The Spark

The Spark with Tift Merritt: Okwui Okpokwasili

Virtual Event
February 17, 2022
7:30 PM EST

Registration for this event closes at 6:30 PM EST on Thursday, February 17, 2022. Available on-demand for all ticketholders for 72 hours, beginning on February 17, 2022 at 7:30 PM EST. Suggested ticket donation (per household) is $15. Tickets available starting at $0.

Join us for The Spark with Tift Merritt featuring Okwui Okpokwasili, Brooklyn-based performer and writer and CPA/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Creative Futures artist-in-residence.

How do you light a spark? How do you make something true? How does art happen? What is mumbled on the way in the studio and how can we hear it? 

Welcome to The Spark.

Tift Merritt

Okwui Okpokwasili, whose 2018 MacArthur Fellow biography describes her as a “performer, choreographer, and writer creating multidisciplinary performance pieces,” seeks to use the practices of art and performance to build bridges and bonds. Through her Creative Futures artist residency at CPA, Okwui plans to hold spaces where community members can be in dialogue with each other and learn from one another.  

“My project is to build a platform for the creation of an ongoing improvisational song,” she says. Okwui, who is cultivating relationships with local artists, “develops strategies and exercises that allow us to engage in conversations with people we know and people we don’t know. And from these conversations we start to build a sonic landscape.” 

Among these local artists are Murielle Elizéon and Tommy Noonan, co-founders and directors of the Saxapahaw-based performing arts collective Culture Mill. Okwui recently visited Saxapahaw, NC for a day of collaborative creation where community members came together to create “improvisational public song comprised of sounds and movement.”

Runtime: approximately 60 minutes, including audience Q&A. Recording of CPA virtual events is not permitted. If you have questions or concerns related to accessibility, please contact us. You can also check out our livestream events guide

The Spark with Tift Merritt logo

About The Spark

Based on the series Merritt produced for the acclaimed Marfa, Texas Public Radio, The Spark peels back the polished performance to reveal the elbow grease, risk, fire, and courage behind the art—and artists—we think we know. Each month, Tift will welcome a new artist for a 45-minute livestreamed conversation that gets to the heart of their work, followed by a 15-minute audience Q&A. 

About the Artists

Artist in residence Okwui Okpokwasili poses for a headshot in a leather jacket.

About Okwui Okpokwasili

Okwui Okpokwasili (b. 1972) is an Igbo-Nigerian American artist, performer, and writer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her performance work has been commissioned by the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA with REDCAT, Los Angeles, California (2018); the 10th Annual Berlin Biennale, Berlin, Germany (2018); Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, Massachusetts (2018); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota (2017); and Danspace Project, New York, New York with Performance Space New York, New York (2014). She has been the recipient of two New York Dance and Performance Bessie Awards, and was a 2018 MacArthur Fellow.

Artist Tift Merritt looks to the side with a slight smile.

About Tift Merritt

Tift Merritt wanted to be a writer until her father taught her guitar chords and Percy Sledge songs. In her 20-year career, she has toured around the world with her sonic short stories and garnered a reputation for making her own way and setting an interesting artistic table. The New Yorker calls her “the bearer of a proud tradition of distaff country soul that reaches back to artists like Dusty Springfield and Bobbie Gentry.” Emmylou Harris calls her “a diamond in a coal mine.”

Read more

Taking time off the road to raise her daughter, Merritt began work on forthcoming site-specific projects by way of collecting objects at an old motel and an abandoned asylum as forgotten, essential language.  Merritt collects artist interviews about process and integrity on The Spark for Carolina Performing Arts. She lives in North Carolina with her daughter, Jean.

Event cover photo: © John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation – used with permission.

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