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Damon Locks (artist, educator, musician, and leader of the Black Monument Ensemble) and Tara Aisha Willis, PhD (artist, curator, and lecturer, at University of Chicago).This event is part of the Interseminars series for "Improvise and Intervene," supported by the Mellon Foundation.
About the Speakers
Damon Locks is a Chicago-based visual artist, educator, vocalist/musician. He attended the Art Institute of Chicago where he received his BFA in fine arts. Since 2014 he has been working with the Prison and Neighborhood Arts/Education Project at Stateville Correctional Center teaching art. He is a recipient of the Helen Coburn Meier and Tim Meier Achievement Award in the Arts and the 2016 MAKER Grant. He operated as an Artist Mentor in the Chicago Artist Coalition program FIELD/WORK. In 2017 he became a Soros Justice Media Fellow. In 2019, he became a 3Arts Awardee as a teaching artist. He spent 4 years as an artist in residence as a part of the Museum of Contemporary Arts’ SPACE Program, introducing civically engaged art into the curriculum at Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy High School. He teaches in the Sound Department on improvisation at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Damon leads the Black Monument Ensemble, is a vocalist in Rob Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra and is a founding member of the band The Eternals.
Tara Aisha Willis is a dance artist, scholar, and curator. Currently a Lecturer at the University of Chicago, she holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from New York University, where she received the University-Wide Outstanding Dissertation Award in Arts & Humanities. Her monograph, Indescribable Moves: Improvised Experiments in Dancing Blackness, is being developed through the Dance Studies Association and University of Michigan Press’s 2023 Studies in Dance History First-Time Author Mentorship Program. She was Curator of Performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago from 2017-23, and previously a programmer and founding administrator of the Artists of Color Council at NYC experimental dance hub, Movement Research. Willis danced in a collaboration between Will Rawls and Claudia Rankine and in the New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award-winning performance by The Skeleton Architecture. She held a Jerome Robbins Dance Division Research Fellowship at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and been a project researcher for the Getty Research Institute. She was co-editor of a special issue of The Black Scholar and the performance writing book project, Marking the Occasion. Writing appears in Blondell Cummings: Dance as Moving Pictures and the forthcoming anthology, Dancing on the Third Coast: Chicago Dance Histories, among other places.