Kristin Colaneri: Celebration, Advocacy, and the Power of Performing

Published April 8, 2021 at 8:19am
Story by Roselle Tenorio. Photos courtesy of Kristin Colaneri.

Kristin Colaneri brings her extensive arts training and experience, a global perspective, and her passion for equity, racial justice, and social-emotional education to the good work she does in Dallas and beyond. 


Kristin was born into the arts with a New York based musician, drummer, and singer as a father, a pianist as a grandmother, and many other artists as family members. Performing on stage since she was in kindergarten, Kristin knew her future would include the arts when she experienced a performance of A Chorus Line, one of the longest running American broadway productions of all time. Kristin went on to obtain her BA in Theater & Vocal Performance Montclair State University, an MA in Art & Film and a certificate in writing/film producing from the Tisch Film school at NYU. 

Kristin keeps deep roots in both New York City, as well as Dallas. After her parents divorced early in Kristin’s childhood, her mother moved to Dallas where she would have family nearby. Her father stayed close to family in New York and down the East Coast. Experiencing and living in such complex and different environments has resulted in a strange comfort in the liminal spaces of change, expression, and advocacy. Both of her parents were involved in the civil rights movement; her mother earned her degree in political science and Kristin was highly aware of the privilege her family held, and was taught to speak up for justice in her role as a white, Italian woman.

Kristin’s equity lens includes a global perspective. She explains, “I grew up understanding that being bilingual, multilingual, travelling abroad all make us more well rounded and adaptable.” She encourages her community to be mindful that we are globally connected and that American exceptionalism and national thinking can be dangerous, not taking careful consideration of cultures around the world. 

A self-portrait by Kristin Colaneri. Description: This is part of a current series called 'Women and Icons' where myself and other local female artists step into iconic images as a vehicle for conversation on beauty, gender identity and iconography.…

A self-portrait by Kristin Colaneri. Description: This is part of a current series called ‘Women and Icons’ where myself and other local female artists step into iconic images as a vehicle for conversation on beauty, gender identity and iconography. This is me as Edith Piaf, photographed and then collaged with another image of a film set with Eric von Stroheim, an Austrian born director, actor and producer that moved to the states and became a silent film star. The weaving holds many layers of narrative—one of patriarchal authority in film and the art world in general at that time and the development of the 20th century male gaze.

Like many other New Yorkers who viscerally experienced the attacks of 9/11, Kristin could have taken her trauma and used it for anger, but instead Kristin turned to love and compassion, pouring herself into studies about middle eastern experience and culture, looking for a better understanding of what led to this moment in our shared history. She built upon her bicoastal upbringing, multicultural experiences and arts training to eventually start a fine arts program at one of the largest Islamic private schools in the country, located in Garland, Texas. All of the fine arts units are interdisciplinary, built on thinking globally with deep dives into cultural ideas as well as embracing the spirit of fun which naturally occurs when we celebrate culture together. 

Kristin’s experience also prepared her to speak out about the racial justice, and equity in the arts in Dallas because she is comfortable in the deep conversations that are necessary for progress. While studying and working in New York City she was learning and creating in more diverse spaces and communities, which she describes as “an environment with many varied perspectives, points of view and cultural influence.” And Kristin can see the possibility of creative cultivation here in the North Texas area. “Dallas still has growth to do in the arts, we have pockets of communities but not like New York,” she says. “We are more separated and don’t always come into contact with each other—we are homophilous. When the pandemic hit and when the Black Lives Matter movement gained mainstream momentum, the theater and arts community broke down and started to question whether our spaces are diverse enough and are sensitive enough to our city’s demographics. And the answer is maybe they are not. Breakdowns move us toward breakthroughs.” Now, in Dallas we are seeing more art institutions make room at the table.  

Backstage at a previous Discover Runway Dreams event with Junior Players.

Backstage at a previous Discover Runway Dreams event with Junior Players.

Kristin lends her expertise to work with many arts nonprofits in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area on projects and initiatives that utilize a racial equity lens. Right now she is working on an event with Junior Players, a performing arts nonprofit she connected with in 2004. One of the things she loves about the organization is they sent her to work all across the city, giving Kristin the opportunity to work in many different types of schools. 

As a teacher and a director working with youth in particular, Kristin is adept at facilitating social emotional learning and experiences. Due to the pandemic, young people are facing deep emotional changes. Kristin shares, “since I cannot hug them I have been connecting emotionally and spiritually with them,” working to create a healing space. Kristin, who created the Dallas Fashion & Art show, which showcased local talent, merging visual art, fashion and multimedia with live music, is now combining all of her skills to direct Junior Players’ Discover Runway Dreams.

As a director, Kristin explains her inspiration behind Discover Runway Dreams, “All of the productions I tend to do are somewhat multi-disciplinary in nature. Here, I am blurring the line between theater and runway.” She is excited to be able to step up herself as a curator and director for the production, which will feature a partnership with Junior Players, EarthX and The Crow Museum of Asian Art, and eco-friendly and sustainable fashion from three local designers with nine line pieces each. There are 21 talented young models aged five through 17 who will focus on racial inequities, social justice barriers, and the current climate of our nation and invite the audience to explore these conversations of change as they walk and perform on the runway. There will also be a surprise conceptual, free flowing art as fashion to bid on during the event which will be located at On the Levee (1108 Quaker St, Dallas, TX 75207) on April 7–9, 2021 at 7:30 pm.

For more information about Discover Runway Dreams, to attend or stream the event, visit the Junior Players website.

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