November 13, 2018 Artist to Watch: Taylor Scott
Writer, Feeler, & Truth Teller
Taylor Scott is a writer, director, and performance artist from Baton Rouge, LA who dislikes biographies. She is an alumna of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's First Wave Learning Community, the only hip hop and spoken word program of its kind in the country. In 2014, Taylor directed her first ensemble production, Honey In My Tea, telling narratives of African American women through song. She is now a graduate student at Louisiana State University, pursuing a Ph.D. in English. Taylor’s research interests include Afrofuturism, global Shakespeare, and the performative study of Black literary traditions.
"On Why I Write:
My body is the connective tissue between my poems. As a Black woman in the world, my body conceives its own utterances before my mouth does. Because performance is a part of my practice as a writer, I am always hyper-aware of how my body will be interpreted as its own poem. People see my body and conflate it with history without my consent. However, for those who understand, they know I am not just a body, but a being who seeks to demystify Black female existence. My main aim as a writer is to make the abstract tangible while maintaining elements of spirituality and of the sublime. My poems abbreviate multi-generational duress into sobering moments of stillness. Being Black is an existential crisis, and I write to examine my Blackness as if it were an artifact. However, because Blackness is so vast, writing while Black is expansive, too.
To write poetry is to subtly witness myself through moments of grief, high ecstasy, loneliness, anger, and sedateness. I write to distill my experiences and to re/member myself.” - Taylor Scott
What brought you to Baton Rouge and when did you arrive?
I was actually born and raised in Baton Rouge. When I was 17, I left home and attended college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After I graduated with my first degree, I knew I wanted to pursue my second and third degrees. However, I also wanted to be home because I missed certain aspects of it. Since the fall of 2016 until now, I have been a graduate student in the English Department at Louisiana State University.
What are your thoughts on the arts/performance/literary opportunities in Baton Rouge?
There are talented people in Baton Rouge, and many of them are my friends and collaborators. Unfortunately, for most people in our artistic community (including myself), performance opportunities aren’t paying. It speaks to the value often placed on art in the US South, a region that suffers from the lack of national respect and recognition for our literary/arts/performance contributions. To financially and practically sustain ourselves as creatives located in the South, we must strive to create our own platforms and invent ways to compensate each other. I know of a few artists and non-artists who are sustaining organic, grassroots venues in Baton Rouge. Nonetheless, because of how scarce paying gigs are, no one I know is making a decent living from performing in the city. To reconcile this, artists perform for free or leave the city for paying gigs.
If I could change anything about where I live, this would be it. I would find ways to get all my very talented friends resources so they can create at the highest caliber.
Were you always interested in performing/writing/directing?
Of course. Poetry has always been a constant in my life. In fourth grade, I found Maya Angelou, and I’ve been attempting my hand at writing ever since. In 7th grade, I entered a school-wide poetry competition and won the opportunity to read my original poem in front of the entire school. This was my first experience orating poetry to an audience. In high school, I was introduced to slam poetry by educators in the community and really fell in love with performance.
While I lived in Madison, WI, I delved further into performance poetry and music. I was a part of a vibrant arts scene thanks to First Wave, which provided many opportunities for aspiring writers, including full-ride scholarships. During my junior year in college, I was commissioned by a couple Madison-based arts organizations to create a jazz and hip-hop theatre ensemble. That group later turned into the Bellhops, and we released an EP entitled Hero of My Own Tale. The group has since disbanded, but I am grateful that I know what it is like to share such a profound space with other artists.
Who are you influenced by?
To name a few: Nina Simone, James Brown, Saul Williams, Ntzoke Shange, Audre Lorde, and John Coltrane. I feel connected to each of them in a unique way. However, I feel most connected to Nina. She has an expansive archive of songs, and I often joke that I’ve heard 99.9% of her music. Some of my favorite songs include “No Images,” “Suzanne,” “Ain’t Got No, I Got Life,” and “Four Women.”
What do you like about the culture of Baton Rouge?
I like how saturated our culture is with African American, Creole, Cajun, Italian, German, Spanish, Caribbean and Greek influences.
Do you have any upcoming events?
You can find me on Instagram @taylor_c_scott to stay posted on upcoming events.