RI Cultural Anchor: Vilia Putrius

Vilia Putrius
Photo by Saulius Ke

Vilia Putrius graduated from National M.K. Ciurlionis School of Art and following graduation joined Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre. She has also danced with Ballet Arlington, Boston Ballet, and Festival Ballet Providence where she was a leading dancer for 11 seasons; she is currently School Director at Festival Ballet Providence. She received the 2019 RISCA merit fellowship in choreography. We asked her a few questions about her life and art-making in Rhode Island for our series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.

RISCA: Give us a brief overview of your day yesterday- what did you do in both your personal and professional life.
VP: We had the last day of classes at Festival Ballet Providence School, after I taught two ballet classes, we went with the students to Lippitt park and we did a flashmob. After that my husband and I went to see Boston Ballet perform Rhapsody.

RISCA: What do you love about the art community in Rhode Island?
VP: I love how many wonderful arts organizations are located in Rhode Island, you don’t need to travel far to listen to a good music or to experience an amazing play.

RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?
VP: I got a job at Festival Ballet Providence in 2006 and that’s when I discovered Rhode Island. I fell in love with artsy Providence and the beautiful nature here. It’s also such a convenient location, so close to Boston and New York. A win win situation to live here.

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Culmination 2019 Final Bow, photo by Jim Turner

RISCA: What is one thing, personal or professional, that you want to accomplish in the next year?
VP: I just started a new job at Festival Ballet Providence, this was my first year to direct the school. I would like to give our students more opportunities to perform and of course to keep improving the quality of training and raising a generation not just of beautiful dancers, but also happy and confident human beings.

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The Seasons, featuring dancers Izabele Bauzyte and Joseph Lynch. Photo by Jim Turner.

RISCA: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you, drives you, to create or enable the creation of art?
VP: I wouldn’t be able to imagine myself doing something else. I get inspired by peoplesurrounding me, by going to the theatre or especially a music concert. When I listen to a piece of music my mind starts going and I start creating a movement in my head.

RISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?
VP: This year I was so busy with my work that I didn’t have enough time in the day and I wished I could be cloned. I hope next year I will get more comfortable with the new position and I will be able to spend more time with my family and to be able to have time to go out with my friends.

To keep up with Vilia, and her work at Festival Ballet, you can follow her on Instagram and check out Festival Ballet’s website.

RI Cultural Anchor: Christopher Simpson

Standard-Headshot-Christopher-J-Simpson.jpgChristopher J Simpson is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Contemporary Theater Company. A lifelong resident of Wakefield RI (aside from a few years away at school), he is dedicated to bringing his hometown opportunities to enjoy and excel through live performance, fostering community growth and artistic excellence at the same time. We asked him a few questions about his life and art-making in Rhode Island for our blog series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.

RISCA: Give us a brief overview of your day yesterday- what did you do in both your personal and professional life.
CJS: My work day begins around 10am with a mix of artistic and administrative efforts – emailing, season planning, project communication, financial updates, fundraising work, review of design work, scheduling of production targets, and supervision of our ongoing facilities expansion. For a mid-day break I’ll work/play in our gardens, walk to Peace Dale for lunch, and perhaps a visit to the local climbing gym. By mid-afternoon I’m back to communicating and writing. There’s usually time for a quick dinner before rehearsal or teaching class in the evening, which usually lasts from about 6 to about 10. After that it’s either off to a local business for a meal, a drink, a board game with company members, or home with my fiancee Maggie for a meal, a movie, or a book.

RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?
CJS: I was born in South Kingstown, I was fortunate enough to both travel a bit and to leave for college, and there is nowhere else I’d rather spend my time. This is a beautiful part of a beautiful state, and living and working in the community where I was raised gives me two essential things I need to succeed: leverage in the community and a deep sense of purpose.

RISCA: What are you the most excited about right now in your art practice/work as an arts and culture administrator?
CJS: I’m excited that my work as an performer, director, and teacher of both improvised and scripted theater is finding continuity  and consistency within my own endeavors and with my colleagues here at the CTC. Our company has long valued “connectedness” on stage, but only a few individuals close to the company’s artistic core really knew what that meant. We’re increasingly skilled at communicating this value to our directors, actors and audiences, and that gives me great hope for the further development of our preferred style and of our artistic goals. Our key values of Authenticity, Spontaneity, and Connectedness increasingly guide our work in our scripted and improvised projects, and motivate our training, programmatic decisions, and our audience experience. It’s exciting to be consolidating knowledge and pushing our values to higher limits! To be growing our audiences and our company at the same time keeps me constantly motivated and engaged.

RISCA: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you, drives you, to create or enable the creation of art?
CJS: This is hard to answer. It just seems right?

RISCA: What is one thing you think the art community in Rhode Island needs?
CJS: Honestly, a bit more funding. And to share that funding more equitably, and to be less jealous of one another’s successes.

RISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?
CJS: Balancing between administration and artistic work. Too much time spent on either compromises my success in the other.

You can see what Chris is up to by checking out The Contemporary Theater’s website and facebook page!

RI Cultural Anchor: Elizabeth Woodhouse

IMG_2807 - Elizabeth WoodhouseElizabeth Woodhouse founded and serves as the Artistic Director of the Newport County Youth Chorus, which was established in September 2017. She has worked with community children’s choirs for more than 15 years in Denver, CO, Columbus, OH, New Haven, CT and most recently in Brooklyn, NY with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus from 2010 – 2016. We asked her a few questions about her life and art-making in Rhode Island for our series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.

RISCA: Give us a brief overview of your day yesterday- what did you do in both your personal and professional life.
EW: Yesterday was a DAY! It started by visiting Hathaway Elementary in Portsmouth to work with the 3rd grade chorus as they prepare to sing the National Anthem for the Newport Gulls game on June 17. From there I visited Common Fence Point to tour their new hall (still under construction) and learn more about the possibility of holding weekly rehearsals there. Yesterday was also the final rehearsal for the six-week NCYC “All That Jazz” program at St. Mary’s Church in Portsmouth. We presented the songs we learned to our families and friends and then celebrated with lots of sugary treats! From there I (safely, though swiftly) drove to ‘VUE in Newport to attend the Arts and Cultural Alliance’s “Raise Up the Arts” event! We celebrated our award winners of the new Artist Awards and the 3rd annual Tinney scholarship. It was a whirlwind of a day, but when I fall into bed after a long day like that I am grateful that I get to do what I love to do!

RISCA: What do you love about the art community in Rhode Island?JC3_5348 - Elizabeth Woodhouse
EW: What struck me the most when I started dreaming about starting the Newport County Youth Chorus in 2017 was that everyone I reached out to offered sincere and supportive advice and insight. Despite what some people say about Rhode Islanders, the arts community is open to new artistic ideas and programs. I felt and continue to feel truly embraced by the community.

RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?
EW: My parents met in Providence and both of their families were in Rhode Island (Little Compton and Narragansett). Though I did not grow up in RI, we would spend every summer here and it always felt like “home” to me. It took many years and living in five states before I finally settled in Rhode Island in 2016, but I always knew I would!

RISCA: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you, drives you, to create or enable the creation of art?
EW: I love being able to provide a space for young people to explore their unique voice and experience how it impacts a collective goal, which in NCYC is through singing in a chorus. I feed on their curious and excited energy as they discover themselves through music.

DSC_9499 - Elizabeth WoodhouseRISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?
EW: My biggest challenge in my art life is feeling isolated in my own work. It is easy to feel like we are alone when we are at the forefront of an idea or project that we are passionate about. I am consciously working on bringing people into the fold who can provide support in various ways: cheerleaders of the program, financial support, and community partners.

To keep up with Elizabeth and all the happenings at Newport County Youth Chorus, like them on Facebook and follow them on Instagram!