AUSTIN

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May 28

Hosted by Leah Gipson
Produced by Allie Stephens
Artists Cassandra Davis, Nicole Harrison, ICAH, YEPP + Avery R. Young.

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Leah Gipson is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice is informed by her identities as an activist and professional art therapist. Her understanding of art therapy is rooted in black feminism, black church, and the use of cultural spaces for social transformation. Since 2009, she has been developing projects in Chicago’s historic west side neighborhoods to address gender, racial and economic systems of inequality. She has worked with A Long Walk Home, Inc. to co-create Girl/Friends Young Leaders Institute, a program that focuses on eliminating gender-based violence through art and youth leadership.  In 2013, she initiated West Side Art Chicago, a series of collaborative participatory projects that focus on raising community critical consciousness and grassroots funding for local artists. She is currently working as a counselor at Rape Victim Advocates in the Austin Chicago neighborhood. 

Allie Stephens is a nationally recognized composer, music producer, singer and song writer who has composed music for over 500 national TV commercials and 100 feature length documentaries and independent films. They have composed & produced music for programming on A&E, PBS, The History Channel, Yahoo.com, WTTW and NPR, and worked for clients such as American Airlines, Budweiser, State Farm & McDonalds. They also teach as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago within the Art & Tech and Humanities Departments. Their days are spent exploring the intersection of music & film, and they bring a nuanced understanding of the cultural role of music to the classes they teach. They have a deep love of American regional and popular musical styles, and a fascination for the cultural counterpoint of the American vernacular. Allie identifies as trans-feminine and ‘gender-mobile.’

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Cassandra Davis is a Chicago-based artist, with an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Fiber and Material Studies. Her current work examines the spiritual experience, exploring cloth as shroud and sanctuary. Themes of the erotic, spiritual ecstasy and transformation emerge from an interdisciplinary practice that engages photography, video and installation. Her latest body of work arrives at intersections between her photographic discipline and investigation of materiality, as well as intersections between her Pentecostal upbringing and current explorations of queer identity.

Nicole Harrison is a photographer, intellectual, artist and youth advocate.  Her work span topics in gender politics, Hip Hop, youth and visual culture.  She is dedicated to creating and exploring works that document the experiences of young black men and women in urban communities.  Harrison investigates; through her scholarship, activism and art practice ways that African Americans (in the U.S) continue to use the arts as a platform for redefining their identities and combating their oppression through concentrated works in film, music, oral history, and photography.  Within the last five years, Harrison exhibited, presented and lectured on her work(s) at institutions/organizations that includes Columbia University, The Art Institute of Chicago, Emory University, Kalamazoo College & Latitude Chicago, just to list a few.  Her biggest research project and exhibition to date is titled “Fear Into Fire:  Reclaiming Black Male Identity Through the Art of Tattooing” which was on display at Columbia College Chicago in the winter of 2011.  She also served as a former SEE Potential contributing photographer.  Currently Harrison works with various arts programs as an arts facilitator where she facilitates lessons in photography, media, and art activism.  She also works as an instructor at a charter school located in the East Garfield Park community on the Westside of Chicago.

The Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health is a network of empowered youth and allied adults who transform public consciousness and build capacity of family, school and healthcare systems to support the sexual health, identities, and rights of youth. We educate, advocate, and organize for reproductive justice for youth in Illinois. The FYI Performance company is the creative playmaking arm of ICAH, which tours participatory performances about sexuality to educational spaces as well as to the public. FYI uses 4 core principles in our playmaking and story exchange: Pleasure, Pretend, Practice and Power.

YEPP seeks a safe environment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) youth experiencing homelessness to explore their history, investigate new ways to address their struggles and to celebrate their strengths through the process of developing a theatrical performance piece. YEPP uses harm reduction, social justice, transformative justice and education for liberation (theatre of the oppressed and popular education) frameworks to contain and guide the work. Meanwhile YEPP members participate in the program, we support them with resources around housing, employment, educational, legal and health resources, food, transportation, among other basic needs. We work with the ensemble members for one year: 6 months in the story telling, individual-group healing, and theatrical performance piece development, and 6 months traveling around the country performing, creating awareness and educating communities about LGBTQ street-based youth issues. As part of our mission to create awareness and educate communities, we facilitate workshops in which we incorporate theatre of the oppressed and popular education techniques.

Best known as a poet, songwriter, and performer, multi-disciplinary artist Avery R. Young is also an award-winning teaching artist who mentors youths in the crafts of creative writing and theater. He has been an Arts and Public Life Artist-In-Residence at the University of Chicago and has written curriculum for Columbia College Chicago, Young Leeds Authors, True Star Magazine, and Chicago Public Schools Art Integration Department. Young’s poems and essays on HIV awareness, misogyny, race records, and art integration have been published in The BreakBeat PoetsThe Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn BrooksAIMPrint, and other anthologies.His album booker t. soltreyne: a race rekkid combines his poetry and sound design to discuss matters of race, gender, and sexuality in America during the Obama Era. Avery’s work in performance, visual text, and sound design has been featured in several exhibitions and online publications---notably The Hip Hop Theatre Festival, The Museum of Contemporary Art, and American Jazz Museum. He currently works as a teaching artist, mentoring Rebirth Youth Poetry Ensemble and performing with his band, de deacon board.