Creative living

Dancing, singing, and repurposing art with Leah Crosby.

Leah Crosby makes jewelry, plays violin, dances, sings, and creates performance art. —Tim Johnson

Leah Crosby is a woman of many talents. She is a dancer and a choreographer, a musician and a singer, and now, with her latest creative venture, she is making jewelry. Her earrings, made by carving out designs from bicycle inner tubes (available at the Pathways Gallery Shop at the Chilmark Tavern), make great affordable Valentine’s Day gifts for yourself or a friend.

The earrings are lightweight yet durable. Each design is unique — some resemble feathers, others feature interesting geometric designs that have a sort of cool Calder-type look. For certain pairs, Crosby switches up the design a bit for each individual earring, so that you get a mismatched yet complementary set.

The artist was inspired by a friend from her days with Bread and Puppet Circus, who was using recycled tires to make jewelry. “I’m really into biking,” says Crosby. “When you bike a lot, you have a lot of flat inner tubes. They make great bungee cords, and you can use them to tie things up. The earrings are just another way to recycle.”

Crosby first came to the Island as an intern for the Yard dance/choreography residency. Previously she had earned a degree in dance from Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College. After the 2015 season, she was hired as a full-time employee. She now serves as artist educator, helping with community programming at the Island schools and senior centers. “I really do have my dream job here,” she says. “I love the challenges that come with continually making lesson plans for groups from 2½- and 3-year-olds to seniors.”

Leah Crosby makes earrings and other jewelry out of upcycled bicycle inner tubes. — Gabrielle Mannino

A few years ago, Crosby, along with her creative partner Danielle Doell, formed an original dance duo called LanDforms. At the time both were working at the Yard, although Doell has since relocated. The LanDforms website describes their collaboration as “often funny, sometimes tragic unusual performative work that makes people feel feelings.”

The two have performed on the Island as well as off, including at Jacob’s Pillow, and at places in New York. Original work by LanDforms will be part of the upcoming “We Dance” evening, hosted by Pathways at the Chilmark Community Center on Friday, March 9.

More recently Crosby has started collaborating with Abby Bender, founder of the annual Built on Stilts dance showcase.

As a musician, Crosby performs with Nina Violet and the Showtimes, playing violin and keyboards, and providing background vocals. She is also a member of the pit orchestra for the high school’s musical productions. Crosby grew up in a musical family. Her mother is a professor of vocal music at Alfred University in Western N.Y.

The dancer and choreographer’s journey has taken her in many different directions. In 2013, she spent a summer as an apprentice with the famed Bread and Puppet Theater. “We all lived in tents,” she says. “I loved being outside for that long. I left with foot fungus but no STDs.”

Crosby has continued to love life in the outdoors — hiking and biking, although she doesn’t miss living in a tent. She has found her work with the Yard to be a great fit for now. “I think it’s important, when you’re involved with an organization whose raison d’être is to serve the community, to be involved in as many different ways as possible. It’s been inspirational for me to work with all of these various communities.”

Jewelry making is simply a sideline for Crosby, although it’s one that she’s enjoying for the time being. “I’ve made jewelry on and off my whole life. One of the fun things about working with the inner tubes is that it’s not something I have to take too seriously. If I mess up, it’s O.K. That helps me feel freer to experiment.”

The store at Pathways has lots of other options for Valentine’s gift giving, including collage and painted jewelry and keepsake boxes by Gimli Glavin, and handmade decorative pillows by Jenny Gomez. Also available are a variety of paintings, collages, sculpture, and photos by Island artists, and CDs and books from local musicians and writers.

Pathways is open every day at the Chilmark Tavern except Wednesday and Sunday, from 11 am to 4 pm. You can also browse the store during all the Pathways evening performances.