Leah Okamoto Mann is the co-director of Seattle-based Lelavision, a performance and production company that combines kinetic sculpture, dance and music with a mission to present accessible art that delights people. She is also the curator of Created Commons, an arts festival taking place at Westcrest Park, August 27 to Sept. 5. Learn about Leah Okamoto Mann…
Hometown: Atlanta is my hometown. Lelavision is based on Vashon Island, WA, where we have lived for 15 years.
First job: Co-founder and program director of Moving in the Spirit, an urban outreach and youth mentorship organization using the praxis of dance to develop life skills (Atlanta).
Favorite ways to spend your free time in WA: I love doing solo walks on the trails on Vashon, the sacred unceded land of the Sxwobabc.
Your biggest accomplishment and why: It would be a toss up between creating a touring HIV-prevention dance set on the teens of Moving in the Spirit through a grant by the Elton John AIDS Foundation to address a 70 percent spike in HIV among 13- to 24-year-olds in the US (2015/2016, the other continuing pandemic) or taking a cast of 26 dancers to the Parliament of World Religions (Toronto 2018) to address the erasure of historic and general lack of representation of African/Black, non-binary and female leaders in the sacred narratives and children’s books of world religions. Why? Because these events were like love letters to humanity, inspired by emergent strategies. The artistry successfully made the challenging subject matter accessible; art makes the revolution attractive. I hope to be able to say this current challenge of creating an arts science wellness event in the middle of a pandemic is one of my biggest accomplishments. My goals for the event is to create an experience that feels like a gift to everyone that lands at the park.
The biggest obstacle you overcame: A brain hemorrhage and ovarian torsion within three months of each other when I was 34 years old.
Someone who inspires you and why: We are in the process of curating Created Commons event at Westcrest Park, and there are so many inspiring people joining. Alexia Jones is a longtime friend and executive director of R2ise, a program that uses visual art, movement and music to somatically bring people into recovery. She will be teaming up to share her innovative processes with Dr. Seema Clifasefi of the UW’s Harm Reduction Research and Treatment Center while in Seattle. The counselors within the recovery community are front-line workers, with addictions on the rise through the pandemic. In Canada and the US, there are upticks of deaths due to overdoses in every state (20 to 74 percent increases). Alexia and Seema will be leading an artful community event in honor of International Overdose Awareness Day at Created Commons, Tuesday, August 31, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Favorite quote: “The kind of change we are after is cellular as well as institutional, is personal and intimate, is collective as well as cultural. We are making love synonymous with justice.” –Prentis Hemphill
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: I have social anxiety.
What makes someone fabulous: Authenticity.
Photo credit: Sunita Martini