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Rapson Collaborative


Rapson Collaborative is a local non-profit arts organization that I would love to bring more attention to. Their mission is “supporting original musical projects that explore critical social issues. Rapson Collaborative fosters collaboration between artists and audiences with an emphasis on projects that tell marginalized histories, support underrepresented artists and engage diverse communities.” In the realm of non-profit arts organizations, this collaborative effort stands out as a dynamic space where creativity is not just encouraged but celebrated. The artistic prowess of John Rapson serves as the guiding force and inspiration of this organization. Below is an introduction to John and the two original projects of Rapson Collaborative.


John Rapson: Orchestrating Creative Excellence


At the helm of the Rapson Collaborative is the maestro himself, John Rapson. The organization originally began as “Hot Tamale Louis” Iowa City (HTMLIC). John’s visionary leadership consistently propelled the organization towards unparalleled artistic excellence, transforming what could be ordinary projects into extraordinary endeavors. John was an exceptional human and one of the most genuine and kind people I have had the pleasure of working with. John passed in July of 2021 and the loss of his presence is felt by everyone that knew and loved him.


Hot Tamale Louis: A Sonic Expedition Beyond Boundaries


Hot Tamale Louie, a multimedia production inspired by Kathryn Schulz's New Yorker piece, narrates the life of Zarif Khan, an Afghan immigrant who settled in Wyoming in 1907. Taking over a tamale business, Khan established a renowned restaurant that became a community hub. John saw parallels between Khan's immigrant story and modern American identity debates. Khan's citizenship, initially granted and later revoked due to ethnicity, reflects evolving notions of belonging. This historical narrative mirrors contemporary discussions on immigration and belonging, highlighting shifting societal perspectives on what defines American identity amidst changing laws.


Esteban and the Children of the Rising Sun: A Professional and Personal Pilgrimage


Esteban & The Children of the Sun united various musicians and artists to present a diverse narrative. The collaboration featured musicians like Daniel Gaglione, Kevin Burt, and Miguel Espinoza, along with spoken-word artist Caleb Rainey. Through dialogue, music, and visuals, the performance delved into Esteban's journey from Morocco to Spain, his involvement in the 1527 Narváez expedition to the Americas, and his survival in the American southwest. John’s communal composition style merged historical imagery and music, echoing past and present themes, highlighting America's intricate history and ongoing societal issues, as noted by Eric Neel in the project's liner notes. I was grateful to be a part of the Maktoub Arkestra in both the recording project and the October 2021 live performance. The recording project was completed mere weeks before John passed. The Daily Iowan did a fantastic short documentary on the project that you can check out here.


Collaborative Artists: Elevating Artistic Discourse

I want to take a moment to unabashedly promote my amazingly talented friends and colleagues that have been involved with the projects of the Rapson Collaborative. These humans are active performers that not only give the world beautiful music, but also genuine kindness and compassion.



In summary, the Rapson Collaborative stands as a testament to the harmonious blend of exploration and creativity. Projects such as "Hot Tamale Louis" and "Esteban and the Children of the Rising Sun" underscore the organization's commitment to pushing the boundaries of artistic expression. As we navigate these artistic frontiers, the Rapson Collaborative continues to be a beacon of inclusiveness and hope, where collaboration is not just encouraged but embraced as an integral part of the artistic journey.


“Every act of making is an act of hope…”

-John Rapson


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