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ASC – ASC Awards Four Creative Renewal Fellowships

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I’m thrilled to share my mini-profiles of these four Charlotte artists – each an inaugural recipient of the $10,000 Creative Renewal Fellowship – Congrats to all!

Audrey Baran

Audrey Baran wants to challenge common misconceptions some have about dance.

“Many think dance is boring or is elitist,” said Baron, founder of her Charlotte-based eponymous troupe, Baran Dance. “These are two things I try to dispel through my work. There is a lot of intimidation about dance that doesn’t need to be there. However you perceive dance – it’s the right way.”

Baran describes herself as a dance artist finding the nexus of her artform where dance, choreography, dance instruction and education intersect.

“Like a lot of dancers, I came out of school and thought, ‘I’m going to get a job as a dancer in a company,’” said Baran, who is a faculty member at Charlotte Ballet Academy, Open Door Studios and adjunct lecturer at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “I came to realize that teaching dance is also an awesome way to contribute to the field, create and keep up with my craft. The more I teach, the better dancer and choreographer I become. Dancing and teaching dance are almost one in the same for me.”

Part of Baran’s work is an outreach class with children at ourBridge, an organization of teachers, tutors and volunteers supporting the Charlotte-area refugee and immigrant community.

In addition to leading her troupe, founded in 2012, Baran holds guest appointments as a choreographer with Piedmont IB Middle School and East Mecklenburg High School, is the founder and co-director of BD2 Youth Company, founded Beyond Baran Dance where she is an instructor and manages time to pursue a M.F.A. from Hollins University. She received her B.A. in Dance from UNC Charlotte, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude.

Baran is a multiple award winner, consistently recognized for excellence in artistry by the Charlotte Dance Festival, Carolina Arts & Theatre Awards, American College Dance Festival, Tobacco Road Dance Productions, Triangle Dance Project and many others.

She is also the recipient of a 2017 Creative Renewal Fellowship from ASC. For her creative renewal, Baran will attend a 10-day workshop in Austin, TX, with world-renowned postmodern dance artist Deborah Hay.

“I work hard to make dance more accessible and relatable for the community,” Baron says. “Dance should be fun and inviting. I do a lot of collaborations with live music to encourage people to experience dance in ways that perhaps people don’t ordinarily think of.”

Dance, according to Baran, “is a primary medium for self-expression.”

“I’ve always felt a little awkward speaking,” she said, “And dance and recently writing, are ways I best articulate myself. The best dance making for me comes from my center, my core – myself.”

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Annabel Manning

Annabel Manning believes creating art has the power to provide voice to the voiceless and make visible those unseen.

A self-described social practice artist, much of Manning’s work is done outside of formal studio space, in the field and with those on the margins of society. Manning creates her work using many mediums including photography, printmaking, painting, video and interactive installations.

One notable project finds Manning in collaboration on art and poetry programs with Latino and other inmates in Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s jail system through the Jail Arts Initiative with the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. The program encourages inmates to represent themselves to the public and develop a better understanding for how they view themselves in their own community. She is also involved in ongoing art projects with undocumented Latino youth and their families in addressing immigration policies surrounding DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.) This work was recently shown at Levine Museum of the New South.

“There aren’t any rules or regulations dominating how you make art and what you can and cannot do in the process,” Manning said. “I want to give the groups I work with an opportunity to highlight their situation. Making art is very special. I believe the process provides a safe context in which participants, myself included, can reflect on their lives and develop ways to improve them.”

Manning notes her motivation for involvement with social justice issues stems in part from her background as an artist born and raised in Mexico. She has an extensive history of projects where her craft is used to cultivate artistic skills, provide a platform for creative expression and improve the lives in African-American and Latino communities.

A life-long student and educator, Manning recently earned her M.F.A. at Duke University. One of her goals as a recipient of ASC’s Creative Renewal Fellowship is to travel to Europe to conduct research and participate in symposia, workshops, and other art-related experiences.

She currently serves in a contract position as Community Arts Program Manager for Community School of the Arts and recently co-developed an art and literacy program for Latino (Montclaire South) and African-American (Grier Heights) preschoolers and their families.

“Giving visibility to those whose situations are not always recognized or seen by others, provides presence and dignity,” she said.

They’re qualities each of us deserve to have.

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Quentin Talley

Music, dialogue and movement used in creating theater “rich as the rhythm it possesses,” are amongst the many components Quentin Talley uses in his storytelling approach and philosophy.

Producer, director, actor, poet, host, consultant, vocalist, recording and teaching artist, Talley is a fixture on Charlotte’s theater and cultural scene – a venerated place he’s held for decades.

“My work has always been a way to study culture, connect communities, while honoring the black experience,” Talley said. “It is an example of finding one’s power in their voice to bring stories into existence. I want to sustain stories communicating the black experience with utmost respect, integrity and love of cultural context. I see the brilliance of artists of color have to set the trends and influence the world. Being a professional creative has taught me so much and challenges me every day to be a better human being.”

Talley founded his nonprofit professional theater company, OnQ Performing Arts, Inc. in 2006. OnQ is the first African-American resident theater company at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. They have partnered with many local arts and cultural institutions including Mint Museum, Levine Museum of the New South, Opera Carolina and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.

OnQ’s performances of “Miles & Coltrane,” a dramatic tribute to these pioneering jazz legends, sold out at East to Edinburgh in New York City and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. It was also featured at the DC Black Theater Festival, the National Black Arts Festival and Piccolo Spoleto.

Talley is widely recognized for his artistic contributions to the community. He’s received the Arc of Triumph Award from Johnson C. Smith University, Jazzy Honoree from the Harvey B. Gantt Center, Center Stage Award from Blumenthal Performing Arts and Metrolina Theater Association’s Emerging Artist Award.

Now, “Q” plans to explore and research the evolution of Jazz, R&B, soul and hip hop music and its relationship to black theater and influence on American culture with the support of an ASC Creative Renewal Fellowship.

“Our stories are too rich, too diverse and too complex to become misused, misguided and misappropriated,” Talley said. “Therefore, above all else, my goal is to be as authentic as possible, never taking creativity for granted. It is a blessing, being on stage is a privilege and our craft is a responsibility worthy of virtue. These are reasons why I continue to do the work that I do.”

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Melissa Salpietra

Melissa Salpietra is a creative problem solver.

The freelance video editor, animator and producer of science-based documentary films approaches her work as a storyteller in ways not dissimilar from how one assembles a complex puzzle. Carefully integrating imagery, text, dialog and soundtrack, Salpietra crafts storylines in her films to inform, educate and entertain viewers and connect with emotion and impact.

“Video editing as an art form is exactly who I am as a person,” Salpietra said. “Editing is a series of problems that need to be solved in order to tell a story. My job as an editor is to take a bunch of footage and put it together in a way that evokes an emotion, inspires or educates and do it in a way that a person watching can ride along.

“My favorite aspect about editing is being in a spot where I’m crafting stories and visuals and get stuck about what happens next. I love to think it through and put myself in the viewer’s shoes and then craft a solution.”

Her unique educational background – she has a Bachelors of Science in Biology from the University of Cincinnati and a Postgraduate Diploma from New Zealand’s University of Otago in Natural History Filmmaking and Communication – creates an ideal foundation for her science-oriented filmmaking career. She worked several years in Boston for NOVA/PBS.ORG as a managing editor where she developed scripts, produced and edited video shorts and multi-media interactives.

Since relocating to Charlotte in 2011, Salpietra has been involved in many creative projects supporting both corporate and nonprofit clients. One her most significant accomplishments won her an Emmy Award for creating and producing the animated web-based series, “Seasonal Science,” for UNC-TV.

“Filmmaking is a visual medium with a timeline,” said Salpietra, “Yet where you begin is not necessarily where you end. Part of my job is to arrange boxes with pictures, actors and other elements in ways that create emotion, tension, suspense – whatever I’m looking for – to guide viewers on a visual journey.”

As Salpietra advances in her career, she is hopeful to vacate the editor’s chair and move into the front-end of the story crafting process. She will use the 2017 Creative Renewal Fellowship she received from ASC to build upon her filmmaking and video-editing experience by studying and practicing the art of scriptwriting and narrative story creation.

“This fellowship will allow me to develop original ideas, find my voice and passion as a female screenwriter, build emotion and character arc and translate all of that into a language that a director can interpret,” said Salpietra. “It is amazing opportunity to learn and explore other aspects of my craft.”

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