When hip-hop and classical music combine, it never fails to turn heads, and for many reasons. I’ve seen jaws drop in the audience of the hip hop orchestra Dakah, or after a crowd leaves concerts by Black Violin, the touring hip hop violin duo. Rappers like Nas use symphonic tracks in their music, but despite all of these collaborations, Ordinary Magic may be paving the way for a new subgenre in theatre, the spoken-word opera. And, when I say “spoken-word,” I am talking slam-poetry style. Some of you may remember the television series Def Poetry Jam hosted by Mos Def and created by the iconic rapper Russell Simmons. It was part of what brought spoken-word poetry out of neighborhood cafes and into popular culture.
Editor’s Note: This week’s contribution is by Malesha Taylor who furthers the discussion on how artists are leading the way in creating new narratives and models of creative practice. The original conversation was first presented at the Arts In A Changing America REMAP: Bay Area’s Future Conversations panel “Artists Changing the Course of the River.”
I am honored and thankful to be apart of this conversation: how we can remap and change the course of the river. Maps and rivers involve lines, sometimes to divide and sometimes to nourish and draw in. They also define flow, movement and the rhythm of communities. In my art practice, I am seeking opportunities to bring the arts to people directly without the barriers and invisible lines we find between audiences and performers. I am aligning my work with my values which are centered in social justice and bringing more power back to the people who make up our communities.
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I am not known for throwing around “the race card.” But every now and then, it’s thrown on me, especially in the arts. And, when I took a position in building new audiences, but only for the black plays, things really hit home. After this experience, I would like to help devise the best practices in new audience development, and suggest beginning with genuine community engagement. But it took working this job I describe below, to get me here.
"New panel series aims to give fans access to artists, and artists access to each other, to foster a sense of artistic community."
The first goal of the new “Art Speaks” salon series at Thumbprint Gallery 2, at the back of Hillcrest’s Bamboo Lounge, is to “provide a platform for artists to engage in dialogue with their community and with each other.” That sounds simple, but it hearkens to the cri de coeur of so many artists interviewed by the Reader and elsewhere: the arts community in San Diego struggles to come together from a disparate group of artists in isolation to a bona fide scene.
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