Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Spotlight on Crystal Pelkey

The Twin Ports has a rich heritage in the arts that spans many decades. One recent addition has been the Zeitgeist Arts building with its Zinema, Café and Teatro Zuccone, spawned by the Zeppa Foundation for whom Crystal Pelkey served as managing director.

EN: What was your role in the Zeppa Foundation and how did that come about?
Crystal Pelkey: In February 2009, Alan Zeppa asked me to join the Zeppa Foundation team to help launch the new performance theater, Teatro Zuccone. As Managing Director from 2009-2011, I created programing/events/experiences in our theater that fit within the mission of Zeitgeist Arts. It was exciting to be there as the actual venues were being built (Zinema, and the Café) and have creative input on that process. The Teatro Zuccone became venue for local artists, touring artists and the permanent home to Renegade Theater Company. From 2011-2012, I served as Marketing Director for Zeitgeist Arts, and had an eventful time creating and marketing unique arts experiences for our community.

EN: When did you first take an interest in the arts and what kind of creative work do you specialize in?
CP: My creative work started in theater arts. It helped shape me as a writer, producer, and director, areas that I specialize in. It took off in 2004 when I accepted the role as Nurse Flinn in Renegade’s production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I was hooked. I stage managed and then assisted directed the next few productions, helped write and performed in the original holiday sketch comedy shows after that, and really jumped full steam ahead into the theater scene, worked hard, had a ton of fun, and found my new family.

EN: How did you come to be part of the Duluth arts community yourself?
CP: In many ways it started in 2005 when I stage managed the first production (The Laramie Project) at the Play Ground theater, then located in the Technology Village. The space was so new that upcoming performances were scheduled, but no one was on staff to run them. I quickly jumped at the opportunity to work in the arts all while having another full time job. It was in that position that I first met and worked with artists in theater, music, film, dance, spoken word, visual arts, as well as touring regional and national artists. I stage/production managed nearly every show for the first four years of the theater’s existence, and had the amazing opportunity to work with artists from all mediums---from the initial show/concept idea all the way to the end of the production by running lights/sound/projections.

It was in this role that I really felt like I was a part of the Duluth arts community. As producer, stage manager, production manager, and ultimately a fan, of amazingly creative and bold new work.

EN: What creative work are you most proud of?
CP: I’m most proud of using my creativity to help worthy causes in our community. In 2011, I wrote, produced and directed “Youth in the Shadows” which became a fundraiser for Life House, a non-profit that serves at risk and homeless youth. I volunteered regularly at Life House and collected the stories of homeless youth in our community. Utilizing those stories, with teen actors, and the music of the internationally celebrated band from Duluth Low, I brought the stories to life and introduced these voices to our community. I followed that play in 2012 with “Out of the Shadows” a continuation of the story, with the music of my friends, Trampled by Turtles. Theater is such a powerful medium for storytelling and these shows became platforms for important issues that at- risk teens are dealing with in our community. We raised a great amount of funds for Life House, and the teens I met and worked with have carved a permanent place in my heart. It was the most powerful project of my career to date.

EN: What is the Twin Ports Arts Align and what is its role in the local arts scene?
CP: I’m the chair of  Twin Ports Arts Align. It’s an ongoing discussion that brings together players from both sides of the bridge to talk about ways that we can work together to make the arts community stronger. This group is a result of the Arts Align seminar at the Sheraton/Zeitgeist on February 4, 2012, sponsored by UMD's School of Fine Arts. It is a collection of arts administrators, executive directors of arts organizations, as well as working artists. We meet monthly in-person, and have an active group, over 400 members, Twin Ports Arts Align, on Facebook to share information/connect with one another.

The role of Twin Ports Arts Align is evolving rapidly. Our role has emerged as advocates for the arts and education, as well as working to build audiences, collaborations, and specific topics such as: how it is that more artists can make a living here, and call this place home?

EN: You're also involved in making jewelry. Tell us about Crystal Pelkey Designs.
CP: Crystal Pelkey Designs is my freelance jewelry business. It started in 2008 when a then-stranger, now great friend, Lisa Bodine, complimented the necklace I was wearing and I offered to make her one. That turned into her buying several of my custom pieces and telling her friends about it. As a result, I had a small client base that I designed for that launched my small business. What Lisa and friends didn’t know at the time is that the money I made from my jewelry sales helped pay for gas during my frequent trips to my hometown, Little Falls, and to the Twin Cities, several times a week to take care of my mom who was battling cancer. Sadly, my mom passed away in 2009, but she remains one of the biggest influences in my work. I think of her when I’m designing jewelry and infuse as much love into each piece as I can. I’ve been told that my jewelry makes women feel loved, special and beautiful, so I think that love transmission must be working.

EN: Where can we see more of your work?
CP: You can see my work on the ears of many ladies right here in the Twin Ports, in stores such as Art in the Alley, Double Dutch, Electric Fetus and Tweed Museum Gift Shop. Currently, I have a facebook page, Crystal Pelkey Designs, on Facebook.

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