Braiding the River

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $82 million to fund local arts projects across the country in the NEA’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2017. Included in this announcement is an Art Works award of $20,000 to RiverArts for the multi arts project “Braiding the River”. The NEA received 1,728 Art Works applications and will make 1,029 grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.


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“The arts reflect the vision, energy, and talent of America’s artists and arts organizations,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support organizations such as RiverArts, in serving their communities by providing excellent and accessible arts experiences.”

“RiverArts is delighted for this recognition from the NEA”, RiverArts Executive Director Doug Coe said. “We had been waiting for a project we felt might make a successful grant proposal to the NEA, and “Braiding the River” clearly was that project.

Braiding the River, conceived by Coe as a “mashup” of several arts forms each interpreting a central theme, emerged as a pilot project and workshop presentation in the early Spring of 2016 directed by Marie-Louise Miller and Coe. The pilot project featured dancers Maxine Sherman [former principal dancer with both Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham], Mary Ford-Sussman [former principal dancer with José Limon] and Akiko Taiano; classical music group The Oracle Trio; traditional music from Heartwood, Kristin Prevallet’s original poetry, an original film by Peilin Kuo, and images from various visual artists.

Music included classical compositions of Sergei Rachmaninov, Toru Takemitsu, and contemporary composer David MacDonald, as well as traditional music improvised and recreated by Heartwood on a great variety of instruments. For this newly conceived performance, MacDonald is composing a new seven movement work for chamber group, to correspond to the seven cycles of the piece, the final movement of which will incorporate both the traditional instruments and sounds of Heartwood in combination with the classical chamber music.

Most of the original participants in the pilot project will return. The $20,000 NEA grant, which must be matched by funds from RiverArts, allows artistic breathing room to the creative process, and allows Miller and Coe the opportunity to expand and perfect what they learned from the pilot- space to experiment, hone, and perfect this experimental work, abstract in detail yet operatic in scope.

There will be several workshops that will play a key role in the development of Braiding the River. Each workshop will include an “in-process” performance, so the public will have a chance to witness the creation of sections of the piece at various points in the process. Workshops and final performances are planned for Spring of 2018. Watch here for details.

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