Michelle Ellsworth is a dancer, choreographer, video maker, writer, cartoonist, and web designer. In her performances, Ellsworth combines dance with technology, humorously confronting issues such as biodiversity or problems with the shrinkage of the Y chromosome. Since 2007, she has created performable websites that exist as independent sites as well as live pieces. Ellsworth has performed at On the Boards, Seattle, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, and Dance Theater Workshop in New York. She has received commissions from DTW, DiverseWorks, Houston, National Performance Network, and the Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs Department.
Poet Terrance Hayes has published four collections of his work. Hayes, who writes in a variety of styles and forms that include high and low cultural references, is interested in “the nuances of history and identity.” His poetry has won several awards, including a Whiting Writers Award for his first collection, Muscular Music (1999), a National Poetry Series Award for Hip Logic (2002), and the National Book Award for Poetry for Lighthead (2010). Hayes is Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
San Juan, PR
Theater artist Teresa Hernández writes, produces, and performs in works that are informed by her experiences as a Puerto Rican woman within the specific cultural context of the island. She combines theater, dance, and performance art in pieces that are variously autobiographical, explore socio-political topics or, more recently, emerge from literary sources. Her main themes are shifting identities, art and established canons, and violence and power. Hernández has performed in her own works as well as other’s plays and films throughout Puerto Rico, in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Los Angeles, and New York.
Oak Park, IL
Steve James is a celebrated producer and director of several award-winning documentary films. His most renowned film, Hoop Dreams (1994), follows the lives of two high school students with dreams of becoming basketball players. The film won numerous honors, including a Peabody and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in 1995, and was selected for the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. James’s most recent film, The Interrupters (2011), portrays a year inside the lives of former gang members in Chicago who now intervene in violent conflicts. That film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Miami Film Festival and a Special Jury Award at Full Frame Documentary Festival.
New York, NY
John Jasperse integrates visual design elements in his contemporary dance choreography. Since 1985, Jasperse has been the Artistic Director/Choreographer of John Jasperse Company. His work has been presented in the United States, Brazil, Chile, Israel, Japan, and throughout Europe. He has also choreographed work for Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project, Bathsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv, and the Lyon Opera Ballet, among others. Jasperse received a Bessie Award in 2001 for his choreographic work.
Santa Fe, NM
Blacksmith and sculptor Tom Joyce uses traditional forging techniques in contemporary ways. He left high school in 1974 to apprentice with blacksmith Peter Wells and to dedicate himself to his craft. Joyce’s works range from smaller sculptural pieces to larger architectural elements, including lighting fixtures and gates. For his Rio Grande Gates (1998), which included a blacksmithing mentorship program for students, he worked with community members in Albuquerque to salvage iron refuse from the river to use as material for the final project. Joyce won a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003.
Los Angeles, CA
Nancy Keystone is a theater director, playwright, choreographer, designer, and visual artist. In 1985, Keystone founded Critical Mass Performance Group, which is “committed to long-term collaborative development of new works, reinterpretations and adaptations of classic texts and the use of alternative performance spaces.” In 2009, Keystone and her ensemble completed a seven-year project, Apollo, which explores the post-WWII relationship between Nazi rocket scientists and the U.S. space program and its intersection with the Civil Rights Movement. The production won several awards, including a “Drammy” for excellence in scenic design and Garland Awards for Playwriting, Sound Design, and Lighting design.
San Francisco, CA
John Jota Leaños is an interdisciplinary artist working in animation, installation, and performance. His works address social issues by merging traditional Chicano and mestizo cultural expressions, such as Day of the Dead imagery, with contemporary media and technology. Through the use of humor and popular songs, Leaños confronts topics such as how war, border violence, and globalization intersect with class, gender, and race. He has created a series of “populist animations,” including Los ABCs:¡Qué Vivan los Muertos!, that use mariachi music to critique war.
Choreographer Liz Lerman is the Founding Artistic Director of Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, created in 1976 in Washington, DC (Lerman left the company in the summer of 2011). She is a pioneer in making site-specific dances and including various communities in artistic and civic engagement projects that often mix dance with spoken word, imagery, and music. She also became known for including seniors as dancers in her company. Among many honors, Lerman received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2002.
New York, NY
George Lewis is a composer, trombonist, improviser, educator, and a pioneer of computer music. Lewis has been a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, and studied at its school under USA Prudential Fellow Muhal Richards Abrams. Lewis’s work with musicians from Count Basie to John Zorn is documented in over 140 recordings. He has also created and performed with interactive computer systems since the late 1970s and has collaborated with visual artists, roboticists, and turntablists in sound installations. He is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University and won a MacArthur Fellowship in 2002.