In countless ways, Cirque du Soleil has guided millions of spectators across the globe in the exploration of their imagination and conjured dreams into reality. Because our performances celebrate artistry, creativity, and craftsmanship, we believe that celebrating art in all its various forms is a way to help the world live harmoniously.
This is why we recently sent two of our intrepid Cirque du Soleil Icons to Miami Art Week and Art Basel to uncover the latest from the art scene and share it with our millions of fans across the globe.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Ali Rybczyk, an accomplished painter, and Derek Gilday, a multifaceted influencer, model, and former Cirque du Soleil artist, as they shared their remarkable insights into the vibrant and distinctive art scene of Miami.
First, tell us about yourselves!
Derrick Gilday: I discovered art when I was 20-years-old and began my career as an artist by studying and practicing photography. On a trip to Northern England, I fell in love with the nightclub scene, turning my focus to dance. From there, I discovered circus arts and pursued it professionally at the San Diego Circus Center, AFUK Contemporary Circus School, and the San Francisco Circus Center where I graduated from the Clown Conservatory in 2013, specializing in Clown, Commedia Dell'arte, and Bouffon. Beyond that, I’m also a fashion and costume designer and have a profound appreciation for wearable art and how it inspires the self.
Today, I run a company called Umbrella Ship that combines entertainment, wellness, and community building. It utilizes play and creativity for personal development and profound presence.
When I first discovered clown theater, I felt like I stumbled upon the holy grail of connectivity, creativity, and self-love. It gave me a toolbox to help others explore their unique relationship to their intellectual and emotional struggles. Ultimately, I would say the reason I do what I do is to relieve some pressure from humanity and remind everyone that you control your destiny. You can take things seriously without being so damn serious.
Ali Rybczyk: I’m a third-generation artist, live event painter, intuitive art guide and fine artist. I specialize in portraits, abstract and landscape paintings. My style has an uplifting energy. One of my greatest strengths as an artist who creates experiences for clients and the world around me, is my ability to start. There is a foundation of trust when I put paintbrush to canvas. This feeling is something I teach in my private and group pop-up art classes, guiding others on how to discover their unique creative confidence. I’m a self-taught professional artist and entrepreneur. Although I have painter genes, it’s my relationship to my inner self that enables me the ability to connect with the world around me.
Art is the biggest part of my life, internal and external. Every major life moment has led me to find more meaning through my expression.
How has art shifted your perspective and world view?
DG: Art has deeply influenced my worldview by allowing me the opportunity to see into the minds and imaginations of the creators. Imagination is boundless, and so are our expressions of creativity and love. In this day and age, when nearly all of our time is tied up, and everything we do is expected to produce results, the act of exploring the unknown recesses of our personal experience and bringing this amorphous idea into the physical realm is a brazen act.
Art is a pure reflection of the human psyche. We may look at the same flower but experience different elements of it—a subjective reality. Art reminds me of the boundlessness of humankind. It connects us to a source that is beyond the explainable. Many things in your life can be taken away from you, but your imagination and creativity will forever be your sovereign property and inalienable right.
AR: Art has illuminated my worldview because I see art as a personal experience. I’m someone who encourages others to let their inner artists shine. I like to shed light onto others on a daily basis, as art has completely transformed and healed me, time and time again. I believe when we each bring our unique light to the world, we have the ability to make the whole sky shimmer. The dark, the light, the contrast and the in-between is the human experience.
What surprised you most about Miami Art Week and Art Basel?
DG: To have been surrounded by so many expressions of color and form felt like an emotional whirlwind—like you’re on a rollercoaster ride. The visual art realm is similar to the theatrical art realm, and I felt many correlations between a Cirque du Soleil show and Miami Art Week.
AR: This was my first time at Miami Art Week and Art Basel, and I’d say it was an eye-opening experience on so many levels. What surprised me most was what happened outside the convention center and shows. [The events] brought in people from all walks of life to celebrate the same thing: art. Collectively, everyone at Art Basel experienced the same aliveness and got to bring that energy back home.
Which artists moved you the most during Art Basel/Miami Art Week and why?
DG: Everything I saw was vibrating with intention and presence. The beauty and scale of everything blew me away. One artist I want to highlight is Lloyd Foster. He created two-sided hanging sculptures consisting of a photograph of an individual on one side and an almost demonic mixed-material sculptural representation of them on the other. It reminded me of the shadow realm of humans, a shadow side we all have but typically only show to the people closest to us. It is the part of ourselves we hide from the world and the part of ourselves that deeply connects us. He is an up-and-coming artist, and I look forward to following his career.
AR: Representing Cirque du Soleil throughout Art Basel, I was fortunate enough to engage with hundreds of artists, receiving glimpses of how art illuminates their work and world. While I met and heard so many touching stories, one of the artists who stuck out to me most was Breanna Martins (@prettyspookygirls). I met her at the Satellite Exhibit where she had several of her water color works displayed. As a painter, I’m obsessed with the details like paint brands, paper weight, canvas origin, adhesive finishes. To me, that reveals a quality to the outcome of the piece.
Like me, Breanna is also a third-generation painter and her inspiration came from the only few photos she inherited when she and her family first moved to America. She began painting from these photos and that’s where her work took off. She now works from found black and white photos. Overall, her path, story and quality of work was mesmerizing and illuminated the past to present.
What was your favorite part about Miami Art Week?
DG: Miami Art Week was sexy, provocative, fashionable, colorful, and inspiring! It’s hard to choose favorites, so my vague answer is the variety of experiences/activations, visual art, and people. Miami is a diverse city, and Miami Art Week is equally diverse. There are attendees from all around the world and many walks of life; it attracts the best of the best in the art world. And, all of this transpired against a backdrop of sandy beaches and blue skies.
AR: My favorite part of Miami Art Week ties back to the feeling I felt from the audience, attendees, artists, and gallery owners, and all the inspiration beaming from everyone’s energy.
[Art] is the reason we all are there. The self-expression was off the charts and I can’t emphasize enough that it was the way the world showed up.
Throughout the week, what did people say to you about Cirque du Soleil?
DG: The impact Cirque du Soleil has had on people's lives across the board is palpable. Everyone I spoke with shared what inspired them about Cirque du Soleil. From inspiring them to pursue an artistic career to bringing families closer together, Cirque has played a vital part in people’s lives. One of my favorite comments came from meeting a man plucked out of the audience by a clown suspended high above him. The clown was dropping popcorn down to him, encouraging him to catch it in his mouth as the audience cheered him on; eventually, the clown dumped the entire bag of popcorn on him. I asked him how this made him feel, and he responded, “I felt like a star!”.
That’s what clowns do best. Clowns soften your guard, therefore softening your heart; the clown helps you see the world around you as an opportunity to play.
AR: In my interactions with people throughout the week, what people notably shared to me was how nostalgic and sentimental Cirque du Soleil is for people. As soon as people heard about Cirque du Soleil, they had a childlike glimmer in their eyes. People got the chance to relive and share their memories with me. It was incredible to witness people open up about their first show, who they went with, why they went and how it still to this day is a timeless memory. I love the expression people felt while sharing stories of how impactful and impressed they are with Cirque du Soleil. You can’t make up for that type of sincerity and happiness.
Cirque has truly left a massive sparkle in countless lives, making it a universal performance that unites us together.
What recommendations do you have for those interested in visiting Miami Art Week next year?
DG: My recommendation is to go! Buy your tickets now, start looking up the artists and galleries that are showcasing there, dive into their work, and dive into your work, release your judgment of the commerce related to art, release your judgment of the art itself, release your judgment of people in general and open your soul to receive the gift of creativity.
AR: Bring a sketchbook! Use it to jot down artists names, write down a word you felt from each piece, draw shapes, create maps. Let it be a living totem for your experience and contribution to Art Basel. Allow yourself to be one with the energy and don’t be afraid to document your feelings through writing or drawing while you’re there.