.:Seeds:. Web-Site Launch: Spreading Change Through Art
The web site launch of .:Seeds:. Literary Arts Journal, Northeastern Illinois University's new literary art magazine, was buzzing with nervous excitement on Oct. 14 in SU 214. Friends and family of the club members were there to support the launch and celebrate a stepping stone to future success. As part of the launch party, Seeds organized various artists to explain their process and recite excerpts of their work.
With jazz music playing subtly in the background, Janean L. Watkins, Seeds' editor-in-chief, started by thanking all of the guests and supporters for joining the group for their event. Then, Miguel Bustamante introduced Marcy Rae Henry, who read excerpts from her work The CTA Chronicles. The cadence and hypnotic verses of "Blue Lines", "A Bit Too Intimate" and "At times riding the bus reminds me of all the other buses I've been on. At times, riding the bus simply reminds me of riding the bus" drew the audience into the honesty and simplicity of her descriptions, ending with "Patience was the science of silence."
Stephanie Gomez, a current NEIU student, followed Henry and was introduced by Seeds poetry and lyrics editor, Lakeesha Harris, who said, "She was a poet and didn't even know it." Gomez recited her poem "La Virgen Maria", which portrayed her fight for self-identity. She spoke powerfully and evocatively by proclaiming, "This is my body; my breasts, my stomach, my ass..."
After a short intermission, Stephanie Grigsby was the first visual artist introduced. Grigsby spoke of her process, and said that her "number one thing is music," which prompted Kokumo to sing a jazzy scat a capella. Grigsby said, of her piece titled "Afro Roots", it "gives her hell until she's done it right." She talked about how "everything starts with a line, even you," and that her displayed piece, "represents the journey of our ancestors."
In regards to her becoming the artist she is today, she talked about the phases she went through in calling herself an artist. When she first began painting, she was asked by a peer if she was an artist and responded with a maybe. She then learned that, "There is no maybe. You either are an artist or not." She started later than most people in the artistic world, and said, "The library, the bookstores and watching others was my education." Her ultimate goal of her art is "to trigger thought that leads to action."
The other work of art Grigsby showcased was "Lady Peace," which she actually painted for activist, Hugh Moore and said that she was told, "paint whatever your mind thinks of, paint about peace," and because of that she painted a woman who balances peace on fingers splayed behind her back in a peace symbol, "Lady Peace is creating her own energy…" she supplied.
The presentation turned dark, yet humorous when Rachel Dennis' work was presented afterwards. Dennis' stated that her process consists of letting her work grow because she doesn't "know where the work ends." She talked about how all of her pieces are untitled because, to her, art changes meaning as time goes by. Speaking about her center painting, that looked as if a classic Elizabethan portrait meets a dia de los muertos skeletal frame, she said that it's "kind of funny and kind of creepy, which meets in the middle... it's kind of cool when a culture contradicts itself."
Last, but definitely not least, was Ra Perre Shelton, who appeared on "Def Jam Poetry" when he was only 17. His forceful and intense spoken word was captivating and nobody would have been able to ignore the rhythm and social significance of his topics. Shelton spoke of oppression and animosity in our everyday lives, and said "Oppression is man-made and so is hate." He recited his poems "Matthew Shepard/Sakia Gunn" and "F*** you is a Double Entendre" and said that somebody once told him, "don't let all this go to your head, because there's no such thing as a good writer, good dancer or good artist, there's only good people," which is advice he follows to this day. Ra said, "I think everything we do starts out as selfish, but we don't have a choice because everything starts with self."
Dr. Ryan Poll, English professor and Seeds' adviser, thanked Janean Watkins for her hard work. Poll ended the night by saying, "Art is the spirit of change."
Students are welcome to submit their artistic work and can visit the Seeds literary arts magazine website www.neiu.edu/~seeds for more information.
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