About the SoulCenter
Our Guiding Purpose
SoulCenter is a design studio at the intersection of blk arts and innovation. With a team of blk creatives in theatre, design, film, music, tech and producing, SoulCenter houses the spiritual imprint for story while making a way for young blk creatives to create our next now. Welcome to SoulC.
We offer content development, Fellowship and Incubator programs, and Blk Arts Workshops.
Our vision for social change is two-fold: We believe that the multidisciplinary development of future creative leaders in acting, writing, and producing is essential to creating a world with social and artistic changemakers. We also believe that creative digital spaces can be used to reshape the fabric of communities and address social inequities in the Deep South.
Each week, cohorts have personal mentorship sessions with industry professionals, weekly cohort planning meetings, and will each create 3 digital pieces from inception to completion produced by SoulCenter.
The goal of this program is to make space for more creatives of color to be well-rounded in their art and to have agency and skill enough to create and devise their own work in a group.
“Let’s say the thing that’s never been said. Let’s dance the dance that’s never been danced. Let’s make the space that’s never been made. We are in the middle of a great shift. We are now decentering oppression. We are decolonizing our minds to the possibilities that exist for each of us. We are remixing and reframing how and why we show up in the world.”
In the words of SoulCenter’s founder, Erin Michelle Washington, this is the artistic vision for SoulCenter: to serve as the catalyst and movement that will shift the paradigms of artistic expression and development for creatives of color into new spaces of liberation. We are committed to the liberation of Black and Brown People and to the freedom of the LGBTQIA+ communities. SoulCenter will lead the way as a bold new space that is designed to inspire the creation of artistic works by emerging artists and affirm their contributions. Through an iterative multi-disciplinary training process called Soul Methodology, our vision is to break down the barriers to arts creation and empower a new generation of creatives to explore and expand their individual and collective creativity. We are intentional in bringing our vision to the deep south, a space steeped in tradition, history, and complexity.
In the long term, our portfolio of physical spaces will also include tiny homes designated for creatives of color 18-35, LGBTQIA + to help them remain present in the west side of Montgomery, an area which is experiencing a rapid change in its demographic makeup.
HBCUx is a digital incubator desiring to rewrite the story of arts graduates from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The goal of this storytelling hub will be to create space for student and early-career Blk artists from a coalition of 7 HBCUs to connect and share stories, data, and ideas about their intentions around centering a liberatory narrative. In doing so, SoulCenter is reframing and visioning a new blk arts future.
Program Managers: Lakisha May + Nijeul X. Porter
Team Members: Aaliyah Simms, Toran X. Moore, Erin Washington
An interactive digital venue that celebrates and maps Black history and innovation in San Francisco. Using Will Power’s revolutionary career as the starting point, we will create a space for people to reflect, unearth, explore and continue the legacy of Hip Hop Theatre.
Our project centers on creating a digital, interactive map of San Francisco in the 90s that will honor and celebrate Black art venues, such as The Upper Room, that cultivated the presence of hip hop theater and performance art that many artists lay claim to today. We want to honor the legacy of this work, track its historicity, and present the legacy of art that was created and that still resonates today. The map will serve as a launching point for the exploration and study of Black spaces in the west and the resiliency of Black creatives who envisioned Black art and theater in ways that transcended traditional norms.
Will Power, one of the co-creators of hip hop theater, and the network he formed with performance artist and mentor Rhodessa Jones and peer and co-conspirator DJ Reborn show the unlimited possibilities of Blackness in the west. With the displacement of Black residents in San Francisco due to gentrification and the tech movement our community’s contributions have been left out of the narrative and rendered us invisible. Through this project we are reclaiming Black spaces in the west and making visible the rich history of our creativity. We are partnering with the cutting-edge team at Crux to create a digital/ transmedia venue that brings historical, remixed and new pieces of Hip Hop theatre to audiences all over the world. The site will also host digital audio and visual art exhibitions and a Hip Hop theater education curriculum.
Our Fellowship Program, which is informed by our Soul Methodology in Acting, Writing, and Producing, brings in a cohort of up to six creative leaders. Through this 12 month program, fellows learn to develop their own approach to creating work within each of the three disciplines while growing in their confidence as multidisciplinarians.
Each week, cohorts have personal mentorship sessions with industry professionals, weekly cohort planning meetings, and will each create a final project from inception to completion produced by SoulCenter.
The goal of this program is to make space for more blk creatives to be well-rounded in their art and to have agency and skill enough to create and devise their own work in a group.
Origins of the Center
“There is no such thing as a stage, nor a such thing as an audience: only liberators and participants.”
- Dr. Barbara Ann Teer
The SoulCenter's Epistemology is rooted in the methods of Dr. Barbara Ann Teer
"I pray that you are the ones who bring grace, beauty, joy, and laughter into the world... We are the power source, the energy machines needed to Keep Soul Alive in the world."
The origin of SoulCenter is deeply inspired by the work and genius innovated by the late Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, Founder of The National Black Theater. As a former actress on Broadway and trained dancer in the late 1960s, Dr. Barbara Ann Teer moved to New York from East Saint Louis with hopes of gracing stages on the Great White Way well into her elder years. However, in 1965 Langston Hughes issued a call, similar to his 1926 manifesto ‘The Negro Artist and Racial Mountain,’ pleading for Black artists to gather together and create a “serious Harlem theatre.” Teer heard this charge. In 1968 Teer emerged with a vengeance, trying to right the wrongs of a digressive movement of Black artists into Eurocentric practices. She exclaimed: “As long as the white establishment is in complete control; as long as it determines the interpretation of the roles; as long as they dictate to us what the behavior of the character must be; as long as they reap the majority of the material profit, the black actor accepting roles in such vehicles will only help maintain the status quo and/or, in some cases, even retard his already established position.” Teer produced a space that would serve the community in Harlem with spiritual and artistic food. Teer’s space of healing and training would create programming that extended the notions of performance and activism in this Black Harlem.
SoulCenter believes that our work in the arts has the power to change and transform lives and communities. At the core of Blk Arts Studio, is the unique SoulCenter methodology we have developed that informs our training in Acting, Writing, and Producing. Our SoulCenter Methodology is based in the tradition of the Black Arts Movement. Our methods are inspired by artists of this time like Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, Amiri Baraka, Sonya Sanchez, Adrienne Kennedy, Larry Neale, Ntozake Shange, and many more. Our methodology also considers the structural barriers that hinder free artistic thought such as patriarchy, homophobia, and gender bias. In response, our approach challenges these barriers and notions of power by providing a Queer friendly space, and validating Black women’ thoughts and experiences in artistic learning spaces. Our methodology also infuses Afro-futurism, imagining the future of Blackness; we look to the teachings of Black women in this quest to imagine the futures of Blk world-building and Blk performance like: Octavia Butler, Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, Dr. Beverly Guy Sheftall, Nikki Giovanni, and Faith Ringgold.
Our Blk Arts Studio is integrally aligned to SoulCenter’s mission and priorities. It supports multidisciplinary training and the development of new ideas by actively encouraging creatives to be bold and innovative. Our methodology is infused with social justice principles to ensure our creative works promote equity and overcome all forms of oppressive barriers. We also recognize and appreciate cultural diversity, and while we share a personal connection to Black/African American customs and traditions, we are passionate about experiences that celebrate the connectedness all people share. Our program encourages positive interactions to increase individuals’ social capital through the creation of opportunities for cooperation, sharing, seeking, finding shared goals, and bonding on a cultural level.
Our Acting technique methods include Meisner, Frank SIlvera’s “Theater of Being” Technique, and Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s Technology of Soul. We also teach Physical Theater Methods, such as, Commedia Dell’Arte, Clown, Neutral Mask. In Producing, we work from a space of devising theater and experimentation. We also teach the basis of Community Producing as a way to center social justice and question the role of power in the arts sector. In Writing, we look to the methods of improvisation and experimentation from artists like Dr. Omi Osun Joni L Jones and her notions of Theatrical Jazz, and Adrienne Kennedy and her landmark piece, Funnyhouse of a Negro, that changed how plays were written. Our writing program is steeped in community workshops and writing groups to make the writing process one of ease. Our classes aim to connect the artist’s performance to the way humans live their lives and interact with their environment and one another. Our studio extends beyond the surface level of training expectations to engage creatives in a deeper examination into self, to analyze and question the world around them, to imagine themselves beyond their present circumstances, and most of all, to create the world they want to live in.
Our classes are led by experienced professionals who are actively engaged in their artistic disciplines and offer participants their in-depth knowledge, expertise, guidance, and mentorship, which young creatives of color do not typically receive in traditional arts programs.
Erin Michelle Washington is an Artist, Scholar, and Waymaker from Montgomery, AL. She attended Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and obtained her MFA in Acting from San Francisco’s award-winning, American Conservatory Theater. In 2009, Erin started Soul Productions, a company that exposes urban communities to emerging independent artists who are pioneering new approaches to music and theatre.
She has since taken her thoughts on community on the road. She has participated as a Digital and Creative Producer at Arena Stage, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Public Theater, Penumbra Theater, Howlround, and The Curran Theater.
In 2016, Washington served as Interim Associate Artistic Director at American Conservatory Theatre where she was a producer and strategist for the Women’s Leadership Conference and Creator and Producer of the Bayview Arts Festival.
Now co-living in Atlanta, Georgia and Montgomery, AL, Washington has created her second company, SoulCenter, which is a space of theory and practice helping to develop the talent, ethics, and discipline of young artists.
Toran X. Moore
Toran Xavier Moore is a multidisciplinary artist from Montgomery, AL. Based in Los Angeles, this southern native operates at the intersection of theater, arts management, and movement.
In addition to his choreographic experience, Toran works as an arts administrator and creative producer. He currently holds the position of Programs Manager at the International Association of Blacks in Dance. As a stage manager, Moore has worked at theatres across the U.S. including the Los Angeles Theatre Center, The Blazer Theatre of Atlanta, the Walt E. Disney Modular Theater, and many others. Moore holds an M.F.A from California Institute of the Arts and B.A. from Alabama State University.