Kalani Cannon’s refrigerator at her home is adorned in several drawings, doodles, and notes from her students at Soddy Daisy middle school. It’s called “Miss Kalani’s Fridge of Fame.” One amongst several students whose artwork is on display drew a rainbow with them and Miss Kalani standing underneath. To its left is a mermaid with blue hair, little hands that have been made into a camel and a dinosaur, and a note that reads, “Miss Kalani is fun, kind, helpful, cool, sweet, loving, outgoing, weird, funny, crazy, awesome, amazing, and kid-friendly.”
Cannon is twenty-one years old. She’s an artist, sitting in front of a colorful backdrop that she created herself in her basement. She’s a skateboarder, kicking her Vans back and forth underneath her seat. And now, she is in the second phase of her residency as a full-time student teacher for sixth-grade science at Soddy Daisy middle school.
“The revelation that exists within art is, to tell the truth. You have to be able to be expressive, to be able to project but also to be vulnerable. Good artists can’t be cagey and have walls up. Being vulnerable is the revolutionary heart of every art form, says Melissa.”
Melissa Miller is a professional dancer, choreographer, and teacher at the dance studio located in Chattanooga Tennessee named “Ballet Esprit”. Growing up, Miller played soccer for some time, however, women do not have their own soccer league in Europe. That is when she decided to partake in something that women could have as their own, so she became a dancer at the age of 11. Miller danced all through middle and high school and traveled back to the states to earn her degree in dancing. She then moved to New York where she danced professionally for 5 years. After having her daughter, she came to the south where her husband’s family is from, thus landing her at Ballet Esprit.
“I grew up in a very artistic family.., so I always knew that my path would be in arts in some way,” says Miller. “ I think the reason I connect the most with dance is that it is an all-encompassing experience; it takes your mind, spirit, and body. It is also a relational experience, it requires an ability to project and communicate with people,” says Melissa. Miller says, “ I try less to share a message, but to ask a question, as honestly, humbly and with as much humanity as I can.”
History reveals that dance has always been a form of protest. “Dance is the only form of art that is directly tied to our bodies and physicality. This is important because as women, we can protest with our bodies against the social norms of how we are supposed to move and how our bodies are supposed to look,” says Miller. The studio Ballet Espirit’s, next appearance will be The ALTER- Nut, their annual winter benefit. All proceeds go to their “ Hold Our Space SPOT Venue Covid-19 relief campaign”. The event will be held on December 5, 2020, at 5:30 P.M. at Lookout Lake, 3408 Elder Mt. Rd.
Kelsey Butler, a UTC graduate and the owner of Homebound Books, specializes in bookshelves and giving back to schools in Chattanooga. Butler first decided to do a book drive for Christmas almost four years ago. After doing her student-teaching at an inner-city elementary school, she saw the need for books since the students were not able to take them home. The book drive was such a success that she decided to start doing it for many inner-city elementary schools in Chattanooga.
Kelsey began researching how to create a nonprofit and what all it entails. She decided to begin the process. The schools had many regulations regarding what kind of books students were allowed to read so Kelsey had to keep that in mind when preparing to bring the books to the schools.
The first part of the process starts with gathering gently used books by placing plastic bins in locally-owned restaurants and coffee shops in downtown Chattanooga. The bins come with a Homebound Books sign and pamphlets of information regarding the nonprofit and its goals for the elementary schools. She leaves the bins for a few weeks and then returns to collect the donations.
Eventually, after gathering enough books, Butler decided to build bookshelves. Each bookshelf has three white shelves with a three-dot logo on the side. She fills each shelf full of books and delivers them to the schools. Along with the bookshelves is a teacher’s guide to Homebound Books. This guide states the goal of Homebound Books – to improve each student’s reading level. The students are free to use the bookshelf as a library where they can rent and even keep the books that they enjoy. The schools’ feedback on Homebound Books was so positive that she knew this was something she wanted to continue for the kids. She now has seven bookshelves installed at seven different inner-city elementary schools and will celebrate four years of Homebound Books this September. After receiving her Master’s in teaching in July 2021, Butler will not only run Homebound Books full time, she will also be teaching a third-grade class at Red Bank Elementary. Her work for the inner-city elementary schools in Chattanooga will continue to be appreciated as Homebound Books expands within the community.