Early Education is a Responsibility Shared Equally Between Teachers and Parents - 10 Questions with Lucy Chen, Pianist and Chair of the Music Department at Edward Waters College
Dr. Lucy Chen migrated from China to North America with her parents when she was seven years old and her family settled in Canada. Chen had a natural love for music as a child and she was drawn to classical, pop, and jazz. It was out of this love of music that a young Chen began taking piano lessons at the encouragement of her mother.
Chen's parents took her schooling very seriously. They viewed music as an important academic subject and because of that, her musical pursuits were not that of a hobbyist. During her adolescent years, Chen spent four-hours each day practicing. She dreaded the long hours of practice but remained dedicated to her development as a musician. It wasn't long before Chen's music teacher asked her to take part in piano competitions. Having access to the arts at an early age set the trajectory for Chen's adult life.
10 Questions with Celia Frank, Managing Artistic Director of Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre (ABET).
In 1993, Carson Merry Baillie approached Atlantic Beach officials with a proposition. It was her desire to stage live theatre productions inside the seaside community's former City Hall building, which in 1991 had been converted into the Adele Grade Community Center. City officials granted Merry Baillie her request and, with the help of three of her drama workshop graduates, Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre (ABET) was founded.
Merry Baillie wrangled a group of volunteers who quickly started investing sweat equity into the company. Together, the group transformed the space into a working community theatre equipped with a stage and risers. Merry Baillie opened the doors of ABET with the purpose of testing the perceptions and assumptions of audiences in Northeast Florida by introducing them to new, exciting, and original plays and musicals. Merry Baillie led from the helm of the company for 13 years and during that time ABET gained a reputation for producing local productions showcasing the work of emerging playwrights, while also creating a space for Broadway productions, revivals, and classics.
Celia Frank joined ABET as the Managing Artistic Director in 2007. Frank has built a career of working in community theatres and with both regional and touring professional companies. Prior to moving to Atlantic Beach, Frank lived in Atlanta, where she worked for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the major daily newspaper for the Atlanta metropolitan area, in the features department. Upon moving to Atlantic Beach, Frank immersed herself in Greater Jacksonville's arts and cultural sector as a Director, which she continued to do for several years before joining ABET as the sole member of their staff.
There is an age-old adage used to warn the young about the dangers of being overly inquisitive or experimental. The earliest known printed reference to the saying appeared in 1873, in James Allan Mair's A Handbook of Proverbs: English, Scottish, Irish, American, Shakespearean, and Scriptural; and Family Mottoes. It was listed as an Irish proverb and believed to have developed from words written by British playwright Ben Jonson in 1598. That saying is, "curiosity killed the cat."
Keith Marks doesn't believe that curiosity is a dirty word. In fact, he believes that it is a character trait that should be both celebrated and nurtured. This is what led him to co-found Avant Arts, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that explores the arts outside of genre and expectation in an attempt to create a more adventurous community of art appreciators. Fostering curiosity and rewarding it when found is woven into the culture of Avant Arts and serves as a guiding principle for Marks and his co-founding partners.
Marks and audio engineer Moe Ricks recently launched Avant Radio, with the tagline "Curious Music for Curious Minds." The weekly radio program is featured on the airwaves of WJCT 89.9 FM and airs on Thursday nights at 11:00 PM. Shows are themed, curated, sequenced, and then contextualized with the aim of educating and exposing people to new music, cultures, and ways of thinking as it relates to musical tastes. Recaps of the program and selected playlists can be found on Avant's blog.
Being Comfortable In Who We Are - 10 Questions with Your Friendly Neighborhood Nerd, Robert "the Bobbo" Griffin
Imagine, if you will, that you're a child again. You spend your time enamored with comic books and action heroes; fictitious characters who routinely exhibit gallant behavior in page and on screen to serve as the defenders of good in the timeless battled against evil. Your love of these characters is woven into the fabric of your every day life, from the t-shirts you wear, the book bag you carry to school, the games you play on the playground, and even the themes of your birthday parties.
Now, let us pose a question. What effect do you think it has on a child's self esteem when they idolize these characters yet do not see their race or gender represented within the roster of protagonists? In 2011, the academic journal Communication Research published a study conducted by Kristen Harrison and Nicole Martins, two Indian University professors, titled Racial and Gender Differences in the Relationship Between Children’s Television Use and Self Esteem: a Longitudinal Panel Study. Harrison and Martins surveyed about 400 black and white students in Illinois, all 7-to 12-years-old and from lower-middle to upper-middle socioeconomic communities, over a yearlong period. The research focused on how much the kids watched TV and how that impacted their self esteem. What they concluded is that television exposure led to a decrease in self-esteem for white and black girls and black boys, and an increase in self esteem among white boys.
What contributes to this increase or decrease in self esteem? It's simple, representation. Children are affected when their race or gender are not represented or represented negatively in popular culture, whether it's television series, movies, comic books, or literature. Historically, young white boys have had greater access to positive media representation. This type of exposure helps young white boys believe that anything is possible, and that they can attain, achieve, and even be heroes. If popular culture reinforces gender and racial stereotypes, then exposure to media can impact how children of color, girls, gender nonconforming youth, or children with disabilities evaluate themselves or see their place in the world.
Robert Griffin, a man who has given himself the title Your Friendly Neighborhood Nerd, is an ardent advocate for diversity and inclusion within the arts and media, with a specific focus on nerd and geek culture. Griffin, who is also known to many as the Bobbo, is passionate about seeing more people of color (POC) and females working as illustrators, writers, and editors of comic books and animated series, as well as owning and operating comic book and hobby shops. He uses outlets such as his blog and podcasts, Geek Street Radio and Bobbo's Block, to spread his message.
Musician Sarah Sanders performs under the pseudonym Mama Blue. A Jacksonville native who grew up on the city's eastside, she has performed extensively at venues and events in Northeast Florida since 2011. Through these performances, she has blossomed to become a staple in the regions music scene. It's not just Jacksonville residents that notice Mama Blue's talent. She performs in cities throughout the United States, bringing Jacksonville's rich history of blues, jazz, and soul to audiences across the nation.
In October, Mama Blue performed her way to being named the winner of the 2017 First Coast Blues Society's Regional Blues Challenge. Subsequently, she was invited to perform at the 34th Annual International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, TN. This event brings together performers, industry representatives, and fans from all over the world to celebrate the blues. The IBC is a worldwide search for blues acts that are ready to heed the call and perform at an international level.
We are being bombarded through public platforms with rhetoric that is aimed at dividing and categorizing us based on our differences. It is being projected in both the United States and the world at large as imperious alienation and disparaging rants are somehow marketed and sold as nonconformist truth-telling. Such vile hyperbole is not only close minded, it's dangerous. It promotes xenophobia and strips the world of its humanity.
One of the issues that is repeatedly being discussed is immigration. Those who debate this topic oftentimes speak in statistics and exaggerated generalizations, overlooking the simple fact that immigrants are actual living, breathing human beings. When our fellow person leaves one area and migrates to another it is done in search of a better standard of life for themselves and their loved ones. Let us not forget the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, taken from Emma Lazarus' sonnet New Colossus, "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."
Overstreet Ducasse, known to many as Street, migrated to the United States at the age of six. His father, a construction worker, was the first of his family to escape turbulence in Haiti, migrating to the U.S. in a refugee raft. His mother soon followed and the two settled in Miami before sending for their children. After arriving in America, a young Street attended a predominantly Hispanic and black inner-city public school where he was enrolled in an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program. As a student, Street wasn't necessarily fond of school, but as an adult he credits the teachers who contributed to his education and helped shape him as an artist, such as his junior high drafting teaching, Mrs. Alexander, who taught him grid work and how mathematics are used to create perspective.
Our first 10 Questions interview posted on August 8, 2016. This week we reach a milestone with the posting of our 75th interview. To celebrate this achievement, we stepped outside our normal format and invited two literary artists from our region, Tricia Booker and Darlyn Finch Kuhn, to interview one another. Below you will find the interview that Finch Kuhn conducted with Booker. In a separate post you can read the interview that Booker conducted with Finch Kuhn. Both Booker and Finch Kuhn are featured readers in this year's JaxbyJax Literary Arts Festival, scheduled for Saturday, November 11, 2017.
The first quality you notice in Tricia Booker is authenticity. Her photo should appear front and center on the Wikipedia listing for the phrase “what you see is what you get.” The second thing you notice is that she is a peaceful vortex of energy, a contradiction in keeping with her thoughtful, beatific smile as she explains that she is a part-time journalism professor at the University of North Florida (UNF), a boxing instructor, a wife to a “hot firefighter husband,” and a mom to two girls, one boy, and several dogs. Yet she swears she makes eating right, working out, and getting enough sleep a priority. Her healthy frame and glowing-sans-makeup complexion speak to the efficacy of her regimen.
And then you notice how smart she is. She has taught creative writing to both middle-schoolers and inmates, and has written for publications as diverse as Notre Dame and Southern Living magazines, Folio Weekly, Minnesota’s Law & Politics, and the Vero Beach Press-Journal. Her latest work is a full-length journey through infertility, in-vitro, and international adoption that evokes belly laughs, gasps of disbelief, and copious tears – often in the same chapter.
Our first 10 Questions interview posted on August 8, 2016. This week we reach a milestone with the posting of our 75th interview. To celebrate this achievement, we stepped outside our normal format and invited two literary artists from our region, Tricia Booker and Darlyn Finch Kuhn, to interview one another. Below you will find the interview that Booker conducted with Finch Kuhn. In a separate post you can read the interview that Finch Kuhn conducted with Booker. Both Booker and Finch Kuhn are featured readers in this year's JaxbyJax Literary Arts Festival, scheduled for Saturday, November 11, 2017.
Darlyn Finch Kuhn looks like she could walk off the page of a book about Southern hospitality. She has a gracious smile, an infectious laugh, and a way of putting herself together so that she’s always appropriately adorned to go to a funeral, a cocktail party, or breakfast at Cracker Barrel. The sweet demeanor hides a fierce ability to string words together in a way that doesn’t just tell a story - it makes the story sing.
Kuhn first started writing prior to age 5 - while her brother was at school, she wrote and illustrated little books - but she was a little bit older when she read the book Old Yeller, and realized she had found her calling. “The people in that book talked the way the people in my life talked,” she said. And she realized she could write about what she knew - growing up on the Northside of Jacksonville, fishing on the Trout River, and listening to her mama teach her about life.
Unconditional love can only blossom as a result of being honest with ourselves about the subject for which we harbor our emotions and feelings. Romanticized ideas cannot be sustained or developed to unconditional levels if we are not willing to fully accept a person, place, or thing for everything that it/they are while also being acutely aware of everything that it/they are not. We have to chisel away any facade that prevents us from seeing a person, place, or thing for who/what they/it truly are, blemishes and all.
Writer Tim Gilmore has a deep connection with Jacksonville, both past and present. The deeper Gilmore delves into the complexities of Jacksonville's history and identity, the stronger his voice becomes as he advocates for the city he calls home. But, as much as Gilmore advocates for Jacksonville, he is also critical of its improvable shortcomings and vocal about topics and events that sometimes make others uncomfortable. As a purveyor of history, Gilmore refuses to tuck away the darker side of Jacksonville's history into crevices where they can never be discussed or analyzed further.
Lily Kuonen is a visual artist who works in between painting, drawing, installation, and constructed elements. She has shown her work in solo and group exhibitions on three continents, in four countries, and in 18 different U.S. states. In less than 15 years of actively showing her work, Kuonen has participated in 85+ exhibitions. This figure is even more remarkable when you take into consideration the fact that for nearly seven of those years Kuonen was an honor student pursuing an undergraduate degree from the University of Central Arkansas followed by a graduate degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design. And, since 2011, she has worked full-time at Jacksonville University, where she is now Associate Professor of Art and Foundations Coordinator.
As an artist, Kuonen casts tradition aside. She continuously examines and redefines the mediums and processes through which she creates. In 2009, Kuonen coined the term PLAYNTING (play + painting) to characterize her studio practice, which involves integrating painting with additional forms, materials, surfaces, and actions. Kuonen has worked with a number of non-normative materials, including saw dust, ratchet straps, peg board, and cinder blocks. Her fascination with a material typically continues even after a series is complete. It isn't uncommon for materials from one series to be repurposed for a future series.
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