by Beverly Aarons
Seattle’s arts scene has been hit hard. Galleries are closed, theatres are dark, and many artists find their cash flow completely and abruptly cut off. But some artists who find themselves positioned well during this pandemic have invested their time, expertise and energy into creating opportunities for less-privileged artists to earn some cash doing what they love. Kymberlee della Luce, an interdisciplinary artist with a calling for social change is doing just that. In April, Kymberlee launched a live online interdisciplinary arts experience — The Golden Thread that featured live painting, poetry, music, and a reading from local playwrights. Kymberlee is looking for artists, especially POC artists to participate in the May 30, 2020 show. Artists interested in participating should apply by May 8, 2020.
“One of the reasons that I put the show together was because while I am certainly not financially comfortable by any stretch, I do have a support system. I have a family here. I have love. I have enough,” Kymberlee said. “But I have some artists in my life who are afraid. Some artists who have lost their jobs, they don’t know what’s next for them. And everything in their life is falling apart. I can’t fix all that but I figure I can do something to help out.”
But Kymberlee’s life hasn’t always been smooth. In 2016 she was homeless with her teenage son as she struggled to find affordable housing in Seattle’s rocketing rental market. She spent her formative years in rural Snohomish and Wenatchee communities, where she felt like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. She was “super liberal” in a place that she remembers as drenched in bigoted worldviews. And then there was the domestic violence she witnessed as a child, an experience from which she continues to heal.
“As my parents divorced and as my mom was in more than one marriage where there was domestic violence, I was moved around a lot and had a lot of trauma from that,” Kymberlee said. “And then I ended up getting married and I realize now that that marriage — I was just doing something that I thought I was supposed to be doing.”
She spent time working in corporate America as a call center worker then a supervisor but the Machiavellian culture just didn’t sit well with her spirit. She moved into expressive art and began teaching children in the Montlake neighborhood of Seattle. But even as she taught art to the children of the upper-middle class something continued to stir within her.
“And so I was there teaching art and music to children and I could feel the privilege. At the time I didn’t know the word privilege, I mean I didn’t know what that meant but I could feel it. I mean there’s nothing wrong with that but at the same time I felt this other calling.”
It bothered Kymberlee that there were less-privileged children in Seattle who would enjoy and benefit from her classes but who couldn’t afford it. That’s when she began teaching tuition free classes for low-income children in a Head Start program. She also went on to teach art to women in transitional housing facilities, homeless shelters, and a domestic violence shelter. And right before the pandemic silenced much of the Seattle art scene, Kymberlee was thinking about doing an interdisciplinary art experience at Impact Hub in Pioneer Square. She spoke fondly of her experience there, specifically about how the artists working at the coffee shop greeted her so warmly and always made her feel welcome. Her voice quivered as she recounted her interactions with the baristas.
“A lot of the barista’s there are artists and they always made me feel so welcome,” Kymberlee said. “I’ve struggled a lot in my life with feeling like I belong anywhere … but at the time when I would go there, the baristas made me feel so welcome. So when I found out that they were out of work, I decided that ‘hey I can just do this online,’ so that’s how that happened.”
Making the show financially sustainable for everyone involved is of critical importance to Kymberlee who stresses the need for artists to get paid for their work. Her first show brought in enough ticket sales to pay all the artists plus cover the costs of putting on the show. This time around Kymberlee hopes to get a bigger audience and attract more diverse artists, especially those creatives who explore serious subjects with a bit of humor.
Artists should apply for The Golden Thread live online art experience by May 8, 2020.
Beverly Aarons is a writer and game developer. She works across disciplines as a copywriter, journalist, novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and short-story writer. She explores futuristic worlds in fiction but also enjoys discovering the stories of modern-day unsung heroes. She’s currently working on a series of nonfiction stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things in their local communities and the world. In August 2018 she produced a live-action game and event where community members worked together to envision an economic future they truly desired to leave future generations. She’s currently writing an immersive play about the themes of migration.
Featured image: Kymberlee della Luce, courtesy of the artist.