Art Inspires Art... Which Inspires More Art!

Written by: Meaghan Morrissey.

Developing new works, new audiences and new artists has been and always will be the hallmark of First Stage.  This season, First Stage is thrilled to debut a world premiere production about the extraordinarily life and art of local African American visual artist Della Wells.  This artistic journey began in 2009 when First Stage commissioned celebrated playwright Y York to write a play inspired by the life of Della Wells. Y York recalls her first meeting with Della in this way:
“When [First Stage Artistic Director] Jeff Frank introduced me to her work, a curiosity stirred inside me when I glimpsed the images of her collages and read about her life, and I knew I wanted to meet her, to talk and to have faith that a play would emerge inspired by the life and art of Della Wells….It wasn’t very long before I started to let characters talk to me, then to each other. I am astonished how like a Della Wells collage this process has been, with Della supplying the pieces, the touchstones of truth, with me supplying the fabric and the paint that are now marrying on a canvas we are calling DON’T TELL ME I CAN’T FLY.”

DON’T TELL ME I CAN’T FLY will have its world premiere October 28 – November 13, 2011 during First Stage’s 25th Anniversary season.  The playwriting process, the production, and the many community collaborations surrounding this artistic work are a telling example of the importance of encouraging artistic expression in our community - especially among young people today.

Artist Della Wells works with students at the Daniels-Mardak Boys & Girls Club to create a collage entitled What it Means to Fly

True to our mission of developing the artists and audiences of the future, First Stage embraced our long-standing partnership with the Daniels-Mardak Boys & Girls Club. Every Tuesday and Thursday for three weeks this summer, Della Wells worked with students at the Daniel-Mardak Boys & Girls Club to create a large-scale collage which depicts the students' ideas and reactions to the question "What does it mean to fly?"

The students also wrote poems in response to the question "What does it mean to fly?" Fascinatingly, after their experience with Della, many students connected this question to their personal beliefs about art and the role of art in their own lives. Three students, Monet, Querra, and Ahlexis, share their poems below!

The collage will be exhibited alongside original art work by Della Wells within the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center.  The collage will be the centerpiece in an exhibition entitled What it Means to Fly which will run from October 7 - December 31, 2011. This exhibition is free and open to the public.

In addition, original works of art by Della Wells will hang alongside the students’ collage. These brand new pieces were inspired by the creative process of bringing DON’T TELL ME I CAN’T FLY to life – a telling example of how art inspires art which inspires more art.

 What it Means to Fly
An exhibition by Della Wells in collaboration with Daniels-Mardak Boys & Girls Club Students
In conjunction with First Stage’s world premiere production of DON’T TELL ME I CAN’T FLY

For more information or to buy tickets for DON'T TELL ME I CAN'T FLY, click here,
or call (414) 273-7206


Poems by students from the Daniel-Mardak Boys & Girls Club

I Love Art Because…  (by Monet)
I love art because
I can express myself though my colors that I use.
If I’m happy
I use bright colors like yellow, pink and white.
If I’m sappy
I use colors like purple and orange.
And when I’m raging mad
I use colors like red and black.
But if I’m relaxed
I use brown and baby blue.
If I’m really sad
I use blue and gray.
Do you express yourself though art?

Now It’s Time to Fly (by Querra)
Now, it’s time to fly and dream big things
Now it’s time to believe and succeed
And hope what it can be
To be big things
Big things like a role model
Like express my talent
It might be hard
You can get though it if you believe in yourself

Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Fly (by Ahlexis)
Don’t tell me I can’t fly because
I know I can fly high.
Sometimes you need to know
That all our words won’t flow.
If you believe in yourself
You just tell yourself and
Everyone else.
Don’t tell me I can’t fly.

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