5 Questions with Activist, Artist and NYC Poll Worker, Lindsey Briggs

Z_Briggs

Lindsey “Z” Briggs is most known, internationally and domestically, for her work in the world of puppetry.  But for me, the most interesting thing about Z has always been her passion for activism.  I can’t think of a conversation that I’ve had with Z, where she didn’t talk about service, doing something for others, or what she thinks could be done to make the world a better place.  In trying times like these, seemingly small acts of volunteerism, like becoming a poll worker, makes Z a role model for me, and so many others.  Anyone who walks the walk, and talks the talk, is always worth my time and consideration.  (A side note: We had a different blog lined up for this week, but after the specific acts of hate that took place in my own borough last night, I decided we needed to take it up a notch.  Thank you to Z for making time at the last possible minute).  Here are “5 Questions” for advocate and activist, Lindsey Briggs.

JMK:  At this moment in time, it is impossible not to see how crucial it is to vote.  As a young voting citizen of this country, what made you volunteer to be a poll worker, and what have you learned from the experience?

LB: Following the 2016 election I wanted to be more involved.  Because I have two young kids at home, I can’t show up to meetings or rally’s in the same way that I could before kids.  It occurred to me that helping with the election might be a good fit, and I looked into being a poll worker.  I want to be a friendly face that can help to make the voting process a positive one.  I have learned quite a bit about the election process, and the work that goes into being a poll worker.  I had no idea that all New York state poll workers must arrive at the polling site at 5am and are not dismissed until at least 10pm, but sometimes much later.  We receive two, one hour breaks throughout the day, but it is a very long day.  If you see a poll worker, be sure to say thank you.

JMK:  Z, when I think of you, I think of you as an activist first.  How are you giving your time to your current primary cause?

LB: There are many causes that are very important to me.  Black lives matter and educating others about institutional racism and common sense gun legislation are both topics that I feel very strongly about.  As I said above I don’t have time to attend the meetings and rally’s that I wish I could be at, but instead I make sure to have conversations with people about these topics and do small things in my own way to help promote positive change.

JMK: You are a parent of two young, beautiful and imaginative boys in NYC.  What active measures are you engaging in to teach them compassion?

LB: We talk a lot about empathy and trying to see things from others perspectives.  Everyone’s feelings are important.  I feel very lucky to be raising a family in New York City, as it is so diverse and a wonderful example of so many different people living and working together.

JMK: Anti-Semitism is on the rise again globally and in this country.  Just last night, a synagogue in Brooklyn was vandalized with disgusting graffiti.  The words written on the interior walls of that house of worship makes one’s chest tighten and heart sink.  As an artist and activist, what do you do when you hear of such horrific hate crimes?

LB: I think about what must have happened in that person’s life to make them feel such anger against others.  It makes me sad.  I have hope that the next generation will be an example of understanding, peace and tolerance.

JMK: Agreed!  We must keep hope alive for our children.  On a lighter note, at this time of year, families are gathering around the table to share time together.  They’re also sharing food!  Would you please share what your favorite family dish is and how it makes you feel?  

LB: We have spaghetti and meatballs every single Monday night.  You are all welcome to come.  It is everyone’s favorite meal, and we will likely still be making it every Monday night in 20+ years.

JMK:  You’re awesome.  Thanks for this.  I now officially feel hopeful for Tuesday’s vote. 

Lindsey “Z.” Briggs is the Foundation Manager of The Jim Henson Foundation.  She has been working as a professional puppeteer since 2004 and has had many opportunities to perform in television, internet shorts, pilots, live theater, and independent films.  She studied at the University of Connecticut Puppet Arts masters program for 3 years and has attended and worked as staff for the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.  Z. lives in Astoria, Queens with her husband and 2 children, and performs live puppet theater for families throughout New York City as co-artistic director of WonderSpark Puppets.

Advertisements

5 Questions with “Sesame Street” Puppeteer, Tau Bennett

20180811_134335

Tau Bennett is a wonderfully creative, humble kid.  He also happens to be a professional puppeteer.  While this blog was partly created to give be a reason to engage with people other than puppeteers that I was curious about, this week is different.  With Caroll Spinney’s departure from “Sesame Street” taking place just yesterday, it is unmistakeable for those of us in this industry to take notice of another shift in the tide.  It is bitter sweet.  The sweet part isn’t simply because the community was blessed enough to be abel to shower Carroll with the love that he himself shed on the world as both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.  That is a huge part of it of course!  But, it is also sweet because the youngest generation of budding professional puppeteers include kind souls like to Tau to give us hope.  Here’s 5 Questions with Tau Bennett.

JMK:  This week the unspeakably beautiful soul, Caroll Spinney, Big Bird himself, is retiring.Would you please share a bit about how Caroll has effected you?

TB: Caroll has always been a huge inspiration to me in many ways. First of all, he’s proven that you can do just about anything if you’re willing. Inside that giant, somewhat cumbersome Big Bird costume, he’s ridden roller skates, unicycles, horses, he’s even jumped from one moving vehicle onto another. He’s a real daredevil of a puppeteer and I respect that greatly. Whatever effect was supposed to be achieved, he did it and it looked amazing. He’s also shown me how sweet and compassionate a person could be. Even before meeting him, I’d see him as Big Bird and I knew he was a genuinely lovely person.

JMK: You’ve been involved in puppetry as professional since you were very young.  You still are very young!  What would you like to share with kids who know what they want to be at a young age?

TB: If you know what you want to do with your life, do it. Nothing should stop you from doing what you want with your life, because it’s your life. Do what makes you happy.

JMK:  Topics of racial and gender equality are ones that sadden me deeply to the core.  That said, I have used this rage and concern as a point of activation in my art and political endeavors.  What are some of your ideas for overcoming or eliminating the racial barriers that plague this nation?

TB: I think artists have the power to send whatever social or political message they need to, for example, by holding up a mirror to the world; showing the world the problems that are plaguing it, either through symbolism or satire or whatever. That seems to be a primary method of choice for artists, I think because it’s probably the most accessible and effective. Bringing about awareness of the issues is the first step to correcting them.

JMK:  Tau, you’re a quiet but seriously fun person.  Would you please tell us what you do for fun?

TB: Some things I like to do for fun are draw, which I’d say I probably do the most, I listen to a lot of music, collect records, watch movies and TV shows.

JMK:   It is not unusual for puppeteers to also be visual artists and this is certainly true in your case.  Who is your favorite artist and what have you garnered from experiencing their work?

TB:  One of my favorite artists include Bob Ross, from whom I’ve learned that it doesn’t really take much to make a painting look good. He can make the most realistic-looking paintings with the simplest of brush strokes. I’m also a fan of Ralph Steadman, who has a similar interest for the simple approach to art. He would fling one good splatter of ink or paint onto a piece of paper and from there, he could see a shape of some creature and build on that. I think my favorite artist is Ralph Bakshi, a cartoonist whose movies have inspired many of my recent puppet designs. I also find it kind of cool that he graduated from the same high school as me, the High School of Art and Design. His work has this sort of ratty, grungy look that I really love.

Bio:  I was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 11, 1999. I was exposed to the Muppets at a very young age and immediately fell in love with the art of puppetry, partially through sheer curiosity of how the puppets were built and how they worked, and partially from a performance perspective- wanting to have fun with all those other puppeteers on TV and wanting to play funny, outlandish characters alongside them. After meeting Leslie Carrara-Rudolph at the age of ten, she got me in touch with Kevin Clash, who was working on his documentary, “Being Elmo” at the time. After getting to be in the doc with him, he continued to train me as a puppeteer and treated me like a son. After all that controversy in 2012, Kevin disappeared for a while and I kinda lost contact with the rest of the Muppeteers,  but I was determined to find my way back in that circle. So while I was away, I started acting in theater shows, so I could build confidence as a performer. I started getting more serious about building and performing puppet characters of my own. I also started taking improv classes and formed a sketch comedy group. I did all these things and more, to hone my skills, in hopes of working up to the ranks of my heroes. So when I was 16, and could legally to start working, I sent Matt Vogel a message, asking if there were any workshops or auditions happening. There just happened to be a workshop that fall. He invited me to that, I got through it and I’ve been working on Sesame Street ever since. I still continue to do sketch comedy, stand-up, and I’m always working on new stuff with my characters who I call The Rumble Ensemble.

Instagram: @rumble.ensemble 

Facebook: Tau Bennett

YouTube: The Rumble Ensemble

The Party of Regal Krusaders (P.O.R.K.)

5 Questions with Singer/Songwriter and Fiber Artist, Jocelyn MacKenzie

Jocelyn+Mackenzie+Press+Photo+2018+by+Ester+Segretto+copy

To many, Jocelyn MacKenzie is one third of the indie-pop band Pearl and the Beard.  And that’s true.  But, that’s just one piece of this versatile artist’s story.  When we recently spoke, Jocelyn and I were musing about the many lives that one lives while on this planet. Some pieces of our past selves feel so distant, while others feel like they were just yesterday.  For a storyteller like Jocelyn, finding newfangled ways to express herself never stops.  Her fiber arts and styling speak to the wearer or viewer in a complete and wonderfully fresh way.  Her music, whether utilizing words or not, always feels like a complete narrative.  She has a new EP which will be released tomorrow and some fantastic new projects in the pipeline. Where does her endless inspiration come from? Let’s find out, with these “5 Questions”…

JMK: Jocelyn, as we all know, girls are sorely robbed of proper educations worldwide.  In this country the education gap is slowly decreasing.  (And if we didn’t know this, we should educate ourselves about the disparity).  You teach music to young girls.  Would you please share a bit about this experience?

JM: Volunteering at the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. I’m not able to do it every year, but when I can’t be there in person I try to raise money or awareness for their organization. They give girls a voice, and seeing it happen in real time is the root of why I make music. I believe that music, especially singing and songwriting, is a language, a birth right for all people. It’s part of how we process intense emotions, including trauma and joy, and it’s part of how we relate to one another as fellow humans. Without relating to each other, we don’t have a society, and without music, our society lacks humanity. Yet with arts education dwindling, and the gender gap widening in terms of expectations of what it means to be a “proper boy” or a “proper girl,” it’s harder and harder to provide a platform where students of any gender can feel that connection to their deeper human selves, their raw animalness that needs to howl when it can’t describe what it’s feeling in mere words. Giving these young musicians space and tools to express themselves through writing and performing original music is something I hope gives them agency, autonomy, and freedom into their adulthood. We play music. Play is the operative word here. And it is important that young girls know they are valuable, able, and capable at this act of self-love at a young age so that they carry the strength of that practice with them as they grow. It helps everyone when one person learns they are free to sing.

JMK: Publicly, you are known as a musician and a fiber artist, which I love!  You are clearly called to the work that you do.  It feels so authentic.  If you weren’t answering that call, what other career do you think you might find fulfilling, and why?

JM: Thank you for noticing that! I am called to make music and to work with my hands, and that’s a great question that I do think about sometimes! I’ve always been fascinated with languages and how people communicate, so in another life, I might become a linguist and try to learn as many languages as possible. I’m especially interested in tonal languages like Japanese, or sound-based languages such as the whistling language of Northern Turkey. Alternately, I am obsessed with the deep sea and with deep space, so perhaps a marine biologist or an astrologer. That said, I am a mermaid, so I’d probably explore the ocean before outer space, but both feel appealing.

JMK: What does the phrase “you’re enough” mean to you?

JM: Isn’t it funny how something that sounds so simple can be so thick? “You’re enough” means you don’t have to try to be yourself, you already are. You don’t have to try to be loved, you already are. I think we face a huge challenge today with so many outlandish expectations on what it means to do things “properly” in society (be female, be successful, be American…). My work is to strip away which messages are being spoken from my own inner voice and which ones are not. The voices that say, “You would be more attractive if you lost some weight… you’re not as talented as this other musician so why don’t you just make music your hobby… one day you’ll give up this dream of being an artist and get a real job… you’re not successful unless you’re earning a certain amount of money… you’re too loud / outgoing / sexual / colorful / confident / excitable / sensitive…” These are not my voices. These are all statements I have actually heard directly from other people in my life, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This doesn’t even include all of the passive messages we receive every day from countless sources. And I don’t believe any of that. None of it resonates with the core of my being. And yet, I’m human, so I’m permeable. It’s very easy for me to absorb these messages, and when that happens my brain can lose track of the source material and begins to believe that these ideas are true, and are mine. Imagine saying all of that to a newborn infant? No one would do such a thing. “You are enough” means my body is already perfect, my passions are part of me, my whole self is already a perfectly imperfect whole. My worth is not definable or quantifiable. I don’t have to try to be better, I have to try to do less work to impress everyone who thinks their opinion of me matters more than my inner sense of self. “You’re enough” reminds me to separate the truth from the noise, separate my self love from others’ fears. I was born enough, and so were you.

JMK: (Wipes tears from her eyes…) As someone who omits a spunky sense of calm, what do you do to center yourself?

JM: For the last four years I’ve had a daily morning meditation practice that is invaluable to me. I change it up, and am pretty casual about it, but without it my default state of nervous energy comes back very quickly. In the last two years I’ve also incorporated a process of daily journaling called Morning Pages as outlined in Julie Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” which has been a life enhancing practice for me. It’s three pages of stream of consciousness writing every morning, which allows me to clear away the noise and the nonsense and get down to the brass tacks of my emotional state. Music and singing also center me throughout the day… I often sing what I would say. It lifts my spirits, tunes me into my inner core, and gives me a laugh. I also try not to take myself too seriously. It’s work, but it’s worthwhile work! Even in the darkest times I try to find humor and humility in my situation, and in the face of adversity for others I try my best to see and feel all sides of the story. That work helps me break down barriers and come back to where I truly stand on any issue, rather than allowing intense anger, grief, elation, or joy to pull me in any particular direction. Also, I am putting “spunky sense of calm” on my business card now.

JMK: How does your favorite color make you feel and why?

JM: My favorite color is Robin’s Egg Blue or Sea Foam Green, depending on who you ask, and the closes paint swatch to match is Martha Stewart’s Batter Bowl Green. I have loved this color since childhood when Crayola introduced new shades into their box and had a “Name that Color” contest. I submitted the name “Mermaid Blue,” and it was not accepted. That color brings me home, as I am a mermaid and it returns me back to the sea. It gives me a spunky sense of calm I suppose! Guess I know what color to make those business cards now.

Website:  http://www.jocelynmackenzie.com/

Instagram: @jocelynmcknz

Photo credit:  Ester Segretto

Jocelyn Mackenzie is a Brooklyn-based singer, songwriter, percussionist, stylist, artist, and songwriting coach. Best known as the singing drummer from indie-pop trio Pearl and the Beard, she has a rich national and international touring history and has written for film, television, and theater. She is also a devising member of Trusty Sidekick Theater Company, Music Curator of Puppet Playlist Cabaret, and contributing member of freak folk band The Peggy’s and sock puppet rock band Uncle Monsterface. 

5 Questions with Holistic Nutritionist, Tatiana Ridley

fullsizeoutput_aabe

Tatiana Ridley is an intelligent, sensitive, human who strives to live a meaningful life teaching healthy and holistic life practices.

I met Tatiana on an island 30 miles out to sea,  when we were both on creative and healthy living, personal and professional explorations.  I observed a focused, kind woman who was infinity curious about the world around her.  Additionally, I saw a person who uses her knowledge to make a difference in people’s live.  Here’s 5 questions with entrepreneur, holistic nutritionist,  and speaker, Healthylicious Bliss’s, Tatiana Ridley.

JMK: As someone who eats a very balanced diet, what do you recommend to people as the winter, carb heavy months creep up on us?

TR: Let’s get real here, while I try to eat a very balanced diet, I have my moments, (ehem, brick-oven pizza and chocolate!). I espouse to the 80/20 Diet. Basically, I eat healthy around 80% of the time and indulge in my not so healthy desires around 20% of the time, (yes, I’m talking about food here). I’m only human after all! For me, that’s eating mostly organic meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, healthy fats, and fermented foods. And for drinks, it’s water, coffee (love Bullteproof!), kombucha, and fresh green juice! As we transition from Summer into Fall, I recommend that my clients incorporate seasonal foods into their diets. Back in the day, our ancestors ate seasonally, because they had no choice. Today, we have access to all foods year round, but that doesn’t mean that we should consume those foods 365 days a year. For fall, focus on grounding, warming foods to prepare and protect your body for the cold winter weather. Examples of this include winter squash (acorn, butternut, delicata), apples, beets, Belgian endive, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, figs, mushrooms, parsnips, pears, pumpkin (yay for pumpkin season!), sweet potatoes, and Swiss chard. One of my favorite fall go-to recipes is a healthified spinoff of a childhood favorite that my parents made me – my grilled goat cheese + tomato soup recipe! 

Get the recipe HERE! 

JMK:  How has your role model inspired you?

TR: My role model, my mom, Bettina Ridley, aka Momasita, inspires me every day in every way. Since I was a child I have looked up to her, literally, borrowing her heels to play dress up and aspiring to be her when I grew up. A grown up now, I still look up to her, standing at 5’3” and she at 5’5 1/2”. She has always courageously beat to the tune of her own drum and supported my individuality and interests. She inspires me to strive to be the best version of myself (and not to be so hard on myself) whilst being grateful for all that I have been blessed with. In this world it can be difficult not to get caught up in the comparison game, but it’s important to recognize that the grass is not always greener and one can get distracted admiring someone else’s garden only to lose sight of their own garden. Water your garden, people! Her dedication to self-improvement, her family, God, and giving back to the community through her volunteer work at soup kitchens and churches throughout New York has inspired me. While she insists that she’s not perfect, she always seems to have the right words of wisdom to share with me at any given moment. Like, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly” or “Be a warrior not a worrier.” My mom is my hero.

JMK:  That’s gorgeous.  I would consider you a seeker as you are someone who asks probing, intentional questions.  For some, this quality can be anxiety inducing.  Do you have a spiritual practice that guides you?

TR: Why thank you, Jean Marie! I appreciate that moniker! Funny story, ever since I was a wee child, I’ve been asking questions, my parents tell me that I would stroll around (by stroller or on foot) pointing at this and that and asking “What’s this?” Yes, I have several spiritual practices that guide me and reel me back in when I’m heading out into the deep end of discouragement or overwhelm. Meditation has become a spiritual source for me. I especially enjoy lighting a scented candle, dimming the lights, and listening to Kundalini meditation music, closing my eyes, and allowing my mind to drift away.

JMK: In the age of #MeToo, how do you feel your voice and role in the world has changed?

In the age of #MeToo, I think that it’s important to offer support to women who have been victims of sexual abuse and to empower them to find the strength, support, and salvation to move forward from their experience from victim to victor. Let’s empowHER!

JMK:  What are you most happy about these days?

TR: I am happy to be alive and well, but lately, I have been feeling very grateful for the opportunities that I have been aligned with at Healthylicious Bliss, offering my corporate and school wellness programming, attending conferences, and connecting with people! One of my favorite quotes comes to mind when I consider where I am today:

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” ~ Joseph Campbell.

One of my clients mailed me a bookmark years ago with this very quote emblazoned on it.

Tatiana Ridley is the Founder of Healthylicious Bliss™ , your go-to resource for a Happy, Healthy & Hot lifestyle. She’s a Fempreneur, Holistic Nutritionist, Yoga Teacher, Speaker, and Writer based in New York City. Tatiana’s services include corporate and school wellness programs, yoga classes, private and group holistic nutrition coaching (via phone and online), events, speaking, and retreats. Tatiana launched her business in 2010, and has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, Well+Good, Rise, Everyday Health, and more. She is a graduate of Fordham University and the Institute For Integrative Nutrition. When she’s not doing her Fempreneur thang, you can find her galavanting around NYC and beyond, hanging with her pup, learning new things and sharing them on Instagram.

Website:  www.healthyliciousbliss.com

Instagram: @TatianaRidley

Why Do We Crave Hearty Foods When It Gets Cold?

Meat Pie
A meat pie c/o my mother.***

As the weather gets cooler here in the northeast, one is inclined to eat rich hearty foods.  The soup lists on menus are getting longer and the warm food trays at buffets are looking better and better.  I am craving mashed potatoes.  (That probably has nothing to do with the weather).  As someone who tries to eat whole foods and fresh vegetables as much as possible, the cold weather is a challenge for me.  I don’t care for salads in the cold weather, no matter how savory they may appear to be.  I crave warm foods, starch and calories.  But alas, the whole food edict is helpful in assuaging these desires and leading me down the road of roasted vegetables.  As I approached the starch filled lunch line at work today, the question on my mind today was, “Why do we crave hearty foods in the cold”?

 

My first impulse is to say that we need to insulate ourselves. To some extent, depending on where you live, this is certainly true.  But after a bit of research,* this hypothesis does not satisfy me.

chipmunk

However, it did lead me to find some data on another thought I had. “What if we’re stockpiling for winter”? It turns out that there is research that, while not conclusive, suggests that as it begins to get darker sooner, we begin to eat more.  Whether that’s out of boredom or a natural hibernation instinct, I can’t say.

But it is third and most soulful possible conclusion that I relate to the most.  As it gets cooler, we lead into the holiday season where memories quite often collide with food.  In my family, there are a few favorites.  Turkey dinners for my mother.  Shepard’s pie, a stew or a roast for my father.  And for my brother… Aunt Peggy’s legendary meat pie.**  I confess that I don’t have one food that is my go to. I just like food.  Really well made, preferably healthy, food.  But whole foods and vegetable diet be damned, for the past week, I have been craving that meat pie like a lion craves an antelope.  Bring it on!

Putting aside the irrational arguments for the health content of the meat pie that my family often makes, I know that our communal craving is not just the taste.  It’s the activity.  Meat pies are made with love.  The meat is seasoned and slowly cooked.  The crust is laid into the very specifically chosen pan with great focus and care.  When cooked and drained, the meat is poured into its shell with such anticipation.  As a child, helping to break the pieces of cheddar cheese and carefully laying it on top of the meat, making sure that the entire surface was coated with cheese was a very pleasing task for me.  And of course, we would now lay on the top blanket, the soon to be crust , by artfully placing the croissant dough triangles on top, while trying to keep aside a reserve of dough.  But the best part, truly, to this day, is deciding what to “draw” on the top crust with the leftover dough.  When the pie hits the table, everyone looks to see what the lovingly drawn image is before cutting into the pie.  Memories.  So many beautiful memories.  Often, after the meal was through and the leftover pie was placed carefully in the fridge (the leftovers are even better), my mother would call my aunt and tell her the tale of the evening’s meal.  My sweet, funny, loving aunt would go on about how it is always a crowd pleaser and how now she would have to make one.  Family.  It’s not just about taste.  It’s about family.

I guess in the end, for regular, everyday people, it does not matter why we crave more calories in the winter.  It matters that we do so healthfully and mindfully.  Roasting vegetables.  Limiting gravy and fatty contents.  Keeping a holistic approach to eating while allowing ourselves a few of the treats that the cold weather traditions bring.  And when we are dining with loved ones, that we eat up the very special gift that we have with them, time.

*https://www.npr.org/2011/12/19/143938954/winter-munchies-do-we-eat-more-in-colder-months

**If this recipe is really owned by Pillsbury.  Sorry.  We’re giving Aunt Peggy the credit.)

***Check out some of my mother’s blog entries at https://diaryofadedicateddiabetic.wordpress.com. 

(This is the video of the chipmunk in the photo above:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTjGNhuPl2c)

5 Questions for Couture Fashion Designer, Randi Rahm

randirahm-1.jpgRandi Rahm, is a woman that is leaving an indelible print on the world through each person she meets and every person that she dresses.  She is a strong woman who believes in giving back.  Randi is a mentor and philanthropist whose designs continue to make a splash.  Her creations are worn by A-List celebrities and commissioned by today’s most fashion forward and classic women alike.  In a field where longevity is rare, and most designers disappear into the shadows, Randi Rahm continues to shine her light. In today’s world, we need the strength of women like Randi Rahm.

JMK:  Your current collection has a light urban feeling that is uplifted by a rainbow pallet. The guests next to me at your presentation kept repeating that Blake Lively needs these pieces. I agree. SZA, Ariana Grande, Lil Kim and Kristen Bell also seem like great celebrity fits. In your eyes, as diverse and broad as your response may be, who is this collection for?

RR: Like all my previous collections, this collection is designed for the modern woman who likes to look and feel good – inside and out. This particular collection, inspired by the graffiti colors of New York City, is a little edgier but still retains the femininity that my clothes are known for. I am also introducing pieces that you can mix and match to style outfits differently – embellished bombers for example that you can wear with a gown or jeans, tweed jackets that you can wear to the office or to a special occasion. It all depends on how you style the outfit. I agree with the list of celebrities you mentioned – I think they all have such unique individual styles and they could take many pieces and style them differently – and that’s the beauty of this collection.

JMK:  You have a deep love of music. What do you listen to when you design?

RR: I truly love music and can’t go a day without listening to it. During the development of this collection, I stepped into the streets and listened to the noise of the city. For me, music is a feeling or an emotion that inspires the people listening. This collection was based on the 70’s and 80’s, a time in New York where each neighborhood in the city had its own individual personality.

JMK:  You’re someone who loves giving back, and you do so in a variety of ways. What is drawing you to your next philanthropic endeavor?

RR: Giving back has always been something very important to me. I have always found a way to support local, national and global organizations that aid those less fortunate. I particularly enjoy being able to help provide others with an opportunity to expose the arts in ways they may have never known otherwise. I am currently involved in strategizing with a very esteemed institution in bringing their forms of art to a younger generation of individuals who seem to be overlooking its beauty and importance. I want to help re-educate our younger generations, help plug them back in to the world of fine art and performance that meant so much to me and my development as a youth. As an artist, it would be terribly painful to see the classical arts slowly disappear due to the lack of interest from our youngest generations. I truly believe that if these arts can be envisioned in a modern way, we can revive them and help them regain popularity among a younger audience.

JMK: The fashion industry is cut throat. How do you feel being a self-made female entrepreneur has propelled your success?

RR: There has always been a mold into which the fashion industry expects each designer to fit into. For me, I never considered myself to fit into that particular mold. I am an artist that creates and I have always created. Now I am simply creating in a different form – in the world of fashion. The fashion industry is truly a difficult industry in which to succeed in, however my love and passion for creating has allowed me to continuously meet the strenuous deadlines the industry puts on us as designers.

JMK:  What are you most looking forward to at this moment?

RR: At this moment, I’m excited that the fashion industry is changing and is becoming more evolved. These changes have broadened the opportunity for me, as a designer, to step in and showcase my brand. Twenty years ago, I moved to New York City with a dream to make a piece for every woman. Each item in this collection coordinates with one another and can be worn in any way desired. I am looking forward to expanding my designs as the consumer continues to expand their wardrobes. Every woman deserves the choice to wear what makes her feel the most comfortable, sexy, and elegant.

Randi Rahm launched her namesake brand in 1995. An artist turned fashion designer, Randi Rahm will be the first to tell you that she doesn’t design for one woman; she’s a woman who designs for every woman. It is this guiding principle, especially in an environment of female empowerment, that has made Randi not just a self-made business woman, but one of New York fashions most well regarded names for over 25 years. The classically trained pianist and conductor has all her pieces developed, constructed, and finished at her Madison Avenue atelier. The result is a world of fine apparel, evening wear, and bridal that excites, compliments, and fulfills the dreams of all her clients. It’s this innate sense of what a woman wants and her ability to make anyone feel their absolute, most beautiful and feminine self, which has given Randi a loyal following of fashion’s most discerning.

Website: www.randirahm.com

Instagram: @randirahm

Why the Privilege of Voting Makes Me Emotional

Voting-booths-1970When I think about voting in this country, I am almost always flooded with memories. As children, my brother and I were always brought into those old metal voting booths with our parents. If my father was at work when my mother went to vote, both my brother and I crammed into the booth with her. Waiting in line for our turn to enter, I would wish for an army green booth over an industrial metal one because their mossy color and chipped paint indicated a sense of history to me. As a young child, it was with great anticipation that I wondered, will this be the election that I would be deemed old enough and strong enough to be the one to heave the big lever from one side to the other, drawing the curtain closed behind us? Was it my turn to encapsulate us in this tiny button filled room where we would assist our mother in taking part in her most basic civic duty? The sounds of that booth still ring in my ears. How the feeling of the buttons, triggers and levers filled me with joy and the overhead lighting, there simply as a necessity, aptly providing the ambiance an imagination like mine yearned for. A lover of buttons, once ensconced in the enclosure, I often pressed too many, leaving my mother to bat clean up.  Ever the teacher, there was an clear explanation of each vote chosen, before my mother pulled the lever casting her final vote.

W199I fully recognize that I grew up privileged in so many ways, and not lacking in several others. One of the biggest privileges I’ve had was to be exposed to my family and my extended family’s sense of civic duty. There are people who died for us to have the right to vote, and people who continue to die protecting that right. Many would also argue that there’s a deep grey space in between. The right to vote, and the need to do so as the most informed person as possible, was regularly discussed in the car, while doing homework and across the dinner table.  Privilege.  Duty.

Selma 2As an adult, I find myself living in a beautifully mixed neighborhood with people from all different backgrounds and similarly varied futures. The thing I find in common with so many of my neighbors is a deep sense of respect, curiosity and kindness toward one another. For better or worse, the routine of voting has been undeniably modernized, but the visceral sensations and the sense of community remain intact for me. I now walk through the doors of the polling location and find myself grateful for the community members who volunteer their time to ensure that all goes well. I review my votes in my head, inevitably to be surprised by one option on the ballot. I approach the table and watch as the poll worker search for “Kevins” instead of  “Keevins”, just as they did all of those years prior with my parents. We chuckle together as they find my name. I vote. I’m handed my congratulatory sticker. I leave the local school hallway where I vote, feeling proud and knowing secretly that I have truly done the bare minimum.

election post picture 2And then, as usual, a wave comes over me. Is it rigged? Will my vote make a difference? Hope can I be of more use? How lucky I am to live in a country where women can vote? Democracy. What a gift.  Frankly, my feelings are mixed. But as I see other members of my community walking beneath the autumn trees toward the polling station, it’s hard not to be touched by a sense of warmth. In Brooklyn, a place that is home to the old and the young, a rainbow of skin colors, diversity of sexual orientation and identification,  different religions and a dichotomy of wealth and education, people come out to vote. But out of all of these people, the one’s that touch me the most? The children. As they place their chaperone’s ballots in the scanners, they are creating their own vital memory. They will be the ones who take on this civic duty and will likely determine the quality of society during my golden years.  Watching these children helps to keep hope alive.

Thank you to my parents and my extended family for the values that they have instilled and the lessons that they have taught my brother and I.  And thank you to the current caregivers who are teaching the next generation how important it is to partake in our government.  This November, I look forward to going to the polls.

You can register to vote or confirm your registration at 

https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote

     Jean Marie Keevins was raised on Long Island by a family that was predominantly pro-union, pro-choice and pro-education.  Thanks to the encouragement of diplomatic conversation by the adults in her life, who goodness knows, did not always agree, Jean Marie is eager to hear all sides, even when she doesn’t like what she hears. (Mostly… We’re all human).  

5 Questions with Interdisciplinary Artist, Marsian DeLellis

Use By Permission Only

The work of Marsian DeLellis isn’t just “unique”.  It’s important.  It’s original. It leaves room for all of humanities “humaness”.  As the “labeling” and “otherness” that has brought America comfort for too long, continues to be dismantled and proven wrong, Marsian DeLellis points out how our idiosyncrasies can be quiet right.  The world needs more Marsians.  In a time where we get our “best thoughts” from micro-influencers, we deserve to be influenced by a wholly individualized point of view with purpose.  Here is “5 Questions with artist Marsian DeLellis”.

JMK:  If you had the chance to thank someone who didn’t realize how important they are to you, who would it be and what would you say?

MD: My first foray into theatre was a musical adaptation of a book on dinosaurs. I designed and performed shadow puppets as a first grader in Mrs. Amidon’s class.  In the process we explored our creative differences and worked with all kinds of people, including musical director, Ms. Houk.  Ms. Houk was strict and uncompromising. She ruled the piano and glockenspiel with an iron fist. She may have been moody but she just wanted to get the best work out of us. And although she sometimes instilled terror in children, the parents of our suburban Massachusetts town were pleased with the end product (and so was I).     

Mrs. Amidon also had us write and illustrate our own stories. Years went by and the stories evolved into screenplays that spawned installations and time-based visual narratives that became ever more elaborate. I’d like to thank Mrs. Amidon and Ms. Houk.

JMK:  Like so many puppet-centric artists, you are an excellent mimic.  In particular, you often reference your family when talking about your process. How has your upbringing effected your art?

MD:  I love interviewing people and seeing things from different perspectives and I don’t have to get everyone to agree with me. In the social media sphere labeling something as “problematic” has become a shortcut – a way to brush off  further discussion of something complex, potentially triggering, or that falls outside a binary – – Or to label something as oppressive without actually doing any of the work to think about what the problem is or why it exists. But where some see “problematic”, I see “problemagic” – an opportunity to welcome dialogue and generate new ideas and solutions in a world where tweets have all too often supplanted discourse. My dad was a pathologist, and I’ve always found what can go wrong to be far more interesting than what can go right.  At least that’s part of my particular brand of worrying. I find it valuable to hold space with people who have differing viewpoints – this is something collectively we could make a better practice of in the current political climate – where people have been manipulated by an algorithm that wants to keep us continually outraged and polarized.

My work celebrates the stories of unconventional people whose private manias become public fodder for tabloids and reality television. Combining their biographical material with autobiography becomes a means to channel my own personal struggles into something comprehensible.

JMK: When one looks at your body of work, it is hard not to see how broad and yet specific your work is.  You embrace and respect humanity’s individuality, strengths and weaknesses in a way that reads true to you as an artist. I would imagine that this unique ability creates a struggle to find a creative home as you grow into your next stage of your artistic life. Where do you think your work could best be nurtured and shown, and why?

MD: I am moving towards creating a space that can hold my work that is somewhere between the gallery world of installation and the theatre world of performance. Ideally I am looking for art spaces that are friendly to performances like Automata here in Los Angeles. As I forge my own way between the shadows of multibillion-dollar entertainment companies in Los Angeles, where I construct my own self-contained, idiosyncratic, queer, miniature universes. I am dismantling the idea of models merely as scaled-down representations of physical space, but sites to examine abstract concepts unencumbered by their epic scope or emotional weight.

I’m hijacking the term, “micro-influencer” – reclaiming it from advertisers and social media starlets who short-circuit our brains with a FOMO on behalf of corporations peddling products. As an artist who re-contextualizes object and puppet-based performance art, I own “micro-influencer”.  I wield diminutive cardboard objects in intimate settings to activate small audiences in subtle ways with big ideas that may not immediately go viral, but are at least contagious.

JMK:  Marsian, you laugh harder and more openly than most.  It’s truly beautiful and contagious.  What makes you smile or laugh?

MD:  It’s always something different. You’ll know when you hear me laugh.

JMK:  How does your spiritual practice relate to your art?   

MD:  I consider my yoga and gym practice to be spiritual – they both address me in some respects at the body level and my work is concerned a lot with the body and its excesses. I also see a spirituality in quantum physics and the whole idea that when looking at matter as a particle or a wave, the observer somehow by observing, effects the matter that is being observed. Similarly in my work, I am re-contextualizing the idea of the object and puppet-based performance art as form that occupies dimensional space, over time, in relation to the witness who changes what they are observing by their presence.

LA Weekly said of my upcoming performance, “Object of Her Affection” which opens at Automata September 27th and runs until October 13th that:

“The piece, which questions on a cosmic level our artificial divide between the animate and the inanimate, has the appealing, droll humor and structural unity of a David Sedaris story.”

And I really am interested in that, there is a moment when the protagonist as a teenager looses her virginity to a bad boy hunting rifle who tells her about the big bang when matter started to differentiate and some things became living and some things stayed things.

Marsian De Lellis is an interdisciplinary artist who combines sculpture, objects, installation, performance and handmade spectacles to memorialize obsessional lives. Their work celebrates stories of unconventional people whose private manias become public fodder for tabloids and reality television.

https://marsiandelellis.com
https://www.facebook.com/HausOfMarsian
IG @hausofmarsian
Twitter @hausofmarsian
Tumblr @hausofmarsian
vimeo @hausofmarsian

Kickstarter FB Video: https://www.facebook.com/HausOfMarsian/videos/2111787655701682/

Kickstarter Page: https://kck.st/2MYOc1q 

Tickets: http://tinyurl.com/Object-of-Her-Affection

Photo by William Short Photography

5 Questions with NOAA’s Senior Media Relations Specialist, Christopher Vaccaro

Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 2.18.23 PM

As Hurricane Florence bares down on the Carolina’s, it is hard not to think of those directly effected.  It doesn’t matter where you live, you have likely experienced a major weather related event.  So, it’s understandable that those not in the wake of Florence’s path are still moved by it. Life’s banal activities quickly become seemingly inconsequential when one considers natural disasters. Major environmental events remind us what is most essential in life.  NOAA’s Christopher Vaccaro is one of the people our country entrusts to get essential weather related information to us in a way that makes sense.  Chris’s work, and the work done by his colleagues, are saving lives right now. Here’s “5 Questions with Christopher Vaccaro”.

JMK: Where did your passion for weather come from?

CV: Weather is so influential on our lives and I’ve always been inspired by its power and intrigued by the challenges with predicting its behavior. Weather has daily impacts from what we will wear, to whether we need an umbrella, to how our commute will be affected. Then there are less frequent – yet major – events such as hurricanes, wildfires, tsunamis, blizzards, droughts and floods that demonstrate the true power and force of nature and how vulnerable we can be. This raises the importance of timely and accurate forecasts as to best prepare for such events in advance to save lives and minimize impacts to property.

Most people in the field of meteorology cite a weather event that gave them the “weather bug.” For me, growing up on Long Island in New York, it was Hurricane Gloria in 1985 which brought high winds, heavy rain and the eerie calm eye of the storm as it passed over my childhood home. Snow, especially blizzards, also influenced my fascination. Living near the Atlantic Ocean, some storms brought tremendous snowfall and the wonder of whether school would be closed. However, there were other storms that disappointed snow lovers as the warmer ocean air changed the snow to a wintry slop of sleet and even plain liquid rain.

JMK: As someone who is so focused on science, what do you find satisfying about your role in PR at NOAA – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration?

CV: My job is to make the meteorological information from NOAA and its National Weather Service as understandable and accessible as possible. Such important weather information is conveyed all day, every day across the United States and I find it exceptionally rewarding to know that my efforts help to get that information to those in harm’s way. Often this is done through the media who then convey the information to their audiences. This is also achieved through the agency’s website and social media platforms that reach the public directly.

JMK: Natural disasters are a horrific thing.  What have you learned that uplifted you when you were on the ground?

CV: The worst weather can bring out the best in humanity. Living through a natural disaster can be exceptionally heartbreaking – whether experiencing it directly, seeing it on the news, or through the process of forecasting and warning for it. In 2011, I visited Joplin, Missouri after it was devastated by a tornado rated an EF-5 (the highest on the intensity scale) with winds greater than 200 mph. After a disaster, communities come together to support each other and can more quickly get back on their feet that way. While in Joplin, I visited the Joplin High School which took a direct hit from the tornado. In the school parking lot, a local group was grilling food for anyone who needed a meal – a very warm, yet surreal, sight. As I was standing near the food tent one of the cooks noticed the NOAA logo on my jacket. He walked up to me and said “I know who you are. Thank you.” Even though lives were tragically lost in that historic tornado, he knew that NOAA was the agency that issued the Tornado Warning that saved countless lives.

JMK: You are a frequent traveler.  What area of this country has made the biggest impact on you?

CV: From a career standpoint, that would be the East Coast considering the region’s wide range of weather. But that diversity truly applies to the nation as a whole. Considering the geographical diversity of the U.S. as it spans from one ocean to another, has mountain ranges on both sides and has both a northern climate and elements of a tropical climate, this unique blending of climate zone creates some of the most extreme weather in the world. Nowhere on Earth are there more tornadoes than in the U.S., and our hurricane season commands the attention of a global audience. This nation is the place to be for studying and practicing in meteorology.

JMK:  Natural disasters are inevitable.  As someone located in a major urban hub, I often feel helpless.  What do you recommend for people to do to help?

CV: No matter where you live, it’s critically important to be prepared for the weather. Know your risks (eg: tornadoes in the Midwest; flooding near a river or ocean, etc.) and make a plan on what you would do when life-threatening weather is expected. Have a to-go kit ready in the event you choose to leave your area or are directed to evacuate. Just as you’re prepared for a home fire with smoke alarms, water sprinklers and a fire extinguisher, you also need to have the right tools and information that will have you weather ready. For preparedness tips, I recommend visiting FEMA’s website www.ready.gov

Chris Vaccaro is the Senior Media Relations Specialists for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration based in Washington, D.C., where he leads the development of strategic media-focused communication activities for the agency and serves as a spokesperson. In this role, he supports the mission of protecting lives and property by working with and through the news media to get important information to the public. Previously, Vaccaro held other NOAA communication positions, working on issues regarding climate change, satellites, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and topics related to the ocean and atmosphere. He was also assistant weather editor at USA Today, where he developed exclusive weather and environment-related news content for the print, online and broadcast units. A native of Long Island, N.Y., he graduated from Nassau Community College with an associate’s in physical science, received a bachelor’s with concentrations in meteorology and social science from Lyndon State College, and earned a master’s in communications from the University of Oklahoma.

5 Questions with Interdisciplinary Artist, Ty DeFoe

ty

Ty DeFoe is a gentle soul with a lot to say.  He is a teacher and activist. Currently on Broadway, acting in Straight White Men, Ty embodies the word “Shapeshifter” in every way. Fun, funny and deeper than most bodies of water, Ty doesn’t lead with the awards or credits of which he has many.  Ty leads with, “How are you”? He speaks in a way that is well, Ty. We met working with Heather Henson on Crane: on earth, in sky, and have continued to introduce ourselves to each other since.  That seems to be Ty’s way.  He’s complex, simple, warm and searching… 

Here’s 5 questions with vanguard, Ty DeFoe.

What does the phrase “I see you” mean to you. 

To know someone or something’s being. A phrase I’m also trying to use in particular moments to vanguard against ableism.

As the understanding of the word “identity” continues to take shape, how do you define two spirit and how do you embody that definition in the modern world?

Embodying two-spirit is a role, as much as it is a responsibility. Traditionally it was a cultural role in the community and still is today. Today, two spirit means to transcend gender. To express. To activate.  To radically embodied you I am inside and all the ways I need to shape-shift through life.

How do you think traditional ecological knowledge could be folded into the mainstream in this country?

Traditional ecological knowledge is simple. Recycle. Give back to the Mother Earth. Treat her like a goddess.

What does your role as educator mean to you? 

My role as educator means to just be truthful to bend and shape when needed. To take care of community regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, gender, religion. It is to also be curious about things I do not know.

Your “job title” is ever changing.  What do you see your next role in life to be?

Desires to be a country music star.

MOST RECENT FAVORITE SONG:  ALL THE STARS by Kendrick Lamar, SZA.  The beats, the voices, the strings as a backdrop, the message.

Ty Defoe (Giizhig) (He | Him | They | We | Us), Oneida and Ojibwe Nations hyphenated-interdisciplinary artist. He is a shape-shifter, a Grammy Award, and a Jonathan Larson Award winner. Book and lyrics, Clouds Are Pillows for the Moon w/ composer Tidtaya Sinutoke (Yale Institute for Musical Theatre, ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop); Hart Island Requiem (The Civilians R&D Group, GoodSpeed Musicals); Red Pine (Native Voices at the Autry; IAIA of Santa Fe); The Way They Lived (by Micharne Cloughley w/ The Civilians at the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Netflix guest star, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Public Studio’s, MJ Kaufman’s Masculinity Max. Recently seen on Broadway in Young Jean Lee’s, Straight White Men. Did a Robert Rauschenberg Artist in Residence. Resides in NYC and loves the color clear. CalArts, NYU’s Tisch.  tydefoe.com