Looking Deeper at our Phenomenal Feminist: Mindy Kaling

By Morgan Clark

Mindy Kaling is a 41-year-old American actress, best known from the very popular TV show The Office. In the show she plays Kelly, a boy crazy, airhead, customer service representative. Kaling was born Vera Mindy Chokalingam, and she has made her way up in Hollywood in her own way without and despite not sticking to society’s standard. Kaling is the daughter of two Indian immigrants who met in Nigeria and moved to the United States in 1979. She grew up watching sketch comedy television which helped develop her humor. Shows like “Living Color” and “Saturday Night Live” were some of her biggest influences.

In 2001 Kaling graduated from Dartmouth College with a B.A. in theatre. After graduating she moved to Brooklyn, there she shared an apartment with a woman named Brenda Wither. Together they created a satire named “Matt &Ben”, which went on to win the best overall production at New York International Fringe Festival in 2002. Their play had two years of success in Los Angeles, and it was Kaling’s door to The Office. The producer of the show Greg Daniel recruited her to help write for the show when it began and from there she ended up playing Kelly from 2005-2013. She also directed many episodes and became executive producer of The Office after many years. She did eventually leave the show that brought her up into the Hollywood scene, when she did she went on to become the first Indian American woman to ever write and star in her own show when she wrote and produced The Mindy Project, a show, in which she stars, about a doctor who is obsessed with finding a man. The show was on for five years before ending in 2017.


Throughout her career Kaling has spoken out about feminism and women’s right. She’s stated that The Mindy Project is “unconsciously feminist” because she is a feminist. (The character is loosely based on her). Even when it came to hiring she made sure to keep her staff diverse with a talented group of women. She has spoken out about her opinions regarding Hollywood and feminism, including how she feels women should not be applauded for doing their job in Hollywood because it should already be expected. Her platform just continues to grow, as she has gone on to be in many movies such as Ocean 8, Late Night, and A Wrinkle in Time. And now she has written two books which detail her own life, and in doing so empower women to be strong and, most importantly, to be themselves. She has and will continue to speak up for women’s rights, especially within the entertainment industry.

C.J. Janovy: Women Who Lead in the Arts

By Chris Howard-Williams

Photo Credit: John Janovy, Jr.

On October 24, the UMKC Women’s Center will be hosting an event titled Women Who Lead in the Arts, a panel discussion that will feature local, leading women in arts careers.  Leading up to this event, the Women’s Center blog will highlight each of the women who will be involved in this unique discussion. Today, we focus on C.J. Janovy.

“It’s an especially tense time for women in our country right now, and art is one way people can immerse themselves in difficult ideas and find empathy for their fellow human beings. I’m excited to hear all of our panelists talk about how they do that. I imagine we’ll all leave the conversation with some skills we can use in our daily lives.”

C.J. Janovy joins the panel discussion as our moderator, and we are excited to have her!  A “Midwesterner by birth and ultimately by choice,” as she puts it, Janovy has been active in the Kansas City journalism scene for quite a while now.  She began as an alt-weekly journalist, which included a decade-long stint as editor of The Pitch, Kansas City’s Village Voice Media-owned publication.  Since August of 2014, she has worked for KCUR 89.3, which is Kansas City’s NPR affiliate.  Although she began by reporting on arts and culture (“which is the coolest beat in the business,” she quips on her website), she currently acts as their digital content editor, where she edits news and features for their website.

Gleaning from her years in Kansas City journalism, including her own stories, columns, and blog posts about culture and politics in Kansas, Janovy authored the book No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas.  Published earlier this year by University Press of Kansas, the book is described as “the epic story of how a few disorganized and politically naïve Kansans, realizing they were unfairly under attack, rolled up their sleeves, went looking for fights, and ended up making friends in one of the country’s most hostile states.”  In order to write the book, Janovy herself traveled across the state of Kansas, from the biggest cities to the smallest farm communities, to find local activists and document their stories, their struggles, and their triumphs.  

On a more personal note, despite having lived on both the West Coast (for an English degree from the University of California at Berkeley) and the East Coast (for a master’s in creative writing from Boston University) for some time, Janovy has decided to settle in a “Place Like Home where she writes her blog.  In July of 2015, she married her longtime partner just as soon as marriage equality was legal in every state.  We look forward to watching her “in action” as our moderator on October 24, and we hope to see you there as well!

The Women Who Lead in the Arts panel discussion will take place on October 24 at 1:00-2:30 p.m. in the Miller Nichols Library, Room 325, 800 E. 51st St.  This event is free and open to the public.  For more information or to RSVP, contact the Women’s Center at (816) 235-1638 or visit womens-center@umkc.edu.

Diane Petrella: Women Who Lead in the Arts

By Chris Howard-Williams

Photo Credit: James Allison

On October 24, the UMKC Women’s Center will be hosting an event titled Women Who Lead in the Arts, a panel discussion that will feature local, leading women in arts careers.  Leading up to this event, the Women’s Center blog will highlight each of the women who will be involved in this unique discussion. Today, we focus on Diane Petrella.

Without a doubt, one of the things UMKC is known for is its internationally recognized Conservatory of Music and Dance.  Enrolling about 600 students, the Conservatory enables those students to “interact with an exceptionally gifted faculty and with leading visiting artists in ways that are supportive, yet rigorous.”  Among this faculty is none other than our next featured panelist and recently named Dean of the Conservatory, Diane Petrella.

Diane Petrella’s appointment as Dean this past summer came at the request of Conservatory faculty and staff.  An honor, to be sure, this appointment is particularly unique in that it “marks the first time in the Conservatory’s 112-year history that a woman has held this post.”  Diane actually wears quite a few hats for the Conservatory on top of being appointed Dean.  Having been with the Conservatory since 2006, she is also currently Chair of the Keyboard Studies Division and Professor of Piano and Piano Pedagogy.  She teaches applied piano and piano pedagogy courses for the Conservatory and also coordinates the group piano program. With so many accomplishments under her many hats, it should come as no surprise that the Conservatory awarded her the Kauffman Award for Outstanding Service in the spring of 2015.

In addition to her work with the Conservatory, Diane has had many unique experiences in her life as a musician and music educator.  For example, she has collaborated with her husband and fellow Conservatory educator, Nick Patrella, on many projects. Together, they formed the Petrella Ensemble in 2002, a touring performance group that has traveled throughout the United States as well as Mexico, Poland, Austria, and the Czech Republic in an effort to perform and commission new music.  In 2006, they worked together to publish The Musicians Toolbox, Thoughts on Teaching and Learning Music, which was contracted for distribution by Alfred Publications in 2012.  Diane and Nick also collaborated on the article “I’ve Got Rhythm, I’ve Got Phrasing,” which was published in the August/September 2012 issue of American Music Teacher.  

According to her bio page on the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance’s website, Diane “has appeared as a soloist with several regional orchestras and is active as a soloist, collaborative pianist, speaker and adjudicator throughout the United States, including her recent appointment to the College of Examiners of the Royal Conservatory, Toronto, Canada.”  In addition to her roles as musician and educator, Diane is also a mother of five children, including 9-year-old triplets.  “I think managing a hectic home life has certainly honed my leadership and organizational skills,” she quips. We would agree, Diane!  We look forward to hearing more from you as well as our other panelists on October 24!

The Women Who Lead in the Arts panel discussion will take place on October 24 at 1:00-2:30 p.m. in the Miller Nichols Library, Room 325, 800 E. 51st St.  This event is free and open to the public.  For more information or to RSVP, contact the Women’s Center at (816) 235-1638 or visit womens-center@umkc.edu.

Cynthia Levin: Women Who Lead in the Arts

By Chris Howard-Williams

Photo Credit: Manon Halliburton

On October 24, the UMKC Women’s Center will be hosting an event titled Women Who Lead in the Arts, a panel discussion that will feature local, leading women in arts careers.  Leading up to this event, the Women’s Center blog will highlight each of the women who will be involved in this unique discussion. Today, we focus on Cynthia Levin.

Without a doubt, the Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City offers one of the most unique theatre-going experiences in the city. According to their mission statement, the Unicorn strives to enhance the Kansas City community “by developing and producing high-quality, thought-provoking plays that have never been seen in the region.”  With an emphasis on illuminating social issues and providing inclusive stories which include race, religion, and gender identity, the Unicorn Theatre stands as one of the most preeminent theatres in the city.  Serving as the Producing Artistic Director of the Unicorn Theatre is our next panelist to be featured – Cynthia Levin.

Quite the fixture at the Unicorn, Levin has been with the theatre for 39 of its 44 years in existence.  During that time, she has served as a director, actor, designer or producer for over 300 productions. Reading through a personal letter shared by her on the theatre’s website, Levin’s passion for the Unicorn and the unique plays it showcases is apparent.  “The idea of doing or seeing something you have never experienced before is exhilarating,” she says, “and we want to share that with you.”  With this mission in mind, it is interesting to note that 65 of the Unicorn’s 324 productions have been world premieres.

Levin’s work in the theatre world has extended beyond the Unicorn Theatre on more than one occasion.  She has directed plays such as Number the Stars and To Kill a Mockingbird for Kansas City’s Coterie Theatre, a local children’s theatre that seeks to open the lines of communication between races, sexes, and generations.  She has also directed readings at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., for the MFA Playwright’s Workshop. In addition to her theatre work, Levin is a founding board member of the National New Play Network, which is an organization dedicated to the development and production of new works.  She has also been honored with numerous awards, including the Pinnacle Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Human Rights Campaign Equality Award, and most recently the Kathryn V. Lamkey Award from the Actor’s Equity Association for her ongoing commitment to inclusion and diversity. We look forward to hearing more about Cynthia Levin’s experiences soon as she joins our panel to discuss her role as a woman who leads in the arts!

The Women Who Lead in the Arts panel discussion will take place on October 24 at 1:00-2:30 p.m. in the Miller Nichols Library, Room 325, 800 E. 51st St.  This event is free and open to the public.  For more information or to RSVP, contact the Women’s Center at (816) 235-1638 or visit womens-center@umkc.edu.

Nicole Emanuel: Women Who Lead in the Arts

By Chris Howard-Williams

Photo Credit: Cameron Gee

On October 24, the UMKC Women’s Center will be hosting an event titled Women Who Lead in the Arts, a panel discussion that will feature local, leading women in arts careers.  Leading up to this event, the Women’s Center blog will highlight each of the women who will be involved in this unique discussion. Today, we focus on Nicole Emanuel.

If there’s one artist on the panel whose personal and family history plays like something out of a Hollywood movie, it would be Nicole Emanuel.  I don’t think I can do it justice in just one blog article, so I definitely invite you to check out her “About Me” page on her artist’s website.  As a little preview of her family history, there’s mention of a patricide trial in late 1920s Austria, an escape from Nazis in the 1940s, and a pair of great-uncles who rubbed shoulders with the likes of Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, and Isaac Stern, just to name a few.  Beyond that, you’re going to have to check out the site on your own!

What is clear beyond Emanuel’s historical roots in art, however, is how she uses those roots as well as her own experiences in life to inspire her own art, no matter what form it may take.  The 2008 murder of her nephew lead her to create a series of tri-state events known as “Sorry for the Miscommunication: Museum of the Streets,” which included street artists and gallery artists from Chicago, Kansas City and Madison cooperating in a collaborative mural, performances and exhibitions.  Another murder, this time of her great-grandfather, was the impetus for Emanuel to pursue her Masters Degree at UMKC with the goal of writing about her family. Her forthcoming book, titled “Memoraphilia: a granddaughter’s memoir, the life of Jewish artist and storyteller Liouba Golschmann,” centers on her grandmother and weaves through many of the seemingly impossible events in her family’s history.  Emanuel’s ability to use the painful stories of her own life and her family’s history to create art is a poignant reminder of the power of art.

Emanuel’s “current obsession”, as she calls it, is the InterUrban ArtHouse (IUAH) here in Kansas City.  Established in 2011, this Non-Profit organization is dedicated to purchasing and renovating an under-utilized industrial building into affordable, stable art studios, community exhibition/event space and sculpture garden with some of the area’s preeminent artists and craftspeople.  The mission of IUAH, as stated on their website, is “to enrich the cultural and economic vibrancy of the community by creating a place where artists and creative industries can work and prosper in an affordable, sustainable and inclusive environment.”

On a more personal note, Nicole Emanuel is a 1996 graduate of the local Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI), where she received her BFA in Painting and graduated as that year’s KCAI Valedictorian.  She has created 20 large-scale murals and 2 large-scale public sculptures since then. While her paintings and drawings are in numerous corporate and private collections in New York, California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas and Missouri, Emanuel considers her greatest creative works-of-art to be her own sons.  We are delighted to have Nicole Emanuel join us for this panel and look forward to having her share even more of her unique experiences as a woman who continues to lead in the arts!

The Women Who Lead in the Arts panel discussion will take place on October 24 at 1:00-2:30 p.m. in the Miller Nichols Library, Room 325, 800 E. 51st St.  This event is free and open to the public.  For more information or to RSVP, contact the Women’s Center at (816) 235-1638 or visit womens-center@umkc.edu.

Ramona Davis: Women Who Lead in the Arts

By Chris Howard-Williams

On October 24, the UMKC Women’s Center will be hosting an event titled Women Who Lead in the Arts, a panel discussion that will feature local, leading women in arts careers.  Leading up to this event, the Women’s Center blog will highlight each of the women who will be involved in this unique discussion. Today, we focus on Ramona Davis.

“I believe art is hope. This belief is an affirmation for me, because it’s a reminder that no one can own the essence of creativity nor can it be neatly confined to a single interpretation. Art is pure; it’s whatever one needs or wants it to be.” – Ramona E. Davis

For our next panelist, Ramona E. Davis, art has been a lifelong passion.  Since her youth, Davis has loved and studied art. She currently identifies as an avid art collector and an arts advocate in the Kansas City area.  Her professional work experience in the area of sales, marketing, and project management for both private and public sectors has enabled her to work in many diverse arenas, including Gallery Manager at The Central Park Gallery, Constituent Relations Marketing Manager at MidAmerica Arts Alliance, and charter board member of the Kansas City Museum Foundation.  Perhaps because of this unique experience, Davis was uniquely poised to found the KC Black Arts Network.

The KC Black Arts Network exists as an “advocate of local artists of color,” and it supports the local black artist community through services such as its online artist directory of local artists and promotion of artists’ work through social media and advocacy.  According to Davis, the goal with the network is “to cultivate and support experiences between local artists of color and local art enthusiasts.” The Network has also provided a platform for hosting artists talks as well as curating many exhibitions, including Reflecting The Times: Artworks by Harold Smith, Stefan Jones and Jason Piggie at The Box Gallery, September 2016, Colour Portraits: Unconventional Admiration at ArtsKC, February 2017 and Depictions: People, Places and Things for the Black Archives of Kanas City, February 2018.

On a more personal note, Ramona Davis currently lives in a historic home in Kansas City, Missouri, with her husband, IT Architect and musician Eugene Davis.  Her interests and activities include photography, acrylic painting, and color theory. Davis is a member of the African American Artist Collective, located in Kansas City, as well as a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, which has an undergraduate chapter here at UMKC.  Most recently, Davis been selected to join the Friends of Art Council at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. We are honored to have her as a part of our Women Who Lead in the Arts panel, and look forward to hearing her share her experiences as a leader in the arts!

The Women Who Lead in the Arts panel discussion will take place on October 24 at 1:00-2:30 p.m. in the Miller Nichols Library, Room 325, 800 E. 51st St.  This event is free and open to the public.  For more information or to RSVP, contact the Women’s Center at (816) 235-1638 or visit womens-center@umkc.edu.

Karen Christiansen: Women Who Lead in the Arts

By Chris Howard-Williams

On October 24, the UMKC Women’s Center will be hosting an event titled Women Who Lead in the Arts, a panel discussion that will feature local, leading women in arts careers.  Leading up to this event, the Women’s Center blog will highlight each of the women who will be involved in this unique discussion. Today, we focus on Karen Christiansen.

Without a doubt, one of the shining jewels in Kansas City’s art scene is the prestigious Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  Located less than a mile from UMKC’s campus, the Nelson-Atkins offers visitors a visual journey through many of the highlights of art history itself.  From Egyptian sculptures and the art of Imperial China to Impressionist paintings and modern art, there’s a little something for everyone, and the Chief Operating Officer of the museum happens to be none other than our next featured panelist, Karen Christiansen.

Since joining the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in February 1999, Christiansen has acted as the Museum’s Chief Operating Officer, where she directs the planning and daily financial and business operation of the Museum’s more than $33 million budget.  In addition, she coordinates museum-wide activities with direct oversight of areas such as visitor experience and amenities, human resource management, event planning, and financial management, among others. In 2013, Christiansen led a team of staff and consultants in developing and adopting the Nelson-Atkins Museum’s new Strategic Plan.  This plan emphasizes audience engagement, community involvement, collaborations and national/international partnerships.

Christiansen’s educational background highlights her unique ability to balance such a challenging role for the Nelson-Atkins.  With a Master’s degree in business administration, a Certificate of Museum Studies, and course work completed for a Master’s degree in art history, all from Arizona State University, Christiansen has been uniquely poised to handle her position as Chief Operating Officer.  In addition to her role at the museum, Christiansen is currently a Board Member of The National Toy & Miniature Museum and a Member of the ArtsKC Executive Director Roundtable. With such training and leadership capabilities, Christiansen truly has much to offer for art in the Kansas City area.  We are honored to have her as part of our panel and look forward to hearing what she has to share with us!

The Women Who Lead in the Arts panel discussion will take place on October 24 at 1:00-2:30 p.m. in the Miller Nichols Library, Room 325, 800 E. 51st St.  This event is free and open to the public.  For more information or to RSVP, contact the Women’s Center at (816) 235-1638 or visit womens-center@umkc.edu.

Xanath Caraza: Women Who Lead in the Arts

By Chris Howard-Williams

On October 24, the UMKC Women’s Center will be hosting an event titled Women Who Lead in the Arts, a panel discussion that will feature local, leading women in arts careers.  Leading up to this event, the Women’s Center blog will highlight each of the women who will be involved in this unique discussion. Today, we focus on Xanath Caraza.

If you were to take a quick glance of Xanath Caraza’s biography on her website, you would notice an introductory sentence that identifies her simply as “a traveler, educator, poet, and short story writer.”  What follows after that humble beginning is a list of publications, recognitions, and awards that are too numerous to list here. Along with lecturing in Foreign Languages and Literatures at UMKC, Caraza is the Literary Curator and organizer of the Annual Day of the Dead Celebration at the Writers Place in Kansas City from 2010 to the present.  In 2018, she received First Place in two categories for the International Latino Book Awards – “Best Book of Poetry in Spanish by One Author” for Lágrima roja and “Best Book of Bilingual Poetry by One Author” for Sin preámbulos / Without Preamble.  She writes for the publications Seattle Escribe, La Bloga, Smithsonian Latino Center and Revista Literaria Monolito.  

The list continues, but it stands in stark contrast to that simple opening introduction.  In fact, it seems to hint at the notion that Caraza is a woman who is comfortable occupying many diverse and sometimes contrasting fields.  Originally from Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, Caraza has found a way to honor and celebrate her heritage while embracing the world in which she currently resides.  Many of her works are available in both Spanish and English, which seems to act as a bridge between these two worlds. It is as if we have been invited to share in the rich experience of Caraza’s world through the medium of her written word.  We are truly excited to have her as a part of this panel discussion!

In closing, consider the following poem, reprinted here with permission from Caraza, and contemplate the journey that this “traveler, educator, and poet” invites you to take down the Hudson River in New York.

From HUDSON BY XÁNATH CARAZA; translated by Sandra Kingery

34.

Medita en este navegar mecánico.

 

No queda nada,

solo el angustiante ulular

del viento antes

de llegar al agua.  

 

Tiemblan las suaves manos

al escribir, son las dueñas de

los pensamientos salvajes,

de la ira de los oprimidos.

 

Agua del Hudson:

despierta y desenraiza

el dolor: las pesadillas

de niñez que se hacen realidad.

 

34.

Meditate in this mechanical navigation.

 

Nothing remains,

only the agonized keening

of the wind before

it reaches the water.  

Soft hands tremble

as they write, they possess

fierce thoughts,

the fury of the oppressed.

 

Water of the Hudson:

awake and uproot

the pain: the nightmares

of childhood that become reality.

The Women Who Lead in the Arts panel discussion will take place on October 24 at 1:00-2:30 p.m. in the Miller Nichols Library, Room 325, 800 E. 51st St.  This event is free and open to the public.  For more information or to RSVP, contact the Women’s Center at (816) 235-1638 or visit womens-center@umkc.edu.