New Victory Arts Break: Discover with ChelseaDee Harrison

It’s time to visit some of our favorite artists creating theater for young people—the artists of New Victory LabWorks! For the next two months, we’ll be getting a glimpse into the creative homes and processes of this season’s cohort of LabWorks Artists, starting with sonic dramatist ChelseaDee Harrison. Along the way, we’ll check in with some LabWorks alumni and play alongside New Victory Ushers and Teaching Artists. Ready? Grab your New Victory Notebook, and let’s get started.

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New Victory Arts Break: Discover with ChelseaDee Harrison

Meet the Artists

New Victory LabWorks has helped foster over 60 projects on their journeys to the stage, and more than half of them have toured across the country and around the world as fully developed productions. Let’s meet some LabWorks alumni and see what creative projects they’ve been cooking up recently!

LabWorks Artist Triptych

  • Leah Ogawa (LabWorks 2019-20) is a mixed-race artist, puppeteer, dramatist, self-detective and model based in New York City. Check out some of her puppetry work and recent stop-motion animation projects on her Instagram.
  • Trusty Sidekick Theater Company (LabWorks 2012-13, 2019-20) tells original theatrical stories that place their young audience in the role of the hero. Over the past year, they’ve collaborated with families on two streamable digital productions and launched Sidekick Studio, a series of creative mini-classes connected to their past shows.
  • The Village of Vale (LabWorks 2015-16) is a series of original dark fairy tales brought to life through immersive theater, live music and puppetry. Check out some video footage of their time at New 42 Studios!

And now, let’s get to know ChelseaDee Harrison, a 2020-21 LabWorks Artist. ChelseaDee is an interdisciplinary creator and arts educator—and also a New Victory Teaching Artist! As an artist, she focuses on creating new works of theater that highlight history, telling stories that center African American women and encourage people to become active in their own communities! Let’s join ChelseaDee at home in Washington, D.C., and discover some of the things that inspire her art-making.

Take out your New Victory Notebook and reflect on the following questions:

  • Where do you have some of your best ideas?
  • Think about your community. What are some favorite places that come to mind?
  • A community garden needs a lot of tending, love and teamwork to grow. What are some things in your life that help you to grow?

Monumental Inspiration

Washington, D.C. features many monuments, large and small, and so does New York City! Are there monuments in your community? Are any of them dedicated to people or topics you feel strongly about? Let’s explore our own communities in search of iconic landmarks that celebrate, connect and commemorate.

Step One: Identify a statue or monument in your community that is meaningful or interesting to you. It could represent a historical figure, or maybe just an idea. For example, the Fearless Girl statue in the Financial District was designed to raise awareness about the importance of gender diversity among business leaders.

A bronze statue of a young girl standing defiantly, facing a charging bull

Not sure where to start? Here are a few sources of inspiration:

  • Unveiled last year, the statue of Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in Central Park is only the sixth monument in New York City that honors historic women. Roadtrippers has a rundown of the other five, and of She Built NYC, the city program that’s commissioning more statues.
  • In honor of Black History Month, the Parks Department put together a list of monuments, sculptures, murals and plaques commemorating Black historical figures and the Black experience.
  • As part of The Lorraine Hansberry Initiative, our friends at The Lillys have commissioned To Sit Awhile by Alison Saar, debuting next year at four locations around the city.
  • From the Statue of Liberty to the Stonewall Inn, New York City is home to five National Monuments. Check out WikiVoyage’s nationwide interactive map.

Step Two: Take out your New Victory Notebook and draw a quick sketch of the statue or monument that you chose.

Step Three: Write down the monument or statue’s title and a brief description of it.

Step Four: Now fill the rest of the page with drawings or words that describe how this monument or statue makes you feel and why you chose it.

A drawing of a fearless girl statue in a notebook with descriptive words written around it

Share your artwork with family and friends, and ask them if they have any statues or monuments that mean something to them. And if there’s more than one statue or monument that inspires you, go ahead and fill up some more pages!

Landmark Stories

Landmarks hold a lot of meaning just based on their history, but they can also inspire new stories! In this activity, we’ll choose a landmark in our community and leave behind our own magical addition for someone else to discover. Ready? Follow along with New Victory Teaching Artist Marisol Rosa-Shapiro as she creates a landmark-inspired story and then shares it in an unexpected way!

Let’s review Marisol’s steps to make sure we are ready to go on our own landmark-inspired adventure!

Materials: Two story templates, a clipboard (or something to lean on when writing), a writing utensil, a decorated envelope labeled “Open me!”

Before you get started, print out two copies of the story template below, or re-create it on two pages of your New Victory Notebook.

A Local Landmark Story worksheet template

Step One: Think about what landmark you want to create a story for. Remember: it doesn’t have to be a statue! It could also be your favorite tree, a familiar mural, or even a community garden or outdoor lending library!

Step Two: Gather your materials and get ready to head out!

Step Three: Go to your landmark with your materials in hand and brainstorm your story. Once it comes to you, fill out your story template. We drafted an example story inspired by a community garden.

A personal, handwritten landmark story

Step Four: Once you’re done writing your story, fold it up nicely. If you wrote your story in your notebook, gently remove the page. Slip your folded story and your second blank story template into your decorated envelope. Seal it and nestle it into the monument for a neighbor to find.

A letter nestled into a free, little library station

If all goes well, not only will you be sharing your story with another member of your community, but you’ll also be inspiring them to create their own landmark-inspired story!

Surrounded by Sound

Nature has much to teach us. Its rhythms can raise our spirits, its grandeur can ground us and its infinite diversity can spark our imaginations. Listen as ChelseaDee observes nature and tells us what it means for her as an artist, a storyteller and a person.

Let’s focus on just one aspect of nature to inspire our next activity—sound! Recreating outdoor sounds inside can be a fun way to create an immersive environment for friends and family, and for yourself!

Step One: Open up your window and set a timer for two minutes. Close your eyes and just listen.

Step Two: Once the timer is up, get out your New Victory Notebook and jot down all of the things you heard. Then pick one of those sounds and answer the following questions:

  • What color do you associate with that sound?
  • What smell do you associate with that sound?
  • Why do you think that sound is being made?
  • What does that sound make you feel?

A soundscape activity handwritten in a notebook

Step Three: Bring it indoors! Find ways to recreate your sound inside. What items can you use to recreate the sound? Maybe a household object or surface? Or maybe your voice or body! Can other people guess what sounds you’re making?

Step Four: Think about the associated colors and smells you wrote down. Can you recreate any of those? With sounds, colors and smells, you’re well on your way to creating a whole outdoor world.

BONUS: Take it to nature! Visit a backyard, a local park or any spot in your community and repeat Steps One and Two. The more immersed you are in nature, the more sounds you’ll have to recreate at home, and the richer your soundscape will be!

Thanks for joining us this week as we discovered some of ChelseaDee’s artistic inspirations! Next week, in the spirit of LabWorks, we’ll learn more about what it takes to record a soundscaped story and create a little sonic drama of our own.

New Victory Arts Break Supporters

New Victory Arts Break is funded, in part, by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

New Victory LabWorks Supporters

New Victory LabWorks is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by grants from the Madeleine L’Engle Fund of the Crosswicks Foundation, The Ford Foundation and the Howard Gilman Foundation.