Heather is a performer in the Twin Cities who would like to build a touring circuit around the Midwest that would serve young women artists.
City: St. Paul, Minnesota
Who is your community?
My community is the spoken word and hip-hop community in the Twin Cities and, in particular, I work with young people and try to engage them in writing their own story instead of allowing someone else to do it for them. I lead workshops and classes with mostly high school aged students and I also co-host a weekly open mic and a monthly open mic. I have a particular passion for making space for women’s voices in hip-hop as we are oftentimes overlooked.
Give us a behind-the-scenes look at your average day.
My average day consists of co-leading a spoken word group at PCYC HS in North Minneapolis. We write poetry and rhymes as well as listen to and read other poet’s work and we use critical response to get deeper into the work. I meet with multiple people in the community – everyone from artists working in other mediums to arts organizers and activists, always searching for ways to make more access and create a more vibrant community.
What challenge in your life or work are you most interested in overcoming?
Balance. As a creative person, it can be very difficult to balance the business and the art. I think that I struggle when having to deal with both because the require very different things. If I pay more attention to one than the other, the other suffers. Since I never stop being an artist (we never clock out), this is both a life and work problem. Organization, scheduling, booking, time management are all things I sometimes struggle with and can cause problems if not handled. Obviously, overcoming these obstacles would help me greatly and help propel me to the next level in my work as an artist and community member.
If you could do any job, what would you do and why?
I have a lot of experience hosting events, performing and teaching, and I would love to continue to do those things, but I would also really love to be able to lead a team of young female hip-hop and spoken word artists who could be touring around the region and influencing young women across the Midwest and beyond. Why? Because I know how hard it has been for me to make it or even just get by. I would love to opportunity to help someone else do the things that either I have not had the opportunity to do or have been very difficult for me.
What is the most beneficial aspect of living in the OTA region when it comes to your career?
The most beneficial aspect of living in the Twin Cities is that I can live here and do what I do. There are a number of grant opportunities that exists here that don’t exist in other places and there is a diverse arts community that I am lucky to be a part of. There are opportunities to work in schools, community centers and arts spaces and there are a number of progressive thinkers and creators which is great inspiration! I feel very lucky to be able to live and do the work that I love in an area where art is appreciated and supported.
At what intersection do you live your life?
I live at the intersection of flexibility and innovation.
Where do you think good ideas come from?
I have a little poem about capturing genius – a little creature who sneaks and lurks in the corners of my apartment and my mind. That little thing is quick and stealthy and, of course, very witty. It presents itself at the most inappropriate time and as a vessel for this sometimes illusive energy, and I must be ready at any given moment to capture the genius and let it come through me. The good ideas come from everywhere, everything and they pop up out of no where. The real trick is to recognize them when you come across them. You know, capture the genius.
What’s the best way to put inspiration into action?
Do it. Write it. Dance it. Paint it. Say it! Don’t hold back. Let go and fly by the seat of your pants. The fear will dissipate. I really do believe you just have to lay the inspiration out there – if it’s an idea then meet with other like-minds and start organizing. If it’s a project, you have to make time and space to let it come out.
What’s the greatest risk you’ve taken?
I grew up in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, a town of about 8,000 people. I moved to Minneapolis in 1995 to pursue a career in songwriting and performance. I didn’t have a place to live and slept on an air mattress for a few months until finding a place to live. I knew only 2 people, and I found my way onto the spoken word and hip-hop scene by going to every open mic and show I could find. I didn’t know that it would become the driving force in my life. I was young and naive and my naivete served me and allowed me to avoid thinking that I should be afraid. My love for the art was what drove my past all those ideas of fear and failure and by 2001 I had won multiple awards for my work in Minneapolis. The greatest risk I’ve ever taken was coming to a city I was unfamiliar with and thinking that I could actually make something happen!
What’s your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?
Throughout my life, I have typically stayed away from viewing things as failures but instead looking at these things and experiences as opportunities to grow and strengthen myself and my craft. I think that if I had to name a failure it would be that, for a long time, I doubted what I was doing was important or that what I had to say wasn’t being heard. I continued to do and speak because it was part of me so my doubt didn’t stop me, or at least I didn’t think it did. But it did hold me back. Worrying what other people thought of me changed the way I moved through the world and I let my perception of other people’s actions guide me too much. This, I believe, is my biggest failure.
Who do you hope to leave a legacy for?
I hope to leave a legacy for young women. Eventually, I would like to have a fund for young women writers and hip-hop artists, something that would help make the road not so long and the obstacles not so vast. I have already started this legacy by co-founding B-Girl Be, a celebration of women in hip-hop that took place between 2005-2010 but my dream is to now get young female artists outside of the cities they come from and into new communities not only for those communities to benefit but for the artists themselves. I have been able to travel some through the artistic work I do and it has changed me for good. It has developed my artistry, heightened my standards and provided much-needed inspiration, and I have been lucky enough to bring that inspiration and knowledge back to the community I live and work in.
What passion project are you working on right now?
I believe very strongly in community and how much we need it in this world right now. Having an artistic outlet has allowed me a leadership role in community throughout my life, which has benefitted my self-esteem, especially as a young person, but has also taught me many things throughout my adult life. My passion is undying in the realm of providing spaces for people to hear and be heard, to create and inspire, image and manifest. I would love the opportunity to be pushed and guided and also push and guide. I am forever the student and the teacher. This year, I decided that I wanted to expend my education and be more thoughtfully focused on that aspect of my work.
I would like to work on building a touring circuit around the Midwest that would serve young women artists and myself in expanding our reach beyond our cities of residency and also provide us access to the communities we visit to learn and grow. In connection to this, I have a recording project I am finishing that features all female artists and an accompanying book that I have created curriculum around, and my hope is to take this work into different spaces and lead workshops while also mentoring younger artists in teaching and leading workshops. I want to help young female artists not only get their work out but also broaden their talents so that they can better support themselves.
I hope to create lasting connections for not only myself but many communities of women artists so that they can take the reins and take action for themselves.