By Tim Katz
Tim Katz: Jackie, tell us a little about your personal background, and how it’s relevant to the work you do now.
Jackie Calderone: I come from a very challenging childhood situation. I was the oldest of six kids (ranging from 1-10 years old), and we dealt with major family issues including substance and physical abuse, and barely scraping by financially. I feel the arts literally saved my life. I started dancing as soon as I could walk and amazingly was able to study dance starting at age seven. Home was not safe, school was not safe, but dance was a place where everyone was the same. No one knew who was rich or poor as we all wore the same tights and leotards. I have no clue what I would be doing if not for dance. Dance class was a safe place to feel like you were contributing something!
TK: What led to your work with the TRANSIT ARTS program?
JC: I started my career at the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) in the 1980’s, and while there I had amazing experiences that led to national work in the fields of dance and jazz. I gained such an understanding and knowledge of resources and networking, and I discovered I had a talent for helping artists develop professionally.
I transitioned from the OAC into becoming a performing arts presenter and an agent for national touring artists, but somewhat by accident began offering workshops for central city teens at the same time and soon was spending half my time working with these amazing kids. I guess I found my passion.
I've been told I started dancing as soon as I began to walk. In recent years I’ve had strong feelings telling me I will drop dead at the age of 105 while I'm dancing (apologies to anyone who has to witness this). I love this notion and hope it’s true but the major glitch is that I haven't danced for quite some time. I'm not sure when or why I stopped but I slowly tapered off after my last performance in John Giffin's ensemble in 1990. For years I would also go out dancing in clubs until all hours...never needing anything but the movement to create the most spectacular high anyone could ever want....but slowly my creative energy was consumed by helping to create safe spaces for young people to dance, paint, draw, act, rap, drum....on and on.... and my new high came from watching them uncover their own incredible gifts. In the wonder of all this creativity I abandoned my first love.
Fast forward. This week I try something terrifying. It's only three minutes of terrifying [...]
I want to pay tribute to Life and Write, the creative space of my friend Dionne Custer Edwards. She is an artist of many talents (writing, spoken word performance, singing, playing piano, painting, acting, and much more) and a phenomenal mother--nurturing her own imagination, treasuring and guiding her beautiful children, and inspiring a host of other artists.
I snapped this photo of lovely Dionne in 2008 when she was performing and teaching with our TRANSIT ARTS program.
I've just returned from an inspiring two days at the Women on Fire conference in Chicago. I arrived on Thursday and took a walk to help shift my thinking from my pile of responsibilities to a focus on that baby artist who keeps poking at my heart. I didn't plan a destination but found myself at the Museum of Contemporary Art ...and...here's a video of the work that glued me to the sidewalk.
The next day, during the conference, I made a promise to an incredible group of women to nurture my imagination and the ways that it manifests from my hands. I also promised to share the results with others. Some of the words I heard included something like this: "Comparing yourself to others creates hell on earth...comparing yourself to yourself creates opportunities for growth and limitless possibilities." That's not exactly what Rob Berkley said but that's what I heard.
So...just for me...I'm going to commit myself to some imaginative and hopefully creative expression every day and we'll see where [...]