This Saturday, June 24, ArtRat Gallery will join Grand Rapids’ South Division businesses for FAM on SoDiv. Our summer street party (presented by the Heartside Business Association with support from Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.) will run 11am to 8pm and feature fashion, art and music along downtown GR’s main street. Board our trolley bus and take a tour of SoDIV’s history and highlights!
Headlining ArtRat’s FAM on SoDIV schedule and honoring Pride Month will be Americana Special! An Evening with Sophie Wellington. This Boston-based musician draws inspiration from old-time fiddling, percussive dance and jazz improvisation. She was raised in Staunton, Virginia, by concert pianist Lynne Mackey and old-time musician and dance caller Bill Wellington. Contra dances, choirs, music festivals and camps inspired her to pursue music professionally. Since graduating from college in 2021, Sophie recorded and released her debut solo record, Roving Jewel, a collection of fiddle tunes, dancing duets and vocal jazz standards. (Admission $20; tickets available on Eventbrite.)
Ahead of her performance, ArtRat asked Sophie about her eclectic influences and hopes for the show.
You're in Michigan for this week's Earful of Fiddle Music & Dance Camp. Have you been to this event in previous years? What are some highlights for you?
Last year was my first year! I attended as an Earful/Artful/Heart-Full scholarship recipient. It’s an honor and a privilege to work in such a unique creative space, where movement and music are intentionally combined in pedagogy and practice. I’m so grateful to be a part of this incredible community. The energy, expansiveness, and inclusiveness of Earful is all a highlight for me.
Like many performers who visit Americana Sundays, old-time music is a family tradition for you — but you also grew up with live classical music. How did these influences inform your own musical path?
My parents’ professional and personal lives revolved around music, which gave me the opportunity to observe many different ways to practice, create, and interact with music and its communities. This also allowed me to develop my own relationship with music from different vantage points, and with a strong and positive support system at home.
I’m grateful also that my parents encouraged me to find my own path and change course, following what I was interested in. Having that space allowed me to develop particular dance styles and musical sensibilities, and the opportunity to explore the confluence of both.
Your performance will be part of ArtRat Gallery's Pride Month lineup (which also included a June 11 Americana Sundays appearance by Hearth & Hymn). What's your perspective about the visibility of LGBTQIA+ performers of traditional music, and about opportunities to support or extend those traditions?
Society conditions us to want to categorize things, organize and understand things, like people and music. While I identify as a woman, I find it harder to place my music in a specific genre. I almost want to call it “trans genre,” if you will.
I try to create a space where music and movement are equally present and in relationship with each other, and where the soundscape exists outside of traditional genres/categories/divisions thanks to various musical and dance influences.
I want to share my work with people as an example of what happens when we lean into the space between these divisions and see artists less for their “genre” and more for their craft. I think we need more venues and events like FAM on SoDIV and ArtRat where artists can lean into expressing themselves fully and without division.
Have you performed in Grand Rapids before? What would you like our local audience to take away from your show?
This is my first time performing in Grand Rapids, and I’m so excited! I’d like people to feel as though they’ve been seen and heard in active relationship with the material and with me. I see performance as an opportunity to connect and reflect on a shared experience.