The visual and performing arts scene is known for pushing boundaries, and these five women are making headlines this year.
The Artist Activist
Internationally renowned, multidisciplinary artist Lara Baladi is making history by challenging the way we perceive it. Known for work using a contemporary palette of photography, installation, montage, sculpture and video, Baladi is currently based in Cambridge, where she arrived in 2014 after participating in the 2011 Egyptian revolution and has participated in invitational programs at MIT and Harvard. Baladi has long been documenting sociopolitical action. Of particular concern: archiving the countless significant activist and historical digital images in danger of disappearing “into the bottomless pit” of internet hierarchical rankings. She is a brilliant mind pushing political, technological and artistic fronts.
The Dance Dynamo
Seventeen-year veteran dance critic of The Boston Globe, Debra Cash says she declared to her family as soon as she could read that she wanted to be a writer. She studied dance growing up—a parallel passion to writing—and has managed to utilize both skills during her career. Now, she’s executive director of Boston Dance Alliance and brings her comprehensive knowledge base to all types, from ballet to modern to tap to ethnic. Cash is a scholar-in-residence at Bates Dance Festival, held the same position at Jacob’s Pillow, and was a long-time consultant to the National Endowment for the Arts. The sum of all these parts makes Cash a significant, knowledgeable and keen advocate for Boston’s dance scene.
The Rising Star
Lia Cirio joined the Boston Ballet company at 16, and today is a principal dancer. Experience dancing with many contemporary choreographers led Cirio to co-found a modern ballet company, The Cirio Collective, which, for the fifth consecutive year, will be in residence at the Vineyard Arts Project on Martha’s Vineyard. Most recently, Cirio participated in the Boston Ballet’s new ChoreograpHER Initiative. Based on the success of that work, she’s been invited to choreograph a new dance for the Boston Ballet’s training program, to premier in its June “Next Generation” performances.
Boston-based lighting designer and educator Karen Perlow has worked in the Boston theater scene for 25 years, illuminating many organizations, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, SpeakEasy Stage Company and Lyric Stage Company, and at MIT and Northeastern. Perlow believes lighting design is ephemeral and needs hands-on experience in order to develop technically and artistically. She’s doing her bit by mentoring up-and-comers and sharing her knowledge. Perlow will be lighting up SpeakEasy Stage Company’s June remount of “Fun Home,” a landmark Broadway musical, at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion.
The Business Mind
Ann Smith brings experienced critical thinking to her support of New England’s arts and artists as the vice chair of NEFA’s Board of Directors. A long-time executive director of Featherstone Center for the Arts on Martha’s Vineyard, Smith oversaw the recent multimillion dollar expansion of the highly popular, year-round arts center’s rural campus. A highly creative administrator, Smith understands the influence arts have on local cultures and economies, enthusiastically sharing her collaborative thinking. She helps New England artists navigate the logistical landscape and provide a positive platform for the business community, governmental agencies, educational organizations and general public on the power of art.