Chronic Creativity

Q: How long have you been involved in the Arts? (OK, you are how old?)

A: I am thirty five years old and have been involved in the arts since I was a child. I directed a Wizard of Oz show for all of the neighborhood kids, made up my own shows, and put on concerts regularly for my parents. I tried to give my little brother lessons on the drums, but became impatient with him. As a child, it was my ambition to get everyone to love the arts as I did. I have actually been employed in the arts in some capacity for at least 10 years.

Q: What is your interest in the Arts?

A: I love it all! Performing arts, music, visual arts, poetry, etc.!

Q: Why have you been involved in the Arts?

A: The arts were a way for me to escape the deep family issues that were going on in my home as a child. A young child cannot physically escape an environment, but he/she can certainly escape by using imagination. That's what I did. I believe that every healthy person, family, and society should thrive in the arts. Cultures void of the arts are oppressive environments. To me, the arts represent freedom. Freedom is a very important metaphor for me. I long to see people walk in freedom.

Q: What started your initial interest?

A: I would say that I was created for it. Family members tell me that I was writing songs since as early as four. I loved singing. My mom used to sing lullabies to me and my dad played Neil Diamond on full blast for me. My parents definitely fostered the love of music. It is also heavily in my blood as I had grandparents and great grandparents who were highly musical.

Q: What is the most important thing to you when you do anything in the Arts?

A: I like to see people look at something a different way. I bore easily. The arts have this tremendous ability to change things around. I have seen it transform people and environments. Change is definitely one of the greatest things that I like to see. The environment has to be right. I must be in an environment that doesn't place any lids on the things that I want to do. I have been in environments that will only let me go so far. To me, that is miserable.

Give me a wide open space, don't place any limits or conditions on what I can or cannot do, and trust me to do what I have to do. Some of my most amazing contributions in the arts have thrived because the environment was conducive and open to it. On the other hand, I have tried to created change through the arts in other environments and it was miserable because of the conditions that were placed on me.

Q: What is the most important thing to you when you introduce others to anything involving the Arts?

A: I love to see their excitement. When people become involved in the arts, they just come alive. I love to see that childlike grin in their face as they get involved. I love to show people that have talents if they will just learn to flow and get over their fear of failure. People involved in the arts tend to stay young at heart. I have seen this over and over again. I love to see people embracing life through the eyes of a child... with simplicity and joy.

Q: What is the area in which you are most passionate?

A: Currently, I am the most passionate about race relations in America. I am also passionate about the Kingdom of God and using the arts as a vehicle by which society and people can be changed. It's amazing how many sermons I have preached using the arts and nobody even realized it until they thought long and hard about it later. The arts can get a message across in ways that normal speeches or conversations cannot. It is a form of communication.

Because of my upbringing, I never learned how to effectively communicate as a person through conversation. Writing and the arts allows me to converse. It's really the only language that I know and am fluent in. Talk to me one and one, and you will definitely get a quieter, meeker, more shy part of me... but that's not the real me. I am full of so much passion that it frightens even me at times! How does a person with so much passion communicate with others healthily? Via the arts!

Q: How have the Arts influenced your life?

A: When I see something artistically very good or something that moves me, I will carry that memory very strongly. I am very forgetful about "day to day things" but I can tell you some of the artistic things that have moved me the most and influenced me. That is the cool thing about the arts. If you see it or hear it, you can catch it if you have the right sort of mind.

Q: What have you done in the Arts to influence others?

A: I care about justice. There are people who deserve to play music who haven't gotten a chance due to power issues. I like to see the underdog come on top. That is why I care so much about promoting these long forgotten artists in Grafton. They deserve to be honored. Just because a person is the wrong race or from the wrong place in the societal structure doesn't mean that they can't be lifted higher. This is part of where my passion for the Kingdom of God comes in. Jesus delighted in lifting up those who society rejected and deemed unworthy. I guess that as an artist, I have had it done to me many times. It has hurt me so badly that I want to do all that I can to help others.

Q: Who do want to emulate in your life?

A: I really want to emulate the love of God. It sounds trite and very religious. But I mean it.

Q: Is there someone whose work has influenced (in or out of the Arts)?

A: Rich Mullins has been a huge inspiration to me because, although he could have been just another wealthy Christian artist, he chose to give his money and life away to missions... particularly the Native Americans. When I graduated from high school as an honor student, I bounced back and forth between wanting to be a star on Broadway to wanting to be a music missionary. I think that I really have a passion for missions... so did Rich.

Queen Esther in the Bible is another fan of mine. I really see myself as a queen and feel that it is my duty to use power to help and lift up others. I take this role very seriously and don't really tell anyone that I secretly view myself as a queen.

Maya Angelou tops it up there as well. I would do anything to be able to just write songs and poems and musicals all day while visiting with friends throughout the day like she does. Actually, anyone in the arts really inspires me. I have a special fondness for artistic people and can spot them a mile away. I think they are often misunderstood. •

Angela K. MackAngie Mack Reilly is a musical director, performing artist, blues educator and writer who has a wealth of experience and connections in the arts and entertainment industry. More