UNCSA announces recipients of artpreneurship grants

Sound designer and composer Christopher Baine believes artists should be limited only by their imaginations, and not by technical ability, educational level or financial resources. His innovative multimedia software, Canvas, will help artists utilize technology in simpler ways, and it has landed him the inaugural $20,000 Chancellor’s Artpreneur of the Year Award from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

Chancellor Lindsay Bierman presented the award to Baine, a 2006 graduate of the School of Design and Production, at Saturday’s Commencement Exercises.

Christopher Baine

Christopher Baine, Artpreneur of the Year / Photo: Allen Aycock

“Christopher Baine is an artist who has the entrepreneurial spirit and possesses the grit it takes to create transformational work,” Bierman said. “He felt limited in what he could create by the tools at hand, so he created a new tool, a platform for multimedia artists such as sound, video, and lighting designers, which allows them to collaborate, have more control over the performance and create more dynamically responsive art.”

The Artpreneur of the Year Award was established last year to support alumni who establish creative projects or creative enterprises of the highest merit, artistic excellence or innovative potential. It is part of Bierman’s three-part initiative, administered by the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts, to nurture entrepreneurship among students, alumni, faculty and staff.

A second part of the initiative is Artpreneur Grants for Graduating Students. The first four recipients of those $2,500 grants were announced in Saturday’s Commencement Program. They are Ebony Cawthorne, who received a B.F.A. from the School of Filmmaking with a concentration in producing; Carina Mae Marquez, recipient of a B.F.A. in Filmmaking with a cinematography concentration; Jordan Medley, who received a B.F.A. in Dance with a contemporary dance concentration; and percussionist Douglas Rowe, recipient of a Master of Music.

An Artpreneur is an artist who is not defined by what is, but inspired by all that could be; who is business savvy and technologically aware; who is devoted to creating value and impact through their creative practice; who reaches beyond existing disciplines to create new ways to connect with others; who is willing to take creative risks in order to positively transform our world.

Chancellor Lindsay Bierman

The third part of the Chancellor’s Artpreneurship Initiative, grants for UNCSA-affiliated individuals who participate in the Creative Startups Accelerator, was awarded last year to alumnae Christal Schanes for her medical wig-building business, and Tonya Sheffield for The Dream School, an after-school and summer camp provider that utilizes podcasting, digital video and coding to enhance students’ basic learning skills. They received business consultation and networking services and funding totaling $25,000. Applications are open through June 3 for the next iteration of the Creative Startups Winston-Salem Accelerator hosted by the Center for Creative Economy.

Bierman said an artpreneur is “an artist who is not defined by what is, but inspired by all that could be; who is business savvy and technologically aware; who is devoted to creating value and impact through their creative practice; who reaches beyond existing disciplines to create new ways to connect with others; who is willing to take creative risks in order to positively transform our world.”

Christopher Baine: Artpreneur of the Year

Baine has worked in live theater as a sound designer and composer for 15 years. He is developing Canvas through his company Avae, which he created to bridge the chasm between technology and the arts.

“I love integrating technology into my art,” he said. His work as sound designer for “When She Had Wings,” at Imagination Stage in Bethesda, Md., in 2015, was an opportunity to tie together electronics and sound, using the props onstage to create music. “A piston tapped the side of a flower pot for a high hat effect, and a servo (a device used to provide control of a desired operation through the use of feedback) in wind chimes provided the melody,” he explained.

The work earned him a Helen Hayes Award -- one of four he’s received -- and was “a huge success artistically for the theater company, but it left me wanting,” he said. “I felt limited in how far I could push my work with the tools I was using and spent too much time hacking together different technologies to accomplish my goals. I couldn't fully execute my vision with today's technology.”

What Chris and his team at Avae have come up with in Canvas is a truly innovative approach that shatters the old analog paradigms.

Jason Romney

Baine demonstrated an early version of Canvas to D&P students at UNCSA in December 2016. “Our students were very excited about what they saw and spent the day working with Christopher to find problems and offer suggestions,” said Jason Romney, who received his M.F.A. in sound design from D&P and now teaches in the program. “Many of their suggestions have made it into the current version of the software,” he said.

“What Chris and his team at Avae have come up with in Canvas is a truly innovative approach that shatters the old analog paradigms,” said Romney, who nominated Baine for the artpreneur award. “This opens up new possibilities that can leverage the power of modern digital audio processing to deliver sonic experiences that have been historically very difficult and expensive to achieve.”

Avae seeks to create tools for artists that enable them to spend less time on laborious tasks and more time creating, Baine said. “I believe that the future of performing arts relies on us to create those new tools and technologies. We must continue pushing forward if we want to engage modern audiences and tell great stories. I want to change the arts by building these tools. I want to inspire artists to create without limitations. And I want to empower them to go out and create engaging works of art.”

The grant money will support Avae’s development and go-to-market strategy for Canvas, enabling Baine and his partners to travel to key cities and universities around the country to demonstrate the software for students and designers; to rent equipment and space for quality assurance testing; and to invest in marketing resources to cultivate the brand and educate users. It will also support the day-to-day operations and expenses like software and website hosting, and will fund development of new features in Canvas.

We believe Avae can dramatically improve the way artists work and help revolutionize live performances.

Christopher Baine

“This grant would be transformational for Avae,” Baine said. “We've built the program from scratch, run beta testing with 80-plus designers, and now, are ready to share our product with the world. We believe Avae can dramatically improve the way artists work and help revolutionize live performances.”

Recipients of Artpreneurship Grants for Graduating Students

Ebony Cawthorne will establish Resurgence, a creative nonprofit organization with a mission to bring the arts to underrepresented youth of color and stimulate them into action through the arts. In addition to creating programming for young people at their schools and recreation centers, she hopes to create a safe space for artists of color in any medium to produce their own work that is unique to their individual experiences.

Ebony Cawthorne

Ebony Cawthorne

The arts were always a huge factor in my life,” she said. “I want to be able to give those types of experiences back to young people who may not have the accessibility to such events and experiences, or who never even thought about the arts, and possibly sparking their interests.”

Born and raised in Queens, N.Y., Cawthorne has always had a love and a passion for storytelling and films. She has written, directed and produced several short films at UNCSA and also created pieces outside of school. Last summer, Cawthorne was an assistant director for the School of Filmmaking’s inaugural Germany exchange program, interned at the Los Angeles Film Festival in Culver City, Calif., and was the house manager for the National Black Theatre Festival’s film program. At UNCSA, she has been part of the leadership team of Artists of Color; worked as a member of ArtistCorps; volunteered as a Student Ambassador; and received the Sarah Graham Kenan Scholarship of Excellence.

Carina Mae Marquez plans to make a documentary film about the Hawaiian sovereignty movement.

“My best friend lives in Honolulu, so I knew the sad story of how Hawaii became a state through the illegal takeover and annexation by the United States,” she said. “When I read online about the rise of different sovereignty movements, it compelled me to want to help.”

Carina Mae Marquez

Carina Mae Marquez

A native of the Washington, D.C., area, Marquez grew up around federal employees and has seen how one person’s efforts can effect change in politics. She hopes that her documentary will make more people aware of the challenges faced by native Hawaiians, as well as the grassroots sovereignty movement, which advocates for self-governance of the islands. In particular, she hopes to attract the attention of government officials who might be able to aid the efforts of the native Hawaiian people.

Marquez discovered her love of film when she was a young girl. At age 11, she found that making videos with her best friend was an outlet for her imagination. As she has grown as a filmmaker, Marquez continues to be inspired by how films help viewers feel less lonely. She has a deep respect for documentaries and the power they have to influence the opinions of others.

While a student, she worked on about 40 UNCSA productions, as well as many outside productions, and served as a Film Ambassador.

Actor, singer, dancer and choreographer Jordan Medley has founded Medley of Moves Collective, a creative enterprise to bring innovative works in film and dance to underrepresented artists of color, allowing them an original platform for their collaborative work.

“I was inspired to start this enterprise when I was researching potential employment after graduation and recognized that there are very few African-American-focused dance collectives in the United States, he says. “I have a passion for creating collaborative, multidisciplinary dance works that generate awareness and inspire moments of reflection.”

Jordan Medley

Jordan Medley

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., Medley has a repertoire of musical theater, contemporary dance, ballet, and jazz dance. He has performed in musicals such as “Chicago” and “West Side Story” and in full concert works choreographed by Robyn Mineko Williams and Doug Varone. He’s also performed in the short films “Virage” and “Atarxia.”

Medley hopes that the Medley of Moves Collective will provide more artists with opportunities to express themselves and to enrich their individual capabilities. He also intends to create multidisciplinary works that utilize film as a way to amplify the expressiveness of dance.

Born and raised in Hickory, N.C., Douglas Rowe will use his Artpreneur grant to purchase equipment for his community drumming enterprise.

“I have always been interested with the concept of bringing drumming into the community,” he said. “I feel that it is important to facilitate community gatherings in order to break barriers, whether it be race, gender, disabilities, etc.”

Douglas Rowe

Douglas Rowe

After being trained as a drum circle facilitator by his UNCSA faculty mentor, John Beck, Rowe was inspired to found his own community drumming enterprise. He will continue his work in communities such as retirement homes, parks, schools and after-school programs, and would also like to explore the realm of health drumming.

Rowe discovered a passion for percussion and art at a young age. In addition to honing his craft as a performer, he has served as an instructor, arranger, composer and clinician throughout North Carolina. He received a bachelor’s degree in music education at Wingate University and has taught percussion sections in high school and middle school bands. He is an active performer in professional groups and is a founding member of the jazz combo Real Deal Jazz. 

by Lauren Whitaker

May 07, 2018