As human beings, we are all fighting for something. Whether it be love, strength, equality or anything else in our bag of daily struggles, we fight. The Artist and the Boxer show displayed just that in the most creative way possible- showcasing the art of the fight. On Saturday, October 25, the Arcaro Boxing Gym in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle filled with patrons anxious to see an exhibition of fight. But not just boxers; this exhibit was of spoken word poetry, dance and boxing and tied them all together with a little metaphorical gauze and artist tape.
The show was collaboratively curated by three extraordinary women, Nikkita Oliver, the poetry curator, Coach Tricia Arcaro, the boxing curator and Laura Wright, the dance curator.
I was lucky enough to talk with Nikkita Oliver, to get deep into roots of her experience as a boxer and an artist and how they were able to curate such an inspiring exhibit. “In the boxing world, it’s a tradition where a gym has exhibition bouts to show off the skills of their fighters to show how they are growing, but Coach Tricia is very much about looking at boxers as holistic people; seeing them also as artists and philosophers and the various things they are and so we decided to bring those two worlds together in the way that we do our exhibitions,” Nikkita told me.
In the past, the Artist and the Boxer was a show of fighters only showcasing their artistic side; it consisted of mostly musicians and poets, but the three women agreed to take the second show in this series to the next level and include their common ground- boxing. The entire show took place in the center of a boxing ring, whether artist or boxer, each person was placed on the “Red” side or the “Blue” side and took stage at the center. Every participant was asked to answer the question, “What are you fighting for?” Nikkita said, “Because we are boxers, we also wanted to showcase what it looks like to actually fight in the ring.” “But as boxers, the ring is a special place for us.”
Spoken word artists performed poems with the “What are you fighting for?” theme weaved into their poems. The topics ranged from how one battles their anxiety to how the daily life of a woman of color is activism. The boxers sparred for 3 minutes per bout, starting and ending each bout with a show of affection. The dancers were given one song to express themselves with a routine. The co-hosts, who were both musicians, also had the chance to display their art to the audience.
This particular show was also in celebration of Arcaro Boxing Gym’s one year anniversary. I asked Nikkita, who is both artist and boxer to reflect on her experience there. She said,
“What I’ve enjoyed most about learning in her gym, from her and the other coaches, is that she is very much about dealing with a boxer from the inside out and figuring out what’s going on in your head and your emotions and in your life that impacts the way you are in the boxing ring. Boxing is both a mental and emotional sport. And on some level, I think it’s more emotional than it is physical. If you go into the ring and you’re having a bad day and you haven’t sorted through those emotions before you start sparring with somebody, those are likely going to come out. And Coach is very much about digging into those real life issues as a part of your training because it makes you a better boxer when you know yourself. Then you’ll be able to get to know other fighters better in the ring. I think the philosophy and psychology and even the spirituality of boxing is deeply ingrained in the way that she trains. I really appreciate that.”
It was absolutely moving to see a boxing gym transform into a museum of performance for one night. Punching bags used as benches, a ring used a stage, a DJ and a love for the art. The beauty was in the details and the art was absolutely magnificent. Love and proper respect to Arcaro Boxing Gym and the curators, Coach Tricia Arcaro, Laura Wright and of course, Nikkita Oliver.
During the show, I was able to have a short conversation with a boxer, who was not in the ring that night. He was not at all surprised at the combination of art and boxing. He said, “I think that boxers and performers have a lot in common. The only difference is the type of stage. We practice and practice, put our emotional and mental selves in it and give a good performance. In the end, boxers and performers leave everything they’ve got in whatever arena they perform in.”
Arcaro Boxing is located at 1208 East Jefferson St in Seattle, Washington. www.arcaroboxing.com