"I lived in the Exeter area until I was 18 years old, and I always felt like there was a disconnect between myself and the area. After living in Edinburgh, Scotland for 5 years, a city completely saturated with unified communities of artists, returning to the seacoast was disappointing to see how stifled the artistic culture in this area still was. I know for a fact that there are just as many artists here, but I can’t seem to find them easily. That is, until I started working with Scott Ruffner, Arts Industry Alliance and TEAM, on upcoming events geared toward supporting and drawing out the local artists for celebrations of their work and talents. I have been back in Exeter for nearly two years now, and it wasn’t until I started with this group that I was able to connect with people I haven’t seen or spoken to since High School, as well as meet new artists and newly local individuals from other parts of the world. In the short time that I’ve been working with TEAM/AIA I have seen in the faces of everyone we speak to an openness and excitement I have never been able to draw out of New Englanders too easily. This organization has not only been key to me reconnecting to my hometown but also in reinvigorating my passion for local artist culture and the communities that support them. As a result, this is the first time in my life that I’m actually excited to be here and to be involved in this community; I see the potential for Exeter to become the next artsy townscape with the help of TEAM/AIA, and I’m passionate about seeing that potential into fruition. I am however, disheartened by the road blocks and resistance that is continually put in our path by both the larger arts non-profit organizations on the seacoast and the town boards and committees. If towns like Exeter and Portsmouth, and the state of New Hampshire as a whole, want to retain people like myself in their 20’s, they are going to have to embrace and trust the missions and work of organizations like Arts Industry Alliance and TEAM."
Josh Harris is internationally known for his work as a producer, remixer and music industry educator. Josh toured with Grammy Award winning artist, Seal, as his musical director and keyboardist. In both 2007 and 2008, Josh received nominations by the International Dance Music Association (IDMA) for best remixer. Some of his other credits include: Madonna, Britney Spears, KoRn and The Killers. His corporate clients include: VH-1, MTV, USA Network, NBC and ABC.
"I was a resident of the Seacoast area for 10 years, before moving back to my hometown
of St. Louis. I have worked as a full time musician and producer for almost twenty years now, working with major label artists as well as independent artists alike. During my time on the Seacoast, I developed friendships with many local artists and bands. That’s how I met Scott Ruffner and became aware and involved with Arts Industry Alliance. This organization is key to maintaining musical diversity in the Seacoast area, and keeping what used to be a healthy local scene alive and active. To prevent local bands and artists from regularly performing at some of the premier venues and events, not only kills the local music scene, but ultimately hurts the area long term."
"I am an Exeter resident, filmmaker, actor, and writer. This summer I had the pleasure of directing my first film entirely in Exeter, with the majority of the filming taking place at Swasey Parkway. With the assistance and support of TEAM/AIA, I was able to connect with the Park Trustees and get the permission I needed to film. I am very proud that I had the opportunity to spotlight this beautiful town and to have the support of the community was crucial.
T.E.A.M. was generous to help in screening my film, titled “Namaste” (a New Hampshire Film Festival official selection) at their First Friday event at the Exeter Town Hall. This opportunity doesn’t come often for local filmmakers. To be able to share my film to a full house was incredible. I was able to give back to the community the art they helped me create.
Additionally, earlier this year I founded the NH Actors Group, a place where actors local to NH and beyond could gather and work on their craft in a safe and fun environment. I needed a location to hold these monthly meetings. Once again, T.E.A.M./Arts Industry Alliance provided the space we needed at the Foundation Art Space, also in Exeter. I have actors gather monthly who come from various towns in New Hampshire and as far as Rhode Island.
The arts, in whatever form it comes in, is crucial for a community to be diverse and well-rounded. Artists simply desire to share their talents and to have a platform to do so. We need the support of the community to be able to thrive and reach our fullest potential."
Shaina Gates is an artist and teacher, living and working in Exeter. She has exhibited in several locations throughout NH, as well as New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Cape Cod. She earned her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, an MA from the School of Visual Arts NY, and an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania.
"I owe a great amount of thanks to Scott Ruffner and the Arts Industry Alliance & TEAM for hosting a solo exhibition of my work in October 2017. Moving back to New Hampshire after 2 years away, it was important to be near a vibrant art scene. I chose the Seacoast for this very reason. Considering the level of interest and amount of talent in the area, specifically in Exeter, it is especially important to have spaces in town dedicated to exhibiting art in a dedicated gallery format. With the newly established presence of Art Up Front, run by Rose Bryant, and the FOUNDATION Art Space, run by AIA/TEAM, I can feel the energy of a contemporary art scene forming. AIA/TEAM was supportive in working with me to produce a show of my paintings, and Scott Ruffner worked especially hard to get press coverage for the event. The turnout was fantastic, and the show was quite successful. Scott is committed to keeping the ball rolling on having monthly exhibitions at FOUNDATION Art Space as part of TEAM’s greater project of hosting arts and music related events throughout the year, which benefits the downtown Exeter community culturally and economically. I’m glad to have put roots down in Exeter, and am excited to watch the contemporary arts scene grow as local artists find the support and visibility they need through spaces like FOUNDATION."
Brian Ladd is a founding member of hip-hop duo "Granite State", one of the most well known and influential groups on the regional scene. Brian was a key player in the forming of a hip-hop collective in Exeter that included eventual internationally-acclaimed industry producer Statik Selektah. Brian has continued to produce award-winning original material with Granite State partner Doug York, as well as side projects like the recent release "BUGNef". He has also stayed active as a leader in the regional hip-hop scene, often organizing events and mentoring younger artists.
"As attractive as the Seacoast appears to be for artists, the “gatekeepers” aren’t offering a space for diversity and growth within the community, plain and simple. As a hip-hop artist from Exeter and founding member of the group Granite State, I have been part of a movement that helped put New Hampshire on the map within the New England scene. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of misconceptions surrounding alternative arts, especially in the local music scene, and anything other than folk music and cover bands seems to be met with apprehension. This is why it’s vital we have non-profit organizations like Arts Industry Alliance and TEAM to help usher in the next wave of talent. Like most artists I work with, I feel as if we need better opportunities (larger venues) and stronger support (financial backing for promoting and booking) to help us sustain a career in this field we’re so passionate about. I get so inspired talking to friends who own local businesses that are thriving in the community because of the support they get but unfortunately we as artists don’t see the same support from the people we need it from the most. Thankfully Scott Ruffner and his board, artists, musicians, volunteers and supporters have been actively carving out a space for us for a while now and they continue to push for more diversity and equal access to resources. Any expanded opportunity given to TEAM/AIA to oversee and curate programming would be a huge asset to our community and the future of the arts in NH."
Beth Wittenberg is a non-traditional, contemporary, fine artist working on the Seacoast and currently living in Rochester. She received an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1998 and hold degrees in Philosophy and Fine Arts. She has exhibited her artwork throughout the United States and also in Europe. She recently partnered with the University of Maine Farmington to develop their annual alternative arts festival, Water Bear Confabulum. Beth is dedicated to providing opportunities to local artists and opening up her studio to the public for collaborative opportunities.
"The Arts Industry Alliance and TEAM initiative may be the most influential arts organization in the area. Scott Ruffner and the artist advisors have set out to establish outlets and venues so that local talent can be recognized for their hard work and contribution to the Seacoast and GET PAID. I participated in TEAM's Fall Equinox Festival and had a fantastic time and was so impressed with the high level of organization and professionalism. I wanted to create live art so that Exeter could see the happenings of a local contemporary artist. There were festival goers of all ages, and I sold a painting to an 8 yr old. TEAM/AIA were very easy to work with, organized, and dedicated to helping independent artists. I look forward to participating in upcoming events.
I have also worked with AIA/TEAM about the opportunity for other LBGTQ artists to accompany me to "Our True Colors", which is an LBGTQ youth conference every March at University of Connecticut. I am volunteering for AIA by presenting workshops as an arts advocate. I am presenting topics which affect under-represented youth. We can take AIA/TEAM’s model and apply it's principles to help other groups. The LBGTQ youth conference is a great place to demonstrate this philosophy."
Tiffany Colston-Ballard is a graduate of Berklee College of Music and owner of Musical Arts of Dover. She performs professionally throughout New England as lead singer for Nightshift Entertainment, and is also signed to Sony affiliate Amnesty Records as a solo artist and songwriter.
"Unfortunately, as an African-American originally from Colorado, I have lost a lot of hope in regards to the professional music scene here in New Hampshire after a brief introduction to it a few years ago. I say not ALL hope, because I believe it can still happen. After graduating from Berklee with a degree as a performer, and landing an amazing teaching job for young dancers and musicians, I was under the impression that the arts scene for professionals would be great. Scott Ruffner and I were quickly introduced and I admired and continue to admire his drive and dedication to broaden the state’s music scene and also ignite some vibrancy into the town of Exeter. It was the only thing that kept me inspired locally beyond my amazing students once I realized how challenging it was here, especially with such a lack of diversity. I knew things were gong to be difficult when Scott couldn't even get a return phone call from a Portsmouth venue when he contacted them regarding possibly supplying an opening act or even helping to promote an upcoming R&B/Soul performance from a national act we both had direct ties to. With our collective industry experience and Scott's time invested in cultivating a local scene, to not even get a response was very telling.
When I was presented with the opportunity to start my own business, seeing the lack of support from a town like Exeter given to the younger generation of arts professionals really swayed me to choose Dover because there seemed to be a stronger system and a more diverse community. These things do take time in regards to artist and musician appreciation, support and compensation, but expecting the current establishment to implement the change will take far too long. I stand behind Scott and all of the other artists and musicians taking action through Arts Industry Alliance and TEAM. It's rare to have professionals venture into this area, so I really hope those in power start to have more appreciation for the help that is being offered. I have dedicated my career to building up the youth through my business, as well as inspiring them through my experience and music industry connections in hopes that they can extend into other areas and nationwide. We can do this!"
Randy Armstrong has appeared on more than 40 albums and film scores, played at Carnegie Recital Hall and festivals at Lincoln Center as well as sharing the stage with such music greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Fatoumata Diawara, the Paul Winter Consort, King Sunny Ade, Eddie Palmieri, Babatunde Olatunji, Michael Hedges, Richie Havens and others..
"I arrived on the emerging Seacoast Arts & Music scene in the mid-70’s at the beginning of the Portsmouth and surrounding area Renaissance. At that time Prescott Park, The Music Hall and the old Theater by the Sea (now Seacoast Rep) were working hard to keep the doors open. We almost lost The Music Hall in the mid-80’s, but through the efforts of many artists, art lovers and generous community members it was saved from being closed and considered for a condo site. My national and international touring group at the time, Do’a World Music Ensemble and Unu Mondo made the seacoast our home performing at Prescott Park, The Music Hall, First Night, Seacoast Rep, and South Church concerts through the years. Many people may not know this history, especially the younger generation and newcomers in the past 25 years.
The seacoast has a vibrant music and arts scene built on the many years of work from the artists and musicians who help make this community so attractive. I am concerned at changes that make it difficult for these “local & regional” artists and musicians to be showcased in our many performing arts venues. I served for nine years as an Arts Councilor appointed by two NH Governors to help disperse public funds to many non-profit arts and educational organizations. As one of the only professional musicians serving on the NHSCA, I have always felt that organizations receiving public funding through operating and project grants should support not only the infrastructure and staff of the organization, but also nurture emerging artists in their respective communities through bookings and presentations. It is important for presenters to support the next generation through these bookings and presentations as well as the many talented artists that call the seacoast their home. Many non-profit theater, music, dance, visual arts venues in the seacoast do substantial community outreach, but there needs to more opportunities for our artists to perform and present in “our" community. I applaud Arts Industry Alliance for taking on this difficult task."
Jose R. Duque is a graduate of Berklee College of Music and prides himself on always being one of the most innovative and versatile musicians wherever he sets up residence. Now living in Miami, this Venezuelan musician has positioned himself as the go to guy in a variety of styles, such as Jazz, R&B, Latin, Rock, World Music and Musical Theater. Jose has contributed to dozens or original releases and is also a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the GRAMMY’s).
"I think for such a confined and at times isolated area, there is an incredible amount of talent in almost every discipline in the greater Seacoast region. Some of the musicians I played with were outstanding. It's well known, however, that some established institutions do not support, even though they sometimes claim to, local artists the way they could. I left the area 3 years ago in search of a better climate and better environment to be a working musician. I do miss downtown Portsmouth and a few emblematic places, but I don't miss the “crabs in a bucket” atmosphere that defines the scene. There is a "chip on the shoulder" attitude and once one of the struggling artists is granted some opportunity from an established organization, his or her attitude often changes and they no longer look out for the broader artist community. I recorded amazing albums in the seacoast but never fully supported myself as a musician. Having moved to a more vibrant and diverse community in the Miami area, I’ve had the chance to attain a lifestyle where I can make a living performing, teaching, composing music for theater and producing small indy projects. I am an advisory member of AIA as a result of my time spent on the Seacoast, and my experiences both positive and negative as a working musician. I applaud Scott Ruffner for bringing this conversation and movement to the forefront, and confronting the reality of our industry while retaining a good grasp on how to uplift and generate something sustainable for working artists."
Ingrid Chavez, a recording artist, songwriter, and actress who has had international success releasing albums and starring in movies with Prince, as well as co-writing Madonna’s number one hit “Justify My Love” with Lenny Kravitz, has called New Hampshire home for the past 15 years.
“I have a new independent project called Black Eskimo that was recorded in New Hampshire, so we had a desire to be part of the music community here and actively promote the album. It’s been very difficult. Our biggest frustration was with the lack of diversity in the local music scene making it difficult for us to gain access to venues that prefer mostly folk acts or cover artists. We Have a down tempo/electro soul style. We found it easier to book shows in New York City, Boston, and even Europe than in our home state. When getting shows in other cities has a lot to do with numbers and fan count, not having a way to build a local following in your own community effects your ability to branch out into other cities. I look forward to working with Arts Industry Alliance to help improve our local and regional music and art scenes so that they are more welcoming to home grown talent."