Gallatin senior Nicole Johnson was 13 years old when she started Javanna Production. Now, less than a decade later, Johnson is the creative director of the thriving production company.
Originally, Javanna was created as a performance platform in Johnson’s hometown of Miramar, Fla. After Johnson moved to New York in 2007, she re-launched the company to better serve local artists. It quickly shifted to a different purpose — a stage for performance art to raise awareness of social issues and fundraise for charities. Since its inception, Javanna has produced over 65 events, which have raised over $35,000 for various causes like autism awareness, anti-sex trafficking and inner city education efforts.
“Our mission is to provide young artists with the resources, platforms and guidance that they need to create socially responsible artistic pieces that will raise funds and awareness for larger nonprofit organizations and agencies,” Johnson said.
One of Javanna’s events is a yearly effort titled M.O.V.E., or Motivation Opportunity Vision Entertainment. The members of M.O.V.E. continually hold choreography showcases, musical productions and art exhibitions to raise money for various causes.
“For the 2013 fall season of M.O.V.E., we are dedicating our efforts to anti-bullying and teen suicide prevention,” Johnson said.
On Oct. 18 and 19, Javanna Productions will continue their efforts with The Better Earth Project, a two-part showcase performed by members of both Javanna Productions and the Andrea Torres Dance Company, founded by Andrea Torres. The showcase is primarily concerned with the tension between the Christian church and the LGBTQ community. The goal is to present the weighty topic through performance art to start a dialogue rather than a controversy.
The first part of the show, called “OUTED,” is based on a true story of an adolescent girl’s trials as her family begins to aggressively investigate her lesbian relationship.
“Every bit of [‘OUTED’] comes from an honest place. I’m beyond grateful to my cast for all of their dedication and commitment to their characters,” Torres said. “This is a story inspired by true events that is made to shed light on the fact that suicide is not the answer to acts of aggression that come from judgements and bullying. Love is love.”
The second piece, “God is Love,” is a choreographed performance set to audio of a conversation between Johnson and Torres about religion and sexuality.
As the creative director of Javanna Productions, Johnson requires a certain level of dedication from her members not only dedication to their art, but also the issues that serve as the focus of their art.
“I encourage my members to create socially responsible artistic pieces. In order to create a piece of this sort, one must choose an issue and study it intently,” Johnson said. “With the knowledge gained from their study, they must create a thesis. That thesis is then what informs their artistic contribution.”
In addition to New York, there are active chapters of the production company in Wisconsin, Utah, California, Florida, an international chapter in Beijing and a developing chapter in Liberia. Johnson’s post-college plans include setting up her own four-year program for artists to “prep them for the reality of the art industry.”
The Better Earth Project will be presented Oct. 18 and 19 at 7 p.m. at The Actors Fund Arts Center.
Gabriela Kaufman is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]