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Woman to Watch: Shavanna Calder of Arts in Color

Sha_Va_NasmallShavanna Calder is looking to make a difference in the world. She is the founder of Arts in Color, a website that celebrates and informs artists of color in theater, music and other art forms around the world. You can visit Arts in Color at http://www.artsincolor.com.

Give us the lowdown: your name, where you’re from and what you do.

My name is Shavanna Calder and I’m originally from northern California. I’m a performer first, however, I’m also the editor of Arts in Color and work as an academic administrator as well!

Tell us about Arts in Color. What inspired you to start it?

Arts in Color is a site meant to create community while being a resource to celebrate and inform artists of color. The main focus, for now, is theatre (based on my background), but I have hopes that it will grow.

I needed an artistic outlet, but wanted to feel like I was creating something that would benefit others by filling a specific need. I grew up loving theatre, especially music theatre, but I encountered situations that I often had to navigate alone based on my racial background (i.e. how to wear my hair for shows, do my makeup, find dance attire in my color, and also find performers and opportunities I could identify with as a young performer).  I was recently sidelined by an injury that resulted in me not having the ability to perform as often and thought, “Well this is the time to start this (the site),” so I did!

If you could have lunch with one female performing artist, who would it be and why?

Oh gosh! What a question! Ummmm uhhhh Audra McDonald! I met her once briefly during her last performance of Porgy and Bess in MA at ART. She was absolutely lovely, and humble. I then met her again during the last performance of the show on Broadway (which I did standing room for) and she was equally gracious! She just has such a fun spirit that I relate to, and her talent is out of this world. Maybe I’ll be able to interview her for the site some day. That would be a dream-well that and working with her in a show! I’m going to cheat and also say Montego Glover (Memphis). I’d love to know her secret to singing the roles she’s sung flawlessly for 8 shows per week!

What inspires you?

A great performance, a random encounter with an artist I admire, a good voice lesson, my faith in knowing that God has placed me here to share my gifts and inspire others, the Tony Awards, encouraging conversations with my parents. Seeing/not seeing enough accomplished performers of color on Broadway, my drive to make a difference. I’m also inspired whenever someone gets in contact with me about the blog (good and bad) because it lets me know people are paying attention and finding it important enough to take the time to express their views.

What do you want women around the world to know about you and what you’re doing?

I’d love for women around the world to know that Arts in Color needs their support (right now it’s mainly me and one other regular contributor with people chipping in here and there to help or occasionally guest blog). That it is a community that welcomes them, but can only flourish with all of us contributing (whether that be a comment on the site, sharing the site with others, or even writing in to get involved somehow). We could use the support even in the form of constructive feedback! My blog also represents and challenges those who have the ability to support and advocate colorblind casting and inclusion in the theatre.

For me — they should know that my dream is to be on Broadway even through obstacles that may come my way. Professionally they can visit my site, but on a personal level they should know that I’m probably just like them, trying to contribute positively to society in a unique way that uses my talents. I’d love to see a more colorful theatre community onstage, backstage, in the audience, and behind the table and Arts in Color is part of that!

Beth Santos
Founder and CEO of Wanderful, creator of the Women in Travel Summit, enthusiastic lover of ice cream, picnics and art.

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