Camila’s Dress, Oceanography, and the Power of Belonging: Our new Board members share their favorite NPN memories
October 24, 2020 • 5 minute read
Last month, our Board extended welcomes, saludos y abrazos to five new Board members! National Performance Network President and CEO Caitlin Strokosch asked our “newbies” to each recount their weirdest, funniest, or favorite NPN memory. Their answers were too good not to share.
Vice President of Programming, Maui Arts & Cultural Center
I’m actually a visual artist, even though I program for both performing arts and visual, and my base genre is fiber.
What I remember of NPN was a pre-orientation invite to an Annual Conference before you’re selected to be a Partner. It was in Tampa, I believe—it was freezing cold. I walked into a group meeting and even though I knew no one, it was like walking into the first day of art school. Everybody was so warm and friendly, even though they had no idea who I was. I found that to be very meaningful, and it’s held up for me at every single other NPN group convergence that we’ve had. It’s great to be a part of a community of likeminded people.
Executive Director, RedLine Contemporary Arts Center
I’ve had the privilege of being filled with a lot of amazing, hilarious, weird, awkward, good NPN moments since RedLine became a partner in 2013.
I always knew as soon as I was a part of the National Performance Network that I wanted to have this moment, to be invited to be on the Board, because I felt like NPN was the only network that was reflecting the values that I cared about most in their work. It’s a really special day for me and it was a special moment when Caitlin reached out.
I’m kind of filled with hilarious memories. One time after the conference, Stanlyn and I tore away to [Prince’s home and studio] Paisley Park and took the weirdest tour I’ve ever been on in my life with a person. So, even though I was in the Prince fandom, it was a moment that I think Stanlyn and I will share forever of having the weirdest tour guide on the planet to go through one of the most unique, otherworldly places I’ll ever go, while adoring Prince. So that’s all. I’ll just share that.
Christopher K. Morgan
Executive Artistic Director, Dance Place
As you know, I’m the Executive Artistic Director of Dance Place here in DC and I’m also an artist. That’s how I first came to the network actually, and I’m still a practicing dance maker. I have a Creation Fund that’s been waiting to premiere since May, and we’ll see when that might happen, or if it pivots and becomes something new. My history with NPN is pretty long. The first conference I attended was as a dancer with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in LA in 2000-I-don’t-know-what, some 20 years ago.
I would say far and away my favorite memory is from the Annual Conference in Tulsa. The incredible visual artist Molly Vaughan had presented Project 42 and asked if anyone wanted to wear one of those incredible dresses made in tribute to lives lost, trans lives lost. And I got to wear a dress in tribute to a woman named Camila. I remember so much about it so well, Camila lost her life in Harlem and the dress that I wore mapped where that was. And I danced all night long in honor of Camila, with many of you, actually.
It was an unforgettable experience. I remember feeling privileged to be able to channel this person I didn’t know, whose life ended too soon, throughout an evening of powerful joy. I danced with dozens of people that night—who all had so much love for the person the garment I was wearing was made for. The best part was that I wore that dress all through the streets of Tulsa with combat boots and I went back to the hotel that night and met an entire flight crew from American Airlines that had just landed for their layover, and all of them, like ten of them, pilots and flight attendants, asked me about the dress and I got to tell them the entire story of Camila. Far and away my favorite NPN memory.
Deputy Executive Director and Curator, Roy and Edna Disney, CalArts Theater/REDCAT
Los Angeles, California
I have been with REDCAT for the last ten years in various capacities. I first attended an NPN conference as an artist with Rosanna Gamson/World Wide in 2008, I believe. I remember meeting Joanie [Osato] there and had a lovely, “Oh, these are my people” moment. It was really awesome. I also just enjoy being at the dance parties at the end of the conferences, because there is always a moment where it feels like you really have found people who have similar values, that you’ve found your people, and it just feels great to be together.
I will also say that one of the things that may surprise you is that I intended to move to New Zealand to become an oceanographer before 2008, and I was very close. The visa issue did not come through, but that was an enlightening moment where I thought, you were meant to be an artist. You’re meant to be here, and I didn’t move. But I’m still interested in quite a bit of that. I took that as a sign.
Artistic Director, Bunnell Street Arts Center
I’m really emotional hearing all of this. Lately I have so much going on, and every time I get in this group, I feel the beauty and courage of the work that we do.
The NPN memories that I most enjoy are those final parties, wherever they’ve happened, because they bring me back to the power of belonging. . . . Growing up in Alaska, I never really forgave my parents for raising me here through much of my childhood, because at that point, the state was really colonized by white Texans who erased so much of the Indigenous names and color and pride in this place. I was very anxious to leave. And I came back fortified by art school and many great memories of colorful late-night dance parties.
It’s the belonging, that great energy that I am speaking of, that marvelously centers this group of people. It just holds me here right now, doing this work.
President and CEO, National Performance Network
It’s such a wonderful, wonderful class of folks to bring together. And it’s such a weird time to try to get to know each other and work together under different circumstances. I’m grateful that all five of you are joining us at this time and really excited to find more ways to work together. I love how all of you have your own connections to NPN already in different ways. Thank you, and welcome, welcome, welcome.