Artist Talk: Maya Washington
From a young age Maya Washington’s parents ensured she not only had exposure to arts, but also to participate in the arts community, first with dance then theater. Over the years Maya has explored her passion for storytelling through narrative film, poetry, photography, and documentary work.
Maya is drawn to stories that have some kind of social impact. When talking about representation in her work, she admitted that she has learned throughout her career. She believes in representing the multiethnic world she lives in but hesitates on representing others. She asks herself, “How can I empower people to tell their own stories and how can I be an ally?” She encourages us to ask, “What stories are yours to tell, what stories are yours to support, and what stories do you have no business to tell.” Maya has a passion for ensuring access to the arts for everyone, including communities of color and the disability community. Her film White Space and subsequent poetry taught her to be mindful of how we present work for deaf audiences. She encourages open captioning when possible.
“Sometimes the best stories come from your own life”, she said of creating her documentary, Through the banks of the Red Cedar. The documentary was on her dad, a former football player who was a college and pro athlete during the 60s and 70s during segregation. The film follows her father’s journey and the impact of his legacy on this generation. Creating the film gave her a deeper connection with her dad. After competition of the documentary she was commissioned by Hennepin Theater Trust to create public art pieces using photography. These photographs of former Vikings players were displayed downtown Minneapolis during Superbowl LII.
Because film is such an expensive art form and so much of your time goes into figuring out how to pay the people you want to work with, Maya feels it is important to have some artforms that can be just for her, that she doesn’t have to make a living off of. She continues to create poetry, write, act, and do photography. To Maya the arts are important, “in addition to activism, the arts can also be really healing. Especially to those who have experienced trauma.