Trender: Arts Activist Consuelo Sherba

Monday, March 07, 2011


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Consuelo Sherba is one of Rhode Island's leading arts activists, pioneering arts education in at-risk communities as well as creating and performing national-caliber programs with AUREA, the ensemble exploring the relationship between poetry and music that she co-founded with her husband, violinist Charles Sherba, harmonica virtuoso Chris Turner and actor Nigel Gore. She also performs as violist with the RI Philharmonic and in ensembles throughout New England and nationally.

Homegrown factor: Sherba grew up in NYC and trained in other parts of the country. She came to Brown in 1986 to teach and has lived in Pawtucket since then.

Age: 58

How has living in Rhode Island played a role in your work?

The wonderful artistic cultural atmosphere here, with exciting, adventurous, creative people, the smallness of the state, and inherent collaborations that are perhaps more easily fostered as a result, all conspired to bring Nigel Gore, Chris Turner, Chuck and I together, about 15 years ago. Collaborating from time to time, for specific projects, we began to experiment more and more with a different way of programming and a different type of ensemble, until we finally decided to forge a new group for ourselves, AUREA, about eight years ago. It is with this exciting synergy of talented and generous people we have found here in RI, that we are able to continue to do what we love best – to create thrilling new work for our audiences!

What role does AUREA play in the overall artistic landscape here in RI?

AUREA has been fortunate to be able to reach an ever widening audience in RI, through performances at Firstworks, WaterFire, The Pawtucket Arts Festival, The Providence Athenaeum, The First Unitarian Church in Providence, St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Pawtucket, Temple Beth-El, The RISD Museum, Brown University, Rhode Island College, University of Rhode Island, local high school classrooms and auditoriums, and even with outdoor programs for the Nature Conservancy. Again, all of this would not be possible without the encouragement and sustained support of our tireless board of directors, Friends of AUREA, RISCA, the City of Pawtucket and all of the many civic organizations and individuals dedicated to growing the arts here in RI.

What's next for you?
In the immediate future, on Sunday, April 3rd we're performing Mortal Acts/Mortal Words, our tribute to Pawtucket-born poet Galway Kinnell, at the Providence Athenaeum. This program weaves the poetry of Kinnell with the Mozart and Brahms Clarinet Quintets, Chris Turner's inimitable improvisations, and features a performance of Sonnets to Orpheus, written for AUREA  last year based on Kinnell's vivid translations of Rilke's work. It's one of our favorite programs, which we premiered for the Pawtucket Arts Festival last fall and will perform again on May 1st at the North Kingstown Public Library. 

We've also just received the great news that we are recipients of a $10,000 grant from The Carter Family Charitable Trust for our educational projects with Rhode Island students. This will be a huge boost for AUREA, affording us the possibility of bringing many high school students to our programs at the Carter Center for Music Education. It allows us to create a context for these performances within a detailed humanities-driven study plan, and provides creative opportunities for students to respond to our programs. So, we're also busy preparing study guides and educational plans for the many programs we will be bringing to RI students.

What's the biggest challenge about working in Rhode Island?

I would have to say the biggest challenge is  financial – the challenge of implementing all of the exciting and intricate projects you can dream up, which require a lot of thought, research, coordination, rehearsal time and  proper technical support. In these difficult economic times for the country and for Rhode Island in particular, efficient use of resources is essential.  It's vitally important to keep the current financial climate in mind when budgeting for future projects, being creative with alternative solutions, or patient with deferred plans while keeping the artistic fervor alive. 

The greatest reward?

The greatest reward is the real artistic sense of community we have here, the seriousness and depth of the work that we are able to achieve  with some of the most wonderfully creative  people I  could ever hope to work with, facilitated by an equally wonderful informality, where hair-brained ideas are hatched in the middle of the night over an email, a quick  conversation after a concert or at an impromptu dinner party. 


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