Meet the Project: Miki Sawada

by Katherina Thompson, Program Associate at Fractured Atlas

Fractured Atlas
Jun 8, 2017 · 4 min read

Each month we feature one of our fiscally sponsored projects who have been successful at using our program to advance their art/cause/career. This month’s featured project is Miki Sawada.

Image source: Miki Sawada

What are you working on?

Gather Hear Alaska, which is a tour I’m executing later this summer. For three weeks, my sidekick documentary filmmaker, Hayden Peters and I will drive around Alaska with a piano in a van. I’m exploring the idea of the piano as “home” and as a gathering place, and how classical music has the power to create or strengthen communal bonds, especially when released from within the walls of a traditional concert hall.

I’ll be playing concerts inside places where the community gathers but may not expect to encounter classical music. So far I have booked cafés, lodges, an arts center, schools, a senior center, and a correctional facility. We’re also leaving space in our schedule to do pop-up interactive performances, and waiting until we get there to get local tips on where to do them.

What do you hope people leave your work with? What are the tools you’ve created to further the discussions your work starts?

I hope that people who had previously dismissed classical music as boring or too difficult can feel they had an engaging and rich listening experience, and that it was fun! That listeners feel they created a stronger bond with each other and shared a meaningful experience as a community. That people who watch the documentary are amazed at how unique and vibrant Alaskan communities are. That fellow artists who hear about the documentary are inspired to go on their adventures, taking initiative to personally bring their work to the public.

It is a tough time to be an artist — the future of national support for the arts are stark, and politics is turning the country into such an ugly place. But I think it’s exactly because of this climate that individual artists have to hold themselves responsible to take action, and question why their art is important to the world today. Individual artists, unlike organizations, are nimble and adaptable and can easily respond to the political/social climate. If local communities can come together by supporting individual artists, they will lead to stronger communities and more vibrant civil societies, which will breed more involved/passionate citizens driven to take action.

Image source: Miki Sawada

You utilize several of Fractured Atlas’s programs. How has it been working with Fractured Atlas? Are there particular ways your membership with us has been beneficial?

It is a very unnerving experience to try to make your dream projects come true as an individual artist. So many opportunities are exclusively for organizations, and as an individual, it can feel like every opportunity is trying to shut you out. It is a very isolating and discouraging experience, compounded by the fact that a solo art form is already a lonely lifestyle.

I’m grateful to Fractured Atlas for empowering me by making it feel like I have a community and a support team backing me up, while I hang on to the independence and freedom that I cherish about being an individual artist.

Is there anything you want people who are being introduced to you to know?

There’s the paradox of this tour — the idea of the piano as home — since the piano is moving all the time and will inevitably be leaving the towns and their people. I think that reflects my fascinations as an artist and my background as an individual.

I’ve been nomadic all my life and even more so in recent years. I’ve lost all notion of a physical home as I lived on the road for years. It led me to turn to the piano, any piano, as one of the very few physical embodiments of “home” I have, and appreciate it in a way I hadn’t before. And it was through the piano and music that I made connections with strangers. Actually, that’s exactly how I met Hayden — while traveling, and at a concert.

Tell us about yourself as an individual.

I love adventures in nature, as does Hayden (he’s worked for clients like National Geographic). I’m a big trail runner, hiker, and backpacker, and Hayden’s a killer surfer. We really value experience and spontaneity and adventure over anything material or more permanent, and I think that’s what drew us to this project and why people are excited about it.

There’s also the paradox of being in classical music, a conservative field, while being an adventurist in my free time, and this tour is one way of reconciling those two sides of me.

Katherina Thompson is a Program Associate at Fractured Atlas, a nonprofit technology organization that helps artists with the business side of their creative work. To find our more about Fractured Atlas, or get involved, visit us here.

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