Local Artist and Arts Advocate Receives National Grant For Visionary Arts Project

Poet, writer and arts advocate, Celeste Lawson is one of 42 artists selected from among a pool of more than 1,000 applicants from across the United States to produce her proposed live multi-arts performance, “Typography Of Woman: I Am Not Invisible.”

When the Multi-Arts Production Fund, a national arts funding organization based in New York City, announced the winners of their 2019 grants, Lawson was one of only two honorees from the Western New York region, the other awardee is the GeVa Theater located in Rochester, New York. 

“I am deeply honored to be chosen for this grant that includes such prestigious organizations as Lincoln Center and artist, Meshell Ndegeocello,” said Lawson. “It is also very humbling because it’s a call to action, to step up your creative game and exploit your imagination. It demands that a high degree of truth as well as artistry represent the subject matter and embrace the audience at the same time.”

Typography Of Woman: I Am Not Invisible will be a live performance designed to leverage the   power and universal language of the arts to bring attention to one of the world’s most heinous and hidden crimes: Human Trafficking. Using a range of arts media, “Typography” will present selections of original works written or visually created by human trafficking survivors and interpreted by local professional artists through music, poetry, and dance.

The project will also have a visual arts component that showcases original art of various media themed around human trafficking that is planned to run during the month of March 2020 as a tribute to National Women’s History Month.

The artists participating in Typography of Woman are also survivors of life

      Local Artist & Arts          Advocate Celeste Lawson

challenges, not trafficking, but powerful enough to give them empathy and deep compassion for the trafficking survivors and their work. The performance is also to help raise awareness about Project Mona’s House, a local nonprofit organization that helps women victims of trafficking reclaim and restore their lives.

Regarding the grant Lawson states, “I was introduced to the true tragedy of human trafficking when I attended the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995 as a member of one of the delegate groups from Western New York. It was a terrifying eye-opener and for years I have been hoping to find a way to effectively raise awareness on this travesty, and bring attention to the reality that Buffalo, and the Niagara region are robust pipelines in the human commerce trade.”

After several rounds of false starts over the years to launch her idea, Lawson says she has finally landed on a solid mechanism to bring the project to fruition. She has also found the perfect artistic collaborators to work with. Last January, at the invitation of musician and composer, Drea d’Nur, Celeste attended a fundraising concert given by d’Nur to support Project Mona’s House.  “Immediately after that concert, I knew it was time to try and pull the project together one more time,” Lawson states. “It was an opportunity to do something positive to help this cause that has stayed with me for over 20 years, and simultaneously work with members of my own community and support the efforts of young Black women who are striving to make a positive mark on society. “

Robin Hibbert, dancer/choreographer is also a collaborator. A recent recipient of a Western New York Dance and Choreographer’s Project grant, Hibbert will choreograph the dance segments of the performance, and Drea d’Nur will develop and create the soundtrack for the production.

“It’s really rewarding,” comments Lawson, “to work with these younger artists who are succeeding in bringing new energy to historical moments in time such as Drea is doing with her Spirit of Nina program, and Robin creating her own technique and dance form based on her knowledge and experience with traditional African dance and modern dance from her training with the Alvin Ailey school. And certainly with Kelly Galloway, the executive director of Project Mona’s House, a young woman passionate about bringing hope and help to the women who have come to Mona’s House seeking shelter from the storm of human trafficking.”

The live performance of Typography of Woman: I Am Not Invisible is scheduled for Saturday, March 20, 2020 in Rockwell Hall Performing Arts Center, and on Sunday, March 21st a panel discussion and Q&A session will be held in the Burchfield Penney Art Center and includes excerpts from the Saturday night production. Tickets for the Rockwell Hall performance will go on sale January 2020 and the Burchfield Penney event is free and open to the public. More information on this project will available in the next couple of weeks. “I am in the process of building the webpage, establishing social media accounts for the project at this time, and having the graphics designed, then full steam ahead!” stated Lawson.  “ I want the community to be proud of what we are doing.”

Questions about this project  scheduled for Saturday, March 20, 2020 in Rockwell Hall Performing Arts Center, and on Sunday, March 21st a panel discussion and Q&A session will be held in the Burchfield Penney Art  Center can be directed to: typographyofwoman@gmail.com