Virtual symposium encourages artists, community to create, grow and heal

"The Signature: A Poetic Medley Show" will return April 16 as part of an Urban Creative Arts Healing and Performance Symposium spearheaded by local writer and poet Sierra Leone of Oral Funk Poetry Productions. CONTRIBUTED
Caption
"The Signature: A Poetic Medley Show" will return April 16 as part of an Urban Creative Arts Healing and Performance Symposium spearheaded by local writer and poet Sierra Leone of Oral Funk Poetry Productions. CONTRIBUTED

“Once again, Dayton is at the forefront of healing, love and compassion,” Nate Leone said.

Over 20 local artists, educators, activists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and more are promoting positive self-care and community-care in a virtual Urban Creative Arts Healing and Performance Symposium Friday, April 16, and Saturday, April 17.

Co-conceived by author/poet Sierra Leone and Nate Leone of Oral Funk Poetry (OFP) Productions, the event seeks to provide enlightening, informative and productive sessions for emerging and seasoned artists interested in growing their individual craft and artistic gifts. Among the genres to be presented throughout a series of workshops are social justice, global poetry, conscious parenting, music therapy, youth yoga, women in theater, and urban radio and communication.

Specifically, the idea for a diverse symposium of this magnitude blossomed last year from a singular desire to bring the community together, especially in the wake of isolation and lost opportunities stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We wanted to create a space for addressing and supporting the needs of the people,” said Sierra, recently appointed to serve among the new foundation directors of the Dayton Metro Library Foundation. “Artists have been home, have been grounded, for nearly a year. If you know what’s happened to mainstream theater and artists, you can only imagine what’s happened to urban artists. So, this symposium is considered a coming back, a return. It’s a realization we’ve had a huge pandemic, people are getting vaccinated and the world is changing, but in the midst of that change let’s honor and celebrate those who held on to their art, who kept fighting to produce theater in all genres, in order to simply create.”

“We often talk about the need for hope, and although hope is good, you really need inspiration,” Nate added. “This symposium is about uplifting artists and the community. In order to be good at what you love, you have to be whole. Wholeness takes shape in the form of healing. Dayton has been through tornadoes, a mass shooting, the pandemic, and more which has proven our resilience. But resilience requires healing. You can’t move forward if you’re broken.”

Over 20 creative, diverse leaders in the Dayton area will provide workshops as part of a virtual Urban Creative Arts Healing and Performance Symposium slated April 16-17.
Caption
Over 20 creative, diverse leaders in the Dayton area will provide workshops as part of a virtual Urban Creative Arts Healing and Performance Symposium slated April 16-17.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Collaboration fuels symposium’s purpose

A number of symposium participants recorded their workshops inside Wright State University’s New Media Incubator, heightening the energy and passion of all involved. A genuine spirit of collaboration provided a common thread.

“As artists who are accustomed to the embodied experience of live performance, many of us have turned to filmed work to continue working in a safe manner,” said Michelle Hayford, University of Dayton Theatre, Dance and Performance Technology program director and associate professor of theatre. “When Sierra and Nate asked me to assist with the direction of the artists in the studio, I was thrilled to be able to share space and energy with artists of the caliber participating in this event, some of whom I’ve worked with before. Even though I was watching them on a live-feed monitor on the other side of the door, I could feel the energy of their delivery and the power of the performances was palpable. I was so happy to work with the creative space that Sierra and Nate curate, getting to do what I love, and work with artists in showcasing their brilliance, especially now, in a year when so many artists have devised creative solutions but long for in-person collaboration.”

“Healing from every aspect whether personally and professionally is what this symposium is about,” added Faith Daniels, 92.1 WROU content director. “The ability to accomplish, identify and address are three components most of the workshops will probably (explore) in some way. For example, some people didn’t know they had a skill that was sellable during the pandemic. My workshop will focus on giving people the tools to be able to do what we’ve done as a nation, as a city, (regarding) how we’ve been able to scramble and find something that works in order to get us to the next level. I want people to do that in their own lives.”

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Credit: CONTRIBUTE

‘The Signature: A Poetic Medley Show’ returns

A particular highlight of the April 16 lineup is the return of OFP’s “The Signature: A Poetic Medley Show,” a thought-provoking, off-Broadway-centric spoken word showcase which has entertained audiences with an edgy essence for over 10 years. The 8 p.m. performance is expected to feature local and regional talent.

“‘The Signature’ has taken on a life of its own,” Nate noted. “It is still impactful. ‘The Signature’ is the foundation of the symposium because it (reflects) the importance of having great collaboration. This symposium is truly one of a kind. Once again, Dayton is at the forefront of healing, love and compassion. There are also people outside of Ohio who need healing so we (are proud) to offer a chance to virtually connect (broadly) and get the word out there.”

“We’re all in need of some happiness, healing and connection,” echoed Furaha Henry-Jones, Sinclair Community College poet laureate and English professor. “Through the home of urban creative arts’ vision, the Dayton region is birthing a new way for us to come together and learn in an interactive, fun, meaningful way. The symposium is opening a door to the kind of future artists need to feed their work and souls – collaborative, eclectic, healing.”

General admission tickets are $45. College student tickets are $20 (ID required). For more information about how to register or for a complete schedule of events including the Black Futures Panel, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/virtual-urban-creative-arts-healing-and-performance-symposium-tickets-14257106039. This event was supported in part by a Special Projects Grant funded by the Montgomery County Arts & Cultural District and administered by Culture Works.

Contact this contributing writer at rflorence2@gmail.com.