Funded by the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, Celebrate the Connections is a creative arts exchange that will send six U.S. artists to India in January and February of 2016 for a 15-day teaching, learning, and performance tour across four cities (Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, and New Delhi).
The purpose of the program is to foster cross-cultural dialogue and inspire creative collaboration between artist communities in India and the United States, using the growing global influence of the urban arts as a common thread. Participants will teach workshops, collaborate with Indian artists, and hold performances at schools, community centers, and arts organizations. The program will conclude in New Delhi with a special performance at the American Center at the U.S. Embassy.
The six artists come from across the United States and represent a wide range of urban art forms, including spoken word and poetry, graffiti and visual art, rhythm and percussion, and a variety of dance styles. In addition to being talented artists, our participants are exceptional leaders in their communities, working to engage young people across the country and internationally by using the urban arts as tools for cross-cultural understanding and positive social change.
As spoken word artist Angelique “Giddy” Perez notes, she hopes the program will allow her to “adapt [her] teaching style in a cross-cultural classroom through breaking down language barriers and building a sense of community through commonalities.”
The cohort of artists are currently engaged in the program’s virtual seminar, designed to introduce participants to each other and foster collaboration, as well as to prepare them for their tour across India. The group will convene in Kolkata on January 24, 2016 for one week, then split into two smaller groups to travel to Chennai and Mumbai for five days, ultimately reconvening in New Delhi for their final performance.
Upon their return to the United States, artists will multiply the work of Celebrate the Connections through outreach and educational events in their local communities. Representatives of the group will also perform at a Cultural Vistas showcase in Washington, D.C., in May 2016.
Neel Agrawal Percussionist Los Angeles, CaliforniaNeel Agrawal is a multi-percussionist incorporating various styles of world percussion into his own unique musical voice. Neel performs in a wide range of musical contexts, including fusion, Indian and Western classical, rock, electronic dance music, hip hop, live film scores, and theatre. He has performed throughout the United States, most notably at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, the Concert and Community Celebration for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and the Lummis Day Festival. As a solo artist, Neel recently premiered his show “Borderlands” in Boston, MA, focusing on community empowerment and social justice. He was previously the section leader of the Michigan State University Drumline, where he received two national awards from Percussive Arts Society.Additionally, as the Global Law Librarian at the LA Law Library, Neel manages one of the world’s largest collections of foreign and international law. His current research is on international human rights as well as African drumming laws. Neel previously worked for the National ACLU (Santa Cruz, CA) and interned at South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre (New Delhi, India), the UN Dag Hammarskjold Library, and Open Society Foundations (New York, NY). He completed his undergraduate and law degrees at Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI) and his graduate degree in law librarianship from University of Washington (Seattle, WA).
Sheri J. Booker Poet/Author
Atlanta, GeorgiaSheri J. Booker is a writer, poet, spoken word artist, and educator. She is the author of the poetry book, One Woman, One Hustle (2003), Vook, I am the Poem (2011), and the critically acclaimed memoir Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner City Funeral Home (2013), which recently received an NAACP Image Award. She has lived in rural South Africa where she helped to teach journalism skills to African women and worked as an editorial assistant for an international literary magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, NPR, and Essence Magazine.Sheri has an M.F.A. in creative nonfiction from Goucher College.
Florentino “Flow” Francisco Dancer Seattle, WashingtonSeattle native, Florentino “Flow Funk” Francisco age 35, found his passion for the Arts as a B-boy (Break-boy or Break-dancer) at the age of 13. A few years later he discovered another form of dance called Funk Styles (popping, waving and locking). Flow Funk is an original member and the initial link between the two groups that later became the two-time world champion Massive Monkees dance crew.He uses his passion for Hiphop and the arts as a way to engage with the youth. Since early the early 2000’s he has committed to serving children and youth in his local community as a Teaching Artist and Trainer through many partnerships with schools and organizations such as School’s Out Washington, Community Day School Association and Arts Corps.Florentino is also the Executive Director of Extraordinary Futures, an innovative non-profit organization that uses fun and engaging arts based programs to empower urban youth to lead healthier lifestyles and to realize their full potential as leaders. Founded by members of the Massive Monkees, EF is the nation’s first dance-based leadership program focused on urban youth with limited access to arts education and mentorship. The free programs are geared towards middle and high school students with mentors in break-dance, leadership and life skills.
Ansley Jones Dancer Augusta, GeorgiaAnsley Jones is a dance historian, movement professor, writer, jewelry and crochet artist, emcee, hip hop feminist and women’s rights activist. She earned her BFA in Visual and Performing Arts at Savannah State University in 2008 and her MA in American Dance Studies in 2011 at Florida State University 2011. Recently, Jones traveled to India (May 2014) with the Next Level Program – an initiative of the University of North Carolina at Chapel-Hill and the U.S. Department of State to teach peace and conflict resolution through hip hop culture.Currently Ansley is working on turning her thesis “A Battle of Repression: Hip Hop Bgirls, Burns and Gestural Language 1970 to 2010″ into a book and promoting her social movement “The Jukeboxx Movement: Hip Hop Feminism,” an organization dedicated to creating a safe community for victims of trauma through hip hop by eradicating sexism, misogyny and specifically misogynoir in hip hop culture. Her article “Bgirls as Drag Kings” will be published in a forthcoming anthology entitled “Dance in American Culture” co-edited by Dr. Sally R. Sommer, Dr. Tricia Young and Dr. Jennifer Bishop of the Florida State University School of Dance. In the future, she plans to pursue a PhD in dance studies. Her latest projects include the release of her mixtape March 2015 entitled “The Assault Mixtape,” covering her personal story as a sexual assault and rape survivor.
Angelique “Giddy” Perez Poet Tampa, Florida Giddy Perez is a full time barber, nationally touring spoken-word poet and teaching artist originally from Brooklyn, New York. Some of her competition accolades include ranking 10th in the world at the Women of the World Individual Poetry Slam in 2014, and placing 2nd with her team in 2011 and 2013 at Southern Fried Poetry Slam, the second largest poetry slam competition in the country. In addition to performing, Giddy is an active teaching artist with the Arts Council of Hillsborough County and a program director at the Gustavus Adolphus College Institute of Spoken Word and Slam Poetry, an annual writing summer camp for high school students.
Fatimah White Visual Artist/Art Director Brooklyn, New YorkFatimah White is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, and expressive arts therapist living in Brooklyn, New York. She holds an International Master’s Degree of Fine Arts in Creative Practice from UK Plymouth University’s Berlin-based MFA program known as Transart Institute. Her work evokes the powers that exist within the interconnectedness of light and time; exploring themes of storytelling, adornment, and indigenous astronomy. The roots of her creative practice are embedded in the individual patterns that evoke the innate human story. The purpose of her work is to reactivate agencies of change and empowerment. She has exhibited internationally in cities such as Berlin, New York and Brazil. Fatimah is interested in the unique quintessence that flows throughout existence, ultimately seeking to bring the essence of those stories in which the viewer can experience through multiple mediums.
About Cultural Vistas
Founded in 1963, Cultural Vistas is a nonprofit exchange organization promoting global understanding and collaboration among individuals and institutions. We develop international professional experiences that create more informed, skilled, and engaged citizens. Our programs empower people to drive positive change in themselves, their organizations, and society. Learn more at culturalvistas.org.