Myra Weise and Proxemic Media
Stage a one-night performance
in front of Durham Civil Rights History Mural
Friday, October 18th, Myra Weise, the founder/director of Proxemic Media, is organizing “Continuing to Tell, a performance event”.
It is a multi-part event. “Continuing to Tell” on October’s 3rd Friday will unfold over the course of the evening in front of the Durham Civil Rights History Mural. The mural was created by Brenda Miller Holmes and a team of Durham artists between 2013 and 2015.
Weise, speaking about the project sponsored by a grant from Downtown Durham Inc.’s (DDI’s) Art About program says, “that’s what Durham grit is, Art and entrepreneurism in every aspect of our lives.” She lists food, our visual landscape, our work/practice environments, music, and the public spaces we move through. She notes the dozens of murals in downtown Durham.
“Art in every aspect of our lives,” she repeated as we sipped our coffees at Beyu Caffe.
The Civil Rights mural is just south of the Durham Arts Council. The mural abuts a parking lot that will be cleared of cars for the day of art making and performance.
First the visual artist Cynelsa will draw a border around an imagined forty foot by forty foot stage based on the classical Proscenium.
Over steaming coffee in the soft yellow morning light, Weise was kind enough to interrupt her explanation of the event to allow me to ask, “What’s a Proscenium?”
Even though the Clarion Content and I have been covering dance in Durham for many years, I am periodically reminded how far over my proverbial head I am in.
Weise on the other hand is a classically trained dancer, who staged her first production more than a decade ago– 2008 at the Beebe Theater in Asheville, a showcase of North Carolina Choreographers.
She has worked with renowned arts companies such as the American Dance Festival, Pilobolus, Duke University’s Theatre Operations. Her day job is at Duke’s world class Nasher Museum.
“Continuing to Tell” is a happening.
A chalk border of a Proscenium (the 40’ x 40’ classical dance stage that historically was built on an incline to enhance sightlines, hence the terms “upstage” and “downstage”) created by visual artist, Cynelsa, completed by early Friday evening. An empty parking lot in front of a civil rights mural…
Weise is providing hundreds of pieces of chalk for folks to extend the mural and/or make their own artistic statement in the parking lot.
I challenge Weise who might be there? A Third Friday crowd. Nightlife unaware of Third Friday? What will that look like compared to who created the mural and the subject matter of the mural?
I am thinking in terms of income and race.
“Art is life. It manifests itself to different degrees and in different ways in all things. But the essence is there.”
I sense Weise isn’t threatened by the interplay of audience and subject. She can’t control her audience completely. Local artists and school children will be notified by Weise and DDI about the opportunity to create and participate in performance art.
But for Weise and Proxemic Media, the focus is on staging the performance. Around 7pm cellist Shaina Tucker will play accompaniment to dance vignettes performed by choreographer Kristin Taylor and the KT Collective on the ‘stage’ set up by Cynelsa in conversation with the visual vignettes in the Durham Civil Rights History Mural.
While Taylor and the KT Collective have staged work to Tucker’s cello music recordings previously, this will be their first live outdoor collaborative performance in a parking lot for sure.
Weise will point the audience’s eyes toward the colorful Civil Rights mural. In this era, where human rights feel threatened regularly, Weise’s art will unfold with a backdrop that forces us to hold our forebears in this struggle in mind.
Like all performance art, it will be over. Leaving only a residue of chalk, washed away in the first rainstorm. Photos, memories, conversations of and about what went down. An impact, a pebble in the pond of Durham rippling out through our daily American lives– art and civil rights intersecting again in our city.
It is a phase of Proxemic Media where Weise wants it to be clear, art is a lifestyle.
It is important to Weise that all of the participating artists are being paid. Not always the case, to be sure, here in Durham. For art to be a lifestyle, one has to be able to make a living off of it.
Weise seems comfortable with the transition she is making from a performer herself to a producer of works.
Weise tells me where she wants to push buttons. She says Art is supposed to make us ask questions like, “What is that? What am I looking at?”
She goes on, Art is supposed to make us check internally, “Why am I feeling this way?” When you present the opportunity by staging Art, you create the setting for this kind of self-examination.
I believe she means societally as well as individually.
Friday, October 18th, come: draw, watch, listen, and think.
Adapted from the press release:
In front of historical moments and beautifully powerful visions of persistence, this performance event will be a moment to bring these Civil Right stories to life through visual art, music and dance. Arrive early to grab a piece of chalk and assist in the creation of a ground mural extending from the original, and then stick around to experience the unfolding of an exquisite live music and dance performance by Tucker and KT Collective.
“Continuing to Tell”, a performance event is sponsored by Downtown Durham, Inc.’s Art About, and presented in association with the North Carolina Dance Festival.
Production assistance provided by Tess Mangum Ocaña of Sonic Pie Productions.
Date: October 18, 2019
Location: Durham Civil Rights History Mural Project
120 Morris Street
5pm-7pm Color-in a ground mural that extends from the original mural
7pm–7:45pm Live music & dance concert inspired by the history & themes of the original mural