» Catalyst Series
NuSkein Ensemble
Intermedia Arts presents
Featuring J. Otis Powell‽ , Davu Seru, and Donald Washington
In the Gallery | Part of the Inside / Out Festival.

NuSkein Ensemble is a new project of music, spoken word, visual images, and song that features Donald Washington re
nowned reed player and music educator; Davu Seru, literary scholar and musician; and J. Otis Powell‽, writer, performance artist, producer, and curator.

These artists have come together to create work around the transformations and identity shifts that occur throughout life and which help to produce "new skin" and enlightened consciousnesses. Also embedded in this collaboration is a tradition of creating original works of art from influences and cultural DNA that regards spiritual channeling and improvisation as essential to the artistic process.


Photo by Andrea CanterImprovising musician, percussionist, composer and literary scholar, Davu Seru performs regularly in the Twin Cities and abroad as a jazz musician. Like many jazz-rooted musicians influenced by “new music” experiments with extended technique, his approach to the drum set is as much nostalgic as it is technophilic. Consequently, his style is striking for its attending to sound, silence and melodic line as much it does rhythmic pattern—and as a skilled ensemble player he is known for his “big ears.” 

Beside any number of spontaneous ad-hoc groupings, Davu currently works in Trio SDS with French clarinetist Catherine Delaunay and French bassist Guillaume Seguron, leads and composes for No Territory Band, and is co-leader with Mankwe Ndosi of The Mother of Masks, an Afro-centric improvising ensemble of poets, storytellers, activists and musicians. He has also curated concerts series for improvised music (in Chicago and Minneapolis) and collaborates in multi-media performances with dancers and visual artists. 

Davu has received awards from the American Composers Forum, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, Springboard for the Arts (as a member of the band Take Acre) and a commission from Zeitgeist Ensemble for the 2014 Twin Cities Jazz Festival. 


Photo by Andrea CanterRenowned reed player and music educator Donald Washington was born in Mobile AL, where he spent most of his childhood before migrating to Chicago with his family. In the windy city Donald took his first serious step towards becoming a musician after his father bought him a clarinet. Upon the completion of two hitches in the army he returned to the south to attend college at the University of Southern Alabama, where he received a degree in music education in 1970. Donald to moved  to the motor city, and it wasn’t long before he organized the internationally known youth big band: Bird Trane Sco Now in order to mentor Cassias Richmond, Rodney Whitaker, Kevin Washington, and James Carter who came up in this ensemble and went on to significant careers in music.

Mister Washington moved to Minnesota in 1987. Donald has taught in Minneapolis Public Schools, and been a staple of the Twin Cities music scene for the past thirty years. He and his wife Faye Washington and his son Kevin Washington brought the New Day Blues Band to the MinniApple and found Twin City’s poet  J. Otis Powell‽, pianist Sam Favors and bass player Elmar Romane to carry of the Blues Band tradition. He also performed with IMP ORK, Douglas Ewart, Members of the AACM such as Rosco Mitchell and Roy Brooks. 

J. Otis Powell‽ is a poet working in aesthetics rooted in Afrocentric lore and culture. His work is informed by oral traditions in literature, music, and the Black Arts Movement. Powell‽ holds a BA in television production from Alabama A&M University where he minored in philosophy and accumulated a cluster of credits from the English Department. His theater skills translate into spoken word and performance art and his talent with philosophy influences whatever work he engages.  

J. Otis‽'s words have been recorded and released on several CDs: The 2nd Annual Chicago Calling, The Ghost Dog Tour with Stir Trio and Forward Energy, a DVD titled News as Abstract Truth, Unsentimental with Rene Ford, THIS CAT IS OUT, in association with The New Day Blues Band, THEOLOGY: Love & Revolution, BALM! and Words Will Heal The Wound.

J. Otis‽ also studied with Gloria Anzaldúa, Quincy Troupe, Amiri Baraka, Alexs Pate, Sekou Sundiata and Yusef Komunyakaa. He worked as co-mentor and performed with Amiri Baraka for the Givens Writer's Retreat and TruRuts Endeavors. Grants and awards include: recipient of a Loft Creative Nonfiction Award, a Jerome Travel and Study Grant as well as a Jerome Mid Career Artist Grant and an Intermedia Arts Interdisciplinary McKnight Fellowship, among other. He was a founding producer of the award winning Write On Radio! at KFAI-FM in Minneapolis while working as a program director and community liaison at the Loft Literary Center.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund, and a grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation Minnesota

A part of Intermedia Arts' Catalyst Series