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Art, Cultural Resistance & Transformation

How We Play: Play as a Form of Cultural Resistance

Prescott Circus Theater © Jarrel Phillips
Editor’s Note: How We Play is a photography exhibition curated by Jarrel Phillips (featured at the City College of San Francisco earlier this year), focusing on three art forms—Acrobatics (Circus), B-Boying (Break Dance), and Capoeira—that are a culmination of art, culture and resistance. These art forms are brought to life through play, a universal phenomenon as innate to life as breath. All three began as forms of resistance in response to oppressive environments. If play were given the cultural significance it deserves, civilization as we know it would allow us the much needed opportunity to review and reimagine our cultural values, traditions and processes in reference to what we do and how we do things.

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Creative Placemaking—A Cautionary Tale

Courtesy of Megan WilsonBy Megan Wilson

The term “creative placemaking”[1] is the latest spin on a decades-old strategy[2] of incorporating the arts into economic development models, the idea being that art can inspire shared economic prosperity while energizing the overall community. However, as I’ve learned from working closely on development and planning with many community-based organizations (CBOs) in the Bay Area over the past 18 years, if existing neighborhood stakeholders–i.e. longtime residents, CBOs, small businesses, social services, and public agencies that serve them–are not driving the process, community development (or revitalization, as it’s often characterized by city planners) can also be highly problematic. Outside interests (developers, real estate agents, corporations, policy makers, or new residents) without long-established roots in a neighborhood can end up destroying years of coalition-building, networks of trust, and community frameworks proven to be successful and integral to the health of a neighborhood and its residents.[3]

Sustaining Cultural and Creative Spaces

Joyce Gordon and Christine Joy Ferrer, Joyce Gordon Gallery © 2015 Jarrel Phillips

"So here I am! I get to be around all the kinds of people I like and enjoy, and who inspire me, motivate me, and make me happy. But I am also the poorest, the brokest, I’ve been in my whole life. In the beauty business, I made money because I was really good. This is a challenge, but I made the sacrifice and I’m probably the happiest that I’ve been in my life!” - Joyce Gordon

A Conversation with Joyce Gordon
Interview by Christine Joy Ferrer and Jarrel Phillips

You're listening to a conversation with Joyce Gordon on black identity, black-owned business, diversity, commitment to the arts, and owning a fine arts gallery in Oakland.

More About the Cultural Exchange and Festival

By Joana Cruz

Courtesy of Dancing EarthOn October 24, 2015, in honor of Indigenous Peoples Day, Dancing Earth will team up with Audiopharmacy Prescriptions Collective to bring about the Seeds & Soul Indigenous Cultural Exchange & Festival. The free festival will provide a creative, inclusive and welcoming environment where art, dance, spoken word, and music will be modelled as tools for community resilience and social change to raise awareness about issues, such as environmental sustainability, which affect Native and non-native peoples.

Interview with Stella Adelman, DMT Theater and Adult Program Manager

Dance Mission Theater's Stella Adelman voices her opinions and concerns about the current social and economic conditions in San Francisco’s Mission district and DMT’s commitment to its vibrant community at the intersection of arts and politics.

Interview with Stella Adelman

Christine Joy Ferrer: What is it that places Dance Mission Theater at the crossroads of arts and politics?
Stella Adelman: What we do, I’d call social activism. Dance Brigade, the dance committee that runs Dance Mission Theatre (DMT), consciously decides to address issues facing the present day—be they global warming, our embargo against Cuba, gentrification, or immigration.

Dance Brigade is a feminist dance company. We really support the female artist, artists–in- residence, and various cultural performances and festivals. And we curate our festivals [to feature] social-political themes.

For example, we did the Manifestival for Social Change: Like Oil and Water – From Gaza to the Gulf, right after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It focused on the oil spill and oil politics in the Middle East right when we were pulling out of Iraq. It also looked at water issues in general, the privatization of water, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Beat of 24th and Mission

By Christine Joy Ferrer

If you stand at the corner of 24th and Mission in San Francisco and listen closely you can hear its heart beat. Its rhythm echoes from the windows of Dance Brigade’s Dance Mission Theater (DMT). You hear it in the laughter of children dancing and youth bustling. The beat intensifies as you walk up DMT’s stairs with Japanese Taiko drumming and the colorful rhythms of dances from the African Diaspora: Cuban, Haitian, Brazilian, West African. Or maybe, it’s that Vogue and Tone.

Various communities overlap inter-culturally and inter-generationally in this space—drawn together by performances, festivals, and dance that’s accessible to everyone. People hang out in the halls or enjoy the Mission’s warmth on the fire escape. Even when classes have ended for the evening, their brilliant fire stays lit during the booming late night rehearsals of Ramón Ramos Alayo’s Alayo Dance Company or Allan Frias’ Mind Over Matter.

In the interviews on the following pages, DMT’s Krissy Keefer, artistic director of Dance Brigade and Grrrl Brigade, and Stella Adelman, theater/adult program manager, voice their opinions about the current social and economic conditions in San Francisco’s Mission district and DMT’s commitment to its vibrant community at the intersection of arts and politics.

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