Even though UPCA officially came into existence in June of 2012, for most people the anniversary will always be marked by the launch party and first Arts Interaction that took place that October. An Arts Interaction, named after a now defunct uptown organization from the 1990s, brings local artists and community members together to help facilitate the creative process. Artists not only share their work, they interact with audience members to create new work on the spot and in the moment.
For that we had on hand "Movement Interaction" which encouraged audience members to use their bodies to mimic the shapes and designs found in the Palace foyer; an Uptown Action workshop with People's Theatre Project, improvising scenes with guests, a dance performance by Kinesis Project; visual artist Felipe Galindo who presented a caption contest for his illustrations, and finally a downhome New Orleans band – the New York City Brass Brothers – which led the audience into the theatre for the main attraction.
Making his United Palace debut was Junot Diaz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao." Earlier this year he released his third literary work, titled "This is How You Lose Her." Friday night give Diaz the opportunity to discuss the release of the deluxe version of the book, which is illustrated by Jaime Hernandez, creator of the comic "Love and Rockets."
Diaz was interviewed by Calvin Reed, the graphic novels editor at Publishers Weekly. With ample time set aside for audience questions, Diaz took the 400 audience members on a careening journey through his thoughts, cautioning young writers about MFA writing programs, underlining the importance of building communities of writers, describing how the best novels include sections of "unintelligibility" (so they are more like life), and touching on his habit of dropping F-bombs in his literary discussions.
Afterward Diaz patiently signed books for everyone who asked, which created a line stretching nearly around the Grand Staircase in the foyer.
As with the initial Arts Interaction in 2012, Word Up Community Bookshop was a co-creator of the evening by curating the artists and wrangling Diaz and Reed. It is a collaboration that UPCA is proud to be a part of as we continue to foster a greater sense of community uptown.