Author Archives: Aya

Notes From the 6 Train: Summer Flying High

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As a follow up to my recent post, I want to share some exciting news. I’m officially an aerial performance artist! I had my first performance two weeks ago and it was magical.

The theme of the show was SPACE/TIME and it was held at my dance studio. My group’s concept was Star Wars & we had a major lightsaber fight in the air! The actually studio it was held in felt like outer-space. While performing, I felt like I was flying through the skies. There were no mirrors staring back at me, the spotlights were in perfect accordance with the musical cues, and the smoky atmosphere felt heavenly. I was flying.

The late night rehearsals, and early morning meetings, the mini freak-outs when out props would begin to malfunction, to the proper recourse when group members had emergencies and had to drop out – were all worth it. This is all the easy stuff behind performances.

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What I find to be the most challenging (and gratifying) part of performing, is closely related to one my favorite concepts, “the personal is political”. This slogan was popularized during the second wave of contemporary feminism. It was used to underscore the inherent connections between personal experience and larger social and political structures. When I think of this quote, it’s usually in relation to performing.

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This sentiment was found in several of the pieces from the showcase. There were pieces that emanated personal stories, experiences, pain and hardships, feelings, etc. Movement is powerful on it’s own, but truly takes on another life when others are allowed to engage. This is when the magic of the personal-political happens. Many of the stories from this past weekend fell into this category, such as; dealing with severe depression, internal strife about gender identity, or even being in full drag & dancing to music in your native tongue. Sharing your art and yourself with an audience is incredibly personal, but can easily become political, depending on the intention set forth.

All Things Color, Love & Fashion,
Ayanna Lane

Notes From the 6 Train: Keep Going. You Got This.

More and more I begin to see how past relationships keep resurfacing. A few weeks ago I was invited to a huge gala as a guest of honor to a former scholarship program I was involved in whilst in middle & high school. I was “One of the 52,” an alumna that had a large impact on the organization while involved/ after my graduation, by volunteering, mentoring, or tutoring. But that’s not what this post is about, this is about what happened while I was on stage.

All of the alumni got on stage and talked about our paths after graduation, what we are doing now and what we anticipate to be doing the future. I have to admit something. It was the first time I’ve ever completely owned and honored my artist title, especially in front of such a large group of people. Fully believing and owning my truth in that way has been a long time coming. Part of it was me not feeling I deserved that title and the other was being ashamed. Growing up, I’ve also been surrounded by incredibly academically focused people, and there’s been a part of that wished that I was passionate about academia in the same way.

My mentor & I.

My mentor & I.

But with unlearning the common narrative that art is not important. While also adhering to an intense artist practice, fully internalizing how important art IS, and what it means to bring it to communities spaces (which is what I’m all about), has instilled in me an unwavering pride to call myself a creator, an artist. Having the platform to stand up and just briefly mention what I am up to, and it being honored, was transformative for me. I felt proud while hearing everyone’s accomplishments, and feeling proud. I am thankful to experience these little, unexpected, cathartic moments offer unexpected healing.

Side-note: I wanted to write about this because I’ve been thinking about how blogs & the internet in general, only show snapshots of everyone’s experience. Behind that perfect Instagram picture, there was uncertainty, doubt, question of talent, etc. But for artists, it’s important to remember to not stop during those times of self-doubt. Just keep working, don’t stop, and own it.

All Things Color, Love & Fashion,
Ayanna Lane

Notes From the 6 Train: Finding Work That Fills Up You

I’m really enjoying my internship with the Laundromat Project. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of helping out my artist, Elvira Clayton, at the Harlem Art’s Festival. We were in the kid’s corner, where we had a live drummer, with an accompanying (evolving) drum circle. We also had materials to make mini djembes for anyone to take home to continue the music at home!

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Despite the challenging weather we experienced at the Harlem’s Art Festival, there was an incredible turnout at our table. And I know why.

The drums.

It brought together every community member possible. Little kids wandered over, with their older siblings and parents following close behind. At one point, an elder, master drummer even stopped by to play for a bit.

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That’s when I remembered, why drums are so enticing. I never forget this fact, but it’s moments like this that reaffirm, usually more passionately than before, that powerful nature of the drum. It’s an obvious reminder of our humanity, as it mirrors the sound of our shared heartbeats. This is even more poignant when there’s a troupe of drums. Strangers who didn’t even exchange names, were connected, if only for a moment, by playing together.

Not only do drums remind of us our shared humanity, but creates the perfect catalyst for community building. Everyone wants to touch the drum, beat and feel the rhythm of the drum. Even the shyest and most hesitant of passerby’s found themselves enraptured in the majestic nature of the drum circle.

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As my graduation swiftly approaches, I am paying attention to work that fills me up, makes me feel whole, and this community engaging work does it for sure. That’s what I plan on doing after I graduate.

All Things Color, Love & Fashion,
Ayanna Lane

Notes From the 6 Train: Summertime Hustle

So, I’m not sure when/ how/ where I signed up for this opportunity, but last week I was invited to assist Style Coalition at an event held at Milk Studios. Now, nearly everyone knows Milk, during fashion week many events take place at Milk. It’s funny because twice in the past I’ve tried to volunteer at Milk and heard nothing back. And this time, I was asked, without even applying, with pay, to work an event there. (Little story in how things work themselves.)

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The event was a collaboration with Loreal Feria + Style Coalition to showcase Feria’s new hair dyes. Helen Castillo (who was super sweet by the way) from Project Runway, debuted five pieces inspired by the new dyes, & Elliphant & Astr performed.

There was of course, an open bar & food, hair consultations for attendees, free hair dye and makeup.

Helen's pieces

Helen’s pieces

I spent majority of my time in the hair and makeup room & then checking people in at the front door. It sounds simple enough, but with over 250 attendees, I was on my feet the whole time. I was there with a few other FIT students as well. I talked to another girl who was working the event and mentioned that she has worked with this organization several times.

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As soon as the event concluded, I sent a thank you email to the organizers, so hopefully now that I’ve worked with them, they will contact me for future opportunities!

if you’re interested in attending free events in the future, I think all you have to do is sign up at Style Coalition to be put on their list serve.

All Things Color, Love & Fashion,
Ayanna Lane

Notes From The 6 Train: Honoring The LifeWork of Adam Gray

Wow. As I’m still processing this, I don’t really know what to say, but it’s something I do think needs to be adressed.

Adam Gray, assistant director of the FIT writing center, (where I work as a writing tutor) unexpectedly passed away two days ago. He was one of my favorite faculty members at FIT. He was super smart, present and aware in ways most people just aren’t. He was just a really special person.

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Below is what I wrote to go to into a booklet that’s being sent to his parents.

“I don’t know if you know, but your son was a quiet revolutionary.

As a black women from the south, and member of the queer community, I often struggle to find to people to connect with, especially within the hierarchal system of academia. Yet, we established a special connection, that did not merely transcend or ignore our plethora of different life circumstances, and experiences, but instead used those differences to build a more dynamic and full relationship.

He valued truth, in all forms it came in, from the disenfranchised, the unheard and marginalized, he brought this into his practice, his work, and our community. It was obvious, from the books he suggested, language he used, and topics he studied, he cared about the voice & story of people that most usually don’t. Those voices being inner-city black and brown kids coming from working class backgrounds, such as myself, who speak, think and perceive the world differently.

As our society has more and more visible acts of rage and violence, one of the most revolutionary, and most challenging, acts anyone can do is listen to people who are different from them. And that’s what Adam did, listen, and spent his time here at FIT, investigating ways to better equip tutors and students to own their voice, and by doing so, their story, their experience, their purpose.

His work is done, nor his voice is not lost. He can be found in notes, quotes and suggestions scribbled in my notebooks, emails and the energy of our writing community. I hope our words help illuminate the indescribable impact your son had in his work, at FIT and on us all.”