This Saturday is your chance to see five spoken-word artists perform and discuss their work at the VERVE 2012 Spoken Word Showcase. Featuring VERVE grant winners Naadirah tha Great, Aimee Renaud, Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria, Jake Virden, Chaun Webster, and Michael Lee, the 90-minute show will give folks the chance to discover how the artists have spent their year-long fellowship through Intermedia Arts.
The VERVE grants began in 2002 through SASE: The Write Place, an organization founded by Carolyn Holbrook. In 2006, SASE became part of Intermedia Arts, which has hosted the grant program ever since. According to Julie Bates, associate director of Intermedia Arts, the grants have supported more than 40 emerging Minnesota spoken-word artists over the years.
Things have also evolved over time. About four years ago, the program added quarterly meetings with the grantees because, while past recipients said it was wonderful that the organization was so hands-off and gave artistic freedom to the participants, it also could get lonely for the artists to work for a year by themselves. Intermedia began holding the meetings as a way for the different grantees to get together and talk about where they were in the process.
Three years ago, Intermedia added a final showcase, which gave the recipients a chance to showcase their work and talk about what they had accomplished over the year.
This year, the program has added workshops and master classes with members of the Twin Cities spoken-word community. Bates says that unlike other art forms, spoken word can be difficult to study. Classes in the subject are especially few and far between at colleges and universities. After speaking with past winners of the VERVE grant, Intermedia decided to add a little more structure and support for the recipients, tapping into resources in the community. At the end of the year the grant winners not only have grant money, but have experienced workshops and master classes, and have gained a sense of community through meetings with each other.
At the beginning of the year, Intermedia conducted a survey and sat down with program participants about what they were most interested in. Many of this year's artists talked about being a part of their community, and creating art for social change. So the organization designed a series of master classes and workshops based on that feedback. Classes included a history of spoken word with e.g. bailey, "Duende and the Sound of the Soul" with J. Otis Powell!, an open performance workshop with Guante (Kyle Myhre), and classes with Robert Karimi and Mankwe Ndosi.
Beyond the workshops, the grant recipients worked on their various projects, from creating a CD and promoting it, as Naadirah tha Great (aka Libby G.reenthub) did, to doing research, to traveling. "We want to support process as much as product," Bates says. "They don't have to come out with a CD. We encourage them to think about 'Where am I right now? Where am I trying to go? What's the middle place from here to there?'" The small grants, each with a $4,000 maximum, are designed to value each artist's needs equally.
Michael Lee wanted to look into his culture and heritage, so with his grant money he traveled to Norway and looked at the spoken-word scene there. Aimee Renaud used her award for creating work and touring with a spoken-word collection about oppressive language and creating a safe space. Chaun Webster is working with typography and created a political pamphlet filled with "Hai COUP" (Haiku) poetry that explores the political climate.
Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria is working on creating spoken-word pieces based on interviews in the Chicano and Latino communities, particularly from his family and neighborhood. Jake Virden is exploring northeast Minneapolis as a community, conducting research and using poetry and stories.
Saturday's showcase is a way for the grantees to perform, and also report back to the community about what they have been up to in the past year. The hope is that each grantee tells the audience about who they are as an artist. IF YOU GO:
VERVE Spoken Word Showcase 8 p.m. Saturday, May 26 Intermedia Arts 2822 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis There is a $5-$10 suggested donation