Community runs deep at Aurora’s 5280 Artist Co-op, a theater ensemble led by Kenya Fashaw with company partners Adrienne Martin-Fullwood and Stephanie Hancock, three women of color with multiple talents and skills. Fashaw originally came up within that community as Mahogany, a Slam Nuba spoken-word artist; now she writes, acts, directs and produces for 5280, where she is one of four black women co-directing 1 Night 6 Plays, a current production of six individually cast short works by local playwrights.
Finding funding and support is always an uphill battle for a small, independent company, but Fashaw and her partners and fellow artists are committed, busy trying to engage the public’s mind. We caught up with her to discuss all that and more through the Colorado Creatives questionnaire. Here's what she had to say:
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Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Kenya Fashaw: Some of my muses are my experiences going through the beautiful struggles of life. But the most important muse is my beautiful husband, Gene Fashaw. He allows me to pick his brain or offers a different perspective on all my projects and creations. He is so insightful and smart that I trust his opinion to make my work great.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
First, I would invite my Aunt Debbie, who just passed away last year. She was always the life of our family gatherings and parties. I miss her so much, and I just want to crack up at her jokes one last time.
Second, I would invite Nipsey Hussle. He could entertain the party with his flow while educating the community on how to build wealth.
Third would have to be Michelle Obama. I admire this woman for her strength and intelligence. It would be amazing to have a conversation with her about how she obtained success as a black woman in America.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
The best thing about the local creative community is that everyone is willing to help each other with resources and needs. I've experienced so many people in our community offering a hand or a financial contribution in order to keep arts flowing throughout.
The worst thing about the local creative community is, I feel, that we need to do a lot better with networking and collaborating with other theaters and art groups. A lot of companies like to work among themselves and do their own thing, and I believe if we were to collaborate more frequently, we would be able to build a bigger networking community.
What’s your dream project?
My dream project is to be able to work with writer, actress and producer Issa Rae. Her process is an amazing story. I would be honored to work with her. We can work on turning one of my plays into a film or series.
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I'd say both. I love Colorado because it is my native home. I was born and raised here. My family is here, and I have built a rapport with a lot of people.
I would leave Colorado because it has become expensive and overpopulated. Being a native and seeing the evolution of the state is interesting and frustrating at the same time. I love that Colorado is growing, but it makes it a lot harder for the natives because of all the new people moving here.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Creating more funding and allowing better access to receiving grants so that art can continue thriving. Investing in city buildings to do and create art in would be great as well.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I actually have two: Adrienne Martin-Fullwood and Stephanie Hancock, who are also my business partners. Their visions are amazingly in tune with the arts. I respect the talents that they bring to our company 5280 Artist Co-op.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I am planning to continue to write scripts and stories the black community deserves. Writing and theater play a huge role in the message I want to send to my community. And as for right now, I see it as my purpose and destiny.
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Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
There are so many that I feel should get noticed. But most important are the smaller theater, music and art companies. There are so many small companies doing amazing work, but they're not getting recognized because of their lack of funds. One of my favorites is Kandice Porter, with her business Bonding to the Beat, where she gives music lessons to babies. She is on her way to creating a franchise catering to musical needs [of] all kinds of babies, and she's amazing!
5280 Artist Co-op’s 1 Night 6 Plays continues on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through March 8 at 1400 Dallas Street in Aurora. Find showtimes and tickets, $25, online; admission is $26 at the door.
Learn more about Fashaw and 5280 Artist Co-op online.