Artists unite for The Hook’s ArtLOUD debut tonight

The Hook’s ArtLOUD!: Stories of Loss and Found

Cedar Rapids Museum of Art — Saturday, Jan. 28 at 8 p.m.

The Hook hosts ArtLOUD at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art on Jan. 28. -- photo by Paul Sableman
The Hook hosts ArtLOUD at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art on Jan. 28. — photo by Paul Sableman

One year ago, Cedar Rapids poet Akwi Nji had a GoFundMe campaign and a wild dream to unite writers and performers across eastern Iowa in The Hook, a creative storytelling platform that, according to its website, “celebrates literacy and literature of various forms to educate, empower and inspire.”

One year and a multitude of workshops, open mics, write-ins, grants and accolades later, The Hook is about to see the culmination of one of its most ambitious projects: ArtLOUD!

“We describe the crowds at Drop the Mic, our monthly live literature event, as ‘electric,’ and that’s why we’re growing so fast — people are excited about what we’re doing,” Leslie Caton, The Hook’s newly-minted assistant director, wrote in an email. Caton, who also wrote for the ArtLOUD! event, joined The Hook just last month.

“This community is rich with art and especially literature but it’s not always accessible to everyone who’s interested,” wrote Caton.

She stated that the project is aiming to bring together a more diverse group by curating “powerful work from profoundly different perspectives and mix[ing] professional, experienced writers with new voices, especially those that are traditionally unheard … Our goal is to truly integrate our community, respecting differences and honoring commonalities we find through art.”

Sponsored in part by a grant from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, ArtLOUD! is a full-fledged production bringing together the talents of local artists and performers to tell the stories of a group of writers who met over the course of the past several months to discuss the power of storytelling in the community and to learn together how better to tell their own stories.

The inaugural ArtLOUD! event features “stories of loss and found,” exploring various experiences of loss in life, and what we can discover through losing. The performance finds entry into these stories through a mix of acting, music, dance and art, helmed by a creative team made up of director Leslie Charipar (Theatre Cedar Rapids), music director Benjamin Schmidt, choreographers Leslie Nolte (Nolte Academy) and Lovar Davis Kidd and art curator Anne Stamats (Black Earth Gallery).

“Since this is our first ArtLOUD!, we took steps to ensure a cohesive show that leaves room for the intimacy of shared stories,” Caton wrote of the all-star leadership.

Artists featured in the Jan. 28 performance include visual artists Larassa Kabel, John Schwartzkopf, Bill Stamats and Kathy Schumacker; dancers Clancy Haase and Anna Slife, along with members of Nolte Academy of Dance; musical guest Timm Palmersheim; and actors Jon Day, Trina Harris, Dave Jepsen and Marty Norton.

The writers whose work will be featured and interpreted include both Caton and Nji, as well as Billie Barker, Melissa Dugan, Laura Johnson, Theresa Keeley, Lisa K. Roberts and Mary Vizecky. Some, wrote Caton, “turned their work over to choreographers and musicians to incorporate those artistic elements into the work,” while others wrote pieces “with dance in mind,” including one about an amputee that “was written with a fast pace and staccato phrasing a choreographer could work with.”

In addition to new initiatives for the upcoming year (such as the Living Room Series, which kicks off next month), The Hook is already planning its second round ArtLOUD! programming, Stories of Tug and War, for April.

“We think the opportunity for all to tell their stories is crucial … which is why we balance our programming with workshops and live lit events like Drop the Mic which has an open mic segment,” Caton wrote.

Science backs us up — watching and listening to powerful performed stories (more so than reading) releases oxytocin and increases feelings of connection to and empathy for other people,” Caton wrote. “We really are creating stronger, more united communities through art.”

ArtLOUD! will be held tonight, Jan. 28, at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. An artists reception begins at 7 p.m., with an opportunity to explore the visual art component, and the show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

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