THE GENESIS OF ILLUMINARTS: AMANDA CRIDER, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
IlluminArts is an art song and vocal chamber music series I started in Miami three years ago. It’s almost amazing to think that it has already been three years! The amount of work, learning, and passion that has gone into building a series from scratch, and everything that goes along with that (becoming a non-profit, forming a board, learning about grants and marketing, etc.), has all been driven by my love for the art form, and how to make it relevant to our ever-changing audience, especially the audience here in Miami.
As a singer, I have always found joy in studying and performing song. I love poetry. I love chamber music. I love the intimate communication you can have with other musicians just through the notes and words, and how you choose to interpret and color each one. I love the way composers find a way to further enhance the beauty of words that were already meaningful, poignant, funny, charming, or clever. I love that each song is a world unto itself: a snapshot of emotion.
I was privileged to participate in Marilyn Horne's "The Song Continues…" master class series at Carnegie Hall in 2010. As part of the seminar, we had a round table discussion about how to bring art song to our community. If I had to pinpoint a moment where I thought starting a series was something I could do, it was during that conversation. At that time, I had recently decided to make Miami my home base, and was trying to find my place in the cultural life of the city. Miami is a very young city. Culturally, it is going through a growth spurt that is exciting to take part in. New organizations are being created all of the time. People are choosing to create art and music here in innovative ways. It’s not a city that is steeped in tradition, but instead is looking for its own, unique voice. I wanted to create a series here that made sense for Miami. I also acknowledge that the presentation of classical music must evolve to remain relevant for a younger generation.
I was attending an art song recital in Washington D.C. in 2013 when the idea dawned on me for IlluminArts. The concert I was attending was a very traditional art song recital: sets of songs in different languages, very little communication from the singer about why they chose the songs, and the audience had the texts to the songs, so instead of watching the singer they were reading their programs. It was everything that I knew wouldn't work for Miami's audience. I thought about what makes Miami special: Miami has a contemporary visual art scene that is becoming one of the most important in the world. We have countless museums and galleries.
Then an idea just popped in my head. ART song. ART. Visual ART. Miami is filled with Visual ART and tons of spaces that could be used as venues. Taking the idea further, I thought, “We will plan performances of art song using the visual art in the space as inspiration for the theme of our concerts, so that the Visual ART and the MUSIC reflect and illuminate one another.” And so IlluminArts was born.
It has been a wonderful way for audiences to engage more of their senses in experiencing the music. We've taken away the constraints of the traditional concert hall. Each performance is created specifically for the space and the art we are illuminating. Sometimes we take our audiences on a walking musical tour of a museum, sometimes there are chairs, sometimes we turn off the lights, or encourage our audience to participate in the experience in non-traditional ways. It’s fun for us too, to think outside the box. How can we engage audiences to enjoy music they may not have considered before?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive from both the audiences and the museums and galleries. An additional benefit has been that I am able to expose Miami's audience to truly world-class performers, and to bring in culture our city deserves while it is forming its own identity. And the best part is that once all of the work, the marketing, the grant writing, the planning is in place, I get to sit back and enjoy this wonderful music through inspiring and brave performances given by artists I admire.
Amanda Crider is the artistic director of IlluminArts