We're chatting with the 2017 JAY Awards Finalists as we enter the last few days of voting and preparing for the JAY Awards (& Retro Christmas party!) coming up on December 5th
Jasper: What made the past year so great for you as an artist?
Nicola: I have been lucky to have a number of prose pieces accepted for publication in various venues, and to feel in this way that my voice is being included in the national conversation in some small way. I also had the opportunity to work on a piece of performance art through the Jasper Project’s Syzygy Solar Eclipse Festival: it was so good to collaborate with new friends, and to be given the encouragement to experiment. I learned a lot, had a lot of fun, and found some new avenues to wander down.
Jasper: Why is art so important right now?
Nicola: This has been, as they all are in their way, a hard year, which also means it’s been a year to respond to those difficulties. For me, that means thinking through issues in my writing of femaleness, Americanness, immigrant-ess, and parenthood. If your heart is a social justice engine, then struggle can be its juice, its defibrillator; and art its beat.
Jasper: What role does art play in your life?
Nicola: Writing is my way of being fully alive within myself, when public life sometimes feels oppressive. As a classic introvert, my work is where I live most of the time. It brings me ridiculous joy, those moments where the words on the page come to actually match what it is I’m thinking or feeling: synergy. There’s nothing quite like it.
Jasper: What role does community play in the execution of your art?
Nicola: The support of the community is of enormous significance. We can, and must, labor away or play with our art in private, but without an audience or someone, at some point, saying ‘I hear you; this matters,’ I’m not sure there’d be much point. For me, it’s all about connection. I love the moments here in Columbia where I find myself in a room with like-minds and think, ‘These are my people,’, by which I suppose I mean, ‘here is my true family, the people who will support me in whatever I do, in my attempt to examine a subject and get at the truth of the matter.’
Jasper: Who are some of your favorite local artists from an arts discipline other than your own?
Nicola: I really adore the visual art of painters like Lee Monts, and Christopher Lane, both of whose use of color and form moves me in the way a good poem moves me. I also enjoy the courageous, boundary-pushing work of artists like Michaela Pilar Brown, and Nicole Kallenberg Heere, and Dogon Krigga, though this is not an exhaustive list, by any means. These artists inspire me to break down some walls of my own. In theater, I have particularly enjoyed the work I’ve seen at USC’s Center for Performance Experiment this past year—so much talent in the work of directors and actors like Stephen Pearson, Robyn Hunt, and Mary Beth Gorman. Just so much talent everywhere you look!
Jasper: Is there anyone you’d like to thank for their support of your arts career?
Nicola: Without the support of the Jasper Project, and particularly people like Cindi Boiter, Ed Madden, and Al Black, their warm friendship and encouragement, I’d have fallen into a pit of despair long ago. Thank you one and all. (editor’s note – ow, wow, thanks, Nicola!)
Jasper: Why should folks come out to the 2017 JAY Awards and Retro Christmas Party?
Nicola: Because people dressed as Christmas trees!
VOTE at http://jasperproject.org/jays
BUY Tickets at https://2017jays.bpt.me/
GIVE as part of #GIVINGTUESDAY at https://www.facebook.com/JasperProjectColumbia/