Community conversations inspire Dasha Kelly’s ‘Makin’ Cake’ at John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Thursday, Nov. 16

November 1, 2017


Contact: Patricia DuChene
Media Relations Coordinator

On her blog site, Dasha Kelly introduces herself as” “Writer, performer, facilitator, mother, daughter, sister, builder, dreamer, phenomenon.”

The multifaceted Milwaukee-based performer takes the stage one night only Thursday, Nov. 16, at 7:30 p.m. when she presents “Makin’ Cake with Dasha Kelly,” a piece made with inspiration from Kelly’s interactions with the Sheboygan Community. A cake reception follows the performance.

Tickets are $15 ($10 Arts Center member) and can be purchased at, 920-458-6144 or at the Arts Center, 608 New York Avenue, Sheboygan.

There is some irony in the title she chose for the show. “I love cake, and I don’t bake. At all, ever,” said Kelly.

“Beyond my personal relationship with baking—shaping dialogue and narrative around the idea of cake is a way to examine ingredients where we typically only indulge the frosted finale,” she explains. “If cake were our national conversation, what can we learn from the layers, from the active agents blended into the recipe and process?”

“Makin’ Cake with Dasha Kelly” rises out of the performer’s recent visits with Sheboygan community members as part of an Arts Center residency. It was a gathering “ingredients” for the show.

Community workshops were held at Mi Ranchito, Paradigm Coffee & Music, Étude High School, Lakeland University and Sheboygan North High School. Conversations focused on power, racism, classism, inclusion and equity. The dialogue continues on the Arts Center’s Facebook page and in the community with #truthcake discussions cards located at the places Kelly visited.

“The performance will sift those discussions and narratives and then stack them into shared layers for us all to slide our forks through,” said Kelly.

Performances and cake metaphors aren’t the only ways Kelly strives to make connections and drive change. Her attention is also given to helping people find the importance of their stories and their voices. Her initial experiences in that are among her most memorable.

“My first invitations as a teaching artist were from elementary school teachers excited to have a ‘real author’ visit their classrooms,” she recalls.” “With a self-published novel and a few spoken word recordings, I was excited to have educators reference me as a ‘real author.’ I tried not to hold any delusion about the kids feeling excited about this visitor making them write poems…No one wants to be tolerated, especially not at the mercy of ten-year-olds. It was immediately apparent that my opportunity was guiding students to the conclusion that their stories are worth telling by offering an experience that allowed them to reflect, discern and commune.”

In that work, she discovered that many of even the youngest students’ thinking had shifted away from the fantastical and imagined to the practical and lived. “Once with a kindergarten class, I fancied a trip in a spaceship, and they suggested traveling to the store and grandma’s house,” she recounted.

“Through the years, I’ve witnessed the connection of how those bridled preschoolers can grow to preteens with limited problem solving capacity and, later, adults with both an anemic esteem and world view. From those five-year-olds all the way to the senior-executive sessions I’ve led, my work is structured to open creative valves as a way to widen capacity for unexamined ideas.”

Kelly has released four spoken-word recordings, written two novels, and appeared in HBO presents Russell Simmon’s Def Poetry Jam. In 2012, she was named the Pfister Narrator and shared the stories of the hotel’s visitors and guests on its blog. She has twice been a finalist for Poet Laureate of Wisconsin and was named Artist of the Year by the City of Milwaukee. She also founded Still Waters Collective, a network for storytellers and language enthusiasts.

Her work has had an international impact as well. Kelly was the first American artist-in-residence invited to Lebanon’s Rafiki Hariri University for a partnership with the American University of Beirut, and she has traveled as a U.S. Embassy Arts Envoy to Botswana and the Island of Mauritius.

Support for the performing arts at the Arts Center is provided by the Kohler Trust for Arts and Education, the Frank G. and Frieda K. Brotz Family Foundation, Wisconsin Arts Board, Sargento Foods Inc., Frederic Cornell Kohler Charitable Trust, and members of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

About the John Michael Kohler Arts Center: Founded in 1967, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is dedicated to making innovative arts programming accessible to a broad audience that ranges from artists and academics to families and youth of all ages. Central to its mission is promoting understanding and appreciation of the work of self-taught and contemporary artists through original exhibitions, commissioned works of art, performing arts programs, community arts initiatives, and publications.

The Arts Center’s collections focus primarily on works by artist-environment builders, self-taught and folk artists, and works created in the Arts/Industry residency program. Since the 1970s, the John Michael

Kohler Arts Center has preserved, studied, and exhibited artist environments. Today, with well over 20,000 individual works of art by 30 different art-environment builders in the collection, the Arts Center is the world’s leading center for research and presentation of this work.
Looking to the future, the Arts Center continues to generate new explorations in the arts that foster creative exchanges between an international community of artists and a diverse public. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center is supported by corporate and foundation donors, government grants, and its many members. The Arts Center is not an entity of Kohler Co. or its subsidiaries.

Admission to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is by voluntary donation. Arts Center members receive a discount on performance and other event tickets, classes and camps tuition, purchases at ARTspace gift shops, and free or discounted admission to many special events. Memberships are available at the Arts Center, by visiting, and/or by calling 920-458-6144.

Arts Center Hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Tuesdays and Thursdays: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Arts Center is open at other times for special events.