Art and Culture: Inside the Movement of Multidisciplinary Artist Alexis Caputo
by: Stephanie Krulik
"I intend to rise in the full dignity of my being."
- Alexis Caputo
As one of the world’s most vibrant art and cultural communities, South Florida is home to countless international artists that contribute to the flourishing scene and its movement. While there is a pool of talent in the region, it is unusual for an artist to be able to contribute to every vein of the arts successfully while maintaining a handsome following and continued demand for his or her talents.
Bahamian-American multidisciplinary artist Alexis Caputo is such an artist. Her vibrancy and intensity are spellbinding. She shares, “I am deeply in touch with my private, public and core self and the influence of my artistic language. Simply put, I know who I am and what is within me and I intend to rise in the full dignity of my being."
Caputo is the sole author of an artistic portfolio that consists of interdisciplinary art, including the interpretive arts of performance art, theater, dance, choreography and music; the literary arts of poetry and spoken word; and the visual arts of painting and film/documentary.
On January 14, Caputo screened her documentary Elders of the Diaspora at the Sadkin Community Center in Lauderhill. As its title suggests, the film examines the experience of elders as forced and willing immigrants in America. The documentary was produced from a grant awarded to Caputo from the Broward Cultural Division, the National Endowment for the Arts and through a community partnership with the Oscar Thomas Foundation.
Unnecessary Noise Prohibited - her “freshman C.D.,” as she calls it - combines poetry/spoken word and music compilations. The tracks range across such themes as identity, freedom, police brutality, violence against women and censorship. As a writer and journalist, she has an equally extensive resume, having written for both U.S. and International news media. Outlets for her work include, among others, the Caribbean-based Nassau (Bahamas) Guardian & Tribune, the Jamaica Gleaner, South Florida Times, the Miami Times, Miami New Times, FlaVour Magazine and Black Art in America, where she served as a contributing writer with her own feature column - Diaries of Black Art in America.
Art as Activism and in Education
“As an artist, professor and activist, I consistently strive to create, further develop and share life-affirming work,” Caputo says. “I have found a relatable fashion to dialogue, have cross-cultural exchanges and instigate movements with international interests. I am most fulfilled knowing that my work affords me an opportunity to be in a constant state of service as a citizen in the community locally and internationally."
Her volunteerism and interests are in working tirelessly with the dispossessed population - women and girls in various social settings, including those who are survivors of sexual and domestic violence, those who have been incarcerated and youth in juvenile detention centers. She has worked with and has community partnerships with women’s organizations in both New York and Florida. Another focus is the hands-on work needed to ensure at-risk and impoverished youth have access to literacy and life skills.
Caputo is equally committed to ensuring access to arts and cultural programming for adults and youth with disabilities. She is a resident artist with VSA arts of Florida, an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., serves as a resident artist with Arts for Learning and is a former Ambassador of the Old Dillard Museum in Fort Lauderdale.
Educated in Europe and America, Caputo studied language and culture at the University of Paris and is an honors scholar and graduate of New York University, where she trained in theater, music and performance studies at Tisch School of the Arts under noted theater scholar Karen Malpede. She studied further with Dr. Lowell Swortzell at the School of Culture, Education and Human Development. She holds degrees in liberal studies, music and performing arts and science (education). She is an adjunct professor at the New World School of the Arts/Miami Dade College, where she has taught Performance Art and Playwriting and currently teaches dance/movement.
A recent graduate of the Broward Cultural Division’s Artist as Entrepreneur Institute, Caputo continues her work as an artist in concert with her position as executive director of Project Witness, an international art, cultural and educational not-for-profit organization. “This is a way for me to take the focus off myself, to expand and build a dais that affects the lives of other women and young girls,” she asserts. In October 2012, in conjunction with the internationally recognized dance company Urban Bush Women, Caputo was a part of a community residency that culminated in one of her written works being choreographed and presented at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Center in a community presentation titled Are We Democracy? The week-long residency at the South Miami Dade Cultural Center - a collaboration with Miami-Dade College and Miami-Dade Live - featured student dancers performing and expressing "what democracy means for us as individuals and what democracy means for us as a community," Caputo explains.
"Stray" A Self Portrait (Painting by Alexis Caputo)
AFRO DIARIES (Visual Verse Series) 2012
Mario Astorga photo
Her central piece, the 2012 Afro Diaries,
is the umbrella for all of her literary, performance, visual work and documentation and is a multi-cultural, intergenerational and international project. This multi-disciplinary portfolio combines excerpts "that are compelling and a window into the miscarriages women endure, whether addressing the critical issues of race, class, or gender, creating conflict and inequality in society," Caputo explains.
Afro Diaries incorporates a variety of elements, including Raw Footage (2011), The Lynching Eye (2011), SOULED-OUT (2010), The Waiting Room (2010), Truths Carved from the Belly (2009), Women of the Drum (2008), The Proud Pilgrim (2007), Spit Boxing (2003) and Deconstruction & Deliverance (2002). Caputo emphasizes, "My work is everything to me. I must be able to use my talents diversely and every expressive modality as a resource. Afro Diaries is a bible of my life's work. I will guard it fiercely."
To learn more about the Afro Diaries project and Caputo, visit www.facebook.com/afrodiaries.
"I & Eye" A Self Portrait (Painting by Alexis Caputo)
AFRO DIARIES (Visual Verse Series) 2012
Mario Astorga photo
Since 2007, Broward Cultural Division has presented the Artist as an Entrepreneur Institute (AEI) which is a course of study to assist artists, of all disciplines, by cultivating and advancing their business skills. More than 375 artists have graduated from the AEI program. Led by a premier faculty composed of a leading business practitioners and artists familiar with arts and culture from the South Florida region, faculty members instruct artists through a series of lectures, panels and discussions. The AEI curriculum offers critical support for artists enabling them to contribute to strengthening the vitality of the larger urban arts and culture sector. For more information on this program or to register, please visit the Broward Cultural Division website.