Let us introduce … Devon Ginn, ELEVATE’s emcee!
Where to begin with this Indianapolis native?
Devon is a proud Broad Ripple High School alumnus (’09). He is classically trained in Shakespearian theatre, a published poet and experienced director and curator for the arts, culture and entertainment.
Currently the Visual Art & Entertainment curator at Madame Walker Theatre, Devon leverages his long-standing relationships with nonprofit arts organizations in our community to be a passionate advocate for social justice and equity.
When we asked Devon to emcee United Way’s ELEVATE we knew a memorable experience would come standard, because whether performing for 5 or 500, his stage presence is dynamic and larger than life.
We sat down with Devon for a quick Q&A:
United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI): We’re thrilled to have you on board for our new signature fundraising event, ELEVATE!
Devon Ginn: After seeing the event circulate on my social media feeds, I was compelled to purchase a ticket. I was also excited for the opportunity to support colleagues and friends who were nominated for an ELEVATE Award. I also couldn’t say “no” when I heard we’d be educating and fundraising around the topic of food insecurity in our community.
UWCI: Yes! Our goal is to raise $70,000 at ELEVATE. Attendees will be our first philanthropists to seed United Way’s Basic Needs Fund – a specific fund to help struggling families and children gain access to healthy food, safe and affordable housing, healthcare services and transportation.
GINN: I love that. I love how specific you are being this year and the intention behind how it’s going to positively affect the community. And, for people to really see how their impact is being made. The topic of hunger in terms of food access is really timely for Indy. You have the juxtaposition of Indy being featured for the work of great chefs like Jonathan Brooks on the national stage, but then there are real instances of food injustice occurring – for instance the recent closing of neighborhood grocery stores like Pogue’s Run on the near east side.
UWCI: We are so happy to have you on our stage March 2. Have you always loved playing to a crowd?
GINN: I was always put on the spot by my parents because they thought I could sing and dance. They’d say, “go sing that song for so-and-so” and I would. At first it put me off from wanting to be in the spotlight. But truthfully, I was kind of a nerd. I was your average Pokemon and Game Boy playing kid.
UWCI: We know you are a proud Broad Ripple Alum. Go Rockets! Tell us about that time.
GINN: Broad Ripple was an adventure. I started there in orchestra. [Ginn is a gifted violinist.] It wasn’t until my senior year that I learned that I could combine both creating my own content through writing, and then performing to make use of my theatre skills. And theatre is just so much fun.
UWCI: Do you have a fondest memory from that time?
GINN: I was chosen to play the part of the lion in The Lion King my junior year. And then I got to write and direct my own play – called “A Ripple’s Act” – as part of an annual tradition at Broad Ripple where the top tier talent is chosen to produce their own work. It was crazy when they picked mine. It was really cool and solidified the fact that I could make use of my theatrical talent and juxtapose stuff that had my own personal stamp.
UWCI: Have you always enjoyed writing?
GINN: Initially my parents made sure they read to me all the time. I took a creative writing class in middle school that showed me how much fun it could be to tell your own story. World building and seeing stories manifest through someone else’s voice excites me.
UWCI: How do you hone your craft?
GINN: I’m super meditative. I like to be present. When I’m present, I recall what I’m feeling and what’s happening in the moment. That helps me get in the right space to journey forward or journey backward or journey into a new world.
UWCI: Let’s talk about Indianapolis for a minute. If you were hosting friends from out of town, where would you want to take them?
GINN: I’m a walker. I try to walk as much as I can. So, when I have foodie friends coming through, I have to take them to Tinker Street which is just around the corner from my apartment. Of course Mass Ave. Maybe Salt or Garden Table for a meal. I’m also a big fan of the murals in the city painted by artist Pamela Bliss, so I’d make them come with me on a tour – maybe even on the scooters.
UWCI: What do you love about our generation?
GINN: I like that we are so inclusive and care about what access looks like for folks, not just food access, but access for those who are disabled and for underserved populations. It seems like we care so much. It may even be “hip” to be aware of what’s happening, now. I’m okay with that. We are mindful of what we say and why. Words have meaning.
UWCI: If you were given access to unlimited funds in our community, where would you start?
GINN: It would be full throttle arts education for K-12, and even some initiatives to help those in higher education who are pursuing arts as a vocation. I’m just overwhelmed with the thought that there are students living in their cars on the parking lots at their college or university. The only time they eat is when they find a meal on campus. How can you thrive and be your best academically if you are looking for your next meal? That goes for students of all ages, really.
UWCI: What’s next for Devon?
GINN: A lot (chuckles). I am really excited to be part of the Indiana Writers Center Board of Directors. We wrapped up a great First Friday earlier in February to celebrate Black History Month. It included an interactive art installation where we asked people to answer different question prompts. The common thing I heard, “I never really thought about what Black History meant to me.” In my work with the Writers Center and at Madame Walker Theatre, the goal is to challenge our community to think about what happens outside the month of February.
Personally, I’ve drafted and am sitting on a manuscript of poetry. I want to get that submitted to a publisher or maybe even self-publish.
UWCI: What else should we chat about?
GINN: Well I do have a shameless plug.
UWCI: Yes, we love shameless plugs. Let’s hear it.
GINN: On March 8th Indiana Writers Center will host “The Gathering of Writers” – it’s an annual conference featuring a full day of classes, workshops and featured speakers. Award-winning authors from around the state will share their expertise and discuss their experiences as working writers. It’s going to be fantastic.
UWCI: But we will see you at United Way’s ELEVATE, first.
GINN: I’ll be there.