» Rosy Simas
How did you get into art?
I went to a theater arts high school, and I studied dance as a part of theater training. But I was always more interested in directing, and in creating what I see as moving visual art for the stage.
How does art influence the world?
On a very basic level, art has the ability to show us things we’ve never seen before, and to think about things in ways that we’ve never thought about before as individuals. It has the capacity to expand our perceptions and our beliefs and our convictions.
What inspires your art?
I am inspired by things other people say in my life, situations, philosophies, other art forms, social political issues, and sometimes just the body.
How do you see yourself as an artist-activist?
I’m very active in the art world outside of my role as a person who makes work for the stage. I spend a lot of time discussing issues, social issues within the art community: institutions, foundations, subgroups of people. A lot of my work, not my dance work, is about bringing issues to the table within the arts community that affect people in the world.
I don’t assign myself the title artist-activist. I’m not an artist-activist. I am an activist, but I don’t just make work about sociopolitical issues. Sometimes I just want to make work about black holes, or about being outside in nature, in winter. It’s not art as activism, although I myself as an individual human being am an activist. And I am also an artist. It’s not the same thing. I am Native and I am an artist. That isn't necessarily the same thing as being a "Native artist." So much has to do with perception. these labels can be loaded with associations and meanings that are separate from the individual artist.
I feel like these labels and boxes that we get into define then what kind of work we can make. The expectations that are then set up by anyone, from presenters and funders to the artists themselves, the work then becomes viewed through a particular lens based on the preconceived ideas that someone brings to the show.
How has Intermedia been a part of your story so far?
I recently finished a rather large tour of everything from small venues to large venues. But with this particular work, Skin(s), I wanted to produce in a more community-oriented venue. I wanted to work in a venue that was already integrated into the community, someplace where community would feel comfortable coming to, as opposed to an institution that community is not used to going to. Because this work is about community. And the Native community is who I make my work for.
“Art has the capacity to expand our perceptions and our beliefs and our convictions.”
- Rosy Simas
How do you like to spend your free time?
I spend free time with my dog out in the woods, primarily, and with my partner. I spend time in rural Wisconsin. I like to go back home to New York, it’s also very, very rural, a reservation, and visit with family. And that’s what I do in my free time. I don’t have any hobbies, because everything I do is really the work.
What is the biggest adversity you’ve faced in your artistic journey?
It has been very difficult for Native artists and artists of color to work in the field of dance in particular. It’s still difficult. Basically, dance stages are reserved for white bodies. They still are, and that is one of the biggest difficulties and hurdles that I think that a lot of Native artists who are in dance that is presentational are very challenged by.
It’s getting slowly better now, but I would still say that, even in Minnesota, our primary stages for dance are largely reserved for white bodies. Part of that problem is that, even those places put everyone who is not white into one category. It’s like, you’re either white or you’re not white. To me, that’s racism, and that type of racism still exists in our institutions.
What has been your greatest joy as an artist?
I get a lot of joy when something I do actually creates some kind of change, and has some kind of meaning for other people. I don’t specifically create work to have meaning for other people, but I certainly do love it when they get some meaning from it.
Rosy Simas is an enrolled Seneca from the Heron clan. She is a Minneapolis based choreographer, engaged in the dance field as a performer, teacher, curator, advocate and mentor to other Native artists and artists of color. For more than 20 years she has created work dealing with a wide range of political, social and cultural subject matter from a Native feminist perspective.
Simas is 2016 McKnight Choreography fellow, 2016 First Peoples Fund Artist in Business Leadership fellow, a 2015 Guggenheim fellow, and a 2013 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation fellow. Her work is supported nationally by NEFA National Dance Project (2014, 2016), National Presenters Network (2015), and regionally by the Minnesota State Arts Board (2014, 2016) and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (2014). Her most recent work, We Wait In The Darkness, has toured to 14 cities and won a 2014 Sage Award and a 2014 City Pages Artist of the Year citation.