Bayou Bay (born name Donald Thomas) (he/they/stardust pronouns). Bayou is a Twin Cities based installation artist and designer born in St. Paul on the occupied lands of the Dakota & Anishinaabe peoples. Bayou creates mixed-media art called Affirmation Mirrors composed mostly of fabric wrapped wood, yarn, mirrors, and beads. He also creates murals, art installations, digital illustrations, digital and print materials for artists and organizations, woodwork, and works as a teaching artist. Bayou’s art and design embody themes of nature from the micro to the cosmic, black and collective liberation, healing trauma, time, portals, geometry, setting intentions for affirmations, asking questions, symbols, and identity exploration. Water is an especially strong theme in the work as HaHa Wakpa (the Mississippi River) has been a major influence in many levels of Bayou’s life. Bayou is 1/3rd of the Studio Thalo artist collective, a member of the Million Artist Movement artist cooperative, and a collaborating muralist with the Creatives After Curfew mural collective.
Dameun Strange is a sound artist, multi-instrumentalist, and award-winning composer of conceptual electronic and improvised electro-acoustic works focusing on the African diaspora’s stories and themes, often exploring surrealist and afro-futurist ideas with unique impressionism. Dameun is compelled to express through sound and poetry the beauty and resilience of the Black experience, digging into a pantheon of ancestors to tell stories of triumph while connecting the past, present, and future. Dameun has worked with such artists as Leslie Parker, Ananya Chatterjea, J. Otis Powell, and Sha Cage and has been a featured performer in concerts celebrating the work of George Lewis, Thurston Moore, and Henry Threadgill. He is a 2018 recipient of the ACF | Create Award and 2019 Jerome Hill Fellowship. He lives in St. Paul with his wife, Corina, and their 4-year-old, Ezra. Like any good nerd, he enjoys a good sci-fi story and has a soft spot for anything related to cosmology.
Jemila MacEwan is an environmental artist known for their intimately interwoven earthworks, meditations, performances, and expanded cinema projects. Their work takes an expansive view of time and geography, often created through slow acts of physical endurance including a performance in which MacEwan dug a crater as the ‘Human Meteorite’ for thirty days. MacEwan invites audiences to take an interspecies perspective for working through the overwhelming emotional toll of reckoning with ecosystem collapse and mass extinction. They adopt an eco-morphic approach to building kinships with landscapes and their communities of living indwellers, regarding them as teachers and collaborators. MacEwan has presented work extensively internationally including at; ARoS Museum (Denmark), The Australian Consulate-General (NYC), The Harwood Museum (NM), Pioneer Works (NYC), The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts (NYC), NYCXDESIGN (USA), Skaftfell Center for Visual Art (Iceland) and Castlemaine State Festival (Australia). In 2022 MacEwan was awarded the NYSCA/NYFA Fellowship in Architecture/Environmental Structures/Design, The Philip Hunter Fellowship, The BigCi Environmental Art Award, and was invited by TEDxBoston to give a presentation as a Planetary Fellow. They have been invited to attend many residencies notably; Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (USA) BANFF Center (Canada), NARS Foundation (NYC), Paseo Project (NM), and Ox-Bow School of Painting (MI). Their work has been published in Art in America, Boston Globe, SFMoMA Open Space, MONDO Arc, and Artist Profile Magazine. MacEwan has been generously supported by the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Australia Council for the Arts, The New York Foundation for the Arts, The New York State Council on the Arts, The Dame Joan Sutherland Fund, The Ian Potter Cultural Council and a recipient of The Marten Bequest Traveling Scholarship.
Jordan M. Hamilton
Jordan M. Hamilton (b.1989) is a multi-disciplinary artist based in the Twin Cities. Bridging spirit aspirations & connections to earthly transformations & expressions - Jordan’s work explores cosmic & elemental energies through abstract & surrealist painting, iconography, sculpture, collage, adornment, puppetry, mixed media & music. Jordan has worked as a teaching artist since 2007 with various organizations & schools locally & internationally. His work has been featured in a number of exhibitions, streets & stages throughout the Twin Cities. Jordan’s work is deeply woven with & informed by community, steeped in ancestry & influenced by graffiti, calligraphy, textile art, architecture, sacred geometry, typography & nature. Jordan is a founding member of the Power of Vison mural project, a member of the Million Artist Movement, Voice of Culture & a member of Creatives After Curfew mural collective. He is the creator of Ancestral Aspects Adornment.
Khusaba (Irawo) Seka
Khusaba (Irawo) Seka initiated into the priesthood of Orisha worship in the spiritual system of Ifa. Cultural centric advisor, spiritual medium, life coach. I am known as a community organizer, as well as daughter, sister, mother, and grandmother. As a community builder has advocated, led circles, and mobilized the community in a number of different ways. I have facilitated training, led workshops and convened audiences that celebrated culture and its impact on self esteem, health, safety which raised interest in social justice issues and facilitated healing. I am competent in the ways of my people. As a woman of African descent who has been trained in Womanhood (through rights of passage) I have been named with purpose and have honored my ancestors and spirits guardians. As an altar builder, and “Altar builder facilitator”. I am a humble servant of Orisha and my ancestors. I have supported the ceremony and sat in Council with many Spiritual people. Found directions and instructions from her elders, it is with permission from her elders that She does this work. Coaching is an essential part of Who I am. My gifts have been focused within the nonprofit sector to help their staff individually, as well as teams across the US.
Mame Diarra Speis
Mame Diarra (Samantha) Speis (she/her), is a mother and movement improviser intrigued with play, risk, rigor, and experimentation. She is currently a performer and the Co-Artistic Director of the critically acclaimed Urban Bush Women. Her most recent work with the company has been the development of UBW’s new site responsive work “Haint Blu” with Chanon Judson, Co-Artistic Director of UBW, which premiered in 2023. Speis has had the pleasure of working with Gesel Mason, The Dance Exchange, Jumatatu Poe, Deborah Hay (as part of the Sweet Day curated by Ralph Lemon at the MoMA), Baba Israel, Marjani Forte-Saunders, and Liz Lerman. In 2021, she performed as a guest artist with MBDance in the Motherboard Suite with artist Saul Williams, under the direction of Bill T. Jones. Speis was the recipient of the Alvin Ailey New Directions Choreography Lab and was awarded a Bessie for Outstanding Performer in 2017. Mame Diarra’s work has been featured at the Kennedy Center, Long Island University, Joyce SoHo, Hollins University, BAAD, Danspace Project, BAM, Dixon Place, BRIC, Dance Place, and The Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Speis has developed a movement and teaching practice that explores pelvic mobility as the root of powerful locomotion and as a point of connection to the stories, experiences and lineages that reside in each of us. She has been a guest artist and teacher throughout the U.S., South America, Senegal, and Europe. Speis has also taught at Princeton University and Montclair State University as a Lecturer in Dance. She has been fortunate to continue building a strong relationship with her alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), in various capacities and was the commencement speaker for the VCUArts graduating class of 2020-2021. In recent years, Mame Diarra has co-choreographed multiple new works with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar in collaboration with the UBW Dance Company, along with co-choreographing Cannabis: A Viper Vaudeville, created by Baba Israel and directed by Talvin Wilks. Her most recent projects outside of UBW include being a commissioned artist on the Toni Morrison Project through the McCarter Theatre at Princeton University, in addition to being a performer and collaborator in Leslie Parker’s recent work A Call To Remember, both premiering in 2023.
Maggie primarily operates a custom clothing atelier in St Paul, MN. As MHD Couture, she creates one-of-a-kind garments for “the most interesting woman at the party.” Early career work in theatrical and dance costume design informs collaboration with each client to create the perfect outfit for any occasion, or to copy an old favorite. See more of her work at mhdcouture.com.
Masanari Kawahara 川原正也 (US, b. Hiroshima, Japan, 1968) is a Butoh doer, theatre artist, puppeteer, and arts educator for all ages. Since 2010 he has transitioned to focus on movement and Butoh-based works exploring identity, memories, and the continuing theme of violence and healing. As a mover he recently performed in Lelis K. Brito’s A Binding Strangeness as part of Isolated Acts at red eye theater and Valerie Oliveiro’s SOFT FREEDOMS as part of MERGE at the Cowles Center (2022). His solo piece 8’46”(movement for healing), featuring a soundscape by Sho Nikaido, was performed as part of Offerings: BareBones 2020, and was recognized in StarTribune’s 2020 Artists of the Year edition. Previously Masanari was a member of the Butoh group Nenkin Butoh Dan led by Gadu Doushin, which received a 2015 Sage Award for outstanding dance ensemble for Fu.Ku.Shi.Ma (2014). Other dance projects include: Anthea Hamilton’s Cabbage Four Ways (2021) as part of Paradox of Stillness at Walker Art Center; Throw Open The Heavy Curtain (2018) by Sharon Picasso Projects; Census (2016) and Every Other (2015) by Aniccha Arts.
Michael Wimberly’s commissioned compositions have appeared in the repertory of dance companies Urban Bush Women, Joffrey Ballet II, Alvin Ailey, Ailey II, Philadanco, Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, Joan Millers DancePlayers, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Ballet Noir, Alpha Omega, Purelements, and the National Song and Dance Company of Mozambique. Film scores include As an Act of Protest by Dennis Leroy Moore, and Atlantic City Lights by Brent Owens for HBO. Sound design for theater includes Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Classical Theatre of Harlem, Saint Lucy’s Eyes by Bridgette Wimberly for the Women’s Project & Cherry Lane Theatre; Sarah Sings a Love Story by Stephanie Berry, produced by Crossroads Theatre; and Iced Out, Shackled and Chained for the National Black Theatre, for which Wimberly received two Audelco nominations. A veteran percussionist and composer, Wimberly has performed with dozens of luminous artists, including Steve Coleman, Greg Osby, India Arie, D.J. Rogers, and Joe.
Nioka Workman is an artist, curator in the areas of music and dance. Her recent highlights include, features with Black Rock Coalition Orchestra and with Def Poetry Jam CEO Danny Simmons, Wordsmith & Kayo. Nioka’s musical stylings can be heard worldwide on the recordings of luminary artists like Steve Coleman, Greg Osby, India Arie, DJ Rogers and Joe. Her festival credits in and outside of the USA include; Greater Hartford Jazz Festival, Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival, Summer Stage at Billie Holiday Theater, the International African Arts Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, and Sons’d Hiver Festival in Paris. She actively curates and arranges music for events through Firey Strings Company. FSCO has features on Grammy nominated Betty LaVette’s ‘Blackbirds’ and in JFA’s virtual showcase “Bird Calls, celebration of Charlie Parker”. Nioka is currently on tour with Leslie Parker Dance , with the team of Bessie Award winners nia love’s g1 (HOST):LOSTATSEA , is prepping for a tour of Firey String Sistas and is coproducing the ensemble’s sophomore CD 2023.
A 2023 United States Artists Fellow, 2022 Winner of Yale's Windham Campbell Prize in Drama, Sharon Bridgforth is 2020-2023 Playwrights’ Center Core Member, a 2022-2023 McKnight National Fellow and a New Dramatists alumnae. She has received support from The Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, Creative Capital, MAP Fund and the National Performance Network. Her work is featured in Volume 110, No. 4, Winter 2022 of The Yale Review, Teaching Black: The Craft of Teaching on Black Life and Literature, Mouths of Rain an Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought, Feminist Studies Vol 48 Number 1, honoring 40 years of This Bridge Called by Back and But Some of Us Are Brave! Sharon's new book, bull-jean & dem/dey back (53rd State Press 10/2022) features two performance/novels that will be produced by Pillsbury House + Theatre in Minneapolis 2022/2023.
Tenisha George is an interdisciplinary artist, choreographer, and aspiring teacher and cultural anthropologist. She is a Trinbagonian and has a developed interest in Caribbean culture which influenced the pursuance of her current research study. She is presently completing her M.A. in Studio and Related Studies at Florida State University and her studies are primarily engrossed in the dance traditions of the Caribbean. Her work specifically examines how nostalgia can be utilized to heal social segregation in Traditional Trinidadian Dances while exploring the various forgotten or disregarded practices that she would later like to reinstate. Tenisha has a B.F.A. in Performing Arts (with a specialization in Dance) from the University of Trinidad and Tobago where she was trained in various dance forms such as Ballet, Contemporary, Kathak, Odissi, Caribbean Folk dance and many others. It is during her undergrad experience that she developed a great love for Caribbean Folk dance and her culture by extension, hence the reason she is pursuing her master’s degree in this field. Tenisha refers to herself as an aesthete as she finds pleasure in both music and dance and the harmonious beauty that it exhibits. Her artistic path will continue to be fueled by the ability to simply build a sense of community and connection through traditional music and dance, and she aspires to eventually produce work that is a reflection of that.