Blog Posts for Community Engagement

Arts Spaces for Queer BIPOC during COVID: The Sound of Change

Posted by Cedeem Gumbs, May 19, 2021 0 comments

In the wake of a global pandemic, it is almost universally understood that there are innumerable factors from the past year that have made it difficult to indulge in our favorite art forms. These challenges also have highlighted inequities in the arts sector that can no longer be ignored. In the face of these inequities, artists have begun prioritizing their platform to combat these barriers and to help change the arts sector for the better. The Color of Music Collective, or COMC, is an example of a group of artists/arts patrons who are aware of these inequities and, in turn, seek to use their online platform to engage and dismantle inequitable systems in the music industry. When asked about the origins of the Color of Music Collective, Mia Van Allen, the founder of COMC, recalled her experience as an intern working in the music industry: “As a woman of color working in the (field) it was difficult to find representation.” This experience laid the groundwork for the birth of the collective. COMC is a new organization that developed last year during the pandemic—thus their experience as a collective is unique in that their programs have always been virtual with the intent of remaining as accessible as possible.

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In the Wake of the Pandemic, Asian Americans Artists Confront Racism

Posted by Irene Mei Zhi Shum, May 11, 2021 0 comments

Unleashed by anxiety over the pandemic, the nationwide rise in anti-Asian hate has served as a call to action for many Asian American artists to take a stand: To actively challenge the historic negative stereotype of the vice- and disease-ridden Yellow Peril; to dismantle the pernicious and divisive myth of the model minority that pits achievements by Asian Americas as judgements against other communities of color; and to advocate for social justice, equity, and inclusion for all. Located on opposite coasts, the work of photographer Mike Keo and multimedia artist Monyee Chau exemplify this new generation of Asian American activist-artists who are working within their respective communities to effect change. Both skillfully employ social media to raise awareness. Keo and Chau follow a long line of Asian American activist-artists and curators who deserve wider recognition. Most notably, in 1990 artists Ken Chu and Bing Lee and curator Margo Machida founded Godzilla: Asian American Art Network, an influential collective of artists and curators in New York City.

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Arts Spaces for Queer BIPOC During COVID: The Show Must Go On

Posted by Cedeem Gumbs, Apr 28, 2021 0 comments

For queer-BIPOC identifying individuals, the endless and unique intersections of one’s identities can make it difficult to find yourself authentically represented in the arts. Working to carve out space for marginalized queer artists, The National Queer Theatre (NQT) elevates those who have been historically, and continue to be, underrepresented in the theater field. The NQT houses a unique initiative known as the Criminal Queerness Initiative (CQI), which focuses on highlighting the narratives of queer identifying international and immigrant playwrights—specifically, the censorship or criminalization they may face within their countries. The efforts of the artists are then celebrated in a culminating event, the Criminal Queerness Festival (CQF). In addition, they host the Criminal Queerness Lab: a (virtual) residency that seeks to elevate playwrights on an international scale by providing rigorous support in the writing and production of new work. I had the pleasure of speaking with Adam Odsess-Rubin, founder of the National Queer Theatre and the Criminal Queerness Initiative, about the initiative’s origins and the importance of conversation surrounding the varying degrees of censorship queer-identifying individuals encounter on an international scale.

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Member Spotlight: Tom Werder

Posted by Linda Lombardi, Apr 26, 2021 0 comments

Located in Morristown, New Jersey, Morris Arts builds community through the arts via arts in education programs, arts programming in the community, grants, scholarships, advocacy, creative placemaking events, and support for artists and arts organizations. Since 2012, Tom Werder has served as the executive director of the organization, directing and administering all programs, operations, and policies, supervising staff, managing the annual budget, and leading the strategic planning process. “I’ve loved my time at Morris Arts—it’s hardly possible to think that I’m in my ninth year. I think the thing I’m proudest of at Morris Arts has been to expand our presence both in our community as well as in the field. Through the connections gained with my involvement with Americans for the Arts, I’ve worked as a grant evaluator for a number of arts councils across the country as well as participating with a small group of arts leaders in advocacy work in Congress on behalf of the field.” 

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The art beat goes on at Creative Clay

Posted by Ms. Kerry Kriseman, Apr 22, 2021 0 comments

For Member Artist Gina K., Creative Clay is more than the place she goes three times a week to create exhibit-worthy art that is sold online and in the Good Folk Gallery. “It broke my heart when Creative Clay closed,” Gina said. “That’s the truth.” On March 19, 2020, Creative Clay was forced to close its physical location and cease regular programming due to COVID-19. The St. Petersburg, Florida nonprofit’s two largest programs, Community Arts and the Art Around the World inclusive summer camp, were closed. Before COVID-19, Creative Clay’s Community Arts Program served 50 individuals with neuro-differences, ages 18 and older, Monday through Friday. As many businesses reopened in late spring 2020, Creative Clay remained closed out of an abundance of caution to protect member artists. With a grant from the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and a donation from Creative Clay board member Hal Freedman and his wife, Willi Rudowsky, Creative Clay Connects virtual classes launched. Donations from several other Creative Clay board members and donors helped fund individual artist kits and pay teaching artists. “I felt really happy because I was able to do art on my own, and it meant that I got to do more art,” said Member Artist Marissa H. “The classes allowed me to expand my art-making abilities.” Through Creative Clay Connects, Creative Clay has honored its vision of arts access for all. While members haven’t been able to meet in person, it doesn’t mean they aren’t connecting.

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Member Spotlight: Billy Ocasio

Posted by Linda Lombardi, Apr 12, 2021 0 comments

Located in Chicago’s Humboldt Park, the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture (NMPRAC) is the only museum in the country outside of Puerto Rico dedicated exclusively to Puerto Rican arts and culture. Under Billy Ocasio’s leadership as executive director, the museum’s budget has tripled, staffing has grown, and visitor attendance has increased 67%. In 2012, NMPRAC was named the latest City of Chicago’s Museums in the Park, making history as the first new addition in over 20 years. “At NMPRAC, our vision is to be the premier organization that both influences and connects diasporic arts, culture, and history to evolving generations. Supporting both local and national Puerto Rican artists has always been important to the museum. To this day, finding new and creative ways to engage with our communities remains a top priority and can be witnessed through our programming, including the annual Barrio Arts Fest, various workshops, lectures, and panel discussions, as well as through exhibiting work from Puerto Rican artists.” 

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