Supporting Our Artists

Celebrating Jacob Lawrence with Step Afrika!
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Photo: Bruce Palmer

Meany Center does more than simply present performing artists — we support them through commissions and residencies as well.

Though Meany Center traditionally presents touring artists from around the world, in this pandemic year it also felt important to support local artists who are doing innovative work.

 

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Creative Fellowships Initiative proved the ideal home for such a project because of its mission to support open-ended creative research for artists.

 

From Stage to Screen

 

When we first closed Meany Hall’s doors in March 2020, we still hoped to present our 2020–21 Season in person. As it became increasingly clear that this would not be possible, our primary goal was to find a way to pay artists whose events had to be canceled and make their performances available to our community even if it couldn’t be on our stage.

Thus, Meany On Screen was born.

Of the 24 artists and ensembles originally scheduled for the 2020–21 Season, 16 presented virtual performances, which we offered free of charge to anyone who wanted to see them. In addition, artists provided a variety of extra content ranging from documentaries to virtual conversations that provided insight into their work and creative processes.

 

Think Globally, Present Locally

 

One of the artists scheduled for the 2020–21 Season was Ethiopian American musician Meklit, whose latest project, Movement, (co-commissioned by Meany Center) would have premiered here in February.

Both a live show and a podcast, Movement engaged local immigrant musicians in different cities to share their own experiences of immigration through music and storytelling.

Both a live show and a podcast, Movement engaged local immigrant musicians in different cities to share their own experiences of immigration through music and storytelling.

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Photo by Tessa Shimazu

You don’t really know beforehand what things are going to mean to you before you make them, but this piece ended up being very important to me I’m grateful to have been afforded the opportunity.”

           — Interdisciplinary artist Ahamefule J. Oluo

The Things Around Us

 

Ahamefule J. Oluo was already well known by many on the Meany Center staff as a great interdisciplinary artist — doing performance, stand-up, theater, music — with both a local and national following. He had even filmed part of his award-winning film Thin Skin in Meany Center’s Katharyn Alvord Gerlich Theater.

 

So when the idea came up to invite local artists to create new work for us, his name was at the top of our list.

 

We were excited at the prospect of deepening Meany Center’s relationship with Oluo through an open-ended commission: the length, theme, topic and number of artists involved was up to him.

In a year when so many performances intended to be seen live have been presented virtually instead, it has been deeply satisfying to present a work that was created specifically for a virtual platform

— and that couldn’t have been presented in any other context.

In his performance of The Things Around Us, Oluo captures the feeling of isolation, of the mind spinning — even as it is anchored by the everyday objects and activities of more normal times.