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Curating Openness and Inclusivity: A Conversation with Newness Showrunner Kelsey McGrath

Photo by Ally Almore Photography

Kelsey McGrath at The Newness

On November 29th, 2018, Scapi Magazine sat down with Kelsey McGrath to talk inclusivity, accessibility, and valuing your art. Creating open, comfortable spaces for artists that are trans and/or people of color, Kelsey McGrath shines light on being a producer and curator of the Newness Salon.

The Newness salon started in April 2018 after McGrath yearned for a space to be able to perform new mediums for artists of color and the LGBTQ+ community and to create a community of art that will thrive in the Chicago scene.

Evelyn Landow, Photo by Ally Almore Photography

“I was working at my dayjob in a basement while also working at Davenports in Wicker Park, and I was just thinking I want a space to perform and a space for my friends to perform, too,” McGrath said.” At the time Salonathon ended sometime in November and it just gave so many opportunities to people.  So I just started reaching out to people and it initially started at Davenports before moving to the Lincoln Loft.”

McGrath makes sure to take their role as a producer and curator to a personal level with their artists.

“I do check in with my artists and with myself too like ‘Why are we doing this? Why are we here?’”McGrath said. “I think that’s what a producer does, checks in with their artists and to be honest most of these people are my friends. I’m really glad you brought up the vulnerability piece because that’s something that holds so close and being able to create that space as a producer I just want to make myself as available as possible. Something I tell my artists are ‘You are enough.’ This is the space to make it happen.”

While spaces for artists are growing by the dozen in Chicago, McGrath believes there must be room for people of color and LGBTQ+ communities to be able to express and explore their different mediums and forms of art. This gave them the idea to create a specific place to curate a creative way to allow these people to showcase their work.

“There is space for everyone,” McGrath said. “You’ll see representation in a lot of different demographics. I always ask their pronouns. And I think there’s a beauty when I’m curating, really being precise and deliberate. Everyone that I bring in are people that I know or based on artists recommendations and I do this deliberately to create a platform for these folks.”

Adonis Holmes, Photo by Ally Almore Photography

With The Newness Salon being fairly new, McGrath talks to us about their connection with the project and what newness means to them.

“It’s about doing new work,” McGrath said/ “Something different whether that’s a different medium or a different piece that you’re bringing in. so many artists wear hats and it’s really scary to do the thing and to be able to do it somewhere that’s comfortable and supportive it’s like this is where we begin.”

In the spirit of learning as artists, McGrath also gives us insight on what they feel is the best takeaway from a project like The Newness Salon.

“Something that I love about this is it becomes a learning opportunity,” McGrath said. “It becomes listening. It becomes empathy. We’re all in this together. Having this has become a learning experience for me as a producer and as a human.”

Listen to this Scapi Magazine episode here, and learn more about The Newness Salon on their facebook page.

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