Black Swan Arts & Media creates and produces original performance and multimedia works that travel beyond borders of race, religion, culture and politics.
We started as ALICE: Arts and Literacy in Children's Education - a grassroots consortium of parents, teachers and artists committed to bringing the arts to underserved kids. Helen Stoltzfus created The Ancestor Project, an oral history theatre program for 2nd and 3rd graders. African-American and immigrant children interviewed their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles and wrote down their stories. Over a six-year period, we collected more than 400 oral histories that spanned the globe from Yemen to Guatemala, and from Cambodia to East Texas.
We realized these extraordinary stories of Vietnamese boat people, Yemeni goat herders, and African-American slaves needed to be heard by the larger community.
These narratives became the genesis of our first performance work, BURNING LIBRARIES: Stories from the New Ellis Island. It brought 30 immigrant stories to life through music, dance, aerial arts, puppetry, and video effects. That, in turn, gave rise to a program for public radio, INVISIBLE AMERICANS: Stories from the New Immigrants. that continues to be broadcast nationally.
Our education program had a long and fruitful run, serving more than 12,000 children in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2004. But our focus has shifted full-time to our production arm. We are very grateful to all those who allowed us to bring the arts into their communities.
We have now embarked on two seemingly disparate projects. One is an exploration of the post-9/11 wars, called, THE PREPARED TABLE: A Feast of Foods, Live Performance and Stories from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the FOB (Forward Operating Base of the U.S. Military). The other is THE LOST AMERICAN JAZZBOOK, a reimagining of the Great American Songbook.
photos by Taija Lynn