WEDU Arts Plus


Episode 1002

For St. Petersburg artist and designer Glenyse Thompson, every work of art is a conversation. PUSH Physical Theatre uses the power of movement and physical expression to tell powerful stories. A free music program is changing the lives of inner-city kids. Photographer Lauren Semivan uses an antique camera and traditional developing techniques to create eerie, visually interesting prints.

AIRED: February 11, 2021 | 0:26:45

- [Narrator] This is a production of WEDU PBS.

Tampa, St.Petersburg, Sarasota.

Major funding for WEDU Arts Plus,

is provided through The Greater Cincinnati Foundation,

by an arts-loving donor who encourages

others to support your PBS station, WEDU,

and by the Pinellas Community Foundation,

Giving Humanity a Hand Since 1969.

- [Dalia] In this edition of "WEDU Arts Plus",

a local artist who believes that an abstract picture

really is worth a thousand words.

- [Amanda] It's about conversations between people.

The washes of color in the background is about

the general ebb and flow of a conversation,

but then the detailed lines on top of it

is the actual words that you're saying in the conversation.

- [Dalia] Powerful stories through physical expression.

- [Daren] When we're doing our job, the best,

you, as an audience member, should become almost unaware

that you're watching a movement.

- [Dalia] Building success through music.

- [Camille] What makes OrchKids special is its intensity.

It really gives them a sense of self-worth.

- [Dalia] And art in the dark room.

- [Lauren] So that always really interested in me

that I was sort of creating a totally new space

that didn't exist in reality

and that could only exist through the camera.

- It's all coming up next on WEDU Arts Plus.

(bright jazz music)

Hello, I'm Dalia Colon

and this is "WEDU Arts Plus".

You're about to meet a St.Petersburg woman

who gives new meaning to the art of conversation.

Glenyse Thompson is an abstract artist

and home decor designer whose work captures

the complexities of everyday verbal exchanges.

- I, way back when, as a kid, was a creative

and didn't know what that meant.

I thought I was gonna be a journalist

and then I thought I was gonna be a photographer.

Put that away and had a kid.


Got on with life,

and then, I'd say about 2014, 2015,

I started having difficulties at work,

communicating with couple of people

and took a break and went on vacation.

It was my grandmother who said, you know,

why don't you sit down

and start really thinking about

what you wanna do next

and try something different.

And I picked up some watercolors

and started drawing again.

Hey, I'm Glenyse.

Welcome to my studio.

My name is Glenyse Thompson.

I am a visual abstract artist from St.Petersburg, Florida.

And I also am a designer.

- When you speak to her about her work

it's not just about lines and color and form,

but it's about conversations between people.

And she says that the washes of color in the background

is about the general ebb and flow of a conversation.

But then the detail lines on top of it

is the actual words that you're saying

in the conversation.

And the color she chooses

and the lines that she makes have to do

with a specific conversation.

Maybe it's an intense conversation.

Maybe it's a friendly conversation.

- We have to understand that conversations

are so important to who we are.

We're nothing without each other.

We're meeting each other

and the lines represent that.

It could be a party.

It could be a zoom call.

It could be a grocery store run.

You're always thinking or having to speak

with someone to get something done,

and we need to pay more attention

to what that means day to day.

- Well, first I encountered Glenyse herself

before I encountered her work.

We were in France of all places,

and just happened to run into Glenyse

and started having a conversation.

- [Glenyse] We decided to keep in touch.

It was me and my guy,

and him and his lady friend, when we met.

And then we get back to the States,

we decided to get in touch with them

and realized they live right in Miami,

live in our backyard.

- And my fiance and I happened to be in the Tampa Bay area.

So we looked them up and got together

and got to finding out a little bit more about art.

We got a chance to actually see some of it

and I was smitten.

- I had created a piece about our burgeoning friendship

and that was the piece they ended up purchasing.


It's in the blues and golds

but it's got a lot of lines on it

in comparison to some of the other pieces

just because who would have thought a continental meet

would have turned into such amazing friendship.

- I think Glenyse as a person is special

and that's what makes Glenyse as an artist special.

I was reticent to participate

in the social justice movement with my art

only because I didn't know what to do.

And I was approached by a curator.

And I said, I wanna make that part of my studio practice,

at least twice a year,

creating a piece of art for a charity.

- Citizens in another major city were angered by the death

of an African-American woman at the hands of police.

- [Man] Somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend.

- Say her name!

- [Glenyse] Say her name is about black women

and depending on who you support,

trans and lesbian women,

that have been assaulted or killed by the police

or another person because of who they are.

We're always first to support

and always last to get supporting.

So we need more recognition.

We need more pay equity.

We don't get enough.

And we give so much.

I have two different focuses in my artwork at this time.

I am working on the "Conversations" pieces

and then "Big shoulders".

The conversations are inks and inks,

and it's liquid ink that, layer upon layer,

put on paper or a panel

and it's usually between five and 20 layers of ink.

So each layer dries into itself

and that takes seven to 10 days

because each layer has to dry.

And then I come in and I add the lines.

The big shoulders pieces are the largely colored

bright pieces.

And big shoulders is all about the fact that

we stand on each other's shoulders

to move about the world.

And all the colors represent all the different shapes

and sizes of people we have to interact with

to move into our next...

Whatever we're gonna do next.

And it all goes back to conversations at the same time

by saying we can't function without one another.

- [Dalia] You can see more of Glenyse Thompson's work


PUSH, a physical theater based in Rochester, New York,

has taken storytelling to new levels.

They're able to tell rich powerful stories

through physical expression and movement.

(intense contemporary music)

- [Daren] There's something really primal about movement.

The stories of our lives are locked up inside of our muscles

and we move

and we set those stories free.

- Movement is a very powerful art form

and there are things you can say in movement

that words can't describe.

What people come to us to see

are their lives played out on the stage

in a way that they can't describe in words.

Darren and I have been performing together

for a number of years.

We moved to Rochester, New York,

and decided to redefine how we wanted to present theater.

And so we established PUSH Physical Theater.

- [Daren] What we do isn't really like something else.

So you can't say, well, you should...

If you liked this you'll love this

because we are inventing as we go.

We are dancers, we're acrobats, we're actors,

but when you're watching the performance,

it's none of those things.

In fact, when we're doing our job, the best,

you, as an audience member, should become almost unaware

that you're watching movement.

- The unique thing about PUSH is their ability

to tell a story physically, without words,

and find the emotional core in their stories

where you become part of these stories that they tell.

- What makes PUSH unique is our relationship

to each other, as performers,

and also our relationship with audiences.

We like to view it as an invitation.

So instead of putting the show upon an audience,

you let them sit back

and you gently invite them to come into the world

that you're creating.

- The wonderful thing about PUSH

is their ability to focus on the work

and allow that stuff to happen

while allowing everyone to have a voice

without any ego getting in the way of,

this has to be mine

or we have to do it this way.

It's all about what suits the work the best.

How can we tell the story in the most exciting

or the best way, with all of us invested?

- We are a democracy that turns into a dictatorship.

So early in the creative process,

it's all about, tell me your thoughts,

tell me your feelings.

Or what's your opinion?

Should we try this way?

She would try that way?

Everybody's idea is valid.

And then as we pare down more and more,

it turns into whoever is taking the lead

on that particular piece of choreography.

Saying, no, no, no, it's not gonna be here,

it's gonna be here.

- Jekyll and Hyde is a new work for PUSH Physical Theatre.

It's an evening length production.

We are in collaboration with Blackfriars Theatre,

from Rochester, New York,

and we're excited about this.

- There are a lot of people that haven't seen them

in the Rochester community that don't know about them.

So one of the big things I hope,

and why I brought them to Blackfriars,

is I wanted to expose the Blackfriars audience

to their work.

You're right up next to them.

You're on the same level with them.

You're you're in the same space with them.

You're no more than 10, 20 feet from them.

You see every nuance,

you catch every minutiae of the performance.

And their work is so focused and so intense

and personal that you feel that energy,

you feel that vibe and being this close to it,

you can't turn away from it.

You can't get away from it.

You have to be enveloped by it.

- In our retelling of the story

there are things that you can tell physically,

very efficiently.

At the same time there are some things

that movement is really awful at expressing.

And so what we try to do is

tell as much of the story as is necessary

and no more than that,

to get people to where they need to be.

Blackfriars, in particular, is a great space for us

to try a work like this for the first time.

It's a fairly small house.

We're dealing with 150 seats.

So those audience members are really close to us

and we are really close to them.

There's an intimacy about that

that enables us to be a little more naturalistic

in our acting.

We don't have the answers.

What artists excel at is asking the question

in a way that other people can answer that question

in a very personal way for them.

I want people that come into the theater

to leave changed in some way.

I want them to go out to a coffee shop

and sit and have a conversation for a couple hours.

- [Dalia] To learn more, visit

See how one program is changing the lives

of inner city students in Baltimore, Maryland,

through a free school music program, OrchKids.

(kids playing instruments)

- I seen it I was like, wow, like music is fun.

And so I thought to myself like how can I become one of them

or do what they're doing.

- We're using music, more as a vehicle,

to create a future filled with possibility for these kids.

And we started an afterschool program with 30 kids.

We're well over 1000 kids now.

We serve them meals every day.

When they've needed help with homework

and help with reading,

we've brought in mentors and tutors.

- I have four kids now, currently,

in the OrchKids program.

It's music, music, music, every day.

It shows them leadership skills.

It helps them academic-wise.

- [Keith] They taught me how to play music

also, they showed me through hard times they'll be there

and they'll always have my back

and I wanna do that for other kids too.

- Keith Fleming has been here since day one.

He was accepted to Baltimore School for the Arts

and he'll be attending there this fall in 2016.

The kids see him and they see when he was corrected

by his teachers, he didn't get defeated.

He didn't shut down.

He tried harder and he did better.

What makes OrchKids special is its intensity.

It really gives them a sense of self-worth

at a very early age, that they're important

and if they stick to something

and they dedicate themselves to something,

they can really open some doors.

Their environment already is intense.

You know, we're living in high poverty areas

and broken family homes

and so to combat that the intensity

of what we're offering them, I think,

is very special and unique.

♪ Rainbows are visions ♪

♪ Without the illusions ♪

♪ Rainbows have nothing to hide ♪

♪ What's so amazing ♪

♪ That keeps us stargazing ♪

♪ And what do we think we might see ♪

♪ Someday we'll find it ♪

♪ A rainbow collection ♪

♪ The lovers the dreamers and me ♪

- OrchKids is a beautiful program.

The music makes me feel free and everything.

I learned how to play with my heart, read music.

(speaking in foreign language)

- This is Daphne's third year in the program.

She's really focused.

She's also a leader.

She likes to work with her peers.

The parents can really see the progression

in how the kids start to internalize

what it means to perform on stage,

what it means to take care of your instrument

and make sure that's safe.

- Now that I'm 10,

I probably don't like twining performances

and sometimes I say to myself, wow,

I have done that much music.

I can't believe it.

(kids singing together)

- And music is an incredible tool to use

because music is non-judgemental.

When you play a phrase on the tuba, on the violin,

you're always right.

There are a lot of things that we're combating

in these communities and serious stuff

but we have something that we can heal them with

through music.

- We give them a place to go

and something incredible to do.

We open this whole world up to them

that they can really pull all of their energy,

all of their emotion

and all of their mind and soul into.

OrchKids rest position.

One, two, moving it around.

- [All] Move it, move it, moving it around.

(kids drumming)

- Just like this.

(kids drumming).

That's starting to sound like something,

do you hear it?

Then when we get to a performance

and they are so happy

and so proud of what they're doing,

and I'm incredibly proud.

- I'm in the back, like wiping away tears, like,

you know, I'm so proud of them.

- You played beautifully and I'm so proud of you,

and I love that stuff.

(kids performing music together)

- [Marin] When you grow up feeling successful

you live a successful life

and a life that feels fulfilled.

- [Dalia] For more information visit

Detroit, Michigan born artists, Lauren Semivan

uses a camera that dates back to the model T era

to capture some very interesting prints

and some lesser known techniques to develop them.

(soft contemporary music)

- The photographer, Jeff Wall,

talks about photographers as being

either hunters or gatherers.

And I definitely identify with a gatherer

rather than a hunter.

The large format view camera that I use

dates from the early 20th century.

And it's a very simple kind of primitive camera which...

It's basically a box with a lens

and a ground glass on the other end.

So I have a large piece of black vail that I use

as a dark cloth to block out the light

so that I can see the image that I'm photographing.

And the camera takes eight by 10 negatives.

So the negative is much larger than say,

a 35 millimeter or even medium format negative

and so as a result,

there's much more capacity for detail.

Often what I'm looking for as I'm photographing

is a way to kind of suspend time itself

or to be able to say something that can't be said

without the film and the act of photographing.

Sometimes I'll start with an idea based on literature

and then the composition evolves from there.

All my photographs are made in the same studio

and they're incorporating painting

and drawing and found objects

and sometimes the figure as a narrative tool.

The set sort of evolves until it sort of devolves

into the next picture.

And so I kind of, I really enjoy how the process

is this continuous organic moment

from one image to the next.

This is an example of a set that was really

pretty precariously constructed.

So these are individual little sticks that were

kind of pressed into the backdrop against the tool fabric.

I kind of enjoy the element of it could all

fall apart at any moment.

As I'm working, my concept of time

is a little bit different in that

everything is much slower pace

and there's a really intense kind of element of composition

in working with the large format camera.

You can sort of go under this black cloth

and then see what you're

photographing upside down and backwards.

So it's sort of transposed, in a way,

and removed from reality even further.

So that always really interested in me

that I was sort of creating a totally new space

that didn't exist in reality

and that could only exist through the camera.

And then that the finished product

is not something that is really visible or even...

I'm conscious of what's going to happen

until I can see the final print or the negative.

I have two sizes.

One is 40 by 50.

That size is quite large

and it's almost a one-to-one scale relationship

with the viewer.

And then the other way that I work is

by contact printing the eight by 10 negative

to make a cyanotype.

So the cyanotypes are made on, basically,

a watercolor paper

and the emulsion is a mixture

of two different light sensitive chemicals.

So I mix them together

and then you hand coat the paper with the emulsion,

and then you allow the paper to dry in the total darkness.

When the paper's dry, you can print the negative

directly in contact with the paper in the sunlight.

You leave the print in the sun for your exposure

and then you can wash it in water

and then you have your cyanotype.

The show that I recently had at David Klein Gallery

was titled, Door into the dark.

And to me, this idea is more about the creative process

as a pursuit of the unknown.

The creative process is something that

kind of connects people through time and space

and also I think that as artists are making things

we don't necessarily always know what we're doing

or what we're looking for,

but we feel the need to create the thing

and to keep making it.

So I feel the process is sort of the door into the dark.

The painter, Pierre Soulages,

talks about his black paintings as being

more just representative of the forms

that are in the paintings

rather than about other ideas or, you know,

they're non representational.

So they really can't be described in language.

And I think a lot of artists that way

and that's the strength of art

is that we can't necessarily always explain

or identify what may be happening when we look

at a painting or any kind of image.

So I would say that I hope that my viewer

is able to kind of enter the photograph

and have questions and things to think about

and want to be in that space,

but maybe not necessarily have a way out of the space.

So that they can relate to it enough

to sort of understand

but then maybe their questions are what keep them there,

keep them looking at the piece.

Maybe some people are more comfortable knowing the answers

and others are comfortable with not understanding

exactly what is happening

but being engaged in it at the same time.

- [Dalia] For more of her work, visit

And that wraps it up for this edition of WEDU Arts Plus.

For more arts and culture visit

Until next time, I'm Dalia Colon.

Thanks for watching.

(intense upbeat music)

- [Narrator] Major funding for WEDU Arts Plus

is provided through The Greater Cincinnati Foundation

by an arts-loving donor who encourages others

to support your PBS station, WEDU,

and by the Pinellas Community Foundation,

Giving Humanity a Hand Since 1969.

(gentle music)