the dancers and the audience – tears were shed, and much gratitude and joy was expressed by everyone for this opportunity.”
The videos are streamed in collaboration with The Cherry Arts at https://www.thecherry.org/visceral/. At the time of the writing of this article, three episodes are available for viewing (free!) and two are upcoming. You’ll also find information about each performance and performer, and interviews with some of the artists.
The SOS Grant and the Impact To Mee Ae’s career
SOS is designed to help artists with costs associated with opportunities that will impact their professional career. “Visceral” introduced Mee Ae to collaborations with new artists, connections with The Cherry Arts folks, and the ability to pay the participating artists and production staff properly.
“This is the first time I have really used video so heavily in a production, primarily due to the virtual nature of this time, but also due to my increased interest in documenting dance. This project has served to clarify even further how I would like to video dancers in the future, which would be more of a duet between camera and dancer, and less of strictly documenting a performance. It is also proving very useful in helping me to learn a lot more about video production, and increasing my interest in acquiring more professional equipment for future productions."
Visit Mee Ae Caughey’s website
The next SOS grant deadline will be in March and available on our grant page!
Posted October 1, 2020
SOS Grant - The Cherry Arts
Shortly after all live productions were shut down due to the pandemic, the Artistic Director of The Cherry Arts, Sam Buggeln, asked six writers from around the world to collaborate on Felt Sad, Posted a Frog (and other streams of global quarantine). These collaborations were then live-streamed by thirteen members of The NY Cherry Artists’ Collective from May 1-9, 2020.
Sam described the experience as “truly intense.” When approaching potential playwrights, reactions ran the gamut from “Some people being very enthusiastic, exchanging emails in multiple languages at once, all grateful to be asked to do something in these turbulent times. On the other end of the spectrum, one French writer was under the extremely stringent lockdown in Paris in a 300 square foot flat with a spouse and toddler—they said they’d love to do it but just couldn’t in these conditions. In the end, the collection of pieces was a wonderful cross-section of people’s experiences.”
“We completed a lot of preparation and researched a lot of options to see what was possible. We ended up using a Skype-based platform working with 13 actors, 2 stage managers, 1 director and 1 video director. Noah Elman mixed everything on OBS and was truly amazing, adding filters for the different stories and mapping out screen placement. Some of the actors took to it like ducks to water, while others found it quite stressful to now be working with technological issues that they had never before tackled. This tremendously complicated set-up came together in the end to allow our 6 playwrights to reflect the immediacy of this moment. And the SOS grant and CAP’s support were really integral to the success of this project.”
“The piece threw everything into dialogue, juxtaposing the funny and brittle side of the pandemic with the anxiety, sadness, and terror. We had incredible feedback, with many people saying they were so moved they were riveted to their chairs. We also reached a worldwide audience, selling tickets in China, Japan, Latin America, and Europe. In fact, we sold slightly more tickets than we would have for the show that was regularly planned at that time. We also gave some tickets away in places like San Salvador where the cost of living and salaries are so vastly different. We were cited in Time Out New York both weekends as a Best Bet for Streaming, and the NYC-based blogs gave us very positive press.”
“We were emboldened by the success of Felt Sad, Posted a Frog and we will be doing two more live-streamed shows this fall.” These can be found on the website: A Day, a new play from Québec, and Hotel Good Luck, from one of Mexico’s most-celebrated young writers. Looking forward, Buggeln says he is not sure The Cherry will continue live-streamed theater after the pandemic—it introduces a lot of new factors to juggle, but at the same time, the international reach is exciting. Either way, CAP is happy to have been able to support the truly innovative Felt Sad, Posted a Frog in the spring.
Posted August 19, 2020
GAP Grant - Women Artists Have Their Say
Women Artists Have Their Say is the brainchild of artist Sue Perlgut, director and producer with CloseToHome Productions. With the assistance of CAP's "Grants for Arts Programs" (GAP Grant), Sue and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, a poet and professor, are collaborating to create a film that centers the experiences of female artists. The two are also working with singer-songwriter Jai Hari Myerhoff, who is writing original music for the film.
“Whether it is art, crafts, music, written works, or choreographed dances, extraordinary women know that the process of creating is as important as what ultimately gets created,” Perlgut says. “There is a need to document women’s voices in this century in recognition of the fact that earlier histories took little account of women’s experience.”
Sue herself has been an artist for most of her life, dipping between theater directing, play writing, and film. In the making of Women Artists Have Their Say, over 35 women have shared their experiences as artists in video form. Even more have provided testimony through a survey. “My work has always been very inclusive and continues to be so,” Perlgut says.
The project challenges social ideas of art and gender. Women Artists Have Their Say captures the voices of women and preserves their essence in time, for future artists to come. The artists work in a range of genres, unrestrained to any particular medium or style.
Although the pandemic has affected production, Sue has adapted her process. Some of her artists have chosen to film themselves; this evolved into an interesting new directing process for Sue herself. “The videotaping is almost complete, and the self-tapers are sending me their videos as they finish them.” Sue says. “I had a lot of fun creating how-to videos for those taping on their phones and computers.”
The original project was a multi-media film/reading that was to be shown in Cinemapolis, with live readings and live music.” Sue says. “The film will now be online with the readings from the survey as part of the film, as well as the music.”
Sue features artists on her website (http://closetohomeproductions.com/womenartistshavetheirsay/ ). This is also where people can find information about the final film. Sue also posts video clips of the project to a Facebook page to elevate the voices of female artists. (https://www.facebook.com/WomensWisdomPlay)
(Thank you to CAP's Ithaca College intern Nicole Brokaw for researching and writing this article!)
Posted July 18, 2020
SOS Grant - Public Art Transforms
In February, Caleb R. Thomas, the Ithaca Murals organizer, and Southside Community Center's Board President, Dr. Nia Nunn, facilitated a 40-person jury which selected finalists for Ithaca Mural's annual Justice Walls mural project. These public art projects aim to creatively inspire and uplift passerby. Recently, CAP caught up with Caleb to discuss the recent SOS grant Ithaca Murals received for this endeavor.
“It’s an exciting and complicated time to be alive in Ithaca - with virus and economic instability rocking business as usual. The virus present in Tompkins County means murals are going up slower than we had originally anticipated. We are grateful for the artists who have painted 6 murals so far and there's so much coming with August and September always being our busiest months." ((Pictured: Terrance Vann and Keyanna Mozie painting the new "Still We Rise" Mural by Norma Gutierrez)
“We believe in an arts & culture strategy for justice-movement organization and community building, helping society form more progressive values to better line up with justice. The 20 finalists selected are incredibly skilled visionaries. Three-quarters of the are artists of color - which is important righ now as we work to end racism in our community.
“CAP’s SOS grant has helped support artist stipends and mural supplies, and will also go towards producing our free mural maps. We are very appreciative of CAP investing in individual artists and artist groups, particularly ones that support artists of color and other traditionally marginalized identities.
“Every vibrant mural shifts the dominant paradigm in a powerful way. Imagine our children growing up with images of people who look like them, streets decked with art depicting the struggles and joys that reflect our diverse families, justice movements etched into our walls as central to our ongoing liberation stories. Now more than ever we are called to contradict the oppressions of the past in all mediums, to dream the world we want to live in. Public art is free and a muse for the freedom of the public.”
To learn more about Ithaca Murals, check out #ithacamurals or www.ithacamurals.com