A dynamic multidisciplinary artist whose work is grassroots, visionary, and global in scope, Shontina Vernon is an accomplished filmmaker, theater artist, musician, creative facilitator and educator.
Her work champions the necessity of arts and culture to catalyze social change. As such, it has been recognized nationally and internationally for both its artistic merit and risk taking.
Shontina draws from her autobiographical experiences and today’s landscape of political urgency and inequity to create a provocative body of work.
A believer in the transformative power of deconstructing and re-imagining our personal narratives, Shontina facilitates workshops using creative writing, theatre, music and movement to aid marginalized communities in connecting with a sense of voice and agency.
She is a 2016-18 Rauschenberg Artist as Activist Fellow, a prestigious two-year grant program funding artistic projects addressing racial justice through the lens of mass incarceration.
Shontina weaves disciplines, mediums, and communities to center social justice work with vibrancy and rigor. Her work has been particularly impactful in raising awareness around gender/sexuality and juvenile justice policy.
In her career as a theater artist, Shontina’s work -- spanning six full-length scripts and productions -- has been showcased nationally and internationally, from ACT Theater in Seattle to the World Wide Words Festival in Copenhagen, and has garnered recognition, including the Herb Alpert/MacDowell Fellowship in Theatre and a nomination for an Audelco Award. Furthermore, Shontina’s pioneering work as performer and playwright was one of the first to bring the impact of juvenile incarceration to the stage. In 2009, her solo show WANTED, a coming-of-age story exploring her adoption and pre-teen experience with the criminal justice system, was commissioned by the Hip Hop Theater Festival and developed in part by the New York Theatre Workshop. In 2016, she presented Her Black Body Politic as part of On the Boards’ NW New Works Festival, a movement piece exploring the black female body and the way it takes up literal and poetic space. She is currently developing Forging Ahead, an evolution of WANTED on the impact of her childhood experience on her adult life, with the Flying Carpet Theater Company in New York City, to be staged in the spring of 2019.
As a musician, Shontina has captivated audiences from Seattle to New York to Europe and Cuba with her incisive, poignant songwriting and vocals. Fusing Southern blues and jazz with future-facing soul and R&B, she has been featured by Essence Magazine and recently performed at Carnegie Hall as part of their Create Justice series. In 2016, she founded the Common Ground Music Project, an organization that uses music to promote social justice and cross collaboration among global communities whose cultural histories have been fraught with conflict. For their first project in Havana and Vinales, Cuba, Shontina organized a cohort of artists of color from Seattle to collaborate with local artists and musicians, creating and facilitating a body of generative work speaking to the tensions between capitalism and communism within the creative process.
Shontina's current work as a Rauschenberg Fellow supports her role as the founding Creative Director of the Visionary Justice StoryLab, an interdisciplinary arts “collaboratory” in which storytellers, media makers, artists and community organizers create new works to address the inequities in representation through narrative. Additionally, Shontina has worked to develop arts as an alternative to incarceration programs for youth, serving as mentor artist and facilitator with the Seattle based Creative Justice Program (4Culture), the Dallas County Juvenile Justice Department and the Door in New York. Her work as a teaching artist has been featured in the award winning documentary film STAGES produced by the Meerkat Media Collective. She is a skilled facilitator in the areas of social justice, culturally relevant learning and trauma informed care. She has worked with Carnegie Hall, John Jay Criminal Justice College, United Way/Americorps, Seattle Art Museum, and the Creative Advantage (select list).
Vernon enjoys beauty, profanity, fashion, good barbecue, and a tasty beer. She is currently based in Seattle.