LOS ANGELES – Look for our 1951 Spartan trailer at the Leimert Park Art Walk on Sunday, October 28 where multimedia artist Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle will present “Kentifrican Travel Narratives,” a performance piece exploring the nomadic cultures of Kentifrica, a continent where the history of Kentucky and the ancestral heritage of West Africa converge. The event will feature a concert with Kentifrican songs for safety on the road and other music performed on instruments made from and inspired by Kentifrican culture. A café with Kentifrican food will offer food to the public.
Kenyatta Hinkle (Cal Arts, M.F.A. ’12) was the youngest artist to participate this summer in the Hammer Museum’s “Made In L.A.” Her work is currently on display at a group exhibit, “BAILA con Duende”at Watts Towers (September, 2012 – January, 2012. ) In October, she will be at the Bindery Projects in St. Paul, MN. In November her work will be shown at another group exhibit at The Studio Museum in Harlem.
Kentifrican Travel Narratives: Transversing Boundaries Leimert Park Art Walk Leimert Park Village, Los Angeles, CA 91804 mapSunday, October 28 – 12 pm – 4 pm This event is a co-production with Ben Caldwell’s Kaos Films
This week I will graduate with my MFA in acting, so we are turning the page on the last chapter of the trailer’s involvement at CalArts.
Every year, the Theatre School sets aside the last two weeks of the academic calendar for New Works Festival, an event by and for the students. The trailer was chosen to be a venue for the event. Three shows were performed in and around the Spartan: “The Nomad Project”; a dance piece about the transformation of the dancer’s body; “True Love,” a reading of Chuck Mee’s play that also involved a BBQ and water-gun fight; and “Outbound to Wonderland” a play written with the trailer in mind about a 9-yearl-old girl’s subway journey to a stop called Wonderland.
As with Arts in the One World in January, I was amazed at how people came together to make this event happen. When one of the artists was worried that her computer speakers wouldn’t be powerful enough to be heard, she made a phone call and an hour later she had a sound designer – a PA system and a couple of professional speakers on booms – in time for the performance of her show.
Another example: the cast and crew of “Outbound to Wonderland” decided it would be best to set up their outdoor stage in the middle of the night, when they could properly test their lights and visual effects, and still everyone involved in the production (actors, designers, crew etc.) showed up to help out.
New Works took care of much of the logistics and the scheduling at the trailer, so I was able to relax a little and be a spectator. I watched the shows and witnessed how, over the course of the semester, the trailer had become much more than an elaborate backdrop—it was now a central character. The Spartan had evolved into something of a mobile landmark at CalArts and a symbol for the creativity and unique collaborative nature of this school.
The stars–and the moon- were in alignment last week when Cody Braudt, a BFA-1 student at Cal Art presented his play “Outbound to Wonderland” at Trailer Trash during the New Works Festival 2011.
The play focuses on the relationship between a precocious seven-year old girl and her writer father, a dreamer who fights for his daughter’s right to develop her imaginative powers. Cody describes Lizzie as “spunky, sarcastic and ironic with a strong sense of fantasy- and sometimes a lack of focus.”
Nora King as Lizzie and Casey Jackson as her father
When a school psychologist prescribes medication to improve Lizzie’s math scores and classroom behavior, her father recoils, worrying that medication will squelch Lizzie’s creative side. Together, father and daughter plan an evening together under the stars in Wonderland, their imaginary world that is a tip of the hat both to Lewis Carroll and to the real-world name of the last stop on Boston’s Blue Line.
Several of the play’s scenes are set underground, on a subway platform and inside a subway car. Filmed images from a speeding subway window are imaginatively projected against the Spartan’s aluminum siding, in a superb use of space, sound and light.
The inspiration for the play came more than a year ago when Cody and his dad were visiting schools in Boston. To get Cody a real-world feel of student life in the city, his father insisted that they take public transportation. Descending the subway steps, they saw the sign, “Outbound to Wonderland.” At that moment something clicked: they both thought it would make a great title for a play.
photo credit: Thrillho
In the end, Cody chose Cal Arts over Boston. But the idea for the play surfaced again when he first arrived at his new school and saw Sam’s trailer parked in the lower lot. “I thought it would be a perfect place to stage a play,” said Cody. Later when Sam gave a talk to one of Cody’s classes, the two agreed Cody’s new work could take place at the trailer.
Two days before the first performance, the crew descended on the trailer at midnight to set up. Then, during the tech rehearsal it rained, underscoring the challenges of outdoor performances. The challenges of working with a small venue was another element.
“It’s a creative challenge,” Cory explained. “It’s not easy to work with the constraints on space. But that’s what makes it stimulating. It’s difficult to imagine the play being staged anywhere else.”
Cody (right) and his fellow technical directors for Outbound to Wonderland.
Cody practically grew up in the theatre world, acting professionally as a child at the Guthrie Theatre and other Minnesota venues. At Cal Arts he wanted to turn his hand to the technical side of productions. “It’s a whole new world of creativity. As a director, I want to be able to bring all these aesthetics together, to understand sound and lighting design.”
The move to Cal Arts was difficult at first, having left a tight-knit group of friends behind. “After high school, some of them stayed in Minnesota; others moved to Chicago. I was the only one who went all the way out to California.”
As the school year comes to an end Cody has fallen in love with Cal Arts. “I’ve made new friends and have still been able to keep my old ones – they’ve been very supportive.”
When discussing the importance of home and community to artists – a theme central to the Trailer Trash Project – Cody says, “Home is not about a place, it’s about the people you enjoy being with, people who will support you. People who won’t stifle your imagination.”
detail from poster designed by Cody Braudt for "Outbound to Wonderland"
As the crew stuck the set late last Thursday night, Cody’s thoughts had already turned to future, considering how to expand and improve on the play, and of new productions he would soon undertake. But he stopped long enough to discuss ways that Trailer Trash could join him on his journey, Outbound to Wonderland.
Children with Evelyn Serrano’s NOMAD Lab Art Project toured Sam’s trailer to inspect the progress since his last visit to their neighborhood in December.
Sam and friends gave neighborhood children a tour of the trailer during the Valle del Oro Neighborhood Festival, held May 6th at an apartment complex near Cal Arts. The festival was a chance to highlight the art work of at-risk children, age 6-14, who participate in the NOMAD Lab Art Project. Trailer Trash partners with the NOMAD Lab, exploring the importance of home and community through art.
In a public art “lab”, the children made signs stating their views on the ingredients necessary for a safe and happy neighborhood. In another lab they designed furniture for the inside of Sam’s trailer and gave pointers how to make it a welcoming place for young people.
Artist and teacher Evelyn Serrano directs the volunteer-run NOMAD Lab with help from Cal Arts students and others. The City of Santa Clarita is one of the project’s boosters and helps with the cost of materials. In an email thanking the project’s teachers and helpers, Evelyn described how happy the children were to put their art (music, drawing, story-telling and photography) on display at festival:
Children at the Valle del Oro Neighborhood Festival watch as NOMADS receive certificates for participating in art projects held throughout the school year on the grounds of their apartment complex.
Test run on an experimental design for modular furniture inside the trailer.
Nomad signage filled in the blanks: "A good home is....", "A safe neighborhood is..."
I was at the verge of tears more than once during the festival. I was just so very proud of the young people and of the work we have accomplished this year. I can’t tell you how many of them came to me pleading that we have class THIS Saturday, that they can’t wait till September…
They have made friends in the program, they have become advocates of the program and understand the importance of it.
A NOMAD reads one of his stories while Evelyn Serrano holds the mike.
The girls shocked me with their impromptu speeches [saying why they like the NOMAD Project]. How proud I was! To see them exercise their collective and individual voices with power and fearlessness. How energized I felt after witnessing them. And seeing the boys so proud of their work (and rightly so).
My best wishes for an extraordinary summer.
Lots of love, Evelyn
Stay Tuned: On June 4th the NOMAD kids will exhibit their signs in a show called “ Slanguage” at a gallery in Willmington, CA. For more information, check out the blog for the NOMAD Lab Art Project.
Textile artist Cybele Moon: "I wanted to share my love of color with others."
Artist Cybele Moon partnered with The Trailer Trash Project to offer her Earth Day art installation to the community of Santa Clarita, CA.
Cybele models clothes fashioned from pre-owned T-shirts
Some artists choose paint as their medium. Others choose stone or metal. Cybele Moon chose fabric–or perhaps it chose her.
“My mother used to weave and make her own clothes. One of my grandmothers worked in a bobbin factory, and she sewed at home. My other grandmother would crochet and do cross-stitch,” explained the Cal Arts grad student who was a professional costume designer before deciding to go back to school to get an MFA.
Textiles are intertwined with her family tree. “Even my grandfather had a connection to fabric. He came to this country at the turn of the century from Slovakia. He made looms and wove rag rugs in the 1930’s and ‘40’s.”
Cybele spends most of her time at Cal Arts working behind the scenes, designing costumes for dance and theatrical productions. Before graduating she wanted to create some of her own textile art and share it with the Santa Clarita community on Earth Day.
Sam Breen's 1951 Spartan trailer provided a backdrop for Cybele's installation.
The result: a textile installation resembling dripping vines, dyed in the soft blue and green colors of spring. The work was fashioned from recycled T-shirts donated by CalArts students, faculty and staff.
“Fabric is my medium. I can dye it, paint it and manipulate it,” she said. She is particularly fond of the challenges presented by recycled fabrics. “I can take a piece of clothing, cut open the seams and make something else.”
Cybele’s Earth Day offering demonstrates her dual passion for ecology and art. “We waste and throw away so many things. I wanted to show that you can take a common T-shirt and transform it into something completely different – like a piece of art.”
Drawing on her skills as a costume designer Cybele, along with Jessica Ramsey and Emily Moran, two Cal Arts BFA students in costume design, conducted a workshop for kids demonstrating how to transform used T-shirts into trendy scarves, vests, tank tops and other items of clothing.
With graduation coming up, Cybele’s thoughts have turned to the future. Her dream? To live some place where she can have a huge garden and chickens. Her career goal is to be costume design professor and to continue working professionally as a costume designer. She will also continue to explore her own textile art.
Cal Arts students Cybele Moon (r) and Jessica Ramsey (l) conducted a workshop for kids to show how to turn a used T-shirt into something unexpected.
The experience on Earth Day in Santa Clarita has inspired her to try to take on more collaborative community projects in the future, especially those geared for children.
Her off-campus art project comes at a time when she and other Cal Arts students are working at a hectic pace, trying to finish up the school year.
Emily Moran (l) helps a youngster work magic with recycled clothing.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into or how it would turn out,” she explained on evening before the event, her hands covered with thick rubber gloves while she prepped another batch of T-shirts for dying. “It was a challenge to see if I could do it, to get all those people to donate T-shirts. But I just kept on trying.”
Sam’s vintage trailer provided a framework for Cybele’s piece, giving the trailer’s metal exterior a soft, whimsical look. It could be the beginning of a colorful, art-inspired and Earth-friendly spring.
For more on Cybele Moon, click herefor her web site.
Sam's 1951 Spartan Royal Mansion, viewed from a hill at Cal Arts. Photo credit: Scott Groller
My trailer, our trailer, which I inappropriately refer to as “The Mansion”, was acquired in August 2010, in Torrance CA. Shortly before, my mother– a one time filmmaker for the United Nations, once a Katrina refugee, currently a freelance journalist with a fervent passion for social justice and a newly developed interest in sustainable living – and I, a one-time private banker employed by philanthropist and all around jolly good guy, Mr. John Pierpont Morgan.
Well, my mom and I we’re on the phone..Truth is we’ve grown apart quite a bit over the last 10 years. More often than not we’ve been on opposite sides of the country, opposite sides of the Atlantic, sometimes unintentionally (and admittedly) sometimes with quite a bit of intention.
We’ve been through a lot, and it’s just the two of us. So, you know, tension ensues, occasionally, sometimes, often, whatever. So we’re on the phone, and the topic of this particular conversation is one that comes up every couple years.
It goes something like this: “So, whaaaaaat’s next ?” You see, my mom’s been a nomad for a little while now. That tends to happen when a storm like Katrina hits an already fragile community like New Orleans.
But me? I’ve been in denial about my nomadic nature. I had a proper desk job for a couple years before coming here, a serious girlfriend. I had a PLAN, a checklist, which I adhered to methodically: a sequence of suit-and-tie jobs, then auditions, which eventually, allowed me to be here, right here, at this very moment.
At the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 2010, Sam played Godzilla in Eric Ehn's adaption of the play. Here he hawks the production in the streets of Edinburgh.
The thing is, I’m about to graduate, as an Actor. (Did I mention that?) And my future is quite uncertain again. And so…
My mom and I are on the phone, my grandmother has passed away and left her a little bit of money, and she wants to buy a trailer and live in it. And I have been wanting to restore a trailer – I want to MAKE something, something living, and useful to someone, something longer lasting than a two-hour play. And that’s as far as my thought process went ..
So a month later we buy the trailer. And I park it on campus, THIS campus, tucked away behind the basketball courts and I start BUILDING and my mom starts BLOGGIN’ and we call it “Trailer Trash” because it’s a GREEN restoration, and we’re using recycled materials.
So after having grown apart over the years, here we are collaborating, truly collaborating, in a way that’s completely new to me. We’re collaborating on a project that’s very personal to both of us. We are building, in fact we are RE-building from old fragments, a new home that is both unconventional and yet, in the most American way, as conventional as can be.
I don’t know about building houses, or little. I don’t know about trailer living. I don’t know about doing all this while going to school full-time and sometimes feeling like I’m losing my mind!
This project has been a true experiment, from the beginning. The most amazing thing about embracing the experimental nature of this project has been to watch it grow and evolve. What began as a guerrilla building project has become–because of this place [Cal Arts] this faculty, this student body– a PERFORMANCE PIECE. (Why the hell not?) And it’s about building a HOME for a family that’s been without one for a while. About learning to work the system of a higher education establishment [to get permission to put the trailer on campus.] It’s about learning to become an artist- and not just a performer. Learning to put my thoughts into words (believe it or not this is not something that comes naturally.) It’s about figuring out what this project is, what it means to me, to us, and so this thing is THERAPEUTIC, baby.
I’m starting to ask myself, with no real expectation of reaching any answers: Why is it that I still haven’t unpacked my stuff after Katrina? And why do I still refuse to settle down and put pictures up on the wall?
…maybe it’s not just me…[he stops to address conference participants] If I were to stop and ask: How many of you in this room consider yourself in TRANSIT? How many of you have ever lost a home?
I realize that most artists are nomadic by nature. We have to be, to survive, to pursue our dreams, to make, to MAKE .. We gotta’ keep on moving. And if possible, we ‘gotta do it in STYLE.
Late night set-up in preparation for Arts In The One World Conference, Jan. 27-29
Last night, Sam and fellow students towed the Spartan trailer to the entrance of Cal Arts where it was used as a performance space during the Arts In the One World Conference, January 27-29. Sam kicked off the conference with a presentation of the Trailer Trash Project tomorrow morning. Over the course of the event, participating artists will also perform inside and around the trailer. A stage is being constructed around the trailer today. The stage was designed and construction under the direction of Ben Womick, MFA student at Cal Arts in technical direction.
Participating artists include: Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, choreographer Lindsey Lollie, dancer Andrew Wojtal and playwright Isabel Salazar (No Comas Tomates antes de Dormir porque Tendrás Pesadillas).
A Nomad student draws scenes from his neighborhood. Photo Credit: spartanrestoration.com
The Nomads take a good look at their own back yard in a drawing lab taught by artist and Cal Arts instructor Evelyn Serrano. (See Sam’s post #3 for more on the Nomads also this link. ) The kids are told to take their time, to observe closely before starting to draw.
“Don’t compare your work to anyone else,” Evelyn tells them. “You are all different so your art will be different, too.” She points out the details in a tree and the colors and squiggly lines of a nearby play set. At the end of the session, the children seem eager to show their work to the rest of the class. Evelyn says she is proud of them for being fearless, unafraid to take risks with their art. Then Evelyn and Sam look over the spot where the Spartan trailer will be on display for the Nomads on November 6th.