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Design for Sharing , CAP UCLA’s free K-12 arts education program, has a long history of making the arts accessible for young audiences. Using the arts to encourage creativity, learning and exploration , DFS offers professional performances and hands-on arts activities to public school students across Los Angeles.  Since our founding in 1969, more than half a million students have experienced the thrill of a live performance in the iconic setting of Royce Hall.

In 2008, we undertook a new project, hoping to give students an opportunity to go beyond the one-time experience of observing an arts event and become active participants in the creative process. Working closely with the faculty of the about-to-open UCLA Community School, we developed the Design for Sharing Residency Program: a 22-week series of in-class dance, movement, theater, creative writing and visual arts activities taught by professional teaching artists from Design for Sharing and local dance company CONTRA-TIEMPO.

This year—the fifth of this successful partnership –we explored the theme “Pieces of Us”, asking 200  4th, 5th and 6th graders to consider the various roles we all play in our communities and what helps us to create our own individual identities.

We began, way back in September, with simple exercises that encourage students to express themselves vocally and physically.  We moved on to salsa rueda, a form of salsa danced in a circle with a leader calling out the steps. Later, students applied those skills to devise their own creative movement representing ideas culled from their weekly writing assignments.

The sixth graders, many in their third year with us, also took on the idea of power.  Using movement activities and writing prompts, they reflected on the power structures they encounter every day, how power can be abused, and how it can be shared.  Some of their insights were included in a group poem:

We have the power to choose!

I have the power to speak and to listen

I choose to follow the golden rule

I choose to be respectful,

To be a kind person

I see smiles around the world

I understand that each person is unique

It matters that I have freedom

I have the power to share my feelings

I have the power to change my thoughts

I have the power to defend myself with words

Everyone deserves their own rights

I choose to be joyful every day

We have the power to choose!

Students created collage self-portraits using varied photos of themselves and words from their poems. The completed self-portraits became the backdrop for their presentation.

A few weeks ago, they had the chance to share these lines, and others at the program’s culminating dance and spoken word presentation.  Our students gathered in a crowded auditorium, packed with younger schoolmates and smiling parents to present the poems, creative movement and salsa rueda they had worked on all year.

In that setting, with creaking folding chairs and smartphone cameras clicking away, it’s easy to focus on the cute factor.  Of course it is cute. Kids dancing and reciting poems are undeniably adorable.  But it is important to remember that we have asked these students to do something that most adults struggle with: to think abstractly, express themselves honestly, and create a community where everyone feels safe enough to do so.

We couldn’t help but feel a swell of pride as we watched our fifth class of Residency program participants dance their last rueda, moving around the circle like clockwork.  The dance seems simple on the surface—the steps aren’t complicated, the caller keeps everyone on track—but a successful rueda demands that the participants, both individually and communally, choose to be fully present.  That’s the foundation of human connection and the prerequisite for creativity.  And it’s a lot harder than it looks.

 

 

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Marathons and Milestones

March 31st, 2014 | by

March has been quite a month. A few themes have emerged for me in the coalescence of life in this city and the way the art we present winds itself into our lives as a presenting organization.  And since I dearly love metaphor, bear with me as I express one.

For the first time in more than a decade of living in West L.A., instead of avoiding leaving the house during the L.A. marathon, I dove into it. Not insofar as I would actually participate in such a daunting activity. (yikes!) But, since I live just a bit south of the marathon route, my S.O. and I went to watch the runners at a couple of different spots along the way.

Mile 22 made me believe in the power of humans to support each other’s endeavors. I literally teared up as I watched the crowds that lined the route. A few people were looking for friends or family members specifically, but mostly it was just people from the neighborhood, the churches and local business that lined the route, out there cheering every runner on, encouraging and congratulating, handing out tiny cups of water and candies and bits of fruit to stranger after stranger. Athletic clothing store Lululemon went big, with a DJ and dancers holding up witty encouraging signs for all to see.  It brought more than a few smiles, fist bumps and bursts of dancing to the sweaty, determined faces as they ran past.

HaMikeatmile22ving witnessed this moment of the race, we really wanted to see some people cross finish line too so we navigated to the point along the ocean in Santa Monica where the marathon ended. Here again were mounds of people lining the route, many layers of them. But, unlike back at Mile 22 where the onlookers cheered and applauded and encouraged every single runner, here, it was clear that the people clamoring at the edge of the race boundary were posted up in an effort to witness their specific friend or family member cross the finish line, and didn’t spare much cheer for strangers. It was awesome to see that support, but also made me a bit wistful for the vibe a few miles back. Runner after runner marked this major accomplishment in front of a sea of people who did not cheer spontaneously for them, because they were waiting for, checking their phones for text messages from, straining to get a glimpse of…someone else, someone specific cross that line.

While I don’t think that lack of spontaneous cheering from strangers diminished anyone who passed by at the culmination of such an incredible feat, I have to say, I much preferred the atmosphere of the admittedly smaller crowd back at mile 22. I bet there may have been a few runners who didn’t even  make it to or beyond that point of the race.  But mile 22 wasn’t the only spot where people line up in support of the marathoners. I saw crowds down the route as far as the eye could see. And regardless where the final stopping point of any runner was, I still think their effort was worthy and admire their fortitude.

It made me think about the artists we present here at the Center. We see groups and performers and creators at many and varied points on the creative marathon that is the life and career path of an artist. We cheer for them at the start, at multiple other convergences on their journey, sometimes stretches wherein there aren’t as many familiar faces lining the sides as others.  We celebrate their milestones.

And we’re proud to do so. Two weeks ago we celebrated the 40th anniversary of one of the most iconic groups in the art of contemporary performance—Kronos Quartet. We reminisced with them, we reveled in a showcase of their talent as individuals, we honored their collective vision and we enjoyed their collaborative spirit. It’s not a finish line, per se, because we hope there are many decades of music to come from this seminal cadre of performers, but it was a thrilling moment of connection to share that huge milestone with them.

Just this past weekend, we had the equally profoundly moving opportunity to intersect with four groups  who have followed in the footsteps of Kronos—new music ensembles Imani Winds, ETHEL, yMusic and eighth  blackbird—each of which is on its own distinctive mile in its unique artistic evolution. And all of which are traversing this path with grace, joy, abundant creativity, eclecticism, and persistent vision.

There was a palpable sense of warmth,  generosity and energy from the audiences who joined us to experience these talented ensembles as part of the first-ever Tune-In Festival L.A. It took me back to mile 22. And for that. I thank you.

If you missed any of these groups this month and you are a lover of music, I would encourage you to find that point on their performance marathon where you can lend them your applause. They’re worth it.

TuneIn

eighth blackbird, yMusic and several UCLA student musicians performed the finale of Tune-In Festival L.A. with “Worker’s Union.”

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In the Machine

March 3rd, 2014 | by

This weekend we got a rare experience to get up close and personal with the art we present. Folks who attended the Paul Dresher Ensemble Schick Machine performances  were invited to cap off the show by taking a hands-on tour of the eponymous machine from the production.

And I mean hands-on. The creators refer to this moment as “The Petting Zoo.” They not only allow, but encourage eager hands to pick up mallets and bang on implements in this crazy sonic laboratory. Dresher and Schick and members of their crew were on hand to offer suggestions and instructions of how to make sounds and to explain how all the pieces work.

I attended the Sunday matinee with my significant other, who is something of a sonic tinkerer himself, (mostly in a playground called Abelton), I could sense his wonder and desire to crawl inside this glorious concoction on the stage (which kind of is what I imagine the inside of his brain looks like).

We immediately lined up, eager to get our chance inside the machine, along with about a third of the audience from the performance, many of whom were young children who excitedly chattered with their parents about their favorite parts of the machine and how they might build their own.

Steven Schick himself came out and chatted with a few of the kids for a minute, asking “Are you ready to go in and bang on some stuff!?”

The answer was a resounding “yes.” We all were ready, and we were not disappointed. Up close, the Schick Machine was cleverly ingenious and delightful to experience as a group of curious amateurs collectively provided a soundtrack of dissonance that was somehow just as engaging as Schick’s charming and meticulous theatrical stage performance.

Of course, few of us were able to extract the same quality and precision of sound as the mastermind himself, but that is as it should be.

Paul Dresher, composer of the piece was staked out on the stage to help answer questions and guide interested audience-goers through the elaborate inner workings of the device and how it all comes together in live performance.

It was a moment of incredible generosity from a group of passionate artists that I have no doubt left a powerful impression on the imaginations of all those who got a chance to experience it with us.

If you were one of those people, thank you so much for leaving your own stamp on the machine and helping invent this performance for CAP UCLA.

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On Dreams and Tightropes

February 28th, 2014 | by

The last few weeks of artists and programs that have entered our sphere have made me think about dreams and tightropes.

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr @Creative Commons

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr @Creative Commons

Mike Daisey, in a solo performance that was somehow softer, more-nostalgic and more inherently loving than I had originally anticipated, talked about not only the dreamscapes he inserted himself into– as a participating observer of Burning Man, his family’s obsession with Disney World and the passionate fervor of the people who originated the Occupy Wall—but also of his own sense of dreaming, the import that holds on his practice and career and they ways in which we can daily invent and reinvent the world together.

He ended his performance on the steps in front of Royce Hall, his booming voice echoing against the portico, the foggy drizzle of raindrops functioning as punctuation to his testament of the power of dreams, and hopes and imagination.

A few days later, as I watched decades-old footage of British miners, their faces—some grizzled, some wide-eyed and fresh—turned to the camera as they crawled into tiny box cars that led them beneath the earth. Listening to Johan Johannsson’s elegiac music of the Miner’s Hymns added to my sensation of wonder. I wondered what those men’s dreams were? And did those dreams include a life spent largely beneath the earth? What were their days above like? Were they happy? What would they think about being immortalized so many years later as part of a dreamscape created by music and film artists?

This weekend brings yet another dreamscape, an entre into a secret inner world of a percussionist. Schick Machine isn’t just a theater performance. It isn’t just a music performance. It is a shared moment of invention, a celebration of the tinkerer, the mad scientist, the creative explorer in us all.

I’ve also been thinking of tightropes. Theater legend Peter Brook uses the concept of the tightrope as a rehearsal technique, which he allowed his son Simon to document in a new film called (appropriately) The Tightrope.  He takes a seemingly simple idea—move with freedom, abandon and cleverness all while adhering to the idea that you are suspended above air on a two-inch surface.

According to a New York Times review of the film:

 The most important requirement is that they convey a sense of reality, as if they were genuinely suspended in the air, their feet hugging a thin cord. After a while, it becomes clear that the tightrope is also a metaphor, standing for the existential risk inherent in every serious instance of playing.

All art, invented by dreaming, through imagination and exploration, exists on a tightrope, a precipice of risk. Creators create in a landscape of unknown outcome.

We as an organization gladly and gratefully also walk this tightrope with every performance, every year as we carefully shape a season of what we believe will be deeply nourishing and meaningful experiences that will in turn instigate more dreaming, more reasons to step on a sliver of reality and look at the world, ourselves, our art, our relationship to art and artists from a new perspective.

Here’s to dreams and tightropes.

Recently, our artistic and executive director Kristy Edmunds was named the first visiting scholar of the venerable Pew Center for Arts and Heritage in Philadelphia.

They very quickly realized what they had on their hands was more than a simple observer or caretaker, but also a person who will work tirelessly to understand a community and to affect change in it, all with a persistent focus and drive toward serving the art and artmakers whose sense of dreaming can remake the world.

She’s to be their “catalyst in residence” and we can’t think of a better term to describe her. She’s already made her first trip to the city of brotherly love in a fact-finding mission to begin to absorb the unique challenges and opportunities that exist there and that they share with our own organization and the overarching arts national and international arts community.

No small task. But, we know she’s up for it.

We’re proud that our boss will be the first to tackle this role for the Pew Center. Read more about Kristy’s ideas, her focus, her goals for this endeavor with this esteemed foundation, and how it will continue to inform our work in our own community.

Our Dreams Motivate Our Realities: A Conversation With Center Visiting Scholar Kristy Edmunds

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The art-making never stops. Not even for the holidays. And, that is as it should be. While we took a much-needed pause to reflect and celebrate with loved ones, we’re delighted to be fully back in the swing of things this week, including hosting one of our fabulous artists-in-residence for the second time this season.

The ever-luminous Sussan Dehyim and her collaborators are currently installed in the Royce Hall rehearsal room, putting the finishing touches of a work-in-progress viewing of “The House is Black,”a multimedia performance and film project inspired by the works and life of Forugh Farrokhzad,  one of Iran’s most influential feminist poets and filmmakers of the 20th Century.

This highly anticipated 45-minute preview will take place on Jan 19th at Freud Playhouse as part of Sussan’s creative residency at CAP UCLA. She was in residence in November 2013 and we’ve been proud to support Sussan and her collaborators thus far with the time and space for this emerging project. We now invite you to directly support her as well and get a glimpse of what’s in store from this eclectic and engaging new work. Visit http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-house-is-black for more information on how to get seats to this performance.

Sussan has created a series of non-linear poetic tableaux inspired by the poems of Forugh Farrokhzad. The audience travels through a visual, sonic and theatrical journey into the heart of Fraough’s prophetic vision where her most intimate; soulful and provocative moments leap of the page and onto the stage. Her message is as poetically and politically relevant today for the women of Iran and the world as it was fifty years ago when she died tragically at the age of 32.

“The House is Black” features original score composed by Deyhim and the Golden Globe winning composer Richard Horowitz, featuring brilliant special guests, creates a cinematic musical landscape for the piece. The composition will include influences routed in Persian and Western contemporary classical music, jazz and electronic music with an elaborate sound design component. Archival images and scenes from Forugh’s documentary The House is Black and Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1965 interview with Forugh, along with Deyhim’s original film and visual projections, will create the backdrop and provide a window into the life of Iran’s most controversial poet and filmmaker.

In October we were also proud to host an in-progress showing of another engrossing music and multimedia project from another CAP UCLA artist-in-residence–the interdisciplinary artist and curator Ellina Kevorkian.

In “Some Dreams Contain Dead Time,” Ellie explores the porosity of time and dreams through video and music influenced by the works of Symbolist painter Odilon Redon, 19th-century Spiritualist photography and Victorian fairy paintings.

Ellie took us on a journey of the mind…while our bodies remained seated in the muted darkness of the Royce Hall stage, we watched Ellie’s impressionistic video work—a series of ghostly vignettes treated with splashes of color and Ellie’s own paintings and punctuated by a gloriously eerie and provocative score of vocalizations from Coloratura-in-exilio Juliana Snapper and electronic loops of virtuosic cello, created in the moment by composer/musician Skip vonKuske.

November was a busy month for residencies. The fantastically talented multi-hyphenate artist DBR (a.k.a Daniel Bernard Roumain) was joined by a group of aspiring young musicians from the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. By all accounts it was a love-fest between DBR and these incredibly inspiring students who workshopped a new composition from the acclaimed composer/violinist/bandleader, who is known for blending funk, rock, hip-hop and classical music into an energetic and experiential sonic form. DBR is assiduously morphing a new phase of his already impressive career and we’re incredibly proud to be a part of it.

Another young composer was firmly ensconced on campus this past fall—Mohammad Fairouz, also working with students. Just before we broke for the holiday campus closure, Mohammad and the UCLA Philharmonia presented a gorgeous program of original music devoted to the concepts of peace, unity and multi-cultural religious understanding. We co-presented the concert, titled “Symphonic Poems and Prayers.”

We worked closely with Mohammad on the extensive program notes for the piece. He was eager to make sure his libretto was represented in multiple language texts—Arabic, Hebrew and English. Over the course of working on the notes, we talked a lot about his time here and he was clearly moved by the great spirit of generosity he experienced from the faculty and students he worked with. It’s wonderful to interact with an artist who’s on a total high because they have found their creative pursuits at UCLA incredibly uplifting and rewarding. That’s important to us. It’s an important part of what our residency project is all about.

Mohammad also shared a fun anecdote when I asked him if he was enjoying the sunny respite L.A. has to offer.

He said he was surprised to run into DBR on the streets of Westwood one day, an incident that usually only occurs in the two artists’ home base of New York City.

“What are you doing here?” he asked DBR.

“I’m working with CAP UCLA,” DBR replied. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m ALSO working with CAP UCLA,” Mohammad said.

And that my friends, brought a great smile to my face. That’s the idea. Let’s bring great artists together into this space of ours and see what kind of creative energetic wavelengths emanate from them.

More to come on the residency front. Read more about who will be around in the coming months and how to get involved.

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Notes from Kristy: Positive Velocity

December 20th, 2013 | by

If the year 2013 could be considered an ‘object in motion’ and I could represent the movement of where it started, to where it migrated, I would turn to Torricelli’s 17th-century equation to attempt to determine the velocity of a year. A year that felt as if it was in constant acceleration, with no knowable time interval. Here is the equation:

Not being a brilliant Italian physicist myself, what I can say is that once again, I find myself stunned at the rapid march of time. Here at the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, there is in fact a constant velocity, but more accurate in characterization would be accelerating velocity. The charts below illustrate what I mean:

Of course, it could have been a year that looked like:

Instead, and in no small part due to your participation and support, it looked like this:

I have noticed since being here in Los Angeles – where the seasons are more nuanced and their transitions more subtle than elsewhere that I have lived – I demarcate the time of year in two ways – gratitude and generosity. As an Artistic Director I experience both in numerous ways, regularly. There is a great deal of giving and receiving that goes on in the arts – both are interdependent acts of resonant exchange. They seem to happen at best between artists and audiences, patronage and possibility, and are the true marks of the quality and capacity of place.

I wanted to simply express my direct and sincere appreciation for the support you provide to UCLA, to the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, and for the artists we in turn are able to weave into the exceptional mix of life in Los Angeles.

May the splendor of the season bring you all much, the tail of the 2013 comet pass over with inspired reflection, and the emerging New Year enter with it’s own charismatic allure and a brightness of possibility for all of us.

Thank you. Which looks like this:

Kristy

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Cedric on Cedric

November 22nd, 2013 | by

Cedric Andrieux takes the stage tomorrow night in the eponymous solo work created by Jerome Bel. We asked him a few questions about this very intimate and revealing piece of dance theater.

CAP UCLA:You worked very closely with Jerome Bel on the creation of this work and in it you speak very candidly about your early inspiration and your work with Merce Cunningham. What part of the piece was the most difficult or challenging to synthesize into a brief period on the stage?

CEDRIC: I think we struggled a bit more on the Merce Cunningham section. The rest of the script follows a chronological order, but we couldn’t do that for the middle part, the Cunningham part. We then had to find a different way of organizing ideas and thoughts.

CAP UCLA:Do you have a favorite part and if so, what is it?

CEDRIC: I am very happy that we found a way to render onto the stage the creation process that Merce used to create new dances. I also love performing one of the scenes of “The Show Must Go On.” It is one thing to perform it in the context of the whole piece, but it changes completely when I do it in the solo.

CAP UCLA:Was it challenging or nerve-wracking to be solo on stage and speaking directly to the audience throughout? As a dancer in a company, I assume it’s rather rare to have spoken moments. Was that something you had to work on as a performer or did you already have some experience with that?

CEDRIC: I think it is part of the project, to have on stage a performer who is in a situation that he knows, the stage, but having to use a tool that he doesn’t necessarily control, in my case, voice. But since it is not about pretending to be comfortable, or trying to hide the discomfort, the challenge becomes more about being in the moment and letting go of the image of oneself that one wants or is used to portray on stage. It is about allowing yourself to be vulnerable.

CAP UCLA: Toward the end of the piece you say that working on the creation of this solo made you realize you had never spent that much time thinking of what you had done and why you had done it. Are you still learning, still discovering more about yourself and what drives you? If so, what continues to surprise you?

CEDRIC: Since the solo, I would say that the flood gates are open! What continues to actually surprise me is the realization that you always end up banging your head against the same issues. They take different forms, but it always come back to the same, even though you constantly feel that you’re resolving those issues, or that you finally have enough distance….

CAP UCLA:You have performed this work extensively in France and toured the world, most recently even a stretch of performances in Africa. How does your performance translate when you are visiting audiences of other cultures? Do you get different reactions at different moments? Is there a particular kind of audience who “gets it” the most quickly or deeply?

CEDRIC: That is another interesting and challenging aspect of the solo for me, the fact that from one audience to the next, even in the same city, even in the same theater, the response might entirely be different. There is an aspect of Jerome’s work that plays with the codes of theater, and theater goers, what are we doing here, what are our expectations, and the deconstruction or the highlighting of those codes, that can get lost with people that may not have as much experience or awareness with those actual codes. But the solo was made to be comprehended by everyone, not just the elite of theater goers, not just dancers, so whatever the context is, I always feel like the information that the solo exposes comes across….

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More than Words…

November 18th, 2013 | by

This week at CAP UCLA we are proud to present two unique programs that explore compelling landscapes in musical theater and dance through the art of monologue. These creative and authentic artists harness the spoken word form in ways that will stir your soul—with Young Jean Lee’s WE’RE GONNA DIE (starting Wednesday) and Jerome Bel’s Cedric Andrieux (Saturdaynight).

Words have power, I believe. The power to tell stories, reveal truths and inspire true human connection. Thinking about these two shows made me think about an interview I heard not too long ago between Michael Silverblatt and Aleksander Hemon. The Bosnian author was talking about his book, “The Book of My Lives,”which contains a personal and very emotional remembering of the loss of his daughter. In the interview the author talked about how he was confronted by a friend at that time who said: “words fail in these situations.”

No, Hemon said. Being a writer, he has belief in words. Words don’t fail, he said. Platitudes do. Empty phrases that don’t instigate connection or communication fail. But thoughtful, reflective words with meaning behind them, those can heal, those can inspire.

What you’ll find here at CAP UCLA this week and weekend is a fulsome sense of the power of words, within the context of the art of performance. And you’ll be in great hands.

Young Jean Lee is a trailblazing New York theater maker. She comes to Los Angeles for the first time with a profound and acutely realized collection of songs and stories about loneliness, loss and pain, alchemized into a surprisingly uplifting performance that might just leave us more hopeful, more connected, more compassionate and more understanding of our shared human experience.

Young Jean Lee recently told LA Weekly that she conceived this work as sort of self-therapy.

“My father had just died,” she remembers. “I tell the story in the show — he died in such a horrible way that I was so traumatized and felt completely isolated from everybody. And then I was thinking, when you’re in that place, where you’re in so much pain that nobody can reach you, I was like, ‘What can be of comfort then?’”

Saturday night we bring another perspective on the human experience—our inclination to strive for success, for expression, for joy and for creative pursuit.

We bring to the Royce Hall stage an incredibly intimate examination of the inspirations and challenges behind the growth and success of one artist—named for and performed by celebrated French dancer Cédric Andrieux. Part spoken word, part solo dance performance, this work by famed French choreographer Jerome Bel, reveals the experiences that propel and compel an artistic life.

In a nakedly honest moment on the stage, the former Merce Cunningham company dancer Andrieux tells us the stories of his life, his loves and his frustrations. Andrieux and Bel invite the audience to embrace the role of avid and confidential spectator, not just of one immediate evening of performance, but of one artist’s personal evolution.

Typically in dance performance, the movement speaks volumes. But in this penetrating performance, the words carry weight and power to build an aesthetic bridge between artist and audience.
It’s a rare and magical insight into what goes on behind the curtain and inside the heart and mind of an artist.

At one point in the performance Andrieux admits: “This solo, for me, it’s thinking about 20 years of my life, through what I have done in dance. I realized I had never spent that much time thinking of what I had done and why I had done it.”

Working with Jerome on this solo allowed Cedric to do just that–and he quite movingly shares the revelations this process has wrought for him.

So, if you also, often consider why you do the things you do, if you ever wonder how to deal with pain and loss, if you are into the kind of thoughtful, reflective moments that might just help us all remember how much more we belong to one another than not, please do join us for Young Jean Lee and Cedric Andrieux this week.

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As I write this, I feel a combined sensation of a need to honor and a gut filled sorrow from the loss of a truly great artist, Lou Reed. Having received countless messages, I am expressing on behalf of many the acute sensation of longing which comes to the surface when we lose someone who inspired us deeply. Importantly also, is a shared depth of gratitude for his contributions in so many ways to our collective experience through his poetry, music and spirited fullness. I offer our support, condolence and sincere compassion to Laurie Anderson most especially, and the many extended friends and loved ones of Lou’s who are and will be grieving the most, while undoubtedly celebrating his incredible life in the days and months to come. Our hearts are with you each and every one.

At the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA we honor and acknowledge the life work of many esteemed artists, at various stages within their careers and within their evolving projects and ideas. It’s in times like this that I can be grateful to know that our mission and purpose matters to many artists the world over, while at the same time I cannot help but feel overwhelmed at how much more we need to be doing to change the culture that supports the incredible possibility of greatness within artists so that they can thrive, contrive and inspire us all with what it means to be truly human in the bigness of our tiny world together.

I am struck in the media and press coverage surrounding the news of Lou Reed’s passing, that there is a tremendous articulation of his impact and artistic output — credit authentically coming where credit is authentically due. Occasionally these testimonials are flavored with the mention of his work not garnering substantial “commercial success” (however deserved).

To which I can only really offer this — if the allure for artists to deeply excavate our human truths and give them form, was motivated by commercial success alone, the songlines of our heritage would be thin indeed. I ponder this duality often in my own role as an artistic director where I am requested to deftly straddle the active importance of putting a spotlight on the artistic integrity of artists and their art, with the pressure to deliver the somewhat more comforting nuances of assured familiarity and easily knowable outcomes on behalf of another kind of measurement of “success.”

Instead, because of artists like Lou Reed, like Laurie Anderson, like their contemporaries, and the great many artists I have the deep pleasure of working with, not only are our songlines profoundly strengthened, but so too are the tools we have to bolster our awareness of what it means to be “AWAKE” in the world while we inhabit it.

So in honor of Lou Reed, and in service to our communities of artists – I feel compelled to simply say…thank you. Thank you, Lou for expanding the fence line of the familiar and allowing the creative terrain for our souls to wander well, regardless of ever being in full possession of a known outcome at the outset of your own path.

—K

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