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Escape to Create

Posted on Jan 01, 2018 in Escape to Create , Resident Artists , January-February 2018

Escape to Create (E2C) has celebrated many milestones during its first quarter century as Seaside’s distinguished arts residency program. Looking back over its rich history of contribution, memorable performance and life-altering impact in the classroom, what began as a grass-roots arts program has today secured Seaside’s standing as “a beacon of hope” in the worldwide realm of the arts.

Thanks to the unprecedented generosity of Seaside homeowners, the engaged support of Seaside merchants, E2C Fellows, and our town’s outstanding network of non-profit institutions, we move forward with a profound sense of gratitude to our community. Together, we are writing a new chapter for the role of the arts and citizen artist as vital elements of Seaside’s beautiful, simple life.

Following a rigorous application process with review by a national jury, the New Year ushers in two enthralling groups of multi-disciplinary innovators, educators, and influencers as distinguished E2C Artists-in-Residence. Their month-long retreats are devoted to their individual projects in the music, literary, visual, theater and performance arts. During their stay as guests of our community, artists share their works with the public through contribution of performance at The REP Theatre, the Seaside Chapel and other iconic venues in Seaside. They also support teachers and serve as mentors to the Walton County student population through classroom visits and after school workshops.

It is fitting that the 26th season opens with a new “first:” The Escape Trio arrives on Jan. 3 from the New England Conservatory (NEC) of Music for a three-week performance and education residency created to foster the next generation of leaders in classical music. The Trio was founded by Miami pianist Jacob Mason who burst upon the classical scene at age 14 with a sweep of major competitions with his Prokofiev Sonata No. 1. Mason’s guest appearance at The REP last January left an audience asking for more. For his first encore performance at The REP on Jan. 9, Mason will be joined by UK violinist Andrew Samarasekara and Venezuelan-American cellist Sebastian Ortega. Samarasekara has performed solo, chamber and orchestral works at prestigious venues across England and Europe. Ortega is recipient of the Presidential Distinction Award at NEC and was junior finalist at The Sphinx Organization under artistic director Yo-Yo-Ma. The Escape Trio will also perform a full program in a special Sunday afternoon concert on Jan. 21 at the Seaside Institute. The musicians will contribute music to Sunday service in the Seaside Chapel, and visit schools and service organizations throughout Walton County before returning to the NEC.

“Galvanizing.” “Memorable.” “Extraordinary.” Kansas City-based composer, performer and multi-instrumentalist Calvin Arsenia leaves music critics at a loss for words beyond the superlative. A baritone “with a secret,” Arsenia’s first instrument was his three to five octave range voice, honed in school and church choirs. His later study of classical voice and mastery of stringed instruments, foremost the folk harp, evolved into a unique blend of folk, jazz, classical, rock and experimental R&B elements. Arsenia has transfixed audiences as large as 500. His 2017 performance during a special anniversary celebration for the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City received a standing ovation. Following his whirlwind European tour during the summer of 2017, the 28-year-old will devote his January residency to writing a new collection of songs with folk harp as the centerpiece. He will perform one night only at The REP Theatre on Jan. 9. A teacher of music and French with a background in early childhood education, Arsenia will introduce Walton County elementary students to the power of music as an instrument for peace, healing and understanding.

Dennis Covington first dreamed of becoming a writer as a boy during family vacations on the Gulf Coast in the ’50s and ’60s, an idea cemented by a beloved eighth grade teacher. The award-winning author of six books including the young adult novel “Lizard;” the memoir “Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia,” finalist for the 1995 National Book Award in nonfiction; and, “Redneck Riviera: Outlaws and the Demise of an American Dream,” Covington holds an MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop where he studied under John Cheever and Raymond Carver. He has taught creative writing in colleges and universities for four decades and as E2C writer-in-residence returns to the Gulf Coast for the first time in almost twenty years to finish his novel-in-progress, “Needmore, Texas.” Covington will give a reading and share stories of his writer’s life and career in a reception and book signing co-hosted with the Seaside Institute and Sundog Books on Jan. 25. The REP Theatre will perform a script-in-hand reading based on his novel “Lizard” for county middle school students.

The public works of California-based artist John K. Melvin are at the center of a global dialogue on art, the state of nature, and culture. Melvin’s contemporary sculptures are typically made of up-cycled materials that have passed their original use. Often flexible in structure and reflecting natural and local geometries, his site-specific installations distill the meaning of ecology relevant to the host community and global society. Melvin has lectured and exhibited at museums, U.S. Embassies, universities and prominent cultural venues across the world. His many fellowships include a residency with World Monuments Fund in Siem Reap, Cambodia (Plastic Pollution) and Château de La Napoule in France. His sculpture was also featured in the 2006 Snow Show, an internationally curated art and culture exhibition as part of the XX Olympic Winter Games. During his January residency, he will construct ephemeral sculptures in response to the unique 30A environment. Melvin will introduce his works in an artist talk and co-host a screening of the awarded documentary “A Plastic Ocean” at The REP Theatre on Jan. 27.

Mark Spano is a writer and filmmaker based in Orange County, N.C. His films include “The Quality of Light: A Biography of Claude Howell” and “Reimagining Sicily,” a personal memoir/documentary about the cultural and historic relevance of the three-sided island at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia. The Italian American author of five works of fiction and a memoir, Spano holds advanced degrees from Marymount University of Virginia and the American University in Washington, D.C. Spano will adapt his award-winning mystery novel “Midland” into a screenplay with plans to produce the film noir independently. He will appear at the Seaside Institute Academic Village and Town Assembly Hall with fellow writer Dennis Covington in a conversation about the writing life and will screen his film “Reimagining Sicily.”

Playwright Caitlin Saylor Stephens is considered an artist on the rise “likely to reinvent what theater is.” The awarded Brooklyn playwright and performer came to theater through an unusual route: she grew up breaking horses for Pimlico Racetrack in a family steeped in racing, breeding and gambling. Her fascination with speed, stakes, an unerring sense of time and a highly honed instinct for survival create play worlds on the periphery of events that change her characters’ worlds. As recipient of E2C’s 2018 Goody Fellowship for Playwrights, The REP Theatre will workshop Stephens’ winning script “Joley,” her new Americana play about murder and transformation set in the Appalachian American experience. “Joley” presented “a completely unique new voice: rhythmic, penetrating, and dark with quick wordplay and an unflinching eye for the complex and messy parts of life,” perfect elements for a dynamic script-in-hand reading at The REP Theatre on Jan. 28.

Escape to Create

Top row: Left to Right: Ana Inés Jabares-Pita, Caitlin Saylor Stephens, Calvin Arsenia, Kevin Doyle. Bottom Row: Left to Right: Kim Richie, Mark Spano and Sam Taylor.

Kevin Doyle is a Brooklyn writer and director creating works of contemporary theater that fuse multiple design elements of dance, film, live-camera usage, music, “found-text” sources, and his own original writing. He has written over a dozen plays and screenplays dealing with complex social and public policy issues while working as a director-designer-writer in Belgium, Italy, Sweden, and the U.S. Among his many awards and fellowships, including a 2014 E2C residency, Doyle was named a 2017-2018 Global Cultural Fellow by the Institute for International Cultural Relations at the University of Edinburgh. During his residency, Doyle will write a new play inspired by the viral photo of an albatross displayed with the ingested plastics that led to the bird’s death by starvation. The REP Theatre will debut the work to the public with a script-in-hand reading on Feb. 27.

Providence, R.I., composer, pianist and vocal artist Anthony R. Green’s research interests are profoundly important in expanding knowledge of the tremendous legacy of African American classical music. Since attaining his master’s degree in composition at the New England Conservatory of Music while studying under Lee Hyla, E2C’s first composer-in-residence, Green has emerged as a visionary artist with a strong social conscience, advancing ideals of equality and freedom through composition, performance and collaboration. He is co-founder of Castle Of Our Skins, a Boston-based concert and education series organization dedicated to celebrating Black artistry through music. Green’s E2C residency is dedicated to composing a cycle of art songs written for piano and voice utilizing texts in German, Italian and French. Green will visit music programs in country schools and will perform a piano and voice recital featuring works by African American classical composers from past to present at The REP Theatre on Feb. 8.

Ana Inés Jabares-Pita‘s stage designs explode across traditional boundaries of opera, dance, installation, fine art, concert, and film to create immersive experiences of contemporary art and theater. Trained as an operatic singer and fine artist, her work has received multiple awards and nominations in the UK and Spain including the Linbury Prize, Britain’s most prestigious award for stage design. Her design for “Idomeneus,” one of The Guardian’s 10 Best Theatre Productions of 2014, is now archived in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Jabares-Pita was set designer for “The Wish List,” recently awarded Best Play by the 2017 UK Theatre Awards. While in Seaside, she will continue her work in augmented reality, video games, fine art and sound experiments as elements of scenography to develop a unique immersive theatrical experience at The REP Theatre on Feb. 22. Jabares-Pita also offers the community a workshop in costume design using recycled materials.

The multifaceted singer-songwriter Kim Richie has been awarded by The Recording Academy’s Grammy and received top honors from Time Magazine, Associated Press, BMI, People Magazine and other cultural outlets. Her critically acclaimed albums have produced two No. 1 singles and four Top 10 hits and her songs have been recorded by industry greats such as the Dixie Chicks and Trisha Yearwood. She has contributed vocals to recordings by artists Ryan Adams, Shawn Colvin, Gretchen Peters, and Mary Chapin Carpenter among others. Richie’s pure, arresting voice and emotionally detailed lyrics are hallmarks of her contemporary music. She has taught songwriting courses at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen, Denmark and most recently, at the Banff Centre for the Performing Arts and the 2017 Folk Alliance Conference in both the UK and the U.S. While in Seaside, Richie will write a new collection of songs based on her collection of stories and photos from travels on the road. The audience will get a glimpse of the new work, “Wish You Were Here,” during her concert at The REP Theatre during her Feb. 13 concert as E2C’s featured artist in our annual Valentine to 30A. Richie also offers a songwriting and singing workshop for area students.

A native of Miami, Sam Taylor is author of two critically praised poetry collections, “Body of the World” and “Nude Descending an Empire.” His lyric poems are rooted in a sense of the world’s wonder and unknowability and are often engaged with history, social justice and ecological loss. He is recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship, the James Michener Fellowship, and fellowship residencies at Yaddo, Vermont Studio Center among others. Taylor is the director of creative writing MFA program at Wichita State University. He spent the summer of 2017 in Europe researching his Seaside residency project, a new collection of poems engaging with issues of race, ethnic identity, and the diaspora. While in Seaside, Taylor will visit county schools and will give a reading at The REP Theatre on Feb. 22.

For more information on the 2018 Celebration of Art, Life and Community artists, visit Tickets to performances at The REP Theatre can be purchased at Contact us at with inquiries about educational outreach opportunities with the artists of E2C.