Featured grant recipients listed alphabetically
- Specific Opportunity Stipend
Thank you to 2020 CAP Ithaca College Intern Kristen Reid for this feature about Jay!
With a background in poetry and podcasting, singer-songwriting and telling stories around a Yosemite campfire, Jay Leeming’s career has been anything but linear. Since being awarded a Specific Opportunity Stipend (SOS) from the Community Arts Partnership in October, Leeming has begun a new series of four performances hosted at The Cherry Artspace and running from January through April 2020.
After years of working as a poet, Leeming sought a change. “I realized I was missing some things about [storytelling at Yosemite],” he said. “I was missing the interaction with an audience, and also the music!”
“I woke up to storytelling consciously as an adult, hearing the stories being told in a way to a group of adults where you can listen deeply and then connect with each other.”
Entitled “Dreaming the Stone,” Leeming’s performances at The Cherry are unique and engaging; he tells traditional stories in a new way, tying together his passions for poetry, storytelling, and music performance.
Standing in front of the audience, Leeming performs with no costumes or fancy lighting, or anything you may expect from a typical live performance. Instead, he has enlisted the help of a few friends to perform background music while he takes center stage.
When I met with Leeming, I was curious how he chose which stories to tell. He says he chooses traditional stories because they “go beyond the rational … there’s magic and a way to connect to our Earth.” He went on to say he loves art and theater, “but these stories are a way to heal the community and to deal with crisis.”
These ancient stories are ones that Leeming feels are a part of our collective human history. He even began his performance of Arabian Nights with a disclaimer: this was not a story that belonged to him. In fact, it belonged to no one and everyone.
With the SOS grant he was awarded by Community Arts Partnership, Leeming was able to bring his art from classrooms and libraries to a new space, one that feels “more active and more performance-based.”
In early 2020, he told the stories of Persephone, Queen of The Underworld and Arabian Nights which were “very much a success, we had [around] 50 people at one of the performances!” His next show is in mid-March when he’ll take on the Epic of Gilgamesh.
To support Jay Leeming and find further details on his “Dreaming the Stone” series funded in part by Community Arts Partnership, visit his website at jayleeming.com today!
- website: http://www.jayleeming.com
- Specific Opportunity Stipend
Treacy Ziegler FEATURE!
About 10 years ago while walking on the Cornell University campus, I came upon approximately 200 mounted birds in glass cases in the atrium of a science building. It was the birds’ form and how the light hit the form that commanded my fascination. If they had been living birds, I might not have felt so intrigued. It was their strange presence caught in glass cases inspiring me to draw them on a regular basis.
The process of drawing the birds forced me to create art differently. Until then I had been a printmaker and painter, confining my art to two dimensions concentrating on landscape devoid of people and creatures. The impact of drawing from life (drawing these rounded forms of birds) made the two dimensions of printmaking and painting no longer sufficient to me. Through drawing the birds, I found my hand wanting to go through the paper, moving from two to three dimensions. I wanted to hold this round form in my hands.
The other path was not so obvious and I didn’t connect it to the birds until later. I didn’t know why but shortly after seeing the birds, I felt compelled to go into prisons. Initially, I just brought my artwork to share with the prisoners; later I started teaching art in prisons. The birds are infused with my experience of prison; not in the typical metaphor that birds are free. Flight for birds is not freedom; they fly to avoid death.
The experience of birds expanded to include other animals and the medium of bronze (with which I first worked) expanded to include paper casting the thousands of letters received from 9000 prisoners in the through-the-mail project, Prisoner Express, a project in the Center for Transformative Action, affiliated with Cornell University. In addition to teaching in prisons, I create projects for this large group of prisoners throughout the United States. (More about these letters can be read at https://thejusticeartscoalition.org/2017/07/31/falling-leaves-letters-from-prison/). Through Prisoner Express, I receive approximately 20,000 letters yearly.
When I began experimenting with paper cast sculpture, using the prisoners’ letters collected in numerous boxes seemed an obvious source. Creating sculpture from the letters seemed more respectful to the loneliness, hope, despair, gratefulness often reflected in the letters. Some prisoners’ letters are too poignant and those I have kept. However, it is important that the sculptures stand on their own artistic dimension and not dependent upon the letters to have an impact upon the viewer. Instead, I hope the letters become the sculptures’ unspoken presence of the commitment I have in my relationship to prisoners with whom I meet.
The 12-foot giraffe is dedicated to the many individuals living in solitary confinement, particularly those who have also been labeled as paranoid schizophrenic. The giraffe was inspired by words the prisoner Clarence wrote to me (Clarence has been writing to me for years from solitary confinement). His words seemed to me as a poem:
“I once measured myself and
I was nine distances upwards in height;
nine widths in full circle;
four points in surface straight across the level top.
This I will extend, once freed;
and we will build a temple based upon you.”
- website: http://www.treacyzieglerfineart.com