Melisa Rivière
Latin Hip-Hop Producer & Scholar
Involved with Intermedia Arts since: 1996
Pioneer hip-hop scholar Melisa Rivière teaches courses in Anthropology and Global Studies at various universities and college campuses. As a co-founder of Intermedia Arts’ B-Girl Be: A Celebration of Women in Hip-Hop, the first festival of its kind worldwide, she advocates for the empowerment of women and youth within the art movement. Melisa has been recognized both at home and abroad for her activism through hip-hop: defending civil rights, advocating for freedom of speech, and promoting international development.

» Melisa Rivière
What are three words that describe Intermedia Arts?




How did you become an artist?
I never set out to ‘become an artist;' I considered a different route many times. I even tried to force myself to deviate to more ‘conventional roles.’ But whatever I tried, I just didn’t feel fulfilled and usually failed miserably at it due to the lack of desire. Being an artist, a producer, a scholar, a creator, isn’t something I said I would “grow up to be,” its something I look back on and realize I am.
What inspires you? 
People, my surroundings, mishaps, triumphs, loss, arguments, challenges, & celebrations.
How can art be a tool for speaking out, for creating change in the world?
Art is solely expression until it meets a recipient. Once it is received and perceived it becomes art. I believe art relies on its spectator. There is no ‘tool box’ for social change. But since art stimulates the spectator to engage with their own definitions of what they see or feel; it instigates change within, which inevitably leads to inspiration and change around oneself. I believe creativity ferments creativity, art is a conduit for people to actively be creative. I think this creates ‘meanings.’ This leads to social change because it motivates people. Art motivates people, but not always in the direction its creator intended. Art can be both liberating and limiting, often times it is music, art and cultural productions that are most inspiring to instigate social change or manipulated to stall it.
How has Intermedia Arts been a part of your story? 
From the get go Intermedia Arts has been essential in my development as an artist. From its early years opening its doors to aerosol artists to its later years incorporating my contribution to programs such as B-Girl Be. Intermedia Arts is a catalyst and a conduit for young potential leaders to execute themselves in creative ways and has helped to professionalize my skills into a career.

What is one of your favorite experiences with Intermedia Arts? 
In 2008, when Intermedia Arts suffered from the national recession, my most memorable moment was seeing the community defend Intermedia Arts' presence and no matter the downsizing or suspension of annual programs, it became obvious that Intermedia Arts was for the community and by the community.
A true producer and scholar masters the art of the curtain, knowing when to be in front and when to be behind it.
- Melisa Rivière

How has art changed you? 
I grew up around art and with it in my life, however it was ‘supposed’ to be a hobby. Having to convince my family and elders I would forge a career path based on art, forcing myself to generate an economy from art, making alliances with fellow artists to overcome isolation, are all factors that have drastically changed me. Art liberated me, and legitimizing my life choices around it was perhaps more altering to me than experimenting with it and creating something from nothing. Shifting my lifestyle from one where art was a hobby to where art, in my case specifically hip-hop, became the real challenge, truly changed me. Scholarship and production allowed me to see the art in others and bring it out. I believe a true producer and scholar is one who masters the art of the curtain, knowing when to be in front and when to be behind it, for the true sake of the art.
What do you see as Intermedia Arts' role in the community?
Many young artists in our community have unbridled exuberance that most authorities do not attempt to understand, critiqued as rebelliousness or lack of focus. Intermedia Arts offers an accessible place for youth to identify with art in an engaging way that is attainable. Unlike formal museums, the gallery space combined with Intermedia Arts' multi-media focus, theatre performances, and community-oriented programs all culminate to make Intermedia Arts a place that reflects and responds to our neighborhood, our city, our state, our world.

MELISA RIVIÈRE is a Latina audio-visual producer, director, academic, educator, and activist whose work spans from the Twin Cities to the Caribbean. She was born in the Twin Cities to Argentinean parents whose struggles acculturating were her cradle, as the first U.S. citizen in her family, before she understood the fluctuations of nationhood, language and ethnicity. Melisa is bilingual and bicultural, raised in both Spanish and English, with extensive travel experience throughout the United States, the Caribbean, South America and Europe.When asked where she is from, she responds, ‘the Americas.’ She is a MacArthur Scholar Ph.D. candidate in the Anthropology Department at the University of Minnesota whose research focuses on the dual aspects of the globalization of hip-hop and its local expressions in Cuba and Puerto Rico using musical production as a unique disciplinary methodology.