How did you become an artist?
I was encouraged as a writer at a very young age. I was privileged to have teachers and family who recognized my talent and pushed me to succeed. On a deeper level, writing was something that I did because I'm very introverted, and writing allowed me to share my thoughts and connect to other people in a different kind of way. At about 18, I decided that submitting poems to journals or going through "please publish my novel" hell was not the road for me, and I discovered spoken-word. As a performance poet, I was able to travel around and share my art with living, breathing human beings. So that's what I do now.
What inspires you?
I'm inspired by artists who put content at the forefront of their work. It's not always the fashionable way to be a "capital-A ARTIST," but I love art that is first and foremost about WHAT is being said as opposed to HOW it is being said. Of course, form and delivery and all that are important, but I'd rather listen to a poet or musician who tackles complex issues with simple language than one who says simple things in the most obtuse manner possible. The highest calling of an artist, to me, is to create work that is transformative. The few artists who are capable of that are the ones who inspire me.
How can art be a tool for speaking out, for creating change in the world?
I've always believed that getting your art seen/heard is equally important to creating your art. If you're brilliant, but your work just hangs on a wall in your basement, or sits there as an MP3 in your iTunes, it "doesn't count," so to speak. So as artists, we're out there, in the community, pushing our work on people. That, in and of itself, is a platform. We're already actively constructing networks. Promoting a new album isn't so far removed from promoting a given social justice campaign. For me, I've tried to find places where my art and my beliefs can create synergy in an organic way. The Hip Hop Against Homophobia concert series was part fundraiser, part line-in-the-sand. The work I do with youth at the Canvas and through the Minnesota Spoken-Word Association is good for them, but it also keeps me sharp. The various benefit shows, fundraising compilations and awareness-raising campaigns that I've been part of as an artist have been good for the organizations involved, but also for me as a professional artist. The key is synergy. Putting the arts and activism together shouldn't have to be an altruistic thing. We can be creating pathways for everyone to succeed.
“It's not so much about the art itself as the community that art creates. I love art, but I love community a lot more.”
How has Intermedia Arts been a part of your story?
In 2009, I got one of the VERVE spoken-word grants facilitated through Intermedia Arts. This grant was invaluable to my growth as an artist; it was a catalyst for me to really focus on something that I cared about.
What is one of your favorite experiences with Intermedia Arts?
I think Intermedia Arts' B-Girl Be: A Celebration of Women in hip-hop is an amazing, inspiring event.
How has art changed you?
It's not so much about the art itself as it the community that art can and does create. I love art, but I love that community a lot more. Art creates bridges between people, and that's a very valuable thing.
What do you see as Intermedia Arts' role in the community?
We need Intermedia Arts because it's a fulcrum point in which a lot of otherwise-unrelated individuals and organizations can come together and meet up, collaborate and/or simply be aware of each other. That kind of organizing doesn't always just happen-- it needs a catalyst, and Intermedia Arts is definitely that kind of catalyst.
GUANTE (a.k.a. KYLE TRAN MYHRE) is a hip hop artist, two-time National Poetry Slam champion, social justice activist and educator. His work has been featured in URB Magazine’s “Next 1000” list, City Pages’ “Artists of the Year” list, CMJ and the Progressive, and he's shared bills with Talib Kweli, Atmosphere, Dead Prez, Sage Francis, Brother Ali, Mr. Lif, P.O.S. and many more of the top names in indie hip hop. Apart from these artistic endeavors, Guante also founded and manages the MN Activist Project, freelances as a music writer, curates the Hip Hop Against Homophobia concert series and facilitates writing and performance workshops for youth through COMPAS. In 2009, he received an Intermedia Arts' VERVE Grant for Spoken Word Poets. Guante currently serves as a member of Intermedia Arts' youth outreach team, and curates the Sounds of Revolution reading series, a part of Intermedia Arts' Beyond the Pure Reading Series. See www.guante.info for more information.