Artist Statement (Velvet Wells, 2022)

My artistry is deliberately chimeric. As an improvisor, I playfully transport audiences to either safer or more dangerous versions of the world. I delight in afro futurism, embodying empowered Black excellence. In musical improvisation, my baritone voice soothes even as I challenge societal norms. 

As an evocative writer and storyteller, I seek to heal myself and my communities from the trauma of white supremacy. My work seeks to be insightful and open to the insights of my audiences. This inclusive sharing is profoundly cathartic, unflinching and gratifying. 

Velvet Wells

Innovative Recent Projects

Works from Velvet Duke Productions are centered in Black Joy. Letting “Black Joy Win” despite the grotesque and divisive tools of colonialism as an act of resistance. Letting Our Loved Ones into our hearts so we can let our True Selves Out. These works join the chorus of advocacy for community change.

“(Re)Tired Magical Black Man” was an award winning, 50-minute solo puppet show, written and premiering at the Ottawa Fringe Festival and touring at the Halifax Fringe Festival (2022). In addition to their own role as dJerald the Djinn, Velvet performed seven (7) puppet character roles and audio description narration; the show featured three original songs and an improvised abduction story based on audience suggestion. The show was ASL interpreted throughout the Ottawa Fringe Festival run.

“Djinn Joint” was a 50-minute solo show streamed (through Gather.Town) at the Primetime Festival (Toronto Fringe, 2021). Velvet created the piece and managed the production through Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). Velvet managed virtual background and digital content sharing, and a lighting “costume change” effect mid-show. Additional technicians streamed audience Google form responses – Velvet created an automated Google Sheet response dashboard for this purpose, as well as Velvet’s original sound effects and music cues. Also, Velvet created a random fortune machine for the Gather space.

“All Request Radio” was a series of 60 minute musical shows, streamed (through Zoom) to the Black Improv Alliance Facebook page (2021). Featuring random royalty free music and talented musical performers, Velvet acted as musical director, lead host, and singer performing “your favourite made up songs.” Before Zoom incorporated Live Transcription, Velvet used a closed caption github solution.

“Boldly Blerd Trek” was a 10-minute solo show streamed (through Streamyard) at the Orlando Fringe’s First Fridays (2020). Velvet created the piece and managed the production through Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), it featured virtual backgrounds and digital content sharing, in addition to live props and costumes.

Land and waterways acknowledgment

While we are connecting virtually, I grew up in Tkaronto, the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabe, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples. It is home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Now, I reside in the unceded, unsurrendered territory of the Anishinaabe Algonquin Nation.

I continue to educate myself on the continued genocide of and oppressive mechanisms against Indigenous people. This is not history, this is today. Injustice continues — by government at all levels (federal, provincial, and local) and in communities. I am working to decolonize my mindset, action and choices. I am prioritizing the wisdom of Indigenous leaders over those of the Canadian project.

As a person of mixed heritage, I acknowledge that some of my ancestors were settled here. Although I am a cultural orphan, I continue to educate myself beyond the oppressive history of Black people, as taught as an afterthought by Canadian schools. I’m learning about our culture and influence, stories, and the way Black excellence appears across communities and inventions.

I am embracing Black Joy as advocacy, rejecting the single story of Black trauma reinforced in spaces traditionally dedicated to whiteness.

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