The Importance of a Friend

My Brother’s Keeper, an Obama Foundation led initiative to provide mentorship to young men of color, found a special home in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It was an honor to tell its impact story in this video. The partners from the community, the school and school district as well as the men who commit to years of mentorship, are making a difference one young man at a time.

 

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In Good Company

Today marks 10 years since the 2nd In Good Company Festival. The first In Good Company Festival held in 2007 celebrated the contributions of women in the arts. In 2008, In Good Company returned to celebrate the creative contributions of immigrants to the cultural landscape.

Both Festivals highlighted the past achievements and early ‘pioneering’ spirit of non-traditional creative expression. For women it was hand-work such as stitching and quilts, personal correspondence, paintings and compositions that had rarely if ever been performed for a public audience.

Present day artists, performers, musicians, writers were given forum for their work. Multiple stages throughout the community were used from large scale venues to black box theatres, intimate galleries and the region’s largest stages. Traditional dance shared the stage with contemporary and classical disciplines; a funk band paired with a world music group; classical Indian dance as well as a classical theatre movement workshops; many, many opportunities to discover the incredible talent contributing to the community’s creative conversation.

The main goal of the 4-week Festivals was to give public space to the voices that are often sidelined, but there were other important reasons for the efforts – including the payment to the performers and contributors. To pay artists for their work validates their efforts and contributes to the region’s creative economy. To that end, multiple partners stood with the Festival including Foundations, Art Councils, private sponsors and the region’s established arts organizations to ensure the contributions were compensated.

In ten years it is extraordinary to realize that the conversations from In Good Company are still part of the public conscience. Creating the capacity for these conversations to begin and in some ways blossom occurred because the invitations were extended and accepted.

Here’s to all the capacity builders who create the opportunity for dialogue – especially through the arts.

So, what is it exactly that you do?

It can start with a phone call ‘Hi, do you have a minute to chat?‘ or an email ‘Hey, not sure how busy you are these days but I have an idea to run by you…‘and I am swept into a story project.

As a Creative Development Producer  I bring an artist’s perspective and producer’s strategic opinion to a project. How can this story be creatively told while keeping the logistics and finances in control. What is the best way to develop the production with this particular artist or company, keeping their unique vision at the core?

With this mindset I have been able to bring a concept from idea to the fullest expression of itself regardless of its scope. Whether the Olympic Torch Relay Celebration held outdoors on Christmas Eve to a crowd of 10,000 and a live to air televised audience, or with a single singer/songwriter in the studio recording a new composition, this approach has remained the same. How can I best tell this story? In what medium will it find its voice – is it film, music, dance, written word, television, stage?

Throw out the templatesforge the right connections, build on past experiences and trust your instinct. There is little artistic fulfillment in repeating a set pattern of how to stage a show. Why copy someone else’s method of filming when your individual perspective is so compelling? Yes we begin with certain norms, a set of standard practices, then move from there. Not for the sake of being different, but because our voices are unique.  

Finding an audience is the  honest indicator of how effective the process of development was. If the book is read or the show’s ratings are solid then the project connected. And the bottom line is that any project I have worked on has required an audience as an indicator of success financially and artistically.

Typically when asked what I do, I respond with   ‘I tell stories’. Telling stories that engage, reveal, enlighten and connect us I believe is the thread that runs through the seemingly disparate productions that have filled my life. It’s a fabulous way to spend the day!