Fall Campaign Spotlight: Lauren Du Pree
As part of our end of year fundraising campaign we are sharing interviews with artists from across Washington State. We ask about what changes they are seeing in their work and community since the pandemic, and how we can best support artists now and in the future. Read more and make a gift today!
This week we spoke with 2021 GAP recipient Lauren Du Pree, an actor, vocalist, writer, and filmmaker from Seattle, WA.
After studying musical theatre at Howard University, Lauren began working at theaters like The Kennedy Center, 5th Avenue Theatre, and Ford’s Theatre, until her failing health prophetically revealed how she’d been dimming her light to fit into an industry that was never created with her in mind. These health issues felt like an obstacle in the way of her purpose, but refocusing revealed her greatest strength was in her biggest perceived weakness. She began sharing her healing journey online through her blog, Just Du Pree and started writing the stories she wasn’t given the opportunity to tell as an actor. The lessons we learn during the challenges of life equip us to help others; that is the purpose of her work. Art should make us feel a little more seen and a little less alone. Most importantly, it is a tool for positive change.
How has moving through the pandemic impacted your work?
The pandemic forced me to dig deeper when it comes to my work. A lot of things I placed value in pre-COVID suddenly didn’t seem important anymore. Not that I wasn’t aware already, but the pandemic exposed the socioeconomic and racial inequities in the U.S. in a way that I had never experienced before. Being home in quarantine to witness it all without the regular responsibilities of work and life to distract me, it was impossible to continue life as is. I knew that I had to use my voice as an artist differently. So overall, I would say that the pandemic helped to uncover my voice and created a pathway for me to express my frustration and pain with the current state of the world, with the hope that my art can inspire change.
What’s possible for your work and community now that wasn’t before? What still needs to change?
There are definitely more grant opportunities and financial support, especially catering to those who have lost opportunities and income due to COVID. With these new financial opportunities, I’ve seen artists cater to the digital space in new, innovative ways, myself included, because of the inability to gather in person. People have had to think outside of the box to create ways to engage and connect with each other and their art, which has been exciting. Since moving back to in-person gatherings, there’s been less emphasis on safety and inclusion. While I appreciate seeing people in person and being able to congregate with each other, I can’t help but notice that the immunocompromised and differently-abled people aren’t able to engage the way they were through the digital events. My hope is that we find a way to practice community care while sharing our art so that everyone can participate and feel safe, loved, and cared for.
What did the support from Artist Trust’s GAP mean to you?
It was an honor to be recognized and supported by Artist Trust. I’ve been creating for a long time, most of that time without any formal recognition or financial support, so being a GAP recipient definitely gave me a boost of confidence and pushed me to apply for more opportunities. I can now add an Artist Trust GAP Award recipient to my resume when I apply for new opportunities.
What support do you think artists and artist communities need right now, and in the future?
Money, time, space, community, and intentional healing to replenish themselves. People are hurting and struggling. Creating and sharing art is such a transformative and healing experience. I believe artists need to be in community with each other, creating spaces to rest and heal. Artists can’t create their best work if they’re struggling to make ends meet and just trying to survive. My hope for the future is that we get more artists out of survival mode so they can truly thrive by creating these healing spaces and continuing to support artists financially.
Why is it important to support individual artists right now?
Artists are change agents, and these past few years have shown us how desperately we need a drastic change. It’s so important to support artists who push boundaries, expose the truths of this world, and reimagine how we as a society can move forward. Artists can’t do that if they’re struggling to survive.
Before the pandemic, I was completely burned out. I was working full-time as a theatre artist, which I’m sure you can imagine does not pay the best, while also running my blog, creating short films, and producing my own show, all on my own dime. The projects outside of my theatre career gave me a sense of purpose and control. While I love theatre, I found myself dreading every show I did, saying yes to projects that didn’t fulfill me or speak to my experience as a Black woman, and being constantly underestimated, undermined, and disrespected. I wasn’t happy, but I continued chasing this dream I had as a child, despite the industry showing me its true colors.
Gaining support from Artist Trust and other arts organizations empowered me to tell my story. It gave me the agency to take control of my life and create what was authentic to me rather than performing my Blackness in a suitable way to the powers that be.
Supporting individual artists gives them control over their lives. It allows them to break away from old paradigms that aren’t serving them and are often doing harm. With the support I’ve gained as an individual artist, I now have more options. I can be more selective about the theatre projects I take on, and I can make time and space for my own work. And my mental and emotional health has improved!
We hope you will join us in supporting Washington State artists! To make your tax-deductible donation today, visit artisttrust.org/donate.
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