Butterfly Williams (aka Anthony Julius Williams, MFA, PhD candidate) is the Artistic Director of The Iruke Project (TIP), a non-profit multimedia performance company devoted to social justice and sustainable communities. Butterfly is a founding member of the Pacific Felt Factory in San Francisco, the artspace where TIP is based.
In 2011, TIP’s first production was Blood Is Mere Decoration: A Ritual for Liberation. This solo performance brought together butoh dance, electronic music, video projections, and interactive ritual to instigate provocative conversations about the contemporary reemergence of slavery in the form of mass incarceration. (Photos here and video here.) Video from the production was exhibited at SomArts Cultural Center’s Night Light Multimedia Garden Party in 2015.
In 2012, Butterfly co-produced Text-A-City: Start Ups for Sustainable Communities. This project’s purpose was to bring attention to affordable housing solutions in San Francisco. The event projected text messages from over 100 citizens onto the outdoor wall of the Renoir Hotel at 7th and Market Streets. Each message finished the statement, “I wish San Francisco…” Simultaneously, panel discussions were held about urban sustainability, mixed-income housing, and collective entrepreneurship. (Photos here.)
In 2013, TIP created SHAFTED: The Blaqxsploitation Project, an interactive variety show that deconstructed 1970’s Blaxploitation films through a queer lens while focusing on the history of gentrification in San Francisco. Anthony directed and performed in the show, which featured fifteen predominantly Black artists working in theater, music, dance, film, and spoken word. (Photos here.)
In 2014, TIP created Total Action: A Voice Orchestra in Four Movements, a multi-voiced spoken word piece to celebrate the 50th Anniversary screening of Take His Hammer, a PBS documentary about legendary writer James Baldwin’s historic 1963 tour of San Francisco, during which he discussed “urban renewal” and the Black youth crisis. (Photos here and radio interview here.)
In 2015, TIP collaborated with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF) and the Luggage Store Gallery to create Our Stories, Our Freedom: Black Voices Transforming Shame and Stigma, a series of writing workshops culminating in the public presentation of the stories of Black gay men impacted by the HIV epidemic. (Photos here.) Later that year, TIP combined the energies of a prisoner re-entry expert, a mindfulness trainer, a singer-songwriter and a performance artist to present Ritual 4 Re-Entry: Hope, Faith and Healing for the Formerly Incarcerated. (Photos here.)
In 2016, TIP returned to the SFAF for a second time for Our Stories, Our Freedom while developing a project that resulted in a new direction for 2017: an art installation featuring the debut music video for Butterfly's psychedelic power pop band OLOKUN. Inaugurated by a live performance at the opening reception, the music video installation was a part of the 3.9 Art Collective's CALL FOR BEAUTY exhibition at the renowned Root Division art gallery in San Francisco. The video showcased a song about the patron deity of those African ancestors lost to the sea during the Atlantic slave trade. (Photos here.)
Butterfly has appeared in over thirty theatrical productions across the country including Angels in America, The Tempest, and Death of a Salesman, while his local projects have drawn attention from SF Weekly, ABC 7 News, KPFA-FM and KPOO-FM. His work has been funded by the San Francisco Arts Commission, The Zellerbach Family Foundation and Theatre Bay Area CA$H, among others.
Butterfly is also an arts educator who has designed and taught workshops at Saybrook University, U.C. Berkeley, John F. Kennedy University, Berkeley City College, SomArts Cultural Center, Red Poppy Art House, Ninth Street Independent Film Center and the Bayview Assoication for Youth. Local institutional partners have included Shakespeare & Company Books, Longfellow Middle School, Luggage Store Gallery, Progressive Grounds Café, SQFT and San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Butterfly attained a B.A. in English from Yale University in 1990 and an M.A. in English from the City University of New York in 1995. In 2012, he received his M.F.A. in Performance Arts from John F. Kennedy University. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Psychology with specializations in Creativity Studies and Transformative Social Change at Saybrook University. (Downloadable resume here.)