WEDU Arts Plus

S9 E24 | FULL EPISODE

Episode 924

Chael Blinya is a Ghanaian-American rapper and writer who uses language and music to share his perspective. A community of artists in Reno, Nevada, inspire spirit and strength amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Fashion designer Stephanie Schultz creates original garments with distinct historical elements. Rob Rogalski creates whimsical miniature movie sets, puppets and sculptures.

AIRED: December 31, 2020 | 0:26:45
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

(upbeat music)

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

Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota.

- [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.

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

a Tampa rapper appreciates the power of words.

- [Chael] I think I'm finally at a point

where I can create hip hop and not worry about it not being

like a stereotypical type of hip hop.

- [Dalia] Arts in the time of quarantine.

- [Courtney] It's in the silence

and it's within that time to meditate

that you actually become more creative.

- [Dalia] Fashion that defies definition.

- [Stephanie] I definitely wanted to build

a high fashion collection

inspired by the Victorian art collection here at the hotel.

- [Dalia] And crafting fantastical creatures.

- [Robert] My interest shifted

away from doing two-dimensional work

and working in three-dimensional work.

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

(upbeat music)

(upbeat music)

Hello, I'm Dalia Colon and this is WEDU Arts Plus.

Ghanaian American artist, Chael Blinya,

is a connoisseur of words.

He uses his talent to write and perform rap

that reflects his perspective and experiences,

but his love of writing

goes far beyond the scope of songwriting.

(upbeat hip hop music)

- [Chael] I'm not concerned with everything else

while I'm doing it, it just feels very innate,

but I think the biggest thing I can hope for

is that they enjoy it

and if they don't enjoy it, at least appreciate it

because you might not like something,

but you can still respect that there's like work and effort

that got put into this, you know?

So I think acknowledgement maybe,

but nothing more than that.

I got it, okay.

♪ Uh, this is distorted portion of Hortland ♪

♪ Who hears the who ♪

♪ Who hears is who ♪

♪ Who is Dr. Seuss ♪

♪ Simple rhymes, elementary book ♪

♪ I do it every time ♪

♪ I don't feel like I gotta catch the hook ♪

♪ Yeah ♪

- [Isak] I think before me and Chael kinda got to like

a certain limit where I was like, okay, I got all the,

you know, all my basics, you know, I know what I'm doing

and then like, when I started working with Chael,

like, you know, just, I started pushing myself,

he started pushing me, you know, like to keep up with the

caliber of lyricism that he was already at.

- [Charles] You really see the intention and the love

that he puts into his work and his performance

and then getting to know him there, you,

like you still see the work and how it follows through.

So there are times where Chael might be rapping to himself

or repeating a line

to get the cadence and the flexion just right.

He's constantly writing and rewriting

and exploring different ways to approach things

and that carries over to his music.

I mean, as an artist myself,

I feel like I know tons and tons and tons of musicians,

I know tons of artists

and Chael's craft and the,

the heart that he puts into his craft

is definitely different

from a lot of other people that I've come across.

♪ The 99 and 2004 ♪

♪ The cash money dropping ♪

♪ So I'm coming back ♪

- [Chael] I come from Ghanaian also,

I was born in Accra Ghana in 1998

and I've been here since 2003, that's 17 years.

I came here a week before I turned five,

then in 2004, we moved into our house

and I've been there since.

My childhood was,

it was a pretty like pedestrian childhood, you know?

I'm pretty sheltered,

so a lot of my time was spent within my neighborhood,

you know, my next door neighbor is now,

like they're African too,

so we just kind of grew up in that,

that same sheltered lifestyle of this is where we are.

If we're not here, we're at school,

if we're not at school, we're at church.

Performing, I would say

started when I was like maybe like three, four

'cause I was that kid at that party on the dance floor

from the moment the party starts to the ending of it.

So I would say I attribute my stage performance and presence

to those early days, just DNA, nature of a person.

You hear music, put on a show.

My writing days

probably go all the way back to like first grade,

but sixth grade, I would say

that's when that writing translated from

more formal styles of writing

to more like poetic and creative forms of writing,

where I'm no longer writing in complete sentences,

I'm writing and making up my own language, essentially,

out of the English language

and just having fun and going crazy.

I don't think the writing and performing

have anything to do with each other.

I think the performing

is just embedded in who I am as a person

and the writing is something completely separate.

- [Charles] Watching Chael from a stranger's point of view,

he can seem like a very standoffish person

and then he gets on stage and he just explodes

and you're like, where did this come from?

This quiet guy who is not speaking to anybody.

♪ Arm and Hammer smooth ♪

♪ Now camera's baggy loose ♪

♪ Pants and lateral shuffle stance ♪

♪ Shoulder roll with that roadblock on ♪

♪ We took a chance and danced ♪

♪ Cause E equaled MC ♪

♪ Previous to MC ♪

♪ Perceived it square ♪

- [Isak] I do a bulk of the behind the scenes work,

so you know, I'm mixing masters music, recording,

make a lot of the, the beats, do all of the music videos.

I do all of the technical things

to get everything out of his head, into the, you know,

to make it tangible.

♪ It goes on and and on, man ♪

♪ On and on like et cetera ♪

(rapping)

♪ Multiple dimension ♪

♪ Comprehension precise ♪

♪ Division of religion ♪

♪ Court decision ♪

(rapping)

- [Chael] Our friend Scorpio is very talented.

(laughter)

He's, he's a very diverse, diversely talented individual

so it makes me not want to just wake up

and not give my best effort

because you have somebody who's literally

just like a one-stop shop for, for creative collaboration

and I have a lot of ideas,

but I don't have the patience

to learn the technical side of it.

With Charles, I think Charles just holds me accountable

and I, I'll say with Charles,

he's very outspoken about how good my art is

and I would be a fool to just wake up and stop making art

and you have this person that's shouting your name

at the top of the mountains.

- [Charles] There's definitely something

incredibly special about Chael.

He has a quality to him, he has a flare to him

that you won't find anywhere else.

♪ Watching PBS after school ♪

♪ While my parents were gone ♪

- [Chael] We all know how hip hop is the trend

in the media and in different outlets,

so I think the fear of my parents

thinking that I'm going to dive into this art form

and change the way I behave as a human being

is probably what allowed me to get to the root

of the art form that I actually enjoy,

which is the writing and the ability to bend words

and get really creative.

It wasn't easy, but I think I'm finally at a point

where I can create hip hop and not worry about it not being

like a stereotypical type of hip hop

and it just being my own brand of hip hop.

♪ Now Mr. Benjamin ♪

♪ Tie the knot for him ♪

♪ Lucky Thomas Jefferson ♪

♪ Check this out, my wallet says ♪

♪ Misfortune lingers inside of all them crevices ♪

♪ Crinkle cotton fibers of them Hamilton ♪

- [Charles] It's a work in progress,

but it's a movement that won't be stopped.

- [Chael] The art keeps me centered,

it keeps me grounded, it keeps me focused.

It just doesn't allow my mind to wander and stay idle.

It allows me to have purpose in everything I do,

just because I know at the end of it,

the art will probably help somebody else.

- [Dalia] For more information,

visit facebook.com/novicefromthemiddleofaugust.

Even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,

the spirit and strength of many arts communities

did not diminish.

We head to Reno, Nevada

to see how artists continue to create and inspire

in these difficult times.

(uplifting music)

- [Emily] I am a professional artist

and I am quarantining at home

and my home is full of paintings

because the art shows I had scheduled were canceled.

- [Erica] There's something so valuable

about having the live space,

the face-to-face interaction, the kinesthetic empathy,

that's really important

and I really miss all of these places in Reno,

like Echo Enzo and the Loft and Flux Movement Lab

where we can dance together and create together and

I think people really need that and miss that.

- [Courtney] It's in the silence

and it's within that time to meditate

that you actually become more creative,

so I've had a lot more ideas over the past two months,

I've written a lot more

and my passion to actually create something

has definitely grown over the short amount of time

that we've been forced to be alone.

- [Beth] Art is really a historic trail of,

of the stories that are going to be told about this time.

I mean, art comes out of situations like this,

of tragedies and, and hard times

and I believe that the arts will tell a story

of what is happening right now for people in the future.

- [Megan] I have seen lots of artists

respond to this in different ways.

I have seen artists hold raffles,

or sell art to fundraise for relief funds

and give back to those in need in the community.

I think through sharing their art,

artists are helping connect and uplift.

For example,

the Drakulich Foundation for Freedom of Expression

has turned from making paper out of old military uniforms

and they've hired veterans to make masks,

some from those recycled military uniforms.

- We have produced over 1700 masks so far

and are excited to say that many of those

have been donated to underserved communities.

We also make orders for businesses

to help them get back to work.

It's really special to take the military uniforms

and use them to protect citizens

and this is what they look like

and they're very handsome and well-made.

As you can see, they're easy, they're comfortable,

they're light.

You can tie them as tight as you want,

or hang them like so for errands

and then they just slip right down over your ears

and you can go about your business until you need it again

and it is wonderful for veterans and myself

to remain engaged and productive

during this difficult time of social distancing

and helps us to keep our art resources alive and well,

so they're ready when we can get back to making art

as a community again.

- COVIDANCE 19 is a way for dancers to

create something in their own home with a roommate, a pet,

you don't even have to be a dancer,

just movement and then create something,

send it in via a smartphone,

and release one dance every 19 days

and of course, the quarantines lasted longer,

they do every 14 days,

but it was just really awesome

to see what people came up with.

People were dancing with inanimate objects,

Tweety bird had a moment,

there, there were contact improv partners,

there was dancing with themselves, or walls, or floors,

and it was just in light,

it was just really lovely to see what people came up with

and how they tied,

oftentimes what they were dancing with or too,

with what they were going through

and how they were dealing with the quarantine

and everything that's going on right now,

which is highly volatile

and extremely changing and inconsistent

and there's a lot of gray area.

None of us really know what's going on.

- [Bryce] During this time, quarantine,

I've just really been, I guess, more creative, I think,

working on new projects.

Me and my family, we had the opportunity

to go up the road to Melton Elementary School

and paint a mural for all the kids in school.

A lot of the kids probably haven't seen it yet,

but hopefully it's a something that really

brightens their day and gives them a smile

when we're finally able to go back to school.

- [Emily] Okay so,

since some of my art shows were canceled,

I've decided to sell my artwork online in an auction format

and all of that money is going to local charities.

Something else that I've done since we've been quarantined

is make a coloring book about the quarantine

using animal puns and a color your own postcard set

and these whales say,

whale, it looks like we'll be together for awhile,

that was one of the puns.

- [Courtney] I think something that I've really learned

during this period of time is how capable I am, you know?

Film is something that takes an army to create

and I think that

when you're forced to create something on your own,

or you want to create something

and you only have your roommate there,

you become more creative

in how you're going to go about making that happen.

So I think that it's definitely been encouraging for myself

to be like, oh look,

you actually know how to do all of these elements

and you can do them pretty well

and, and that shouldn't restrict you in the future

to create something if you've only got one or two people.

- [Megan] Art is the connector,

whether it connects people to each other,

or makes us feel less alone when we see something,

or read something,

or listen to something that speaks to us,

it's an expression of the human experience,

an interpretation of the world around us.

We need that connection now.

Public art has always served this purpose

and it's still accessible during this time.

Unlike galleries and museums, which are closed,

there's still access to our public spaces,

so the public art collection

is available to anyone at any time.

It serves to create a sense of place and community

to connect, inspire, and transform.

- [Courtney] This quarantine period

and this period of isolation

has definitely shown people the importance of art

because we are now forced

to get down to the core of who we are

because we're alone with ourselves.

- It brings out the creative side.

When you're stuck in home, it's something you can do.

You can always pull out pencils and pens

and markers and paint and create something

and so, it just gives you an outlet

to always be able to create.

- But you need art in every form.

People express themselves through dance,

through drawing and making pictures and telling stories

and art is the one thing

that is going to bring us all together.

- [Megan] We are resilient and creative, all of us,

and it's been super inspiring and wonderful

to see how people are figuring out new ways to connect

often through art.

The arts will be a large part of rebuilding

and finding our new normal as we move forward.

- [Dalia] For more about the arts in Reno,

visit arttown.org.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, fashion designer, Stephanie Schultz,

is creating original garments

in the gallery space at the Pfister Hotel

with unique designs that incorporate historical elements.

(subtle music)

- [Stephanie] Fashion is the armor

that every single person wears.

It's a way to externalize who you are inside.

My name is Stephanie Schultz and I am a fashion designer.

To me, fashion design is more than just making clothes.

It's about also telling a narrative

and telling a story with what I'm making,

at least I feel like that's my responsibility

as a fashion designer, especially being a couturier

and working in, in more of high fashion.

They're a bit tight, but they look so good.

The difference between ready to wear

and couture, or high fashion,

it's more about like, when do you want to use it?

When do you want to wear it?

And everybody's personal style is different.

So for me, what I wear as my casual,

maybe somebody's like way out there, super fancy outfit.

I think I have a distinctly unique look about my work,

especially if you're looking at my work

compared to other Milwaukee designers.

I'm, I'm the only one who does like

historically influenced high fashion

and I've never really felt like I personally fit

into any kind of subculture completely.

Like, I don't completely fit into goth subculture.

I don't completely fit into

Japanese street fashion culture.

I don't completely fit into steam punk.

I'm an amalgamation of all of these things

and so is my work.

Part of what my responsibility is as a designer

is showcasing that beauty comes in a lot of different forms.

I've always been a person

who's a little bit outside the box.

That's why couture is great

because it allows me to be rebellious, but with my fashion.

Couture doesn't have to follow any kind of rules,

which is really exciting.

The hardest part of being a designer

is when you are designing something first

and then figuring out,

okay, what's the geometry

of the shape that's happening here?

How do I make that into a 3D piece?

So when I'm designing,

I like to create pieces that do have lacing in the back,

or a little bit of stretch, or cut on the bias

so that they conform to the body a little bit better

because I like to, to make sure

that the piece that somebody is getting from me

is going to last them for a really long time.

When I'm making things that are really feminine,

I use a lot of ruffles

and I use a lot of flouncy kinds of fabrics

and I use a lot of really nice, high-end textiles

and things that are very delicate.

I definitely wanted to build a high fashion collection

inspired by the Victorian art collection here at the hotel.

The Pfister has the largest collection of Victorian art

anywhere in the country.

It gives me a place to start,

but it's not that I'm making exact replicas

of what's in the paintings,

it's me interpreting what's there

into something that's high fashion

and into something that's modern

with that historic element to it.

There were some interesting elements

in all of these paintings

that I really wanted to draw inspiration from

and translate into fabric

and have, have a living painting

and do my interpretation of them

where you get the general idea of,

well, you look at them and you say,

oh yeah, it's that painting, definitely.

People are so far removed from the making process of things.

People will be able to see the actual process

of how a thing is made

and I'm hoping that it'll give them

a greater appreciation for clothing,

whether or not it's ready to wear.

Fashion is more than clothing, fashion is art.

(upbeat music)

- [Dalia] Learn more about Schultz's work at silversark.com.

Rob Rogalski is an artist in Rochester, New York

whose whimsical art enraptures those who visit his studio.

His miniature movie sets, puppets, and sculptures,

transport you to a fantasy world.

(subtle music)

(machine buzzing)

- [Robert] My name is Robert Rogalski.

I'm a local artist here in Rochester, New York.

The work I do is whimsical and fanciful.

I have a love of puppetry and all things geeky.

People are always asking me,

well what medium do you work in?

And I work in multiple mediums,

I'm a sculptor, I do illustration.

My background was of course,

I wanted to get into visual effects when I was younger.

I was desperate to work for a creature shop for Hollywood,

so that involved learning all these different disciplines,

such as illustration, design, sculpting, model making,

all these kinds of things.

So it's kind of one of those, those processes

where you become someone who wears many hats.

I have two areas that I focus in on the most right now,

which is doing illustration work

and that's usually my bread and butter,

kind of a lot of fun doing,

post your work and, and things along those lines,

but then the other one is of course, sculpture.

(upbeat music)

My teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up,

I said, oh, I want to be a book illustrator

and then my interest shifted

away from doing two-dimensional work

and working in three-dimensional work.

Sometimes I don't have a clue what I'm going to do,

other times I have a vague idea

and then there are the moments where yes,

you know exactly what you want to do,

what you want to create,

but you often find out that,

especially if you're working with found objects like I do,

that the objects will dictate what you're going to make.

(upbeat music)

It's a very organic process.

You pick something up

and then you look at it in different angles

and you could suddenly see, well wait a second,

this should be a part of a headset for a character,

or this should be a piston,

or maybe this will be a part of a laser rifle idle.

There have been times too,

when I started working on a project and midway through

I'm like, oh, this is going to be horrible,

this isn't working and then suddenly I'm done with it

and I look at it and I'm like, oh, I love this.

This is, this turned out better than I thought it would.

I started out with wanting to get into animation

and then it turned into, wait a second,

I can actually build these things

that will be real creatures right there.

I love practical effects.

I still love puppets and sculptures

and miniature landscapes and models

and all that kind of stuff

and that's why I kind of became obsessed with making it.

You know, I could probably focus in on figure sculpture

and other kinds of things, but this is a lot more fun.

- [Dalia] To see more of his work,

check out robertrogalski.com.

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

For more arts and culture, visit wedu.org/artsplus.

Until next time, I'm Dalia Colon, thanks for watching.

(intense music)

(intense music)

(intense 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.

(uplifting music)