Writer, composer and performer Ayesu Lartey is in the middle of his five-week, NEA-funded VCCA Fellowship and relishing every moment. From New York City, Ayesu is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Parkside and received his M.A. in 2011 from NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. His one-act musical, “Touch” (music, book and lyrics by Sam Salmond) was produced at Barrington Stages in 2010. “Voices of the Quilt” a musical documentary about the Aids Quilt (music, book and lyrics by Ayesu) is currently in development.
Writing songs since he was eight, Ayesu is clearly no slouch. He says he’s pretty fast, but even he was amazed at how much he’s accomplished while at VCCA. Thus far, he’s completed a Mass for choir and string quartet (they asked for a choral song; Ayesu upped the ante; that’s just how he rolls) and is polishing off a libretto for an opera based on Joan of Arc.
Ayesu spoke movingly of his experience at VCCA. What he says will resonate with our Fellows and with other artists who daily face the challenge of finding the time and space to be creative.
“Artists have to fight so hard for space to make art. My first couple of days here it was weird because I was realizing I don’t have to fight for space. There’s nothing but space. I cannot put into words how amazing this experience is. The food’s amazing, the environment, nature, the space. There’s a reason why everything’s amazing. It didn’t happen because you guys are nice people, it happened because you know what you’re doing and you did it and you’re doing it. You’re making a home for us, and frankly [providing] better working space than what we have at home.
Ayesu likens his sojourn at VCCA to life, “When you arrive it’s like you’re born and you know when you’re leaving so that’s like knowing your time of death. So you need to maximize your time here. Your output shows you what you’re capable of. At VCCA you’re in the right place at the right time.” But Ayesu believes we have the potential to always be in the right place at the right time, it’s just that “in this life we’re not given the space or the comfort to live up to our potential and VCCA is nothing but living up to your potential. There’s nothing to complain about there’s only life to be lived and art to be made.” And in Ayesu’s case that means a Mass not a song because as he says, “Victory is not in the minimums.”