Refocus: Nikko Johnston
So sorry for the delay in posting this video! College applications got away from us...
Nikko Johnston started out by acting in Red Eagle Soaring, a performance organization for indigenous youth. He has since gone on to perform in high school theater, 14:48 HS, and the Young American Theater Company. Nikko also participates in high school jazz choir. Now, as a senior, he's dedicated to using his power as an upperclassman to create space for teens of color in the arts. Watch his video below to learn more about his journey!
According To Leilani Lewis, Authenticity Is the Backbone of Equity In the Arts
By Anya Shukla
Leilani Lewis, a Seattle native, was first exposed to visual arts when her mom was offered a job at the Detroit Institute of Art. “I would go run around the museum, terrorizing the security guards,” she reminisces. Growing up in the ‘90s, Lewis noticed art--particularly hip-hop inspired murals and street art--all around her. But as she grew older, she began listening to lectures by visiting artists, shifting from a passive consumption of art to active participation. Simultaneously, her newfound artistic knowledge began to shape her worldview: “I learned about history; I learned about Black history in art. I learned my most critical, foundational identity and historical identity through the arts.” Lewis’s mother is white, and she didn’t have much connection to the Black side of her family, so the arts shaped her understanding of her heritage.
Even though she was immersed in it from a young age, Lewis didn’t think of a potential career in the arts until her mid-twenties, when she discovered a passion for art history in college. After she graduated, she started working for Seattle’s Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) in Marketing and Communications. There, she discovered the power of giving space for visual artists. “I think the most beautiful art is truthful,” she said, “Therefore, I feel like art has a wonderful way of healing people.”
By Anya Shukla
“It’s a party in the USA,” Miley Cyrus giggles over the audio system as I enter the Seattle Public Theater. As the audience chats, the music shifts to Lee Greenwood, who sings gruffly, “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.” Seeing as we’re about to see a play about four white people struggling to create a historically accurate play about Thanksgiving, the choice of music is darkly ironic. Who gets to be an American? we’re asked even before the play starts. Are all Americans really free?
As the lights go down, we are greeted with a video of a Thanksgiving performance by elementary schoolers. As they cheerfully chant about what “the Natives gave to me” while wearing stereotypical Native American costumes, the audience cringes. This song, and those like it, are juxtaposed with that of Cyrus and Greenwood’s view of America. Even though we may believe that we are in, as one "The Thanksgiving Play" character states, “a post-post-racial society,” misrepresentation and prejudicial thinking still occur.