Category: Leading Lady

Jessi Queen Invites Us into Her World of Chalk

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the Next Leading Lady for March 2018 : Jessi Queen

Where do you work and what do you do?
I am very lucky to get to use both sides of my brain on a daily basis. I am a UX designer and a street chalk artist. During the week I work at Sapient Razorfish in Atlanta and spend time creating complex web and app experiences for large clients such as AT&T, Delta, Bridgestone and more. After work and every weekend I live and breathe chalk. Literally breathing chalk dust… I create large chalk pastel murals on the sidewalks and streets in Atlanta and around the world. This is not your average child drawing. I use specialized street chalk pastels and rhender large, 12ft or more, lifelike portraits. I travel almost every weekend with my family creating art. I co-founded the Georgia Chalk Artists Guild to help encourage and support events all over the southeast. We have over 20 local members as well as out of state/country members.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
Art has always been my north. My mother and grandmother are very talented and have always encouraged me to express my creativity. My oldest sister is an illustrator and was always keeping a sketchbook with her when I was growing up. I looked up to her and when I moved to Savannah, GA at age 10 I was inspired by the city and arts culture there. I attended Savannah Arts Academy and later enrolled at SCAD at the Atlanta campus. I have been in Atlanta ever since and I love this city! In 2007 I participated in and placed in the high school category for the SCAD street arts festival. From that moment on I was hooked. I worked hard to become a professional chalk artist and am now hired to draw at local events and lead workshops at schools and businesses.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
I firmly believe that we create our own paths and I have been building on mine for a long time. With that said, I have a timeline of my life that I made in 6th grade. In it I stated that I was going to be a dentist and would have a son and a daughter. It also said I would win in the olympics in a cycling race… I still love biking and am a member of the Atlanta Bike Coalition but never made it into any professional races. I am now an artist/designer and have a husband, infant son and two sweet dachshunds. I love my life so far and would not trade it for anything.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
I had an opportunity at a chalk festival recently and was chosen to draw an influential figure from the 1940s. Of course I was led right to Hedy Lamarr. She is an actress and known as “the most beautiful woman in the world.” But in the 1940s, in an attempt to help the war effort, she invented what would become the precursor to many wireless technologies we use today, including Bluetooth, GPS, cellphone networks and more. I love that she was both a talented artist and an influential figure in the tech world.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My biggest influence has been my chalk family. I call them “chalk family” because at every festival I travel to, there are the same people who do the circuit. I have met artists from all over including Italy and Germany. We all learn from one another and explore different techniques. I have met so many people from different backgrounds and am inspired by every one of them. It is fun learning what the Italians do versus Mexican artists etc. They are all the world’s best artists and I aspire to become better because of them.

How is art a passion for you?
I believe everyone is talented but some are more inclined than others to strive towards a goal. Art is my north star and I hope to continue to grow my talent. Without that purpose I would be lost.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
Equality is still a challenge. Those who do not believe it are blind. Being a woman there is an expected way to dress, act and express yourself. The differences are subtle, but they are there. In the office environment you have to really make your voice heard. Mansplaining is a thing and guys who do the same amount of work either have a higher title or get paid more. Some clients do not respond well to a woman’s voice and only listen when a male is present. Chalk art is public and many other females have experienced the same issues. Being on the street, just walking or spending a day drawing; you will get cat called, phone numbers asked, and people will linger and stare. I hope that one day art and design will be appreciated for what it is, no matter the gender of the creator.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
The people. There is a growing community of artists and street artists. Our Pop Up chalk festivals have influenced many individuals. Chalk art is a medium that is so easy to get into and people of all ages can participate. It is so awesome to have a grandpa chalking next to a 3 year old, both enjoying the creation process. People see my work and say “Oh I cannot even draw a stick figure”. This phrase makes me so sad because they haven’t tried. I think that anyone can do chalk art and create in this way. I reply “It just takes practice.” and encourage them to join in.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
It is my dream to have a festival in which everyone can just come up and draw, adding to the bigger image. In a way that is a metaphor for life. We are all in a way contributing to the bigger picture. Chalk art is ephemeral and is meant to be shared in the moment. I want to educate the community and encourage future artists by getting on their level and simply drawing on the sidewalk.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?
My personal website- www.jessiqueen.com.

Instagram- jessiqueenart

Twitter- jessithequeen

Facebook- jessiqueenart

You can join in the chalking and find events through our organization www.gachalkartists.org and facebook.com/gachalkartists

Julie Skrzypek Knows Her Way Around the Stage

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the Next Leading Lady for March 2018 : Julie Skrzypek

Where do you work and what do you do?
Julie Skrzypek is an Atlanta-based Collaborator, Director, Producer and Stage Manager. She is also a new and proud Artistic Director of Theatre Buford and Producer for the Weird Sisters Theatre Project. Currently, she is embarking on a world tour with Jonah Bokaer, Daniel Arsham, and Pharrell Williams’s Rules Of the Game which is co-commissioned by SOLUNA International Music & Arts Festival of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, BAM, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, with major presentation support at La Biennale de la Danse de Lyon and the Brisbane Festival, Australia.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
I feel like I have always been interested in the arts. For as long as I could remember, I loved telling stories and listening to how other people felt about their lives. Most of my fondest memories where playing pretend as a child, creating worlds and diving into “what if’s.” I’ve actively been in my line of work since 2013.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
Growing up, I thought I would be working in the medical field. Haha, a nurse. It made the most logical sense and I wanted to help people. I’ve always been a humanitarian at heart. Luckily for me, I was gravitated to theatre in this subconscious sort of way. I performed well in theater classes unlike nursing classes and it made me happy.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
If I could have lunch with any woman from history, it would have to be Amelia Earhart, what an incredible woman and human being. What wouldn’t we talk about? I would want nothing more than to listen to her talk about the first time she flew over the ocean, her travels, her passions, her energy and drive to self teach. She lived quite an incredible life. I would tell her about how far aviation has come and how influential she was and continues to be for so many women, past, present and future.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My mother is and continues to be the biggest influence in my life. As a Polish immigrant, she built a life and family for herself that is strong and thick as thieves. My Mom has taught me how to define strength in numerous ways, reinvent and reimagine what it means to be women of culture.

How is art a passion for you?
Art is a passion for me through theater and performing arts. It’s expression and also the lack of expression. It encompasses all things and is an emotion for me. It is imaginative, it is a story. I personally, am fascinated by the way people communicate and connect by telling a story. I am always learning with every production and always challenged as an artist. I am constantly moved and changing with the direction a show takes me. Art and Theatre is constantly encouraging me to grow as a person.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
We are not going anywhere and we have something to say. #timesup

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
It’s continued exponential growth, and the room it brings for continued variation and diversity.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
Female empowerment! I hope to cultivate an environment for artist to take risk and feel supported doing so.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?
Producer with The Weird Sisters –

Website: Theweirdsisters.org

Facebook: The Weird Sisters Theatre Project,

Instagram @Weirdsisterstheatreproject

Artistic associate at Synchronicity Theatre –

Facebook: Synchronicity Theatre

Find us online at Synchrotheatre.com 

Founder and co-artistic director at Sylvia Beard Theatre in the Buford Community Center – Bufordcommunitycenter.com

Personal interview with Atlanta Theatre Life on Spotify

Kara Jacobson Wants Everyone to Grow and Shine

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the Next Leading Lady for March 2018 : Kara Jacobson

Where do you work and what do you do?
Just over a year ago, I founded The Atlanta Dance Academy (TADA). TADA is a dance education and training facility that welcomes all who have a passion or interest in dance. Whether you have never danced before in your life and you’d just like to learn or whether you’re on track to become a professional dancer, TADA has a place for you. I often find myself saying: “TADA is an academy. What we offer is quality, but we’re also TADA! which is fun, warm, and nurturing”. In addition to creating a new space for Atlanta artists to learn, collaborate, and perform, I have launched the TADA Foundation whose goal is to focus on dance education and performance opportunities for those who usually don’t have access. Lastly, I am on the Faculty at Emory University in our School of Public Health. In this role, I conduct research on ways to better inform consumers about health information in a clear, simple way. I am so excited to bridge my passion for public health and dance by offering such programs for those with physical and developmental disabilities as well as focusing on slowing down cognitive and movement disorders by offering dance as a type of physical therapy (e.g., dance for those with Parkinson’s is beginning to show a positive impact on many people’s lives).

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
I am from Atlanta, and I began taking ballet when I was 2½. I danced predominately with The Georgia Ballet and Southern Ballet, and I am so grateful for my instructors Iris Hensley and Pittman and Chris Corey. I attended Georgia’s Governor’s Honors program in dance, and I attended Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts. Although I studied dance my entire life, I decided to pursue a career in public health with a focus on the under-served (my research is based at Grady Health System). It’s clear that I have continued to fuel my passion for dance as I have recently been fortunate enough to share this passion with the Atlanta dance community by offering jobs, classes and performance opportunities for so many Atlanta artists, artists in training, and emerging artists. In a nutshell, what I do is bring people together to find the joy in movement. Dance can be a universal language that engages and connects dancers and audiences alike. Dance is culturally diverse and can enrich our communities through its creative art and music.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
I never in a million years ever thought I would build a dance studio, but I am grateful for the opportunity. It’s such a perfect fit now to blend my education and training in public health (think movement and physical activity) to dance movement and arts. I love learning and I am always looking for new challenges. This challenge, TADA, will certainly keep me busy for many years.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
Wow- so many to choose from. I would start with a dance legend, Isadora Duncan. She seemed to break away from the mold which during the late 1800’s had to be quite rebellious. Ms. Duncan is stated to have craved a different environment with less hierarchy. I would be honored to learn from those like her about their courage and risk taking behaviors. I would like to talk about taking an idea and growing it large enough so that you can have an impact on many individuals’ lives.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
I am certain that I was fortunate enough to have the opportunities that I have today because of my parents. Their guidance and support has enabled me to be exposed to so many diverse opportunities. Without their support of my dance training, college and graduate school, I wouldn’t have the skills and experiences to accomplish what I am doing today. In addition to my parent’s support, they always told me that I could do anything that I set my mind to. It was a “I can” environment rather than a “You can’t” environment.

How is art a passion for you?
Dance is a passion for me because it’s unlike any other form of movement that I have experienced. I have always been an athlete. I grew up dancing, doing gymnastics and springboard diving. I was on the diving team at Emory College and I even performed professionally as part of the US High Diving Team. While I loved those sports and I even competed in Iron Man triathlons, none of those athletic endeavors brought out the same spark or fire that dance evokes in me. I am not sure that I can pinpoint exactly what this is, but it’s real and it’s always there for me, and this is what I want to be able to assist others in finding… the joy in movement.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
Equality for me is not only women, but it’s everyone independent of gender, race, ethnicity, income or education. I believe in offering everyone an opportunity to learn, grow, and shine.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
Atlanta is amazing! We are now leading the film industry, we have so many wonderful resources, and as a community we need to ensure that we provide ample training for everyone in our community so that we can continue to be a hub for teaching and performance. Specifically, for the dance community, we are creating a strategic plan for bringing all dance artists in Atlanta together- because together we can have a greater impact.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
My goal is to offer quality dance training for all with an emphasis on inclusion. We embrace those with physical and developmental disABILITIES and we prefer to focus on these students’ ABILITIES.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?
www.TADAAtlanta.com; Instagram @TADA_Atl; Facebook TADAAtlanta

Lisa Tuttle Honors Women Leaders Through Public Art

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the Next Leading Lady for March 2018: Lisa Tuttle 

Where do you work and what do you do?
Last September, I packed up my studio at the Arts Exchange in Grant Park after 21 years. I plan to have a new space in the new ArtsXchange in East Point which is scheduled to open in June, 2018. My work is interdisciplinary, often lens-based and mixing mediums. I produce objects, installations and public art projects.

For the last fifteen years, I have been a public art administrator for Fulton County Arts & Culture. I work as part of team that oversees the commissioning, installation and conservation of original works of art by Georgia artists for public buildings in Fulton County, such as libraries, senior centers, government offices, art centers and health facilities.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
I have been an exhibiting artist, as well as a curator, gallery director and public art administrator for over 35 years. Although always interested in the arts, through literature, film, some art classes, and theater, I didn’t formalize my interest in the visual arts until college.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
As a child, I knew I wanted to do something creative, and somehow involved with writing, as my first passion was reading. We had that card game of Authors, and my father delighted in the fact that I knew them all at age 6. My favorite section in the library were the biographies. My father was a journalist and emmy-winning television news director; my mother was an English major at Agnes Scott, so conversations about books and current events were always part of dinner table discussions. My parents were also politically progressive, unusual among my Southern neighbors, and my mother was an active community and church volunteer leader, so civil rights and social justice were tenets of our beliefs.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
Harriet Tubman (or Elizabeth Cady Stanton) and I’d want to hear first-hand stories about their lives.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
Probably my parents. My father always encouraged me to express myself, and my mother was a strong believer in women as leaders. In my adult life, I have also been influenced by many others in the Atlanta and wider arts communities.

How is art a passion for you?
Growing up and in school, I had so many interests that, finally art seemed to be the place that was elastic enough that all of those could come to bear – whether it was feminism, social justice, quantum physics, french literature, or how my grandmother sewed. Once I claimed the title of “artist”, I’ve been committed to staying in the field. I often say that I am the very best version of myself when I am in the studio

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
Years ago, I brought the Guerilla Girls to Atlanta to speak, and I keep their poster, “The Advantages of Being a Woman Artist” in my studio. Keeping an eye on who leads the large budget organizations, which artists are collected, the comparative prices of the art stars will always be necessary. I do think things continue to change for the better, but it is an ongoing struggle. When Dr. King told us that the arc of history bends toward justice, we can understand the trajectory of the suffragettes, women’s liberation to the Me Too! And Time’s Up! movements.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
The openness to possibility. Accessibility of others. And the growth of numerous opportunities like MOCAGA Working Artist Project Grant, Artadia, Creative Capital, SouthArts, Hudgens Prize….when I was working with the original Arts Festival of Atlanta, we hosted the only temporary installation program in the city, and ventured for several years into urban interventions with City Site Works. Now, public art – both permanent and temporary – has grown exponentially with Art on the Beltline, Flux Projects, ACP, Living Walls, Elevate, Hambidge’s Field Experiments, etc. In addition to the City of Atlanta and Fulton County’s programs, surrounding municipalities have established public art initiatives, like Roswell, Sewanee, Duluth, Sandy Springs, and farther afield, Athens. They look to Atlanta for expertise and artists.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
I love to collaborate. For years, as a curator and arts administrator, I have worked to create programs, exhibitions and opportunities for Atlanta artists to operate on the same level as any one in the country. As a curator and public art administrator, I love to partner with and nourish accomplishment in other artists. I also have been a strong arts advocate over the years, and hope that I am contributing to an arena and an Atlanta reputation that helps others succeed.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?
www.sandlerhudson.com
www.fultonarts.org
www.publicartarchive.org

Instagram: @artistlisatuttle
Facebook: Harriet Rising Page

Veronica Kessenich Believes Art Transcends Time and Space

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the Next Leading Lady for March 2018 : Veronica Kessenich 

Where do you work and what do you do? 
I proudly work at Atlanta Contemporary as the Executive Director. I also teach as an adjunct instructor at Agnes Scott College.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
For as long as I can remember, the arts have been a part of my life – with ballet classes starting at age 3, to summer art camps, to falling in love with theater in high school – I have always included arts and culture in my life. My parents firmly believe that the arts enrich life and we always attended shows, performances, and gallery openings and on all family trips we ventured through the museums and cultural heritage sights to learn about cities, people, and places. With an undergraduate and graduate degree in Art History, I have been working as a dealer, art historian, and arts administrator for over fifteen years.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
When I was dancing, I had only one dream: to dance at Radio City Music Hall with the Rockettes. Not being tall enough – and frankly also wanting to have fun as a teenager – I stopped dancing. That’s when my world truly opened up. Mind you, every Macy’s Day Parade, I stop and watch The Rockettes secretly dreaming that I am one of them.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
Lunch. With any one woman. Such a good & tough question! (I actually do this exercise with my students when I talk about Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party.) But to choose just one? Mary Shelley. The mythic story of how a competition between friends birthed the infamous monster and crisis-torn Doctor Frankenstein is just as much occult legend as the novel itself. I find it compelling how it was out of courtesy for the lady, that Lord Byron, Percy, and their friend let Mary read from her writing first. Shocked, horrified, and dare-I-say, a little awakened and aroused – the men all threw their own manuscripts into the fire and compelled Mary to finish her tale. I would want to talk about her dream – not only of the story but of her dream to be a writer, artist, and 19th century woman.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
It would be wrong of me to say that any one person has been the biggest influence on my life but it would not be wrong to say that women have been the biggest influences in my life. From my mother and grandmothers, to women who taught me at school, to the fact that I went to an all women’s college and currently teach at a women’s college – there’s truth that women are consequential, commanding, intelligent, innovative, dynamic and courageous. The women in my life been the ‘firsts’ in attending college, in raising a million dollars, and in standing up for their beliefs. I realize that it’s unfair to not fully answer and say just one ‘who’ but that would be like selecting a favorite memory – so many feelings, experiences, and truths come from how these women wove the fabric of my life and I would not be who I am today without any one of them being a part of it.

How is art a passion for you?
To quote de Kooning (the artist whose paintings seduced me into becoming an art historian): “Art is a language”. Art transcends time and place. It speaks to any and all of us – even when we’re not listening. It’s what gets me out of bed and what keeps me up at night. It’s something worth sharing with students and protecting through advocacy. It’s that which opens doors and encircles communities.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
I believe that all people should be equally represented in any workforce regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion, mental or physical abilities, or race.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
The thing that excites me the most is the thing that has always been the case about the arts in Atlanta: if you can dream it, you can do it. You just have to put in the work.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
If I may indulge you in a manifesto of sorts :: I believe in the power of the arts to transform lives. I believe that the arts should be accessible. I believe that art centers and museums should be free (and fully supported by the communities they serve). I believe that ‘I like it’ is just as important as ‘I don’t like it’ – because it’s nougat middle is the sweet spot of conversation. I believe that the people are what make the places (staff, artists, boards, members, patrons, and audiences). And I hope that all of this amounts to the fact that one day – when all of us no longer work at the places where time, talent, treasure and passions hold us currently – that the work we’ve done transcends time and space; that people will pick up the baton and continue on our marathon to increase awareness and capacity for the arts in Atlanta.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?

www.atlantacontemporary.org 

Morgan Lugo’s a true Jane of All Trades

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the Next Leading Lady for March 2018 : Morgan Lugo

Where do you work and what do you do?
I always have multiple balls rolling at the same time and love to stay as busy as possible. My 9-5 consists of working in the metal shop at the Inferno Art Foundry, where my day to day work consists of pouring cast bronze sculpture, welding, and metal chasing. For those who are unfamiliar with metal chasing, it is basically re-sculpting welds in cast metal sculptures to make them look like they never existed. We do anything from small scale sculptural works to large scale public statues. Recently, I have been helping out with mold-making as well. Besides this job, I am always working on commissions– from helping other artists, to making personal sculptures for patrons, building furniture/lighting, and even home repairs. In addition to all of this I am also a full time artist traveling nationally and internationally with my sculptures. I mainly work in cast and fabricated metal.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
I have always been creative, but it took me a long time to actually figure out how to apply my creativity to a tangible form of art. I grew up playing ice hockey religiously. I am sure that the last thing you would expect from a Puerto Rican/Sicilian girl from the south is to be an intense ice hockey goalie, but I was on the ice five days a week for twelve years. I was always on multiple teams and usually playing with all guys. Between sports and school, I never really had a chance to explore my artistic side, but I knew it was in there somewhere. When I graduated from high school I took my hockey scholarship and decided to go to art school. This seemed to be a huge change of gears for me, but I was so excited to make the leap of faith and try something I have never done before. After my first two years of college I thought I had made a terrible mistake, I was floundering in my intro drawing and 2D design classes, nothing seemed to click with me and I felt my passions slipping away and anxieties creeping in. Finally, I took intro to sculpture, followed by ceramics, and then eventually mold making. Everything starting making sense to me — once I got into metal casting it was like my soul had caught back on fire again. I had craved the adrenaline and camaraderie that sports gave me, and this couldn’t have been a more perfect outlet. Metal Sculpture is very much a team sport and something you can’t really do alone. Once I saw my first 500 lb ladle of molten iron flow, I was completely hooked. This first contact with metal working was about 4 years ago now. Since I graduated GSU in May of 2015 I have worked at art foundries in the US and Berlin as well as worked as a fabrication welder for a multitude of different projects. I have also done freelance mold making and clay modeling work. I have been officially employed as a full time metalworker for about a year in addition to my personal work.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
Never in a million years did I expect to be a full time artist and metal worker. In fact, I expected to still be involved in ice hockey. As a little girl my biggest dream was to be in the NHL and also compete in the olympics as an ice hockey goalie. If not that, I am honestly not sure… I have always been someone who lives very much in the moment, and I don’t think my young self was much too concerned with anything other than just doing what I could to be a little bit better tomorrow.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
This truly is a loaded question, there are infinite options all perfect for their own reasons. As of now, I have been infatuated with the historical figures of the 15th and 16th centuries in Europe. So, I think this adds as a big prelude to why I would pick this specific woman. If I could have lunch with any woman from history I would choose Queen Elizabeth I of England. Not by any means because I agree with everything England has done as a nation, but because I admire Queen Elizabeth’s tenacity and quick wit, being in an even more male dominated society than we are today and the turmoil she dealt with in her rise to being Queen all before the age of 25. I would ask her how she stayed so strong in her beliefs ruling for 45 years without a husband even though the world demanded it of her. What would her main points of advice be on a steady road to success and how she grew England to be one of the worlds super powers all while becoming one of the greatest monarchs history? I would ask how great it feels to have accomplished this all on her own and doing it her way. Then, of course, I would talk to her about some random questions about life back then and the opulence of being a major world leader, about the wine, clothes, and crazy parties, because of course who wouldn’t want to hear about that? All and all, I think that she is a great role model in the sense of being a strong, independent, and successful woman who didn’t let the pressures and stereotypes of her society force her into a life she didn’t want.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
As cliche as it is, the biggest influence on my life has always been my family. I come from generations of hard-working, resilient people who have defied all odds to become successful; most immediately, my parents. My dad, for instance, has always shown me the perfect example of patience, perseverance and passion. He has worked through so much adversity to be the entrepreneur of a successful marketing and communications company. I know it was not an easy feat, but he always seems to rise to the occasion and remains unmoved in the face of defeat. I most certainly could not forget my mom– I am not sure if anyone is capable of more multitasking than this woman. She is always two steps ahead of the problem and seems to succeed in any job presented to her, from interior design to special education to Public Relations, she can really do it all with a “take no crap” attitude. So between my immediate, extended, and past family, I have had the “never say die” mentality instilled in me since I have been a little girl. I feel so unbelievably blessed to have this experience, because I know that many don’t.

How is art a passion for you?
Art is a passion for me because it creates and magnifies the beauty in the world. From painting, to sculpture, to architecture, to fashion, to culinary arts and more, what would the world be without it!? How would people really be seen for themselves without these wonderful forms of expression?! For me personally in my practice, I am so inspired by creating sculpture. The very idea that I can physically manifest my ambiguous thoughts into a tangible reality is mind blowing to me. The opportunity and limitlessness of this is enchanting and inspiring. In a way, I am physically sculpting reality one piece at a time. Honestly, I am not sure if the magic will ever ware off for me, we can all change the world—- even if just one sculpture at a time.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
Well, obviously I have a strong opinion on this because I work in a male dominated industry on a daily basis. Over the years, I have had experiences all over the spectrum from good to bad, empowering to belittling, people getting so excited seeing a young woman in a metal shop and people who do not even want you to touch their work because they cannot even fathom the fact that you would be capable of doing it. It gets really hard sometimes to constantly feel like you have to prove yourself 3x more than all of the men you work with because you happen to be a woman with long flowing hair . I think that I have a unique perspective because I have been dealing with sexism since a very young age when I started playing Ice hockey. I remember not making teams and one time the coach specifically told me, “You didn’t make it not because you are not good enough, I just can’t trust having a girl on my team.” But those years were honestly the most defining moments in regards to shaping my character. It didn’t matter if I was bloody, bruised, or defeated, I always got back up because I was determined to show people what it was like to “play like a girl,” eventually becoming a nationally ranked goalie, winning national and state championships, and scholarships that helped me pay my way through college. From ice to fire, I understand how I got to where I am now, but I would love to help pave the way for younger women to have a less turbulent journey.

I have been extremely lucky to work with and for some amazing people who have really believed in me and pushed me to keep going. Also, there are many more women metalworkers out there than you think. We are spread thin, but we are not small in numbers or in hell to raise. I would LOVE to see more women get the opportunity to even be exposed to “stereotypically” male things. The problem is that women are so conditioned to not even realize that they are just as capable, if not more, than their male counterparts. As a woman, you are a powerhouse; capable of handling so much physical and emotional turmoil with grace. We need to relish in that, we need to celebrate that! I think that as generations grow and fluid ideas progress we will see a lot of men and women holding jobs that are not deemed “normal” for their gender. All that we can do is help lead by example, exposing the ideas of equal representation on all work fronts–the more barriers we break today, the more opportunities there are tomorrow.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
The Atlanta arts scene is growing so rapidly it is hard not to be excited as a young artist on the scene. You have opportunities, you can find work or mold into any type of scene, from pop-up show in a warehouse to fine art gallery to outdoor sculpture on the beltline. The city is so prime for a creative explosion in all mediums, I am just ready to take the ride and see what we can make of this amazing and expanding canvas.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
I have big plans for the future, but all I can speak to is what I hope to contribute now. I hope to help give a light of hope to women who are interested in working outside of the norm. I hope to inspire people with the work I make and to push them outside of their comfort zones, and to get them to think critically about our place here on earth. I hope I can help make the community realize there is nothing wrong with being feminine and working in a masculine field. It’s ok to come home from work and trade those steel toes out for a pair of heels. It’s ok to worry about not chipping your fresh manicure while cranking up a blowtorch. And it’s ok to just relish in the daily grime of a job well done, because craftsmen are a dying breed, no matter the gender. I hope to contribute to the conversation of living outside of other people’s stereotypes of you and standing proudly in your truth. Because the more limitless we feel as an individual the more limitless we feel in the ways we can create and motivate our communities.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?
My personal website is www.morganlugosculpture.com, this is the best place to see finished work and read about my inspirations/achievements.

My instagram- morganlugosculpture, this is the best place to keep up with my progress and see my work in action.

Sondra Ilgenfritz Brings Theatre to Those Who Need It

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the Next Leading Lady for March 2018: Sondra Ilgenfritz

Where do you work and what do you do?
I founded Atlanta Theatre To Go in 2007 with the mission of enriching the lives of senior adults by taking live performances to retirement communities. Senior centers, assisted living facilities, churches and synagogues. I served as president until I retired in December, 2017, and continue the mission by serving on the board of directors. My personal responsibility remains selecting plays for production and creating innovative programs along with the wonderful staff we have.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
My first introduction to the arts was as a child growing up in New York City. Two older cousins took me to my first Broadway play, “The Voice of the Turtle.” I understood little of the sexual innuendoes of the plot but was instantly captivated by the audience response to live drama. Today I continue to look for the connections between people.
Following a career in advertising, I was recuperating from breast cancer when my husband saw an article about Horizon Theatre starting a senior ensemble. I had been given the gift of renewed life by skillful surgeons and decided to make it as meaningful as possible. I volunteered to write for the ensemble and with Jeff Adler’s gentle persuasion began performing, taking acting classes and play writing classes.
My career in advertising taught me to look for community needs and how to fulfill
them. With the tremendous growth in our senior population it became apparent there was a need for meaningful programming. I started Atlanta Theatre To Go in 2007 to fill that need.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
When I read Jane Austen, I wanted to be a writer; reading Margaret Mead, an anthropologist; reading Gloria Steinem and Simone deBeauvoir, a crusader for feminism. Little did I realize that all ambitions would coalesce as a theatrical producer.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
Would love to have lunch with Cleopatra. She was a woman who used her power as the ruler of her country, but retained enough “feminem charms” to entice two powerful men – Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. Considering her sad end, i would ask her if she would have done anything differently with her life, and if so, what.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
The biggest influences in my life were my two older cousins Rhoda and Shirledcy who took me to my first Broadway play and were happy to have an inquisitive little kid tagging along asking questions they answered patiently and thoughtfully.

How is art a passion for you?
Time and money control much of our lives. Where we spend both serves as a barometer of our passions. I contribute to the arts as much as possible financially and by donating many hours of my time. In personal conversations with friends and family I stress the importance of the arts in creating a culture of which we can be proud. It must have rubbed off. Both my grandchildren attended a high school of performing arts in their community.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
Give more women control of the pursestrings and we will have more women represented in the arts. Men and women each bring a distinction voice to the arts. Our creative workforce must expand enough for both voices and equal financial compensation for men and women.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
The state of Georgia is either last or close to last in the nation for funding the arts. Despite this financial vacuum, I am astounded and delighted by the number of arts organizations in Atlanta and the important role of C4 in pulling us all together.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
I hope to continue with my advocacy of using the arts for community service.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.

Website: www.atlantatheatretogo.com 

Facebook: Atlanta Theatre-to-Go

Terry Burrell Celebrates Women’s Voices and Artistic Diversity

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the Next Leading Lady for March 2018: Terry Burrell

 

Where do you work and what do you do?
I am an actor so where I work may change, but for the moment I am working at the Alliance Theatre

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
As a kid I was always invited to sing for family friends, church so my interest began as early as five. I have been a professional actor now for close to forty years.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
Well there was a time when I wanted to be a nun because I was going to Catholic school but there was never a doubt really that I would grow up to sing and act on a stage.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
I would have lunch with Harriet Tubman. I don’t think I’d be doing too much talking, instead I’d want to hear her stories about what it was like to have so much determination and where she found the courage to do what she did. I would want to hear her take on how she viewed life as a woman of color today and what her suggestions would be to live a balanced life.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My parents hands down. James and Sybil Burrell were my most ardent fans and my biggest cheering section. They went without so that I could have voice lessons. They raised me to have an incredible work ethic and respect for my fellow artists. They were warm and welcoming to anyone in my circle be they straight or gay, white, asian or other and it is how I am today.

How is art a passion for you?
When I am performing I am truly alive. When I am performing I am in tune with people in a way that touches each others soul. It is the most pleasurable thing to do and to witness others do. I am at home on any stage anywhere in the world. It becomes the Universe I live in for whatever time the piece I am doing lasts.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
Womens’ voices and the vibrancy of our expression in the arts have become much more visible but it can always improve. We are much more aware of the disparity when it comes to opportunities and the way we’ve chosen to wield economic power and support around issues that affect us has become widespread on a global level.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?  
What excites me is how much of it is available in Atlanta and how good it is on a professional scale. It rivals anything I’ve every experienced in other major cities and Atlanta supports it’s artists in a way that you could never be supported in a city like New York. Just about every theatre here offers an internship in acting, stage management, fund raising or business management with the very real possibility of employment.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do? 
I hope to contribute good work and solid performances. I hope to do the kind of theatre that challenges peoples perceptions and biases and invite discourse between us.
I sometimes teach a performance workshop and there is nothing more satisfying than the moment when I see the light bulb go on in a student. I want to support and encourage and learn something new even now from my fellow artists.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?
Facebook: Terry Burrell

Website: www.terryburrell.com

Additional link: www.ethelonbroadway.com

Telesa Hines Talks Breaking Down Barriers and Building Bridges

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the Next Leading Lady for March 2018: Telesa Hines

Where do you work and what do you do?
I am a poet, motivational speaker, actor and reiki practitioner. When I’m not doing all of these things, I’m a kindergarten teacher in Dekalb County Public Schools.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
I’ve been writing since I was in elementary school. I’ve always had a passion for the arts.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be Oprah or Dianna Ross when I grew up.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
I would definitely want to have lunch with Oprah. I would thank her for coining the term “aha moments” and tell her that I believe Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory is merely a collection of Black girl “aha moments” that ultimately alter & shape the collective unconscious of the masses.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
Intuitive life coach Jerome Braggs has been one of the biggest influencers of my adult life.

How is art a passion for you?
Passion, to me, is the thing you’re willing to do for free. That’s what writing is to me.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
Women are a dominant force to be reckoned with, however, it’s unfortunate that we are never on an equal playing field as our male counterparts and rarely have the same support from the female fan base.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
That it is ever evolving. I find it ironic that something can be so classic yet new at the same time, but that is exactly what the Atlanta art scene exemplifies.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do? 
I hope to knock down walls!! I want to break barriers and build bridges. I want to use existing platforms to create new platforms that provide sustainable income for poets. I think poets may be the single most underpaid artists.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?

My website: www.telesahines.com 
Facebook: Telesa Hines 
Instagram: Magnolia Peach 

Rachel Graf Evans Shares Her Love For The Theatre

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the Next Leading Lady for March 2018:  Rachel Graf Evans

Where do you work and what do you do?
I am a playwright and theatre artist. I currently serve as the Dramatists Guild Young Ambassador for the Atlanta Region and am a member of Working Title Playwrights. Co-winner of the 2018 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award (for BUILT TO FLOAT) and recipient of the Working Title Playwrights Ethel Woolson Lab (for PHEROMONE). 2016-17 Playwright Apprentice at Horizon Theatre Company and the current Alliance Theatre Literary Intern.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
I have always been involved in the theatre arts, a performer with strong producer inclinations. In the fifth grade, when faced with a talent show instead of the traditional class play, I extracted the short play featured in my American Girl Magazine (it was called “Thirteen” and about a bunch of superstitious adolescents at a slumber party — did anyone else read that issue?), wrangled my friends together (with the help of some incredibly supportive parents!), cast them, rehearsed it in our homes, and presented it as our talent. Fifth grade. Ten years old. I guess I can’t help myself.

I continued acting through school, all the while finding as many opportunities to write plays instead of papers for academic assignments. This continued all the way through undergrad, wherein for my Gender Studies Honors Project, I synthesized all of my research (on the relationship between female gender identity in the face of an infertility diagnosis of MRKH) into an original musical called VESSEL featuring an ominous chorus of Greek goddesses.

I’ve since made a commitment to playwriting as a professional pursuit, if simply because I am interested in expanding the narratives and characters represented within the theatrical canon.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
In third grade, the answer was Actor/Singer/Children’s Book Illustrator — which is still pretty solid.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
Right now, I’m researching the life and work of Mary White Ovington, a white Unitarian Universalist social worker who was instrumental in the founding of the NAACP. I would love to sit down with her and ask her about her experiences navigating social and racial privilege in the early part of the 20th century, particularly with her upper middle class white peers who chose more “neutral” (read: disengaged) positions on social justice and race relations. The parallels to our current climate resonate with me and I’m interested in how MWO’s personal convictions shifted from observation into action.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
I admire abundantly, so depending on the day, this answer changes. I honor any artist who creates opportunities for themselves, even if it is unexpected or seems unlikely.

The first answer that comes to mind (inspired by the nostalgia factor of “what did you want to be when you grew up?”) is Barbra Streisand, particularly her remarkable feat in writing, directing, producing, and starring in YENTL, a film about a young Jewish woman in Eastern Europe at the turn of the century who disguises herself as a young man in order to continue her (illegal) pursuit of education after her father dies. Barbra wearing all the creative hats, especially with such a triumphant result (please note my love of musicals and Mandy Patinkin), offered me permission by example to wear more than one creative hat on a single project.

In undergrad, I wasn’t cast in a mainstage production I’d been pining to be a part of, so after two days of rage and rejection, I decided to channel all that energy (frustration included) into something productive: my own production. I decided I wanted to play Lucy in YOU’RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN and after no luck shopping out a director from amongst my friends, I put on that director hat, too. A little reckless, but there is no better way to learn than on your feet.

Thus far, I’ve been successful in delegation such that I’m only wearing one or two hats at one time (Playwright/Composer; Writer/Actor; Director/Actor) but I imagine I haven’t yet reached my final form.

How is art a passion for you?
I grew up overseas with my parents working in development, social justice, and education and for a long time, I struggled to reconcile my pursuit of theatre arts with my vision of what a life of service looks like. My shift in perspective began upon seeing seeing Betty Shamieh’s THE BLACK EYED, a play about four Arab women martyrs from across the eras who meet in the afterlife. I called my mother in tears, declaring I had to quit theatre and return to Jerusalem (where we lived when I was ages 2-7) and do my part in Middle Eastern reconciliation. She gently and wisely posited that perhaps I should take a step back and consider how indeed it was a piece of theatre that made such a deep, even disconcerting impression. I cite that experience often, as it transformed my understanding of theatre as a tool for collective social impact. As we search for ways to heal our increasingly fractured world, I am interested in the theatre as a garden for empathy.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
The first order of business is to reframe the thinking that there is a finite number of “opportunity slots” for inclusion. For example, the idea that non-male playwrights are all clawing for the same singular slot “for a woman writer” in a theatre’s six show season. Historically, on a national level, this is how a lot of the industry has worked. It would also appear we are at a turning point of what leadership looks like (and how one is allowed to behave in positions of power). I am hopeful this will result in some exciting changes of representation in top leadership and programming.

Secondly, step up and emphatically support organizations run and work made by women, trans, non-binary, and gender nonconforming individuals. Collaborate with them. Patronize them. Hype their work to friends and family.

And, thirdly, I am the first proponent of creating your own opportunity. By all means, knock on the doors of established organizations and foster those relationships, and also motivate through your own vision of tomorrow. Being excluded from someone else’s institution is a gift of agency. Being released from having to operate within someone else’s parameters fuels discovery and growth.

In conclusion: There is enough room for all of us. If you don’t see the space where your work belongs, make it! We are each others’ best assets and collaborators, not each others’ competition. It’s a “Yes, and” sort of thing, if you will.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
How much potential there is! There is so much talent and energy and the momentum only continues to grow. There is so much interest and support for new theatre work and artist development all over town, from organizations of all sizes. The creative energy is collaborative and innovative.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
I want my theatre work to start conversations. I want it to bring people together, both in the creation process and in presentation. I am drawn to work that asks big questions without necessarily answering them, allowing audiences to grapple with their own impressions and conclusions. I am interested in collaborating with anyone and everyone interested in building as many avenues for creation, expression, and inclusion as possible.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?
For all things RGE:

Follow me @rachelgrafevans on Twitter

Stay tuned at www.rachelgrafevans.com

Some notable upcoming projects include:
My play PHEROMONE was recently selected for a Working Title Playwrights Ethel Woolson Lab and will receive a public reading in May. Learn more about WTP and the EWL at www.workingtitleplaywrights.com

My play BUILT TO FLOAT is a co-winner (with Avery Sharpe’s WOKE) of the 2018 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award and will receive a production as part of the Essential Theatre Festival this coming August. For more information on Essential Theatre and their summer festival, head on over to www.essentialtheatre.com