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Daily Inspiration: Meet Camile Kashaka

Today we’d like to introduce you to Camile Kashaka.

Hi Camile, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I started out in theatre as an actor. It took a few years, but I realized that I was better suited and more effective at facilitating the work. This brought me to Howard University’s Theatre Arts Administration program where I spent most of my time as a stage manager and lighting designer. It was also at Howard where my artistic lens was polished. That lens is focused on Blackness, womanhood, Black womanhood, and all of the stories therein. Since graduating, I’ve stage managed in DC, created a theatre education program in Dakar, Senegal, got a master’s in Arts Management, curated exhibitions, and a whole host of other art programs. I moved to Baltimore in February 2020, six weeks before we shut down for the pandemic. So it’s been an interesting introduction to the city. But what’s amazing is that even throughout this pandemic, I’ve been able to meet and work with some of the most incredible artists and brilliant minds of my life in Baltimore.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has been a windy road to get to today. As an artist, that freelance life is difficult to navigate. I’ve certainly had seasons of plenty and seasons of want. I’ve had seasons of whatever is less than want. The creative industry is challenging because it can be so impermanent. Shows come and go. Personalities clash. To be a female technician in a male-dominated sector comes with daily attacks and gas-lighting. Being young and in leadership means navigating around disrespect. I can see that my struggles have made me stronger in a lot of ways, but it has also caused cracks and insecurities that I have to reckon with constantly. My personal journey has been challenging, but fortunately, the work that I’ve been able to do, and the people I have been able to work with, has been so rewarding that I can say it has been worth it. I feel incredibly blessed because I know it has not been for so many people.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Currently, I’m the Executive Director of Motor House here in Baltimore. It is literally my dream job. In 2018, I came to an event at Motor House and from that moment, I knew that this was where I wanted to be. My background is theatre but over the years, working in a number of arts venues, I’ve been able to learn more about many disciplines. I am an arts manager. I am a curator. I am arts advocate. The more I engage with different types of artists, the more I see how we are in an ecosystem. Painters use music to help them create. Dancers use theatre to tell stories through movement. Actors aren’t seen without lighting. Producers are inspired by visual artists when creating a mood or a vibe. It is incredible. My job is to find ways to put these people, these artists, next to the resources that they need. I put people on stage. I put people in meetings with funders. I put graphic artists in rooms with arts organizations.

I’m most proud of the work that I have done that prioritizes paying artists. I’m anti-capitalist, but I realize that I’m living in a capitalist world. And that means that we need money to do almost anything. My favorite part of my job is handing that envelope to the bandleader at the end of the night.

I’m not sure what sets me apart from my peers. I think what’s more important is how I work with my peers. How I celebrate our community’s wins, not just my own. I’m not sure any of our wins are our own. When I win, it is because of the team around me. It’s because of the work people have done who have come before me. So what sets us apart? We are the cultural architects. The creative community is the foundation of what makes us who we are.

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
Luck has played a prominent role in my professional life. My first job out of college came from an artistic director who happened to be directing a show at Howard that I was stage managing. Of course, I did the work. I had impressed the director at Howard with my work ethic and my attitude, but had it been another director who didn’t have their own theatre company, who knows what my next step would have been? He was not the first job I applied for. In fact, every job I have ever gotten in the arts world has been where my work before had spoken for me even before I went into the interview. I have NEVER gotten a job where the hiring manager had never heard of me or worked with me. I have always had to prove my worth before I even got in the room. But it was luck that put those people in the places where they could know of my work. It was luck that I was in a privileged position that I could gain higher education. It was luck that I have had people in my life who held me down when I had no job, no place to live, and no money for food. I’ve earned my spot, but I have also been lucky enough that the work I put in was recognized by my peers. That’s not everyone’s story.

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