Draper’s works are stories, first. The stories connect and interact with experiences that his settings, ballets, and installations create. This is an analogue of how the human narrative is built in our families and societies, and his core method. Works are developed in suites that bring many art forms into play and generate collaborative works.
When a story is timely it will give an anchor in experience, and make time to absorb layers of meaning in a work. These only unfold once an audience can see its own relation to the stories in front of it. The rhythm and cadence of Draper’s works is tailored to how long it takes a breathing, interested human to experience a full thought and feeling in reaction.
Draper focuses on large installations, projection, ballet, and multimedia. These forms are able to bring the physical world of an audience in to the performance at scale. As we learn how to navigate the virtual worlds in our daily lives, this will become a common experience.
Kevin Draper studied engineering, and then architecture at the University of Michigan after attending secondary school in West Germany. His first university classes were next door to the engineering school where ENIAC, the first computer, rested. Draper was heavily influenced by deconstructivism, an architectural response to Modernism that was a full movement by the time Draper was at Tulane University, where he also studied printmaking under the art faculty.
After a few years working as a mechanical engineer, Draper matriculated at Notre Dame University for an Executive MBA. Kevin’s work in virtual, deconstructed environments translated well into a business career working to build and launch international business to business networks and online environments.
In 2010 Draper moved to New York, and founded Satellite Collective. Working at first with dancers and choreographers from the New York City Ballet, and then Alvin Ailey, San Francisco Ballet, and X, Draper embarked on a decade long project of ballets driven by story, and set in New York. The works have premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music, Baryshnikov Arts Center, 92Y, and regional performing arts centers in Michigan and Portland, Oregon. These works are large scale productions, the NYT has called them “overflowing with creative inspiration.” Draper’s digital projection work for these productions, large scale, makes up a core part of his visual works.
In 2018 the Borough of Brooklyn with current Mayor of New York Eric Adams as President, awarded Satellite Collective a Citation for Achievement in the Arts for building a sustainable arts organization and contributing materially to the future of the arts in Brooklyn. Kevin Draper himself also received a Citation for Achievement in the Arts in recognition of his contribution to the culture of Brooklyn.
Draper’s work in ballet, and his network in technology come together in his installations, machinery and projection imagery. In 2021, Draper flew a pair of aerostats at the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum, and Rosa Parks Circle, a Maya Lin installation. They were crafted with steel towers, timber masts, and the ability to shade and record performances below and around them.
The aerostats themselves are heavy, able to sustain interaction with public crowds, constructed of 8 oz. kevlar fabric with handmade fins of ripstop nylon. When aloft, the are highly reflective cinema screens looming over the public space. Beneath this, was the Grand Rapids Ballet performing live.
To communicate the idea, Draper created a signature “silent libretto”. The influence of early multimedia artists is clear in the adoption timeline techniques. Drawings are generated on ipads, corrupted on a journey through multiple apps and packaged as projection settings of 25 feet in height to 40 feet in width, and move gently.