GCU dance community finds a way to keep creating
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
When Isiah Johnson graduated from Grand Canyon University with a dance degree last spring, he wasn’t sure when he would be able to dance in a studio again. With the pandemic in full swing, multiple jobs in the arts were paused and gathering places were closed.
That’s why he was relieved when nueBOX, which encourages performance artists to stay in the metro Phoenix area after graduating by providing opportunities and studio space, approved his residency application. It has allowed him to keep dancing … and keep creating.
“They provide us with exposure space to create whatever, really, which is like really cool, especially right now because studio space is really unavailable because of COVID and studio spaces are expensive in general,” Johnson said. “They kind of help people get a little boost, which I think is really cool.”
Johnson applied for the residency shortly after graduating and has been utilizing the studio space to remain active in his craft over the summer.
“I was afraid when I graduated that I’d be counting the days until I could dance again,” he said. “It’s nice to have it still be as much a part of my schedule as it was before.”
He may be the only GCU graduate to be selected for a nueBOX residency this summer, but he isn’t the only member of the Lopes dance community to be associated with nueBOX. GCU dance instructor Halley Willcox is a permanent artist in residence (PAR) in the organization. She utilizes the space and resources that nueBOX makes available and works as its marketing director as well.
“I would say it can give opportunities for students who graduate,” she said. “It can give them opportunities to grow in their artistries and also sometimes increase skills.”
Although she’s a new member of the College of Fine Arts and Productions dance faculty, having just completed her first year teaching in the program, Willcox said the tight-knit environment of the GCU dance community was a primary interest and has offered her another environment that allows her to assist other performers.
Other GCU dance faculty shared Willcox’s enthusiasm about the metro Phoenix organization.
“I can’t even imagine life in the Phoenix dance community before nueBOX,” said GCU Dance Director Susannah Keita. “They are a young, and forward-thinking organization like the emerging artists they support, and they offer outstanding opportunities.”
One of those opportunities is a program that Willcox has played a role in establishing.
Recently, Willcox also has been working on nueBOX’s new initiative, The Black Artist Fund, which helps 25 local artists by providing money, studio time and social media exposure.
“People might say they want $100 to maybe buy some art supplies or to further a project and we just, no questions asked, give them $100 and they can go on their way. There is nothing we need in return,” Willcox said. “This is a program that we recently started that we’ll be continuing to do in the future, and it’s kind of evolving as we speak to the artists to see what they want.”
Willcox said The Black Artist Fund has been utilized by several members of the GCU dance community, including alumni and current dance students. Although applications for this round of fund recipients no longer are being accepted, nueBOX plans to accept applications again once it has acquired enough funding.
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].
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