“I’m an Artivist because there is something more gratifying than envisioning something new, something beautiful in it’s personal significance and sublime in it’s ability to touch someone in that place you thought you were alone. Something more rewarding then taking something terrifying in what it reveals about you and releasing it out into the world. And that’s doing it with a bunch of Artivists.” – Joe Ramas, 1977-2016
I don’t know quite know how to be in this world when you’re not. I spent four days in the hospital, sitting with your declining body and devastated friends and family – yet I can’t quite wrap my brain around the fact that you’re gone. My heart is broken.
In the midst of my shock and denial, I have the daunting task of trying to tell the story of who you were and your role in Art as Action so our community can understand how significant an Artivist you were – and maybe so I can begin to truly grasp this abrupt new reality.
You catapulted into my life 18 years ago. We existed on two totally different planes and had absolutely no idea what to do with each other. Somehow we found moments of understanding and in the midst of our curiosity about each other we discovered a real connection. I became your “Pinky” and you became my best friend and one of my greatest teachers.
In 2002 I told you I wanted to start a collaborative performing company. I had the “Art” and the “Action” part – you helped me find the appropriate preposition: it wasn’t Art in Action or Art of Action. We would be Art as Action. You dove into the deep end with me, full of ideas, opinions and boundless energy. As you said to me as we walked off the stage after our debut performance: “We made a show.” Then we made another one. And another…
We didn’t always agree – in fact my knee jerk response to you was often “we can’t do that” with an eye roll. Little did I know this radical out-of-the-box thinking would teach me how to say YES to artists for years to come, whether I fully understand their vision or not. You taught me how to trust creative minds and support their process in making their big ideas a reality. You taught me how to trust myself, even if I couldn’t fully see the path in front of me. Whenever I doubt my abilities to lead this community, I think of the way you used to introduce me to random strangers (you were always talking to random strangers): “This is Sarah Leversee, she is the Director of Art as Action.” You were so proud – through your eyes, I see myself as a true leader doing valuable work. I can’t tell you what an impact you had in those early years – we had no idea what we were doing, but we had the youth, the drive and the abandon to do it anyway.
You were the master of do it anyway. You worked hard to make the most of every moment – no idea was too grand, no adventure too crazy. Sometimes relationships and feelings became collateral damage to your big ideas. Sometimes no amount of explaining could make us understand each other. Sometimes you drove me absolutely crazy. But we could always return to our shared love of being in community and making cool stuff with dynamic, creative people. We could always return to our shared love of our unique connection and our determination to work together and be there for each other.
You created incredible work for the Art as Action stage. Your pieces were ambitious, thought provoking and ultimately beautiful and entertaining. You opened doors for many budding Artivists to discover their own creative possibilities. We built the foundation of Art as Action together – and even after you moved on to other projects you never forgot about us. Every time I asked, you and Dave would play music to open our shows. It meant so much to me to maintain that connection – that in the midst of your latest big idea you would take the time to show up for Art as Action and for me.
I want to send all my love to our fellow Artivists who worked with you closely and loved you deeply. We will deal with this unthinkable heartbreak the only way we know how – by coming together and making art.
Thank you Joe.
(aka Sarah Leversee, Artistic Director)
Joe Ramas was a founding member of Art as Action, a collaborative performing company of Artivists. Joe performed music, dance and acro on the Art as Action stage and created some of our most memorable pieces over the past 13 seasons. Joe and his girlfriend Stacey Reynolds died last week after being in a car accident.