Last Thursday was the final portfolio show for our Arts Ambassadors program. Our six talented young artists presented their exhibition, which they titled “Visions of Change.” The work in the show culminated through weekly after school classes and workshops at the School of Visual Arts. There, the students (juniors and seniors in local high schools) explored visual art as a socially engaged practice. Our education coordinator Zoey Hart led the group through various topics, lessons, and activities that were central to developing their portfolios and understanding the affects that art can have on socially conscious issues. Guest artists and arts professionals also were invited to work closely with each student in order to give them an in depth and direct experience of working in the arts. The final work in the exhibition addressed a myriad of issues that these young artists from the New York metropolitan area felt affected them strongly. The result was a powerful exhibition of both the artists’ concepts and their process. We held a small opening reception for the artists and their family, classmates, and teachers to see the fruits of their hard work! All the documents (press release, wall text, labels) and the installation was done solely by the student artists. Below are each of our Arts Ambassador’s artists statements.
The art world (the commercial side of it) showed its stripes during Art Basel 2014. While the nation (and the world) was protesting the aftermath of the injustices resulting from the grand juries refusal to indict officers who’ve shown excessive force in the deaths of unarmed black men (unfortunately the list of names of black individuals killed at the hands of authoritative figures consistently grows); the art world was spending exuberant amounts of money on fine art objects and reveling at celebrity filled after-parties around the beaches of sunny Miami. Perhaps there is no greater divorce between civil rights and capitalism than Art Basel. For some this was not a novel realization, the art market dominates the art scene where capitalism and cultural trends go hand in hand. However, even for those critical of this reality it was a shocking revelation to see the general indifference to the travesties of justice and the oppression of communities throughout the country.
Thanks to you, our 10th Anniversary Gala was a resounding success. The funds raised make it possible for More Art to continue to provide a public platform of expression for artists and community members through public art projects in NYC, and free educational programs for Middle and High School students and emerging artists.
Be sure to follow our our Facebook page for a recap of some of the memorable moments over the last ten years. Stay tuned and visit our webpage for our upcoming programming, including our “No Fixed Address” Panel Discussion at the School of Visual Arts on November 17th, and our Art Walk in Dumbo with Dread Scott on November 22nd!
A big thanks to our “Feed More Art to the World” Honorees:
Fred Wilson and Shelley Rubin
Thank you to everyone who made this evening possible:
Cynthia Conigliaro Paul Davis
Keith B. Denison Anne Edgar
Peggy Bonapace Gelfond Micaela Giovannotti
Kerry Halleran Terri Feldman Hodara
Nancy T. Jones Martina Kenworthy
Kimsooja Tim Rollins
Dread Scott Andres Serrano
Jennifer McGregor Christine Minas
Sara Reisman Serena Trizzano
Abdolreza Aminlari Angelo Filomeno
Gentleman’s Game Pablo Helguera
Katie Holten Alfredo Jaar
Joan Jonas Ilya & Emelia Kabakov
Byron Kim Lauren Marsolier
Andrea Mastrovito Mary Mattingly
Clifford Owens Luisa Rabbia
Daniel Rich Tim Rollins
Peter Rostovsky Dread Scott
Francesco Simeti Greg Vore
Thank you to our patrons!
Thank you to our sponsors!
Creative Resistance is the practice of incorporating profound visual elements into protests and civil disobedience. Art can have enormous outcomes on the energy, strength, and emotion of a protest when incorporated into advocacy. Powerful images or performances can convey what cannot be absorbed through only facts. This practice has been pertinent with many generations.
Bertolt Brecht’s political theater revolutionized the involvement and the emotions of the audience by having them no longer feel the illusion of being an unseen spectator. The Dadaists used satire, anti-rational and anti-idealistic discourse to critique World War I and the capitalist agenda behind it. Dada exhibitions often had the feeling of a protest. The challenge against elitism in the art world was echoed and incorporated into the work by the artists of the Fluxus movement as well. In the 1950s, groups of artists became devoted to contextualizing the horrors in the aftermath of World-War II through staging Happenings and exhibitions focused on Humanism. In the 1960s through the 70s, there were many artists groups associated with the Anti-Vietnam War movement, Civil Rights Movement and the Feminist movement. During last decade’s “War on Terror,” anti-war protests also incorporated powerful visual elements and iconography with artists making graphics for grassroots causes. More recently Occupy Wall Street incorporated a multitude of visuals and performances by artists like Reverend Billy Talen to embolden their statement in opposition of wealth inequality and corporate corruption.
Our recent project (October 7th, 2014) was a one time performance by Dread Scott called On the Impossibility of Freedom: In a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide. Dread has been at the forefront of addressing social inequality in his performances and installations. His work has a longstanding history in makes revolutionary art to propel history forward. Scott first received national attention in 1989 when his art became the center of controversy over its use of the American flag. President G. H.W. Bush declared his artwork What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag? “disgraceful” and the entire US Senate denounced this work when they passed legislation to “protect the flag.” Scott added to the controversy when he and a group of artists/activists burned flags on the steps of the US Capitol. This resulted in a Supreme Court case and a landmark First Amendment decision.
Recently Dread Scott has been addressing the dire situation faced by black men and women across the nation. His recent series presented around the streets of Harlem is called “Wanted,” a community-based art project that address the criminalization of youth in America. He wrote an Op-Ed on Ferguson, where Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, was killed by a police officer, sparking intense standoffs between police and the community.
Dread’s performance with More Art in part, references the 1963 Civil Rights struggle in Birmingham Alabama, during which city officials used high-pressure water canons to disperse non-violent protesters and bystanders in an effort to maintain segregation and legalized discrimination. On the Impossibility of Freedom will feature Dread Scott engaging in a Sisyphean attempt to walk into the battering force of water jetting from a fire hose. While the performance is highly reminiscent of crowd control tactics used in the past, it also serves as a statement on a myriad of socio-cultural issues that affect a diverse group of marginalized individuals through discriminatory policies in immigration, criminal justice, welfare and education. This piece also reflects on present-day struggles against racism and the struggle for equality, as those demonstrated by the protests and then the militarized police response in Ferguson, Missouri.
“On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide is a performance about the struggle for freedom,” said Scott. “People yearn for freedom and have repeatedly struggled against oppressive governments, economic, political and social relations. People have taken great risks in a fight for emancipation and have often been battered in the process.”
The performance resonated with the audience which included over 200 students from Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Many of whom had only heard about this brutal law enforcement tactic during the civil rights era. For many, seeing it provided a deep emotional realization. One student said afterwards “It was very touching — we got emotional. It brought back feelings, even though we weren’t there, but we felt like we could relate to it,” she said. “It was good. It felt I saw it before, because we had always heard about it.”At one point Dread powered on against the hose, holding his hands high above his head, a reference to Brown who held his hands up in the air to signal “don’t shoot.”
This week we have a special segment contributed by New York City based artist, activist, and producer Fury Young. Fury grew up in the Lower East Side and has been committed to community causes and activism throughout his life. He has been working on a concept album called Die Jim Crow with contributions from current and formerly incarcerated black Americans. The stories and themes on Die Jim Crow are universal and speak to the human condition in ways that transcend race and history. The foremost mission of the project is to give a prominent voice to those who are most affected by mass incarceration and to provide a powerful educational tool in young black communities. Fury is about to embark on a cross country road trip to prisons and impoverished neighborhoods throughout the USA.
“We lock ourselves up
not because of the bars and
steel that surround us
not because life doesn’t bend
to our every whim
But because of the projections
we place onto our worlds
The judgements, the i can’ts
The trying to please everyone
while not pleasing ourselves”
– excerpt from “Beauty in Cell Bars” by Spoon Jackson (Copyright Spoon Jackson)
I spoke to Spoon Jackson yesterday – an author, poet, and teacher doing a life without parole sentence in California – and he told me how the poetry class he teaches suffers from writers who refuse to bear their souls, but when they do, it really inspires him. It inspires him to write his own poetry.
Though poetry is not visual art (although Spoon does dabble in painting I’ve heard), the essence of what inspires others is that reaching in the soul – which all art should do.
There are over two million people trapped in America’s prisons and jails. In a country which leads the world by far in incarceration – 5% of global population, 25% of global prisoner population – we cannot say “out of sight, out of mind” and leaves those on the inside alone to do their time. Since February 2013 I have been working on a passion project called Die Jim Crow. It is a concept album about prison and its effects on Black America. It almost goes without saying that the mass incarceration boom of the past forty years has most affected African Americans. The war on drugs, crack cocaine, “super predators”, Willie Horton, gangsta rap – all synonymous with this “New Jim Crow” era, where as of 2013, 1 in 3 black men can expect to spend time in a US prison.When folks on the sordid inside return to society, they are met with little to no opportunities in housing, employment, education, and voting rights. This reality has led to a modern day racial caste system which the author Michelle Alexander aptly calls “The New Jim Crow” in her 2010 book of the same name.
Die Jim Crow (named as a response and tribute to Alexander’s title) is entirely written and performed by formerly and currently incarcerated black musicians. Some of the album’s artists partook in the arts prior to incarceration, while some came to love making art while incarcerated, like Spoon. Either way, their being locked up does not stop them from becoming inspired – though their work is often kept out of sight, and therefore out of our minds on the outside.The prisoners I work with are eager to have their voices heard, like Tameca, who writes, “I view this opportunity as a blessing an outlet for my white-hot anger,” and Spoon, who writes “Die Jim Crow will break through walls. What we create will be groundbreaking and real.”
Sure enough, those on the inside write poetry and music that is groundbreaking and real. The songs that I have gathered over the past year and a half speak in loud testament for the indefatigability of the human spirit. A couple weeks ago I hosted a “prison cypher” event at the Brooklyn Base, where folks on the inside called in to read poetry and sing. In explaining the project to the audience, I said something spontaneously that stuck later: “It’s not like this project is going to tear the walls down, but then, in a way – it will.”Of course the physical walls of prisons will ever be torn down via music, but the deep and powerful messages the prisoners bring will be heard loud and clear – ringing from the cell blocks to society – and what that message is exactly, well, you will have to wait and see.
Our final speaker session on July 17th was a great introduction to the work of socially engaged practices within the arts. We were informed of the work of artists/activists Jordan Seiler and Caroline Woolard, as well as Paula Z. Segal, who as an attorney works within the public space, often collaborating with artists.
Jordan Seiler (founder of Public Ad Campaign) is an advocate for a more democratic use of our shared public spaces by questioning outdoor advertising, and creating new avenues for public communication.Jordan Seiler’s work re-shapes the public space by replacing illegal advertising with art. Jordan has led initiatives to remove. Jordan has now taken his work on the streets of New York and combined it with technology “NO AD” is a great urban public arts project by Jordan Seiler and the team at Re+Public. “NO AD” is an app that changes subway advertisements into a curated art exhibition when the user directs their phone’s camera over the advertisement.
Caroline Woolard spoke about her work with the Exchange Cafe at MoMA. The Exchange Cafe presented an experiential archive of artwork that is based on the act of reciprocity and exchange by developing cooperative, alternative, and non-market economies. The Exchange Cafe featured dairy from activist organizers Milk Not Jails, tea from Feral Trade Courier, and honey from population control researchers at BeeSpace.Caroline talked about creating alternate economies and venues for the exchange of goods and services. She also gave an informative talk about labor for all artists and activists.
Paula is an attorney and educator who lives and works in Brooklyn. She is also the founder, Executive Director and Legal Director for NYC Community Land Access Programs of 596 Acres, a non-profit organization that supports transformation of vacant public land into sustainable community institutions. Paula spoke about how 596 Acres has been mapping out vacant public space throughout the city and supporting the public’s reaction to reclaim this space for community gardens, art installations, and meeting places.