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PRELUDE Festival 2023


Space and the City

Randi Berry, Aaron L. McKinney, Ana Fiore, Anita Durst, Baba Israel, and Candace Thompson-Zachery


90 minutes

7:00PM EST

Monday, October 16, 2023

Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, 5th Avenue, New York, NY, USA

New York City gave birth to the contemporary practice of performance. Theatre artists presented works in lofts, storefronts, living rooms, churches and streets. New gigantic Performing Arts Centers like the Shed and The Perelman opened recently and are highly visible — small spaces are disappearing and often feel invisible. Less and less free or affordable rehearsal and presenting spaces for theatre and performance artists seem to be available. But is it really the doom and gloom we talk and read about? Significant New York institutions are coming up with new ways to support New York’s Performing Arts scene. Participants: Randi Berry (Indie Space INC. ), Aaron L. McKinney (Hi-ARTS), Ana Fiore (LMCC), Anita Durst (ChaShaMa), Baba Israel (Performance Project at University Settlement), and Candace Thompson-Zachery (Dance/NYC).

Content / Trigger Description:

Hi-ARTS (founded as the Hip Hop Theater Festival) is a leading cultural hub within the urban arts movement. Through development residencies, vibrant multi-disciplinary creative programming, and civic engagement opportunities, we empower artists to develop bold new work while creating a positive, lasting impact on our community. Hi-ARTS is the only institution in New York City, and one of the few in the country, exclusively dedicated to supporting and developing Hip-Hop and the urban aesthetic. Hi-ARTS supports emerging and established theater, performance, and visual artists to develop and present new work.

Aaron L. McKinney has been steadfast in building a multi-faceted arts administration career for almost two decades beginning with his early work in production and project management for theatre companies in Florida and California, including a graduate-level internship with Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, one of the largest non-profit theatres in the country. In recent years, Aaron has served as Project Manager for the Sankofa Justice & Equity Fund, founded by world-renowned artist and activist, the late Harry Belafonte, and an integral member of 651 ARTS, a pillar of the contemporary black arts community. He has also served on several grant review panels, both local and national and sat on many Zoom panels on the state of performing arts during a pandemic. Currently he serves as the Executive Director of Hi-ARTS. In addition to his current role, Aaron continues to pursue professional endeavors guided by his personal mantra “Aspire to Inspire before you Expire”, purposefully unifying the arts and social justice activism, as shown through his independent producer and consultative work across the performance arts landscape. In 2020, Aaron founded The A.L.M. Way, LLC, an arts management and producing consultancy. These opportunities of increasing responsibility only serve to exemplify Aaron’s affinity for urban arts and have solidified his place in performing arts leadership.

Ana Fiore, as Director of Artist Services at LMCC, oversees re-grant programs in support of community-based arts programming in Manhattan; artist residencies providing work space for creative development; the SU-CASA program, connecting artists with senior centers; and other artist service initiatives within the organization. The core of these programs is methods for increasing the range of resources available to artists and amplifying the role of artists within society. Prior to LMCC, Ana supported fiscally sponsored artists at the New York Foundation for the Arts with a focus on demystifying the fundraising process. She has also served the Center for Performance Research, The Joyce, and Danspace Project.

Anita Durst has been a star, a muse, and a patron of the avant-garde performing arts and emerging arts scene in New York City, since she was 18. She founded Chashama in 1995 following the death of her mentor and artistic professor Reza Abdoh. While performing and working in his company, Dar A Luz, she learned the value of unbridled expression and how to value art objectively. In the wake of Reza’s absence she was driven to create a place for artists free of financial and subjective constraints. Anita has worked tirelessly for over 20 years to secure over one million square feet of space in New York City for artists.

Baba Israel is a Hip Hop/theater artist, poet, educator and curator raised in New York by parents who were core members of the Living Theatre. He has toured and developed projects in thirty four countries, often working as a cultural ambassador. Baba is part of Bronx Banda with Arturo O’Farrill and has shared the stage with artists such as KRS ONE, Lester Bowie, Outkast, Bahamadia and Medusa. He is a core member of Hip Hop/Soul project Soul Inscribed who recently completed the American Music Abroad program and released their second album Tune Up on Tokyo Dawn Records. He holds an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College where he studied with Daniel Alexander Jones and is the Artistic Director of the Performance Project based at the University Settlement.

Candace Thompson-Zachery, born in Trinidad and Tobago, now local to Brooklyn, NY, operates between the spheres of dance, cultural production and fitness and wellness, with a focus on the Contemporary Caribbean. She has had an established career as a performer, choreographer, fitness professional, cultural producer, teaching artist, community facilitator and Caribbean dance specialist. In addition to her work in these areas, she leads ContempoCaribe, an ongoing choreography and performance project and is the founder of Dance Caribbean COLLECTIVE, an organisational platform for Caribbean dance in the diaspora that spearheads the New Traditions Festival in Brooklyn, NY. She graduated from Adelphi University's BFA program for Dance, and has presented, performed and taught at major venues including: Queen's Hall (T&T), John F. Kennedy Center, New York Live Arts, Brooklyn Museum, and The Ohio State University. She was an inaugural member of the Dancing While Black Fellowship Cohort 2015/2016, was an awardee of Adelphi University's 2017 - 10 Under 10 program, and a Dixon Place Artist-in-Residence for fall 2017. As a cultural producer and strategist, Candace has worked with the Dance and Performance Institute of Trinidad and Tobago, WIADCA (NY), Sydnie L. Mosley Dances, Renegade Performance Group, and curator Claire Tancons, for the 2019 Sharjah Biennial. Ms. Thompson-Zachery holds an M.A. in Performance Curation from the ICCP program at Wesleyan University and a certificate from the Executive Program in Arts & Culture Strategy at UPenn. with National Arts Strategies. Of tantamount importance to her is the vital role dance plays in our communities and she is eager to see dance artists of various styles, practices and traditions thrive in New York City.

Randi Berry is an indie theater maker with an arts advocacy and commercial real estate background. She is the co-founder of Wreckio Ensemble Theater Company, The Indie Theater Fund, and IndieSpace. Randi has worked on over $11B in commercial real estate transactions and has created programs resulting in thousands of artists receiving funding, free real estate consulting services, rehearsal space, and opportunities for professional growth. Select awards include: Tow Foundation Visionary Leadership Award, NYIT Indie Theater Champion, The Ellen Stewart Award, Indie Theater Person of the Year, member of the Indie Theater Hall of Fame, and a Citation for Service by the New York City Council.

IndieSpace was established in 2016 to disrupt the ongoing displacement of small theaters and to address systemic inequities in NYC real estate. In 2022, it merged with Indie Theater Fund, an organization focused on a new model for equitable funding for the indie theater community. By contributing a nickel per ticket from their shows to a pot of money for funding, the indie theater community could create a method of self-sustainability and could rethink philanthropy and the process of grant making. Through radically transparent and equitable grants, community resources and advocacy, the Fund supported hundreds of indie theater companies and thousands of individual artists. Since its founding, IndieSpace has: consulted with 90+ companies and venues making real estate decisions, including The Tank, FRIGID New York, The Chain, The Wild Project, Wooster Group, and Classical Theater of Harlem; helped 18 organizations sign new leases; saved seven theaters from being closed or repurposed; created four real estate operation partnerships; walked two venues through the purchase of their permanent homes. During Covid, IndieSpace supported over 50 venues navigating their leases by helping them stay open, and also provided over $1.7M in relief grants to the indie theater community. In 2023 IndieSpace opened the West Village Rehearsal Co-Op with HERE Arts Center, New Ohio and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. This 99-year lease for $1 per year will serve over 1,500 artists per year. For service to the community, IndieSpace received the Ellen Stewart Award and a citation from the City Council of New York

Photo credits:

Aaron L. McKinney. Photo courtesy of the Josh Walker.

Ana Fiore. Photo courtesy of the panelist.

Candace Thompson-Zachery. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Randi Berry. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Watch Recording

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