Mia and Madenna organize art collective event, Deep Under Ground

Cheyenne Lever Arts & Entertainment Contributor

Mia O’Connor and Madenna Ibrahim are coordinators of Deep Under Ground, an art and music collective that kicked off their first ever DUG event in Corvallis this past Jan. The theme of the event was a mix of hip-hop and Dubwise music, which is a genre of electronic music that evolved from reggae.

The history of DUG extends back to Jan. of 2015 when the first event was held in the Northeast Portland basement of O’Connor and Ibrahim’s 100 year-old home. Originally, their audience was comprised of their ten close friends, but soon began to grow to include many individuals.

“It’s about the community, I want everyone to feel like DUG is theirs, so when

they meet an artist, they’ll tell them about DUG so that they can be shared and heard,” O’Connor said.

Inspiration for holding these types of events stemmed from O’Connors feeling that change needs to happen. She was moved by learning about social problems that have happened over the past year that involve youth minorities.

“I was frustrated last year with the way things were happening. I felt unsafe as a person of color,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor was born and raised in Portland, OR and started dancing at the age of 3-years old. She pursued this passion throughout her life as a way to free herself.

“I use it for expression because when there are no words for me I can just get it out with a dance class,” O’Connor said.

The styles that resonate most with O’Connor are contemporary and ballet. She attended Da Vinci Arts Middle School where she took jazz, tap and ballet classes everyday after school to perfect her dance skills.

To further her involvement, O’Connor became dually enrolled in Grant High School and Jefferson High School so that she could join the Jefferson Dance Team.  

After finishing high school, O’Connor spent time in New York City and danced professionally at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s 2012-2013 program. During her stay in New York, O’Connor learned about the roots of hip-hop and the culture of the genre.

Since the arts have been an integral part of her life, O’Connor has chosen to give back by supporting many local artists and movements by attending music events and showing her individual support.

By participating in local events in Portland, O’Connor creates connections within the arts community and networks with others to bring new acts to DUG for the future.

Madenna Ibrahim, also a coordinator of DUG, was raised in the Pacific Northwest between Camas, WA. and Portland, OR.

Ibrahim has also played an essential role in the making of DUG. Throughout the experience, many doors have been opened for her to develop personally and artistically.

“Becoming one with myself, finding my inner artist and receiving support from the community has personally helped me,” Ibrahim said.

Her goal is to get youth more involved in DUG so that the younger generations can ”utilize and keep in touch with their inner artists.” She feels that, “being a conscious human and understanding racism and culture is important.” Continually she tries to surround herself with people who inspire her, similar to the way that DUG has inspired others.

“It’s not one thing that anybody does that makes DUG what it is, it’s the conscious group effort that’s involved,” Ibrahim said.

Hoping that people take away the message of community, both Ibrahim and O’Connor’s goal is to bring together different art cultures to unite people’s viewpoints.

“No one is as strong on their own as they are united. DUG is a testament of that; with how much of a turn out we have had for the events and the support that’s been given,” Ibrahim said.  

The duo strives to give artists an environment where they can express themselves creatively since the arts have been very influential in their own lives.

“Creativity is everything, it keeps things from being boring, it’s every individual’s way of doing something,” O’Connor said.

The purpose of DUG is to “unite the hip-hop community and have this musical sort of education in the basement and bring all these different artists and bands together. But the message of community, togetherness and having strong musical ties and education about music is a reason why we want to incorporate youth because they need musical education more than ever right now,“ Ibrahim said.

Both coordinators desire to expand DUG and have the experience available to as many people as possible.

“Art is everything, everything is art; the way you wear your clothes, the way cars are designed, everything that’s aesthetically pleasing is art,” Ibrahim said.

“Come to DUG, please, you will have the time of your life!” Ibrahim said.

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