#liveBRK Spotlight with Lia Russell-Self
Posted on June 02, 2022Written by Nancy Macy
1Berkshire Spotlight on Lia Russell-Self – May 2022
A Conversation with Lia Russell-Self (they/them/their)
Lia Russell-Self shares why the Berkshires is the perfect place for living life as a Black queer artist, storyteller, and social activist.
You grew up in the Deep South. What brought you to the Berkshires?
Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington. I was a 15-year-old from Stone Mountain, Georgia, wanting a challenge and freedom in the work I was doing. That wasn’t going to be offered to me in the public high schools I had access to or at the colleges I had looked at, at that point.
What kept you here after earning your BA in theatrical studies and creative writing from Simon’s Rock?
I fell in love with the land and couldn’t leave. I was lucky that there were opportunities in theater, which I was hell-bent on doing after college, where I could test it out without being in a city. Being in theater here in the Berkshires, it’s been easier to move upward in some ways. If I ever tried to go to a larger theater, it would be quite different.
How would you spend a perfect weekend in the Berkshires?
Driving. It’s one of my favorite things to do. Driving back roads, like going through Alford into Great Barrington while listening to an amazing book, then stopping and getting something at Guido’s like sushi, candy apples when fall hits, taste-testing things with my partner. Enjoying views at the same eye level as some of the hills across the way. It’s like staring down God. I don’t know a better way to explain it.
What do you love most about the way of life in the Berkshires?
Being able to see this beauty that is in chorus with the trees, the rocks, and the mountains as well as what human hands have created. It’s gorgeous. I get to see a portraiture at every juncture of my drives and every part of my life here.
How has the pandemic affected your life and work?
Completely changed it. I had a fellowship through THE OFFICE performing arts + film in 2020-2021 in a program called Artists at Work. It supports working artists with a living wage and healthcare benefits and brings them together with art, culture and community organizations to collaborate on different projects they want to do. My project, Reclaim Your Liberation, was birthed through that. There’s a long line of oppression that pushed people of color out of rural areas. We’ve worked this land, how can we reclaim that is of us and is not devoid of us? I had been thinking about it for a while, a weird amalgamation of meditations, poetry and being in nature resting, and ways for queer/trans/BIPOC people to engage in community and healthy artmaking in the nature we exist in. The timing was perfect. It really just allowed me to do what I know is important to me. Nothing actually changed, it just got deeper and in that way it all changed.
Photo Credit: Abby Leadbetter
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