Twin sisters Ayra and Ira Kip are true citizens of the world. Raised in Amsterdam with roots in Aruba, Suriname and Curacao, they have lived all over the globe–touching ground in London, New York and Los Angeles while working in different areas of the arts and creative industries. In 2007, Ira: a theater director with a background in performing arts and Ayra: a connector working in PR, marketing and management across the entertainment and fashion industries both decided to bring their resources together to launch The Pancake Gallery, an international arts collective that connects artists from every corner of the globe through various productions and events. Two years later, they took this concept to their hometown of Aruba and launched Art Rules Aruba, a two-week summer youth program that connects young creative minds with some of the best innovators from all over the world. As they enter into the third year of the program, we felt it was time to shed some light on the amazing work that they’re doing. What better way to do it than to feature them as the third installment of our Parlour Maven series.
Parlour: What was the spirit behind the Pancake Gallery when you guys started it in 2007?
Ayra: We wanted to create a platform for an international exchange of information amongst artistic people. Through our personal journeys, as professionals in the arts, we have been blessed to connect with a lot of our peers from different cities around the world. Our roots are in Surinam, Aruba and Curacao, we were raised in Amsterdam, lived in LA, London, Aruba and New York and experienced being enriched, inspired and learning so much through exchanges and relationships. Through this we felt a need to share the experiences and pass on the information and perspectives we were receiving from others.
Come 2007 we decided to turn it into a business and launch the Pancake Gallery as a platform to connect international arts communities, create initiatives and experiences where knowledge, talent and skills would be shared on a global scale. In 2010 we launched our non-profit The Pancake Gallery Foundation on the Island of Aruba.
You guys have produced a number of creative projects under Pancake Gallery. What would you say is your proudest accomplishment thus far?
Ayra: So far I can say, I love all the events that we did. I still smile from ear-to-ear when I think back on an event that we did in 2009 with 9th Wonder and his True School collective, DJ Face, Jay Clipp and Cuzzin B. We brought this crew to London to play an event with a London based DJ collective called Uprock. The night became an exchange of musical taste makers where each DJ dug so deep into their crates you’d think it was a battle. The result was a crowd that went completely mad, an amazing musical exchange between London and US based DJ’s, one of my (personal) best club nights ever and friendships!
But the proudest accomplishment though, I have to say is Art Rules Aruba. This project has become so much more than we set out for it to be. We wanted to offer arts education in Aruba because we wanted to give back to our people. We wanted to offer arts education with diverse international based expertise which is somewhat lacking on the island. We also wanted to bring together a team of international professionals from the arts to join us in giving back, all the while gaining something out of it themselves as they teach these young aspiring artists and work with their peers from other places around the world.
Art Rules Aruba did all of that but what it also did is change the lives of 300 kids who simply want the freedom to express themselves. To learn that for a lot of them this is not always possible was very hard for us to comprehend as our whole existence was based around freedom of expression (thanks to our parents). The fact that we were able to give these kids a voice, a platform to be heard, to share with the world their talent and teach them discipline, give them courage and confidence and show them how to elevate their skills, this means the world to me. It is not just the proudest accomplishment within the Pancake Gallery it is one of the proudest things I have done in my life.
That sounds amazing. Okay, so for someone who is completely unfamiliar with Art Rules Aruba, how would you describe it?
Ayra: It’s an international arts program that we do every summer in Aruba. We put together a team of international professionals to come to the island and share their experiences, expertise, talent and skills with young aspiring Aruban artists, through a two-week intensive workshop program. We offer workshops in film production, fashion design, photography, dance, theater, rap & poetry, fine arts & painting and DJ-ing.
What were some of the challenges that you faced in taking the idea of Art Rules Aruba and making it a reality?
Ayra: It would be easy to say money but I think for a project of this magnitude funding would be a challenge anywhere we do it. The most challenging on the island are two specific things: First, the pace of working on the island. It is somewhat slow or I can say that maybe we just work too fast and too quick. Our ethic is that we really do not have any time to waste and need to maximize each moment of this project. Every minute counts and time is money. The second thing is that the arts is still somehow not acknowledged as a way of profession and an artistic existence or way of means, so it’s looked down upon rather than respected. With the upcoming generation of artists we do see a shift coming—technology, the internet, Blackberry phones and pop culture has a lot to do with this.
Who are some of the artists who have participated in past ARA programs?
Zanillya Farrell, DJ Face and DJ Motet, Winne, Justin McKenzie, Amy Sherald, Vanessa Paulina, John Agesilas, Joseph Henriquez and the list goes on!
Who do you have on your “wish list” for the future? Any one in particular?
Ayra: I don’t really have a wish list but of the top of my head; Waajeed, Eric Lau, DJ Stylus, B.R.E.I.S., Joy Wielkens and some of these French dancers that are winning all these dance battles around the world. LOL
What I think would be great is for our team to become more international; get like the best Japanese dancers to teach the dance class or successful African designers to do the fashion class. More cultures and more perspectives on the Island are needed and would great for Aruba.
What I also think would be interesting in doing is a “famous people” edition. Have like Rosie Perez do the theater class, Common do the Rap & Poetry class, Danny Simmons do the Arts class. Our students would loose their minds to the idea that well known people would care to come in and share their knowledge and expertise with them. If that can be done on a voluntary basis……..hmmm
Ira: On my wish list: Rich Medina, Aisa Winter, I have some amazing friends in South Africa, would love for MaikelX to be part of it, oh man I have so many I cant even think of them.
Have you kept up with any of the youth who have participated in past Art Rules Aruba programs? What are they doing now?
Some kids have gone on to a university of the Arts. The fact that they went to the school is great but the fact that they made the choice to do so after participating in Art Rules is the success story to me. The fact that during Art Rules they realized that they want to become professional artists and then make the choice to live their lives in pursuit of this, …. That is success!
What is your vision for the Art Rules Aruba project in the next 5 to 8 years?
Ayra: Hmmm…. we are still building our vision for Aruba cause we have seen so many possibilities. What we do have is a vision for Art Rules and that is simple: Art Rules Suriname, Art Rules Salvador, Art Rules Barbados, Art Rules South Africa etc etc.
In addition to Art Rules Aruba, you guys are also producing a play under The Pancake Gallery umbrella titled “She’s Baltimore.” Please…tell us more. Where can people catch it in the US?
Ira: “She’s Baltimore” is having its US debut February 17th. It went up in Amsterdam in 2009 with a different cast. This time around I used Baltimore actors and one New York actor. It’s a play set in Baltimore and talks about domestic violence in the LGBT community, two women in particular. One of them walks into the emergency room after being abused and doesn’t receive any care because she is discriminated against. They tell her that they cant tell if she is the aggressor or the victim. So around this topic I wrote a play. It goes up in Baltimore at the LOFTheater and will run until February 26th.
Sounds very interesting. What was your inspiration for writing it?
Ira: Sherry Baber a good friend of mine, brought this story to me in 2006 and I was so intrigued by it that I wanted to write about it. I could not believe that someone who needs care could not be serviced just because she was gay or because they couldn’t tell if she was a victim or not. So I guess I wanted to write about injustice.
What advice would you give to someone who has a great idea for a creative project and is struggling to make it to execution?
Ayra: Ask for help, build a team you can trust and appreciate the middleman, but cut him out at all times.
On a personal note, when your feeling like it is a struggle, remind yourself why you do it and who you do it for. Go back to that gut feeling where it first started and you first came up with the idea. Whatever feeling you felt when you first had that first vision, if your intentions for execution are true and have meaning to you, that feeling will guide you through it.
Ira: To write every idea of thought down on paper. Once its all on paper, let someone check it and pass it along–shop you idea around…after you copywrite it. (LOL)
Do you have a favorite quote or moniker that inspires your thought or creative process?
Ayra: I don’t have anything deep or thought provoking I just to tell myself everyday, “Kippy, you got this”!
Ira: To do life right is to always feel like your growing up until the day you die. Love that…it’s Jane Fonda.
What can we expect to see from Pancake Gallery in the future?
Ayra: More public service awareness, more education, more global relationship building, more global sharing information and using art as a tool to accomplish this. This year, we also have Bijlmer Park Goes Global at the “In the Loop” Festival in Amsterdam.
To learn more about Ayra and Ira and the work that they’re doing with The Pancake Gallery, visit http://www.artrulesaruba.com