Every once in a while someone bursts onto a city’s cultural arts scene with so much talent and enthusiasm that you just know she’s going to make a difference. Call it energy, sass, gravitas, charisma — it’s not necessarily something you can put into words. How about force of nature?
In a relatively short amount of time in the Fresno area, she not only supercharged the local dance scene but made an impact on the larger cultural community as well. I constantly bump into Amy at local arts events, and not just her own. She is at heart a collaborator, someone constantly seeking out connections between other people and arts organizations. She can move from high culture to not so high — from the Fresno Philharmonic to the Rogue Festival — in a graceful flash.
So. Amy has something to share. This might be the worst kept secret in town, but she didn’t want to make it official until she’d personally told people who’d be directly affected. I offer her this forum.
Q: Let’s not bury the news. Is it true you’re going to be moving out of Fresno?
A: YES! The time has come. I’m planning to leave Fresno mid-December as soon as my finals are done with State Center Community College District.
A: Oh man. (shrug emoji)
So many things.
There are so many ways I can answer this question. The best reason (answer) is that I feel it is time. I moved here to marry a man. We were together seven years; he passed away seven years ago. This year’s death anniversary has been incredibly unraveling for me. I could have never imagined how I would feel at this milestone — this seven-year life chime. Grief is weird in that you’re never able to graduate. It’s never over. But something so special came to me this year: permission. I finally feel free to leave. I feel released from whatever duty I had to stay. That’s the best way to describe it. I feel my work here is done — or, at least, my time here is done and I can only hope I’ve made the most of it. It’s taken every second of the past years years to stabilize — to normalize — to heal. I am so thankful to Fresno for being the space I needed to unravel and become and restore.
I have always known that Fresno is not my home. I’ve tried several times to envision and force an exit. I’m not from here. I don’t have any of the anchoring elements here like a child or a home. However, I do have family here. My inlaws have adopted me as their own, and that has made all the difference in my life. They have held and supported me in ways that I could have never imagined when I married into the family. As they say, “We’ve buried the in-law.” I am their daughter and sister, and I am the one and only “Tia Meekie” to three brilliant, beautiful nephews. The Querins have taken me in; we’ve walked through so much life together, including while Donny was alive. They’ve supported me — who I am as a person: my singleness, my marriage, my care-taking, my widowdom, my company, my art, my grief, my healing. It’s a forever kind of thing that’s happened here. And they support this move for me. It’s been a long time coming.
VIDEO: Amy Querin and Alison Du Pras of Meza Films did this personal project together.
Q: You’ve moving to Wisconsin. How did you decide where to go?
A: I feel like it was decided for me. It’s the most logical place to go because it’s an area I’m attracted to and where my people are.
Also, there have been natural progressions in many aspects of my life that led to this being an easy decision. There have been progressive shifts in NOCO, my adjunct role with SCCCD at Clovis College and Fresno City College, and in my personal life that led me to start exploring other options.
I have spent the past two summers in the Wisconsin/Illinois area, working remotely, and reconnecting to a community of friends and family there. My brother and and handful of my closest friends are in that area. These are friends who have known me a long time, people who were in my wedding. There is a soulfulness in all of this to me. I have a church and people I care about there in the WI/Chicago area, and that was all it took now that I feel it’s the right time to move.
When I’ve tried to force a move in the past, I would always envision that it would be some great job opportunity that would take me out of Fresno. But now that I’m here, at a different viewpoint, I realize it was all just timing. I want to be with my people. I’m not moving for a job or any concrete reason really. I feel it’s time to leave, so I’m leaving. I have friends and family — my people — in this area of the country that sparks my curiosity, so I’m going there.
I thrive in the navigating role. I like to figure it out on the ground. I didn’t have anything when I moved here, and I’ve loved being a part of building the dance community here. I’m excited to be in the unknown for a while.
Q: You’re still keeping a hand in NOCO, though — for now. You’re going to divide up the dance projects, aerial projects and aerial education. How will all this work with you checking in from afar?
A: The short answer is I have no idea. None of us know how it will work. That includes me, the board, and the new leaders. It’s all something we are figuring out with each project.
There are clean, easy boundaries that make leaving easy. The biggest shift is that the aerial education program will shift off of our books and onto California Arts Academy’s. With that big shift, it frees the creative minds of NOCO to works as project-based artists. We can rally together and make something happen at any time, but we’re mostly free from any ongoing administrative responsibilities. In a way, it’s bringing NOCO back to its roots — to work as a platform for artists in a project-based operation (as opposed to ongoing programs operation, like maintaining weekly classes).
I will become executive director and two NOCOs (her term for a member of NOCO) will take over the creative direction. Alexandra Tiscareno will lead the NOCO ROGUE SHOW project and and other dance projects; Brittany Kitchen will lead the aerial arts program. Brittany’s first production will be our holiday aerial arts and dance showcase this December 2017. It’s bittersweet. I may be leaving town that exact day. If so, I’ll be in a packed U-Haul while Severance Theatre is packed with NOCOs, aerial student performers, NOCO fans — moving on without me. I might change my plans to stay for one more day.
The big shift happens in January 2018. This will be our test year to see how it all shakes down. We have our existing board, a few new board members; we’re all up for the challenge of managing this transition.
Q: In less than a decade, you became one of the prime creative personalities in Fresno. Not only did you do a ton of your own work through NOCO and teaching, but you also supported lots of other arts organizations as well. Do you aspire to do something similar wherever you go, or is one stint as City’s Favorite Arts Lover enough?
A: Ah. I’ve loved my stint in Fresno. I love being a fan of something. I’ve loved painting my face and showing up to all the Strange Vine concerts here and collaborating with SAHAB every chance I could. I loved being a part of anything Windsong; those guys are the real deal. Co-Producing an original concept event, Summer Soirée, with the Fresno Philharmonic for two years is such a beautiful memory for me. I love producing and event-planning and dreaming up what’s possible in Fresno. I can’t believe we got 800 people to come to our New Year’s Eve event. Anything that can be seen as a potential accolade was birthed out of curiosity, luck, perseverance, collaboration or just a genuine appreciation for something. I have loved the platform NOCO has been for me. If I can dream it, I can do it.
So, I don’t know. Maybe all that I was able to accomplish here was because Fresno is so ripe for it. I’m looking forward to seeing how the range of my interests and experiences translate to opportunities in a new area.
Q: What are three things you’ll miss about Fresno?
A: I’ll miss the people who validated my cheerful ambition. I’ll miss the early days of NOCO and all those dancers who helped me forge along this path. I’ll miss Premio Mayor tacos, Gazebo Gardens, the 93704, Ampersand, Kuppa Joy, oh wait… I just realized you asked for three things.
1. My nephews: Abel, Ronan, Donovan. The Querin tribe.
2. NOCO fans: the people who believed in the world we were creating.
3. My community of friends. I have a handful of people who have loved me through the hardest of times. (dinner parties, late night dancing, friendsgivings, karaoke, summer pool parties, gazebo, all the richness of life)
Q: Anything else you’d like to say?
A: I’m excited to come back and visit! I’m planning to come back in the summer to work with the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools in the Stages Summer Youth Theatre Program. We’re thinking there’s potentially a short-term NOCO project for me in Fresno sometime, and Fresno City College wants to have me back as a guest. Plus, I’m not planning to miss many of my nephews’ milestones so I’ll be back for all kinds of family moments. Chicago is an easy flight to catch. (smile emoji)
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