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Gabi's First Year: Art2Action Highlights

Updated: Aug 7, 2023



Hi! My name is Gabi Vigueira, General Manager with Art2Action. I welcome she/they pronouns, and I am publishing this from Tampa, FL, land of the Seminole & Tocobaga peoples.


My Art2Action journey started with a hurricane.


…Technically it started with a referral from my mentor, artist scholar Serap Erincin, to whom I am eternally grateful. But I’m trying to set the scene here.


Picture it: New Orleans. September 1st, 2021. There is no power, a boil water advisory, and an entire tree on the roof of my house in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida’s trip through town two days prior. Two weeks before that, I signed an offer letter agreeing to move to Tampa, FL (a city I’d never visited) for what I hoped would be my dream job. A dream job that starts today. Remotely. Via internet. A thing I do not have at the moment. Because, hurricane.


I did what any “the show must go on”-type theater person would do, harnessing a determination forged by memories of poorly-timed tech week emergencies: fired up my external battery in the one spot I could get a cell signal and dialed into a day full of Zoom meetings. My entire life path shifted, and I haven’t looked back since.


After hearing stories about everything from theatre production, to video editing, to admin and finance, to refinishing the floors in our residency space, my friends back home are always asking, “...what is your job again, exactly?”


My usual response is, “How much time do you have?”


So what is my job, exactly?


Art2Action creates, develops, produces and presents original theatre, interdisciplinary performances, and progressive cultural organizing. We support women artists, artists of color, queer or trans-identified artists, and creative allies, a direct response to systemic inequity in the arts field.


In the year since I joined as General Manager (one year, 3 months, and 15 days today…but who’s counting?), we have premiered three original staged works, and have 4 new commissioned works in development; presented 20 virtual events; worked or presented in 9 U.S. states, plus Mexico, and Spain; saw record attendance numbers at our Veteran’s Open Mic event (the longest-running event of its kind in the United States). Eleven Reflections on September, the digital film developed during the pandemic, has received 15 official selections, plus awards, and screened nationally and internationally– and we currently have 3 more artistic films in post-production. We have hosted 12 artists in residencies in NYC and Tampa, FL, and Baja California (Mexico), and we are a fiscal sponsor for numerous projects, including the Auntie Sewing Squad founded by Pulitzer-Prize finalist Kristina Wong.


…as you can see, we’ve been a little busy this year. And in between all that, we were recognized as a Southern Cultural Treasure by SouthArts!

We saw this sign while on the road in Minnesota and couldn't resist. We're a treasure!

How do we do it?


On paper, Art2Action is a two-person team: Artistic & Executive Director, Andrea Assaf, and me, as General Manager. In practice, Art2Action is a global network of artists, community partners, national networks, organizers, and activists forming and deepening relationships and increasing impact in ways that live on beyond the timeline of any single creative work. We do not own a physical theater space or operate within a traditional season structure. This organizational design keeps us nimble while maximizing our reach – a quality that has been absolutely essential for success in an ongoing pandemic and ever-changing arts field.


It also means we can direct as much funding as possible back into the pockets of artists in the form of artist fees, housing, travel, per diem, and resources provided in-kind directly to artists.


GABI'S FIRST YEAR IN REVIEW: ARTISTIC HIGHLIGHTS


In the sea of memorable moments from this year, here are just a few of my highlights:



November 2022 | Carver Community Cultural Center, San Antonio TX


I knew I was hooked on Art2Action during the development of Eleven Reflections: San Antonio. Just after the 20th anniversary of 9/11, this production was the first in a national series of new digital and performance works examining the impact of the post-9/11 era on Middle Eastern/North African (MENA) communities globally, as well as Black, Indigenous and People of Color in the U.S. I arrived in San Antonio with no idea what to expect, but 18 days of community workshops, story circles, and rehearsals later, we had a show! Our 13-person ensemble of actors, writers, and musicians ranged from professional artists with decades of experience to community members who had never set foot on a stage before, sharing their stories through original pieces of artistic work directed by Andrea. The impact this had on the local community reached far beyond those in the ensemble. (read about it in actor/playwright Anna De Luna’s blog post here!)


It was during this process that singer, Hip Hop artist, and Poet Laureate of San Antonio, Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson, and internationally acclaimed Syrian Opera Singer Lubana Al Quntar met one evening to explore how they might collaborate with the jazz standard “Autumn Leaves” as a focal point. These two artists are experts in their respective disciplines; what I witnessed next was a breathtaking display of raw talent and magic.


Lubana Al Quntar & Andrea Vocab Sanderson

After some discussion about themes with Andrea, Lubana sang "Autumn Leaves" just once (but if you’ve heard Lubana’s voice, you know that is enough to inspire anyone for several lifetimes). Vocab immediately started writing, and an impossibly short time later, shared a poem that couldn’t have been more perfect for everything the work was exploring. Lubana and Vocab put the pieces together, and in less than an hour from when they first met, created the most stunning work of art together. So stunning in fact, that Art2Action, the Carver Community Cultural Center, and the National Performance Network are co-commissioning a full length collaboration between Vocab and Lubana –stay tuned!






June 2022 | Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg FL

September 2022 | Coslada, Madrid, Spain


Created by nationally acclaimed choreographer Celeste Miller and Artistic Director of Mujeres en Ritual Danza-Teatro, Dora Arreola, At Water’s Edge / Al filo del agua is a binational collaboration featuring Miroslava Wilson, Artistic Director of Pendulo Cero Danza Contemporanea, vocalist Siki Carpio and violinist/composer Chip Epsten, exploring the shifting of borders / edges / filos, the natural and political forces that shape them, and women who resist.


The performance premiered at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, FL on June 23rd. The following day (my birthday, of all days) the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.


This devastating news amplified the relevance and urgency of the themes of the work. In response, the artists took the following day to make adjustments to the script, sharpening the language surrounding women's rights and bodily autonomy. These changes to the script were noted during the next post-performance dialogue by members of the audience who attended both performances. Margaret Murray, Curator of Public Programs and Community Engagement at the museum, was deeply moved by the changes. One audience member said to her, “I don’t know about you, but I think everybody in the audience needed that moment of catharsis.”


I know I did.



In September 2022, the production toured to Coslada, Madrid, Spain as part of Festival Coslada, Radial. It was an absolute dream to support such brilliant artists on that adventure, and all that I learned throughout the process will stay with me forever. (That is a blog post in itself, for another day!)


November 2022 | Arab American National Museum, Dearborn MI


Exactly one year to the day after my world was forever changed by Lubana Al Quntar and Andrea Vocab Sanderson in that San Antonio Airbnb, I found myself witnessing another masterful duet in DRONE: Testimonies & Music, a work-in-progress performance of excerpts of Andrea Assaf’s play based on the true testimonies of survivors and witnesses of U.S. drone strikes, performed by Ashley Wilkerson, Anu Yadav, and Andrea stepping in as the third actor (while also directing and fiscal sponsoring a convening!) For the music portion, it was Andrea’s vision to bring Lubana together with vocalist, theatre-maker, and Artistic Director of ArtSpot productions, Kathy Randels, to explore an encounter between U.S. Christian music and Middle Eastern music—particularly where both traditions incorporate droning as part of their sonic aesthetic. Once again, in an impossibly short amount of time, Lubana, Kathy, and musicians Eylem Basaldi, Victor Ghannam, and Roger Kashou developed an original soundscore unlike anything I’ve ever heard before.


I had the terrifying honor of joining the ensemble on stage to add some harmonies (some of y'all know I don't sing much in the real world...just online!) but the opportunity to be onstage next to Kathy and Lubana?? There aren't words.



If I had to boil it down to a singular favorite aspect of the work, it would be this: Art2Action brings people and art forms from vastly different backgrounds and traditions into conversation together. The possibility within those conversations for extraordinary artmaking and real social change is what gets me out of bed in the morning.


Someday far in the future, when I look back on my first year with Art2Action, I will remember all of these things. I will also remember it in flashes of the infinite kindnesses I’ve been shown by everyone in the Art2Action universe:


The time in San Antonio when a community partner literally gave me the coat off his back because I told him I liked it; my first in-person story circle with an incredible group of women at the Muslim Children Education and Civic Center; beautiful cards from Cassandra Parker-Nowicki of the Carver Cultural Community Center and Tanya Neumeyer, our incredible remote Technical Director, after they learned how much I love handwritten notes; Zoom high-fives with our webmaster, James Geiger; Gayle Isa helping me to decode Quickbooks mysteries; Heather Raffo’s last slice of lemon cake, which she shared with me when she learned I was also gluten free; impromptu armchair photoshoots on the streets of New York City (Andrea found the perfect chair for our artist residency space, and we carried it blocks away and up the stairs); the way my days are instantly better when James Scruggs whips out pom poms on Zoom; birthday ice cream with Dora Arreola and the ensemble of At Water’s Edge / Al filo del agua; the time Andrea and Celeste Miller wrote an entire NPN grant in just 2 hours so I could join them on tour in Spain; pep talks from DJ Cotton; Stargazing with Board Members Sheree Greer, Margo Miller, and host Camille Shafer at AZULE during our strategic planning retreat; my first in-person Two Minutes with Pangea World Theater; the deep generosity of Pam Korza and Barbara Schaffer Bacon of Animating Democracy, even from miles away and through a computer screen; an impromptu appreciation circle with the ensemble of DRONE; making my first snow angel with Diane Roberts on a frozen lake in Minnesota; delicious home cooked meals by Meena Natarajan and Dipankar Mukherjee, Anu Yadav, Kathy Randels, Dora Arreola, and Tanya Mote, just to name a few!



And most of all, the many, many times I have watched Andrea Assaf model true excellence in artistry and leadership. None of this would be possible without her extraordinary vision and hard work. I like to joke that I’m just trying to be a good Robin to her Batman (future Halloween goals!), but in seriousness – I could not ask for a better leader.


To keep a great thing going, we need support from artists, art-lovers, and community members like you! As a nonprofit organization, annual support from individual donors increases our capacity to make a deep local and broad national impact, and to support artists of color, women, and LGBTQ2+ artists who are creating bold, new, relevant works. And your donation is tax-deductible! DONATE TODAY!


Thank you for the support, and let the adventure continue!



 

Gabrielle “Gabi” Vigueira is a multidisciplinary artist and General Manager of Art2Action Inc. Gabi has a B.A. in communication studies and an M.A in performance studies from Louisiana State University. She gained experience in experimental performance and installation while working and performing in the HopKins Black Box (HBB), a not-for-profit experimental theater and classroom. During this time, she served on the HBB Board, performed at conferences and festivals across the U.S., and won the HopKins Black Box Award for outstanding achievements in performance studies. Gabi worked as a scenic artist/production assistant for Tigre, a concept album and video project by world music ensemble/collective Banda Magda (Verve Label Group & GroundUP Music, 2017). Her video editing work for Persistence of Vision: Antarctica by Patricia A. Suchy and Vince LiCata (funded in part by a National Science Foundation grant) has been installed at Alpine Gallery in Jardin Alpin du Lautaret, France and the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Her paintings were recently exhibited at LSU’s Union Art Gallery and are a permanent feature in Visionary Art Collective’s virtual gallery. Gabi also has experience in theater production, teaching, marketing, and more.

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