UA Blog

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Erika Davis

Erika Davis from McGill University was Highly Commended in 2015 in the Music, Film, Theatre & Art History category and in 2014 in the Media & The Arts category.

She was Highly Commended for her papers “Space-Space: How Artists Have Attempted to Change Human Understandings of ‘The Final Frontier’” and "You Really Shouldn’t Have: A Critique of the Gift Shop’s Exemption from Cultural Education".

Since her UA recognitions in 2014 & 2015, it’s certainly been an adventure.  She graduated from McGill University in May 2015 and hit the ground running. Almost immediately, she started as an office assistant at Atlantic Music Festival, working with Pulitzer, Grammy, & Oscar winning composer John Corigliano, and coordinating an experimental music concert series of her very own. After the festival concluded, she went on to work at a Masterwork a gallery in Boston, Galerie d’Orsay, as operations director. She has touched a Rembrandt through sterile white gloves of course!.

“Eventually, my activist instincts got the best of me—I got my degree in Art History with a focus in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist studies after all. I wanted to escape the commercial art world, and enter the museum sphere, where I could try to have some positive impact on my community.”

She moved to Providence, Rhode Island to work at Old Slater Mill Association, an industrial history museum, national historic landmark, and recently a part of the Blackstone River Valley National Park. As Program Director, she has produced Jazz Concerts, a Labor History/Experimental Noise collaboration, an outdoor film series focusing on immigration and empathy, a contemporary textile art exhibition, and countless other events.

But her work beyond her career has been even more fulfilling. In May 2016, she recruited to become a member of Providence Roller Derby, one of the countries founding leagues. She has since become the captain of one of their two travel teams, and a member of the coaching staff for new recruits. Everyone knows her as Rocket!

Erika sang opera growing up, but she is now a vocalist for two very different genres:  Western Stars is a western swing band covering Patsy Cline, Fats Waller etc. with an eight piece ensemble, including a pedal steel. The Sweeties is a collaborative synth pop duo featuring two femme voices, and a loop pedal.

She has put her training to good use by volunteering to teach vocals with Girls Rock! RI, a program where women learn to play an instrument, write a song, join a band and attend empowerment workshops. The most important lessons she imparts are “you don’t have to be a good singer to be a good vocalist,” and “make your voice heard.”

“I carved  through 20 linoleum blocks, filled pages with watercolours, and cut up dozens of books into collages. I learned how to do a headstand. I died my hair hot yellow. I came out of the closet. I was published in a Montreal Magazine, Echelles. I spoke at an International Women’s Day talk. I protested. God, did I protest. I continue to protest. I attended the wedding of my best friends. I have striven every day to be a better self.”

 Read Erika's 2014 and 2015 Highly Commended Paper on The Undergraduate Awards Library.