Ava Bertone: Introduce yourself for our readers!
Chloe Cole-Wilson: My name is Chloe Cole-Wilson and I am the Artistic Director and co-founder of Basement Poetry.
AB: How long have you been working with the group? How did you get started with it?
CCW: Basement Poetry was founded in January of 2015. We started off as five women wanting to write poems about the things that mean the most to us. In the process of putting up our first show, we realized that this work was much bigger than us — that we needed to expand our topic to other social and political topics.
CCW: The event was a collaboration with Lehigh Valley SURJ. This kind of programming is something that we’ve mastered throughout the years. With our work with Northampton Community College, Moravian College, Lehigh University, Cedar Crest College, and Valley Youth House, we were able to create dynamic events with a series of conversations and workshops that have moved our audience into action. A huge part of the work we do is activism for our community. So, putting this night together was a breeze. This is the heart of our work and what we stand by. We want to continue to create space for our community to press these themes and express themselves in new ways that society does not allow for some.
AB: What did you think were the particular strengths of the night?
CCW: The conversation at the end. Once people who were not performers started to speak, it generated a space where people felt the need to vocalize how they were feeling. Also identifying that not all people process [emotions] the same [way], some may have taken knowledge or wisdom from the night that we don’t know of. And, that’s okay because it gave every type of personality in the room a chance to gain from and give to the conversation.
AB: In what ways has the work of Basement Poetry evolved since the group was founded? What are the group’s main goals right now?
CCW: Basement Poetry has evolved so much. We have now become educators. We have been invited to teach with the South Side Children’s Festival for the past two years and also work with Valley Youth House [to bring] youth programming to them, as well.
Our goals for the next two years are:
— Expanding our teaching engagements
— Expanding our board and creative team
— Developing work with artists not only locally, but on a national scale
— Creating a much more powerful presence in our community and beyond
AB: Based on your personal experiences, how do you think South Bethlehem’s arts/culture scene differs from other cities? What makes us stand out?
CCW: The South Side has been the home to raw and original art. Basement Poetry has created a home in the South Side with Lehigh University over the past few years. I believe it is such a great place to foster true art.
AB: Are there any upcoming events about which you’re particularly excited?
CCW: YES! Basement Poetry has received a grant from the City of Allentown in order to perform our LGBTQIA+ production of OUT. [We are] the first women of color to receive this funding! Basement Poetry’s devised production, OUT, discusses what it means to be a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. The ensemble tackles different topics from coming out stories, discrimination, self-acceptance, and more, with original poetry, song, and dance by local and emerging artists in the Lehigh Valley.
This project is a collaboration with Project SILK Lehigh Valley.
Admission: Pay As You Will!
All proceeds will be used to continue our work in creating productions that are youth-centered and empowering to our community!
Some themes may not be suitable for children under 16. Parental discretion is advised.
Show Dates: August 24th & 25th; September 7th & 8th — All shows begin at 7pm
522 West Maple St., Allentown, PA 18102
For more information about Basement Poetry and/or their upcoming events, check them out on social media!