La’Ketta Caldwell thinks a lot about love. As a performance artist most of her life, Caldwell feels at home on the stage, under the lights. This time, the deep breath she takes before projecting into the microphone feels different.
It’s four days before Valentine’s Day and Caldwell is rehearsing sections of the performance piece she wrote and directed. This is something she is no stranger to being the Senior Program Manager for Arts Education at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee. The difference this time is that the story she’s telling is her own revealing experience learning how to achieve self-love.
The event, called Ready for Love, intends to shift the focus away from the outward expressions of love surrounding Valentine’s Day to one that is inward. It combines spoken word, music, and dance with an emphasis on audience engagement. While Caldwell’s narrative ties each piece together, her words carry universal understanding. Learning how to love oneself isn’t always inherent.
“Finding healing through story is my passion,” Caldwell says, in hopes that her words give others the bravery to use their own experiences as a way to prioritize their well-being and happiness.
The trajectory of Ready for Love follows Caldwell’s processing of love’s meaning “from conception to birth.”
In a line from the piece “Conception of Love,” Caldwell writes, “right away I felt the fear of being vulnerable, but I learned a long time ago that you can’t run from what’s inside of you.”
Caldwell explains that the idea for Ready for Love began shortly after her brother committed suicide. The journal entries that were integral to her grieving process evolved into a TEDx talk that she delivered at UW-Milwaukee in 2016. It was a turning point that turned art into a vessel for personal healing— one that will be echoed by others sharing similar experiences.
Ready for Love made its debut on Monday, February 12th— bringing into focus an expression of love that goes beyond flowers and chocolate.
“[Loving yourself] is the best Valentine’s Day gift you can give yourself,” reiterates Caldwell, smiling as she takes another deep breath.
Watch as Caldwell prepares in the days before the premiere of Ready for Love in the video above, and listen to the audio story below.
Ready for Love is a performance piece designed to make you feel a different type of love on Valentine’s Day.