Feb. 24, 2017
Devon Ginn is fully aware of the popular saying “a jack of all trades is a master of none,” but he’s ready to turn that phrase on its ear.
At 12:15 p.m. today, Feb. 24, Ginn will combine poetry, theater, dance, visual art and multimedia into an immersive, site-specific living art installation during his Art & Soul performance at the Indianapolis Artsgarden.
“It’s going to be this great, eclectic mash-up, but it’s going to be cohesive and costumed,” said Ginn, one of the featured artists of this year’s Art & Soul, an annual celebration of local African-Americans in the arts. “This will be my third time doing Art & Soul, and I wanted to do something different.”
The 27-year-old Indy native has pulled together an ensemble cast of creative friends to deliver what he calls “an exploration of what it means to live in America.” However, at the heart of the show is Ginn’s love for poetry and theater.
“I’m a thespian by trade. I am a poet by trade. And I like to combine those things to create weird stuff,” said Ginn, a 2009 graduate of Broad Ripple Magnet High School for the Arts and Humanity. “My poetry is generally rooted in social justice and it’s got a lot of ties to the Civil Rights Movement, past, present and re-envisioning what it might look like tomorrow, and it definitely pushes people to the edge.”
While he fully expects this show to be shocking to some, more than anything he wants to provoke people to think. “I want people to think critically and to question everything that they know.”
It’s poetry that’s engulfed in truth, but that wasn’t always the case. There was a time in Ginn’s life when his prose came from a hurtful place — one that moved through life like a hurricane.
“Before I came out (as gay) in 2011, my poetry was from a very damaging perspective,” said Ginn. “I got a lot of awards and a lot of snaps and praise, but it didn’t make me feel good. It wasn’t until I learned to be truthful with myself that I had this sense of freedom. Now I feel compelled to tell the truth, no matter what that looks like.”
What it looks like is a compilation of different ideas and thoughts that are both visceral and very personal. Ginn explores topics that many would prefer to shy away from.
“We’re living in a world where people want to put a bullet in the back of my head because I’m gay, because I’m black, and because I’m a gay man in an interracial relationship,” said Ginn, a community activist who works with several social justice organizations throughout the city. “I see myself as a voice for the voiceless. I want to empower people to be themselves and to question everything and to hold our community leaders to task and to demand and to know their rights. My goal is to let people leave a show or a conversation with a sense of urgency, not just to change their lives – if it needs changing – but to change the lives of the people around you.”
Fusing poetry and theater allows Ginn to deliver his messages as effectively as possible. It also allows him to tap into a level of euphoria that he hasn’t experienced before with any singular art form.
“I like fusing art and poetry because it allows me to really experience this therapeutic quality that I haven’t felt anywhere,” said Ginn. “When you’re dramatizing poetry, especially if it’s personal, it’s just this real surreal experience that I don’t think you can compare to anything else, because it’s your personal truth that you’ve assigned so much emotion to.”
Ginn is finally living and sharing his truth, and he’s ready to take us with him.