Culture Mix: What Is Home?
October 10, 2017
The John Brademas Center of NYU, in collaboration with Solas Nua, proudly presented Culture Mix: What is Home? This dialogue amongst a diverse group of Washingtonians was about 'Home' - leaving, returning, becoming and settling. The conversation was highlighted and illustrated by poetry readings and live music.
This program was part of the series: Home + Discordance = US, which featured an exhibition that explored the idea of the US as a place of “home”, located in the lobby of NYU Washington, DC.
Meet the Panelists and Performers
Elena Lacayo; Vocals, Guitar, Banjo
Elena Lacayo grew up in Managua, Nicaragua. She moved to the US to attend college in Indiana in 2002 and moved to Washington, DC to pursue a career in advocacy upon graduation. After building a career centered on the passage of just national and state immigration laws, she transitioned to focus on music in 2012 and has been loving life ever since.
Paddy Meskell (Moderator); Chairperson, Solas Nua
Vijai Nathan; Storyteller, Comedian
Vijai is one of the leading Indian American female comedians making people laugh across America and internationally too. International comedy phenomenon Russell Peters calls her “One of the top two South Asian comics in the world to watch!”
She has performed in South Africa, England and Canada, and was featured at the Montreal International Comedy Festival (Just for Laughs) and the Smirnoff International Comedy Festival. Washington DC loves her too- she’s performed at the Smithsonian Museum, Kennedy Center, Constitution Hall, Library of Congress and won the award for Artistic Excellence from SpeakeasyDC.
Sheldon Scott; Visual Artist
Sheldon Scott, a native of Pawley's Island, SC, received his B.S. in Psychology from Francis Marion University. After years of practicing as a psychotherapist, he began a creative life as a storyteller, artist, actor, and writer in 2005.
He began his career in social work as a Unit Director for the Boys & Girls Club of Horry County, SC. Upon moving to the Washington DC area, he joined a private practice, specializing in mental health, substance abuse, and sex-offender treatment at Northern Virginia Counseling Group.
He has performed four sold-out solo storytelling shows in the Capital Fringe Theatre Festival and various venues including Busboys & Poets and the Hirshhorn Museum. He ha exhibited his Fine-Arts and Performance Art works at (e)merge art fair, WPA Select Auction, Arlington Arts Center, Delaware State University and Art Miami. He is represented by ConnerSmith Contemporary Gallery for his Fine-Art work. His upcoming book project, a memoir, "Shrimp & Griots", is based on his storytelling narratives of the same name. Howard Yoon of Ross & Yoon Literary Agency represents Scott's written works.
Anna Tsouhlarakis; Visual Artist
Anna Tsouhlarakis is a visual artist intent on expanding the concept and understanding of Native art. She describes her work as a continued interest in creating conceptual connections between seemingly disparate subjects and combining them to become the vehicle for deciphering and interpreting her own familial narratives.
In her creative process, Anna Tsouhlarakis has always liked to manipulate materials and build objects. She’s been captivated and fascinated by the outcome of constructing. And between her contemporary work and traditional upbringing, some have said that she may lack a connection to or understanding of her cultural background—nothing is further from the truth.
While on the surface such pieces may seem disconnected from traditional indigenous aesthetics, she explains that the foundation of her work remains rooted in Native beliefs and philosophies.
Anna’s artistic background is varied. Growing up she belonged to a dance troupe and danced at powwows. She also learned traditional silversmithing and beading. Tsouhlarakis went through the traditional Kinaaldá Ceremony (a Navajo celebration for adolescent girls entering into womanhood) and other traditional Navajo ceremonies. But she noticed that perceptions and understanding of Native contemporary life, experiences and skills were not accurately reflected or included in a modern world. She noticed how many continue to encapsulate and perpetuate the Native American history of the traditional and iconic past, especially through art.
After being exposed to new and different art forms and artists from around the world, past and present, rather than just contemporary Native art, Anna passionately decided to expand the concept and understanding of Native art and form with her own inventive and provocative voice in the contemporary construct. Her hope through her work is to help create a new vocabulary within the dialogue of Native American art and add fresh thinking that illustrates the modern Native’s engagement with society. She wants to help redefine what Native American art is and can be. The 2015 National Artist Fellowship is recognition to Anna Tsouhlarakis’s talent.
Michael Winch; Musician
Michael is a composer, musical director and performer. He has been nominated for Helen Hayes awards in 2016 and 2017 and is steeped in both traditional Irish music and contemporary musical forms.
Terence Patrick Winch; Poet, Writer, Musician
Terence Winch, originally from New York City, now lives in the Washington, DC, area. In the early '70s, he was one of DC's "Mass Transit" poets and was closely associated with the New York writers connected with the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church in lower Manhattan.
Winch, the son of Irish immigrants, has also been part of Irish-American cultural life, both as musician and writer. Some of his poetry and other writing takes its subject matter from his upbringing in a Bronx immigrant neighborhood.
"We get this world from no other writer---this last glimpse of the culture of twentieth-century Irish immigrants in America as their first-generation American-born children witnessed it. ...The totality of his work makes for so compelling an Irish mural as to merit George O'Brien's judgment that Winch is 'the voice of Irish America.' There is in that voice traces of the tenacious love of life that...characterized Irish life prior to the famine---the elan that the world hears at the heart of Irish music." ---New World Irish: Notes on One Hundred Years of Lives and Letters in American Culture by Jack Morgan (Macmillan, 2011
Helen Zughaib; Visual Artist
Helen currently lives in Washington, DC, and works fulltime as an artist. She paints primarily in gouache and ink on board and canvas. More recently, she has worked with wood, shoes and cloth and mixed media installations.
Helen Zughaib was born in Beirut, Lebanon, living mostly in the Middle East and Europe before coming to the United States to study art at Syracuse University, earning her BFA from the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
Her work has been widely exhibited in galleries and museums in the United States, Europe and Lebanon. Her paintings are included in many private and public collections, including the White House, World Bank, Library of Congress, US Consulate General, Vancouver, Canada, American Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, the Arab American National Museum in, Michigan, and the DC Art Bank collection. She recently was awarded a grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and currently included in the new Washingtonia Collection, in Washington, DC. Helen was also invited as artist in residence at George Mason University, Virginia, and Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. Her paintings have been included in several Art in Embassy exhibitions abroad, including Brunei, Nicaragua, Mauritius, Iraq, Belgium and Lebanon.
In 2008, Helen was invited as US Cultural Envoy through the US Department of State, to Palestine, where she led a month- long workshop with Palestinian women artists from the West Bank. This exhibit titled “Women’s Art, Women’s Vision,” presented an opportunity for both American and Palestinian women to share their stories and culture celebrating International Women’s History Month. In 2009, she was invited to Switzerland and France, under the US Department of State’s Speaker and Specialist Program, sharing her work with universities and schools. In October 2016, she traveled to Saudi Arabia as US Cultural Envoy, speaking to young Saudi women artists and exhibiting her work at the Quincy House in Riyadh. Her paintings have been gifted to heads of state by President Obama and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
I feel that my background in the Middle East allows me to approach the experiences I have in America, in a unique way, remaining an observer of both the Arab and American cultures. I believe that the arts are one of the most important tools we have to help shape and foster dialogue and positive ideas between the Middle East and the United States.
I hope through my work, to encourage dialogue and bring understanding and acceptance between the people of the Arab world and the United States, especially since 9/11, our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the more recent revolutions and crises across the Arab world.
Solas Nua, ‘new light’ in Irish, is the only organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to contemporary Irish arts. Based in Washington, D.C., their mission is to bring the best new Irish artistic talent to American audiences.
Glucksman Ireland House NYU is the center for Irish and Irish-American Studies at New York University. With courses in history, Irish language, literature, music, and politics, their mission is to foster excellence in the study of Ireland, Irish America and the Irish Diaspora in New York and the global communities.