Phoenix is brimming with creativity. And every other year, we put the spotlight on 100 of the city's creative forces. Leading up to the release of this year's Best of Phoenix issue, we're profiling 100 more. Welcome to the 2014 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today: 52. Julie Rada.
"We all want to 'write ourselves' into the cultural history of our time," says Julie Rada. "It just seems like making visible the heroes of people who are generally rendered invisible might be a very powerful experiment."
The Tempe-based performing artist is setting out to do just that with Unsung: The Heroes Project.
With support from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Rada, who recently graduated from ASU's master's of fine arts program, will engage incarcerated men and women at the Federal Correctional Institute in Phoenix in the development of an original performance based on personal heroes and the lost heroes in history.
The artist has wanted to create performance works in prisons for the past 14 years. Last fall the 34-year-old completed an internship at Florence Prison, where she taught Shakespeare, and taught a physical theater workshop at Perryville.
She says that she wants to engage the prison system in her art because she wishes to address mass incarceration as the worst domestic human rights crisis we face.
"It's happening on our watch and in our backyards," Rada says. "I wish I could transform the whole paradigm of retributive justice in this country. As it stands, I am a theatremaker with a theatremaker's tools at my disposal. I make performances in prisons as my best attempt to intervene in a very broken system."
The performance will take place at the facility, though Rada says that she'd like to develop a piece that could both inside and outside the prison. "Using selections from Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's Voices of a People's History of the United States as springboards for our own fictional and auto-ethnographic writings, we will compile a new performance text, to be staged for prison staff and peers in August," Rada says. "I am spending most of my time prepping for this."
I came to Phoenix with my cat, Alba, and a lot of boxes of books. Expectations for my education at ASU's MFA Theatre program. My personal history of growing up in the Valley, mixed with my experiences in other lands.
I make art because... art is an expression of my humanity. And because of my stubborn and reckless belief in the humanity of others. All of us are creative beings, though often our creativity is squelched by the pressures of survival.
My art exists somewhere in the tension between expressionistic nihilism and idealism: I simultaneously believe in art making as pure experimentation and aesthetic exploration, as well as the power of art making to open up spaces of potential. Two quotes sum it up (if summing up is possible).
I vociferously agree with Lois Weaver when she writes: "I'm not that interested in performance as an object or a conclusion. I'm interested in performance as a structure and what it allows people to do in the moment of making it and in the moment of performing it."
And in regard to performance-making as the creation of utopic spaces, Jill Dolan writes that,"[T]he utopia for which I yearn takes place now, in the interstices of present interactions, in glancing moments of possibly better ways to be together as human beings".
Lately, in my ever-evolving practice, I seek spaces of potential and tiny utopias. These two ideas, Weaver's description of performance as a structure for potential, and Dolan's "glancing moments of possibility" between human beings, fuel my work.
I'm most productive when it's early in the morning and it's quiet and cool. Or when my schedule is so crammed that I am timing my showers, subsisting on coffee and energy bars, and when a deadline is 40 minutes away. Or when I have sufficiently procrastinated and there is nothing more to do.
My inspiration wall is full of:
Bread and Puppet's "Why Cheap Art" manifesto.
Little post-it notes. One that simply says "gratitude." Another from my mom that, in reference to something mundane, simply stated "Get what you need." I decided to interpret that broadly.
Images from Pina Bausch's dances because she shaped my aesthetic more than any other artist. A postcard of Andres Serrano's Piss Christ and an image from Marina Abramovic's Rhythm O, because those pieces scare me a little and remind me to have courage and to relentlessly kill the useless critics in my head.
I've learned most from listening. Talking less and doing more (in my body). Doing less. Saying no. Finding the smartest or most inspiring person in the room and asking them questions. Experimenting. Failing.
Good work should always avoid hyperbole and orthodoxy. Next question.
The Phoenix creative scene could use more... Hmm. I started to answer with "self-starters," but actually, there are plenty of those. I think of Phoenix as a scrappy place with a host of resilient creative folks. Instead, synthesis. Connections between disciplines and connections between localities. Investment from other creatives, so that we are all simultaneously makers, consumers, and participants in the work of others. I think it could also just use more time. Growing up here in the 1980s and 1990s and then returning here in 2011 was actually quite inspiring. Perhaps the creative scene is doing everything right and it just needs to grow out of its anxiety-ridden twenties, assuming it's outgrown its sustained adolescence.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
See the 2014 edition of 100 Creatives:
100. Bill Dambrova 99. Niki Blaker 98. Jeff Slim 97. Beth May 96. Doug Bell 95. Daniel Langhans 94. Nanibaa Beck 93. Nicole Royse 92. Ib Andersen 91. Casandra Hernandez 90. Chris Reed 89. Shelby Maticic 88. Olivia Timmons 87. Courtney Price 86. Travis Mills 85. Catrina Kahler 84. Angel Castro 83. Cole Reed 82. Lisa Albinger 81. Larry Madrigal 80. Julieta Felix 79. Lauren Strohacker 78. Levi Christiansen 77. Thomas Porter 76. Carrie Leigh Hobson 75. Cody Carpenter 74. Jon Jenkins 73. Aurelie Flores 72. Michelle Ponce 71. Devin Fleenor 70. Noelle Martinez 69. Bucky Miller 68. Liliana Gomez 67. Jake Friedman 66. Clarita Lulić 65. Randy Murray 64. Mo Neuharth 63. Jeremy Hamman 62. La Muñeca 61. Kevin Goldman 60. Emily Costello 59. Kerstin Dale 58. Vara Ayanna 57. Nathaniel Lewis 56. Ruben Gonzales 55. Lisa Poje 54. Bobby Zokaites 53. Frances Smith Cohen