Seattle’s Most Influential People 2019: Common Ground Music Project Founder, Shontina Vernon

In addition, her Visionary Justice StoryLab earned Vernon a fellowship from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation

This article appears in print in the November 2019 issue, as part of the Most Influential People of the Year feature. Click here to subscribe.

Three years ago, Shontina Vernon took 11 other Seattle artists—in dance, music, spoken word and other arts—to Cuba to meet, learn from and collaborate with artists in that country. That trip served as the launch of her Common Ground Music Project, which works to advance social justice causes through cultural exchange. The project is just one of the platforms this multidisciplinary artist has created to address issues of racial, reproductive, gender and environmental justice through art; her Visionary Justice StoryLab, spotlighting queer artists and artists of color, earned Vernon a fellowship from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. You may have seen her theater works, which draw tellingly on her own life experience, performed in venues ranging from Seattle’s On the Boards to World Wide Words in Denmark; or perhaps watched her in the lead role of Nina Simone, another bravely outspoken activist-artist, in Christina Ham’s play Nina Simone: Four Women, staged by Seattle Rep this past spring.

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