Sunday, August 10, 2008

Southern Performers and Alternate Roots

If you're a southern artist and you live in the south and you figure the vision of your work speaks to a higher calling, (whether that means you want to make the world a better place or you have a distinct social calling), you'll want to know about Alternate Roots and more specifically the Annual Alternate Roots conference.

I spent 5 of the 6 days there at the Lutheridge Conference Center just outside of Asheville, NC and was literally blown away by the quality or performances I saw there (you can actually get worn out from the number of standing ovations you participate in), the depth I connected with other artists who shared a similar calling, and the sheer number of career connections I made. Hands down this was the best conference I've been to in the seven years I've been working as a solo performer.

Alternate Roots is 32 years old and their tag-line is "Arts, Community and Activism." The conference consisted of about 50% late career artists, 25% mid career artists, and 25 % emerging artists including a huge group of artist kids who were performing pieces that were amazing.

The days were packed with business meetings that all artists attend related to the organization, artists studios on topics like creating parades and fighting racism through the arts, three incredible meals a day, performances from well known companies such as Junebug, Carpet Bag Theater, Thousand Kites, opportunities to learn how to walk on stilts, juggle and break dance.

And to top it off, starting around midnight there was a late night show run by some of the souths best emcees, comedians and spoken word artists which ran until about 3am in an open air church, where it was quite evident that I was in the midst of a distinct artistic "movement" happening on the premises - and by movement I mean something akin to the "Beat" movement or the "Moveable Feast" movement.

Here's just a handful of artists and art organizations who participated:

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