As she talks about Jonah, her face lights up. They had met in Detroit when he was a fifteen year old teen staff member for the health and fitness summer camp where Noelle Price was the Director of Operations. “He was like a mastiff ” she says. He had this puppy like energy which animated a room. He was tall and vibrant in character with Dragon Ball Z hair, except black at the roots and gold at the tips. “He reminded me of my brother,” Price recalls. “He wanted to be a better self and set an example for the kids.”
Remember Me Young, a co-production by PRICEarts and the Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas, is a testament to the challenges of mental illness, inspired by Jonah’s life and catalyzed by his sudden passing at the age of seventeen. Two years after first bounding into camp with that mastiff-like energy, Jonah died by suicide as a side effect of clinical depression and bipolar disorder.
What ensued for Price was devastating confusion and a drive to learn further about the experience of depression and suicidal ideation among teens. Price began by writing her grief, spilling out poems from the perspective of the mother, the bullet, and the floor. The pieces wrote themselves, and the movement which followed manifested in a similar drive for catharsis––a compulsion not only to reconcile with the loss, but to understand it. Price’s journey eventually led to the creation of Remember Me Young with her art and advocacy company, PRICEarts.
Established during her undergraduate studies at Western Michigan University, PRICEarts has always had a mission of advancing social causes important to Price. In the wake of rising publicity surrounding the US police brutality crisis, Price approached the Black Arts and Cultural Center with the goal of hosting an event titled Art For Change, for multidisciplinary artists to address the struggles and challenges for black communities. True to the PRICEarts mission, the Remember Me Young project also includes advocacy outside of performance with a Mental Health and Movement Workshop for teens (13+) held on October 20 at 6:00 p.m (See more info below). While PRICEarts has since transplanted to Seattle, the BACC Art for Change Scholarship still offers opportunities for qualifying students in Michigan.
PRICEarts has continued to evolve and now includes its own dance company. N.E.W. (Never Ending Work ensemble) is made up of artists Kelli Carnes, Elijah Kirk, Vladimir Kremenovic, and Ivana Lin. In addition to core company dancers, Price’s latest work features three guest artists including a highschooler and twelve-year-old who dance alongside the adult ensemble. It is the diversity of this cast which is one of many ways Remember Me Young stands out. The variance of the cast in age, color, and skill-set is a reflection of the N.E.W. mission and has been an exciting aspect for Price, who creates her work almost entirely inside the rehearsal process, finding inspiration in her dancers and the varying energies they bring into the space. Price describes the work as having weighted energy with a duality of parts––from ensemble sections, to a duet performed by the young dancers, to a solo by Elijah Kirk. “It’s a disjointed journey,” she says, thoughtfully. “Somehow as warm as it is disruptive.”
More than anything, Price wants people to know that this project is a learning process not a statement, and in no way intends to capitalize on the personal experiences of those suffering from mental illness––let alone those who have been lost to its effects. “This is not my story,” she says, “this is me learning how to better advocate.” And the mental health crisis needs all of the advocacy it can get. According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, while the CDC notes that suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24.
“Art saves. Art gives space and a voice to those who are so often silenced,” Price states. Silence perpetuates the notion that mental illness and suicidal ideation are so unspeakable, so worthy of our trepidation and so beyond our understanding, that the people who live with it are equally so. We are afraid of what we cannot understand, and in broaching the topic, Price seeks to help break the cycle of stigma. “Silence perpetuates the ‘glory’ of death,” Price says. It’s time we speak up. The goal of PRICEarts is to disrupt that silence. It has, and it will.
Remember Me Young plays at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute at 7:30 p.m. October 19 and 20, 2018. Tickets & info available here. A Mental Health and Movement Workshop for teens (13+) will be held on October 20 at 6:00 p.m. For more information or to RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Noelle Price is a black artist whose work celebrates diversity, community empowerment, and personal resiliency; her latest project is produced in conjunction with Central District Forum, a local nonprofit dedicated to presenting emerging black artists.
Suicide Prevention Resources
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
King County Crisis Connections: 1-866-4-CRISIS (1-866-427-4747)
The Trevor Project (for LGBTQ youth): 866-4-U-TREVOR
Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741
*If you are in crisis, please call 911*