Monet. O’Keefe. Thoreau. Many artists through the ages have been inspired by nature, but few have heard a voice, some wild, awe-inducing message from the world speaking directly to them.
The Arts Council’s Mina Estrada was off a cape in Maine a few years ago, having impulsively climbed over rocks and brush and algae in what she calls her “fashion boots” to get as close to the Atlantic, all the wind and the water and the sun, as possible, when she heard the words that have now shaped her new understanding of creativity.
“What I took from that experience was this scene that was breathtaking to me was just a remnant of nature doing its thing all the time, and that I should just make the work I think is important and make it daily,” recalls the professional dancer and choreographer. “And if we do that right, the result takes care of itself, and the daily things we do will impact people in ways we don’t even know.”
The veteran dance instructor taught at Texas Woman’s University and Temple before arriving in Baton Rouge five years ago to coordinate Arts Council events and venue rentals and the Baton Rouge Arts Market, host the Arts Council’s radio show, and stand as a vocal point-person for local artists seeking resources and connection in a city where the arts can at times feel like they are underground.
Her new project in collaboration with Baton Rouge Community College is all about that connection and collaboration. It’s called Listening Artist, and Estrada is inviting guests on stage with her to interact in any number of ways listed on a menu. The guest can talk or perform, and Estrada has to respond or not respond in the manner the guest chooses.
“I will be working with local dancers, musicians, poets and visual artists to focus on the nuances of listening and responding, and then create an experience that invites the audience to approach and engage with the performance.”
The art of listening and responding is one Estrada knows well—from her vivid experience hearing nature to her postmodern dances that call audiences to meet her performance with fewer expectations and more of their personal feelings and experiences. “That’s when great things can happen,” she says.
But motivation doesn’t have to come from a gorgeous sunrise over the ocean or a captivating performance. Estrada is a strong believer in appreciating the details of life.
“Taking everything in as valuable leads to being more aware of the abundance, which means more gratitude,” Estrada says. “Deny nothing, because anything can be an inspiration.”