If there is one thing that we have learned from the COVID19 pandemic, it’s that people need creative outlets. Now, more than ever, people are being forced to rethink systems of how things have been done in the past in order to both survive and thrive in our current world. Week #8 of Rock the Stream focuses on an artist, Zed Kenzo, and nonprofit partner, ArtWorks for Milwaukee, who are passionate about building community through creativity.
Blending together electronic, hip hop, funk, soul and alternative vibes, Zed Kenzo is a performer like none other. She’s fierce… passionate about her city, her craft, and improving her community through music and expression. In a recent Zoom, Zed described her music as, “highly eclectic... high energy, eccentric, alternative and unique.” Channeling a myriad of styles and influences, Zed Kenzo is a riveting performer through and through. When asked about what it’s like to perform on a streaming set versus an in-person show, Zed commented, “I am just as nervous and excited to perform, but it is weird not to have the same energy with the crowd there. It is great though, that I am still able to connect with the community and with listeners and fans.”
Like many folks, Zed’s plans this spring and summer have been altered due to the COVID19 pandemic. “I was supposed to put out a record this May,” Zed quipped on our Zoom. “It’s hard to focus these days. With everything so discombobulated, stressed, and worrisome, it’s hard to get up and just ‘make music,’ so to speak…you can’t force creativity. I’ve had to shift my creative energy to do other things like bracelet making, drawing, writing, and journaling. I want to create and make moments happen, but you cannot rush the process.” On top of that, Zed has been a big advocate in the Black Lives Matters protests around the community as well. “It has been intense and exhilarating,” Zed added, sharing about helping with other artists, including Webster X to organize a Black is Beautiful bike ride for this upcoming weekend on Sunday, June 21st.”
Zed, recalls the value of arts education in her own life and its impact on her passion and interest in performing, “I got into art at a young age. My mom was an illustrator and my grandmother was a fashion designer. I started dancing at age four, and playing the piano at age seven.”
With nearly twenty years of experience, helping youth find their voices and passion through art, ArtWorks for Milwaukee has been a stalwart partner in our community. Executive Director, Terry Murphy, recently shared on our Zoom conversation, “art has a great way to break down barriers. Our work is both gratifying and challenging at the same time. We combine art with workforce development, and our teens who are interns with us are paid and take on the role of assisting artists in the community, working in small teams of four to six students in a variety of mediums. They share ideas and get input from the community at large. This all helps open their minds to a lot of different ideas and perspectives. Creativity, collaboration, and innovation are all essential skills that youth need to be successful in life. As awful as the time is with COVID and everything else, it has forced us all to be more innovative and stretch ourselves.”
Like many community organizations, when the COVID19 pandemic hit, ArtWorks had to quickly pivot. “On March 12th we had a fundraiser at Third Space Brewery,” Murphy recalls, “and the next week everything was shut down. We were fortunate enough to move all of our programmings online. We have created some great work during this time, as folks need a creative outlet to express their voice. We partnered with Time Slips, to have our paid interns learn their approach to work with elders. Once the pandemic hit, our interns continued creating postcards and messages to send to elders and others at St. Ann's Intergenerational Center on the south side. The collaboration uses storytelling to help our teens capture the experiences and memories of senior citizens with dementia in the community. In addition, we have done a great photography project featuring members of the LBGTQ+ community, as well as some art inspired and especially related to the COVID19 pandemic itself. This is brought to life our #AbundanceMKE project, which showcases many things we have in abundance to be grateful for in our greater Milwaukee community.”
Undaunted, Murphy and her staff continue to power on and are slated to launch some youth art camps online this summer to help give students a safe space to share their voice, even if at a distance.
“Right now, it is so important for young people to detach from the online persona stuff and social media in general,” Zed Kenzo added, “Clearly all of the creativity is a good alternative with everything going on right now. These times are crazy! Everyone has the ability to be creative, read, and advance their minds. Gotta keep busy when you need to keep busy and rest when you need to rest. One of the great things about creating art is the confidence that it can bring you. You learn to accept who you are and not compare yourself to others. Art allows us to do so many positive things,” Zed concluded.
Thank goodness for the power of art, performance, connection, and positivity that wonderful artists like Zed Kenzo and organizations like ArtWorks bring to the Greater Milwaukee Community. Be sure to check out Rock the Stream on June 18th at 7PM with Zed Kenzo benefitting ArtWorks for Milwaukee.
Please consider donating to support Zed Kenzo and ArtWorks for Milwaukee
Funding format: 100% of the funds donated from the live-streams are split equally between the musician and nonprofit. The nonprofit partner accepts the donations and distributes half to the artist. DONATE HERE