Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation | The 8th Floor Interview for 10xCommunity: “By Addressing Real Life in our Work, There is More Potential for Change”

ANTE Mag is focusing on ten projects that span creative disciplines and seek to build wider community ties between creative disciplines in our new series of interviews 10xCommunity. Featuring artistic projects, community-building initiatives and interdisciplinary platforms, ANTE is sharing these interviews on the mag and across social media that spotlight these endeavors through the current social crisis to pivot to sharing positivity and uplifting creative news to our audience. Shelly & Donald Rubin Foundation, The 8th Floor is a platform for socially engaged exhibitions and programs featuring artists of diverse backgrounds involving communities in dialogues around a range of social issues. ANTE contributor Mariel Tepper touched base with Executive/Artistic Direction at The 8th Floor, Sara Reisman, in order learn more about what types of initiatives they are enacting and following during CoVid-19.

(Lead image credits: Jane Benson. A Place for Infinite Tuning, 2014. Plywood, steel, mirrored plexiglass, wooden vase, latex paint, hand-cut artificial flowers, hand-cut oud and viola Photograph by Matthew Johnson, courtesy of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.)

 

ANTE mag. How did The Rubin Foundation’s The 8th Floor get its start? What was the initial vision for how The 8th Floor could explore the intersection of art and social justice?

Sara Reisman. The 8th Floor was founded in 2010 by Shelley and Donald Rubin to showcase their private art collection, which, at the time, was focused on contemporary Cuban art. When I started at the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, as Artistic Director, in 2014, part of my charge was to help refine the mission of the Foundation, which was founded in the mid-1990s. The Foundation had supported arts and cultural organizations – ranging from visual arts presenters in New York City, to Himalayan art projects – as well as social justice organizations advocating for freedom of expression, gun control, and access to health care. In the process of identifying that the mission could be more precise in its support of organizations in New York City that were bringing art and social justice together, we determined that The 8th Floor could become a platform for art and dialogue around social justice themes. Initially, I thought there would be a few shows to articulate the Foundation’s interests. The first show I curated at The 8th Floor in 2015 was Mobility and Its Discontents, which included artists Jane Benson, Ángel Delgado, Lan Tuazon, and Javier Téllez, whose projects expressed the impacts of borders and strategies for transcending them. As we – my colleagues George Bolster, Anjuli Nanda Diamond, and I – continued to develop ideas for exhibitions, it became clear a series of shows on social justice themes, building upon one another, could be ongoing. In addition to the exhibitions, public programs and workshops are integral to providing audiences and the communities we serve with a discursive environment that is both communal and supportive of free expression. Without public programming, I think the effect of the exhibitions would be very different, less engaged. 

ANTE mag. The COVID-19 crisis has deeply impacted our society and the art world in unprecedented ways. What are some ways that the Rubin Foundation will stay connected and active in the arts community during this time?

SR. We recently launched a virtual series called Performance-in-Place, which we thought of as a way to engage with artists, providing them with support and a platform, to present new performances generated by the new social distancing measures (whatever that might mean for each of them.) Performance-in-Place will happen every third Tuesday evening (times depending on where the artists are located), our first event was led by Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful Espejo, in the Bronx, with two collaborators Anna Recasens, and Laia Solé, who are based in different parts of Spain. Their conversation, On Art and Friendship, also showed excerpts from a new video piece they began working on in February to document the aspects of art praxis, that are often not shown in art spaces. For our team, it was moving to see how the three artists facilitated a discussion of sharing and connecting with a group largely consisting of individuals who are often in attendance at The 8th Floor. Forthcoming performances include presentations by Alice Sheppard with Kinetic Light (June 9), From the Collection of Eileen Myles (June 30,) Maria Hupfield (July 11,) a new piece titled Hotline by Aliza Shvarts (September 1,) and Latasha N. Nevada Diggs (September 22.) To complement the performance series, we are hosting monthly talks online as well. On May 28, I will moderate Places of Isolation and Healing, a conversation between Edgar Heap of Birds and Douglas Miles, and on June 18, I’ll be in conversation with artist and activist Carmen Papalia on facilitating accessibility in virtual spaces. 

Initially, I felt that the pressure to generate programs for virtual experiences was uninspiring. But two months into this, I’m realizing there is great potential to connect people internationally, across geographies. Of course, more than ever,  the notion of the digital divide is an issue, but I can see that as we learn to operate virtually, there is an opportunity to approach accessibility in new ways, online and eventually as we make the shift back to doing programs in person.

Mobility and Its Discontents, installation view at The 8th Floor From left to right, works by Alberto Borea, Jorge Wellesley, Lan Tuazon, Jane Benson Photograph by Matthew Johnson, courtesy of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation

 

ANTE mag. Your organization’s past exhibitions explore pressing social issues and concepts, from healthcare to mass surveillance to “different modes of resistance” in the series Revolutionary Cycles. Why is art and culture necessary in times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic?

SR. Revolutionary Cycles was conceived as a series of six exhibitions to examine the instruments of social and political transformation. In the first exhibition Revolution from Without…, which opened in January 2019, artists featured in the show – Chto Delat, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Dread Scott, and others – expressed how change often comes from those on the margins of the polity, and the condition of being without – without rights, without representation, and without capital. It’s clear to me that in the current climate, a crisis of a failing health care system, capitalism run rampant, and rights being stripped away in the name of national security, art is essential for its capacity to communicate conditions that would otherwise be obscured. I also believe that even as the decision to make art is perceived by many to be one of privilege, being an artist is a precarious existence, and yet, artists constantly take risks in representing unpopular ideas, that question authority, that challenge the status quo. The next exhibition in the Revolutionary Cycles series, To Cast Too Bold a Shadow (originally scheduled to open on May 14 and postponed until at least the fall) is focused on entrenched forms of misogyny in our culture, and will feature works by Betty Tompkins, Joiri Minaya, Yoko Ono, Tracey Emin, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and Aliza Shvarts, among others. With support from the Italian Council (a funding body of the Italian government) we are commissioning Maria D. Rapicavoli to make a new film, The Other: A Familiar Story, about immigration based on the life of a close relative. The project charts the oppression of a woman who emigrated to the U.S. from Italy, forced to leave her children behind, surviving an abusive relationship in the process. A Familiar Story becomes more timely given the immigration crisis we’ve been witnessing over the last decade, and now with the pandemic in which domestic abuse is compounded by quarantine. The logic behind Rapicavoli’s film demonstrates how artists are often thinking about what is below the surface.

ANTE mag. What have been some of your organization’s narrative goals with past exhibitions and programming, and how might those narratives come into play after this crisis?

SR. We obviously have no real idea what the outcome and conclusion of the pandemic will be, but our exhibitions together present a narrative in which questions of equity and human rights – whether they be LGBTQi rights, disability rights, or to do with reparations – are at the forefront. Regardless of what happens after this crisis (if there is a distinct ‘after’), I hope politically engaged art discourse can continue to be more grounded – as I feel we have been since the pandemic took hold –  in the realities we face as cultures, as communities, as a country. And to understand that reality is not always pleasant, or fair, or aesthetically digestible – but that by addressing real life in our work, there is more potential for change.

Betty Tompkins Apologia (Caravaggio #1), 2018 Courtesy of Betty Tompkins and P·P·O·W, New York

ANTE mag. Public events and programs are a vital aspect of The 8th Floor, with frequent artist talks accompanying exhibitions. During this time is your organization considering any alternative types of programming such as virtual talks or exhibitions?

SR. As I mentioned, last week (on May 19) we launched Performance-in-Place as a virtual series, and monthly talks, which right now feel like a good alternative to the fact that we can’t gather people in real time and space. With that in mind, if the pandemic means we can’t return to doing in-person programming in the fall, or by the end of the year, we will have learned how to conduct virtual programs. We are taking the time to do certain projects that are less immediately visible. For the last year we’ve been hosting a series of closed conversations called Access Check: Mapping Accessibility 2.0, which actually started with a public program last July at The 8th Floor. Organized in collaboration with choreographer and artist Jerron Herman, the talk brought together a group of artists, activists, and educators who have consistently advocated for disability rights and access in the cultural sector. We quickly realized there was a need to continue the discussion, and now we’re in the process of finalizing a survey for the field, split into two tracks: one for artists with disabilities about what is needed from institutions in terms of accessible and equitable programming; and another geared towards organizations and institutions, to understand what their capacity is in terms of facilitating accessible cultural programs. We hope the survey raises awareness about what institutions can do to become more accessible, while helping to formulate tools and language for artists with disabilities to advocate for what they need, similar to the way in which WAGE guidelines provide artists with talking points about payment for their work.

ANTE mag. Are there any current projects, funds or resources you would like to promote for artists or fellow organizations who have been impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns? 

SR. There are so many incredible efforts that have emerged in response to the pandemic. Here are a few that have impressed me in their concern for vulnerable communities:

  • COVID-19 Dance Relief Fund – Linked here.
  • Tri-State Relief Fund to Support Non-Salaried Workers in the Visual Arts – Linked here.  
  • Artist Relief – Linked here. 
  • The Crip Fund – Linked here. 

I’m also impressed by mutual aid efforts that have emerged. The Sunview Luncheonette set up a fund for workers at the Met foodmarket in Greenpoint – Linked here. 

ANTE mag. Can you tell us about your recent initiatives and what projects may be in store for the future of The Rubin Foundation?

SR.  After To Cast Too Bold a Shadow, we will stage the fifth exhibition in the series, titled In Kinship. The show will look at alternate family structures over the last 30 years, expanding the notion of family beyond heteronormative, nuclear, or government mandate, in the contexts of queer culture and immigrant communities. The sixth and final show of Revolutionary Cycles is After the Fall, which will reflect on the political moment to consider methods for the societal change needed to move beyond the political binaries that currently shape U.S. culture. The exhibition is conceived to anticipate various outcomes in our collective political future as articulated by artists and cultural producers, while simultaneously recognizing the need for spiritual transformation in times of crisis. Originally, After the Fall was meant to open around the time of the next presidential inauguration, with ‘the fall’ being open to interpretation. It makes me think of one of Dread Scott’s artworks featured in Revolution from Without…, titled Overthrow Dictators, which was made as part of the J20 inauguration protest in 2017. It’s a stencil with the phrase: by reading this, you agree to overthrow dictators.

Chto Delat
To those who (Migrants), 2019. Photograph by Julia Gillard. Courtesy of the artist and the Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection.

ANTE Seeks to Feature Artists in New Open Call – Apply before June 26, 2020

ANTE mag is taking the plunge and has created an open call where artists can apply for (3) top prizes that will create a wider audience around their work. Artists can apply via this form, submitting images of their work and providing insights into their practice that can speak to the ANTE mag audience. Winners will take part in ANTE mag’s Instagram Live virtual studio visits featured for ANTE’s audience and receive an interview feature on the magazine with widespread posting through social media – one lucky grand prize winner will also receive a one-week long IG takeover of the ANTE mag profile, posting for the entire week around their studio practice to a wide audience of art lovers in NYC and beyond!

 

 

ANTE mag features stories of artists and cultural producers making waves in their communities.

 

ANTE mag focuses on providing wider exposure for artists, and we will be dedicated to featuring artists whose practice has not received the recognition it has merited. We want to hear your stories and learn how your practice communicates something intrinsic both to your personal experience and related to a wider social concern – tell us about how you started making sculptures in response to healing from a long illness, or when you begin working in watercolor because of limited space when you were working between studios. Share your stories of resilience, determination and personal experience, and foreground that within the effort and dedication you’ve imbued within your artistic practice. Give us your honesty, show us how you’ve grown and give us images that communicate the range of works you create. We are centered on elevating unheard stories, and want to focus on artists who can eloquently express values we should all aspire to!

We look forward to receiving your submissions! For details and to apply, visit this form.

Laura Kimpton Brings LOVE to Renown Health with Artown in Reno

Artist Laura Kimpton can be best described as an interdisciplinary artist who is not likely to sit still. Her artistic practice spans sculpture and installation art along with wearable art, mixed media and painting. A stalwart for decades on The Playa at Burning Man, Kimpton is no stranger to bringing her monumental sculptures to a wide audience of admirers. Previously exhibiting inspirational messages such as “BELIEVE” at larger-than-life scales as interactive installation artworks, Kimpton brings her creative forces to bear as a power for the greater good, sharing her inspiration and ingenuity with all who encounter them.

During the current pandemic, Kimpton has taken that impulse for public engagement one step further through a partnership with Reno, NV’s Artown and Renown Health Foundation to bring “LOVE” – a monumental sculpture conceived of by Kimpton and produced in collaboration with artist Jeff Schomberg – to prominence on the campus of Renown’s hospital in the city. The work is imprinted with the artist’s signature uplifting bird motif throughout, evoking an inspiring and enduring message of love, reminding us that love conquers all, the sculpture will be on display from April 16-July 16 at Renown’s Regional Medical Center, located at 1155 Mill Street, Reno. Visitors driving by or entering the hospital to visit loved ones can take comfort in knowing that love is always there for them to access in times of need, bringing to bear the message that art is here for us to bring us comfort and clarity in times of upheaval.

Laura Kimpton’s “LOVE” sculpture, original public display (Burning Man)

 

“I hope that this sculpture will bring a sense of meaning and mindfulness,” reflects Kimpton, “to all who encounter it. I hope it gives a sense of calm to the Healthcare workers onsite, along with medical patients and their families, who view it from above or as they approach the hospital.” Kimpton’s work has always embedded a sense of mindful meditation and peace, and nowhere is this more needed than during today’s uncertainty amid a global pandemic. The sculpture beckons, a beacon of light among the sagebrushed hills, reminding all who come into contact with it that all is not lost. Kimpton herself has endured life’s ebbs and flows, and emphasizes the peace and comfort she aspires to bring to viewers of her work, particularly “LOVE” on view at Renown Health in Reno. The artist has worked with the community to make sure the sculpture brings a sense of local pride to the hospital and to residents and visitors alike in Reno.

 

“LOVE” at its new home at Renown Health in Reno, NV (pictured onsite with healthcare workers)

The sculpture provides a message of support for Reno’s front line workers at its current location. The installation was made possible by a collaboration between Reno’s own Artown initiative, bringing Reno’s art industries and civic identities together to create a stronger community, and by Renown Health Foundation, a locally owned and governed not-for-profit integrate healthcare network serving Reno and the surrounding areas. With an eye toward bringing a powerful message of hope to the wider community, both organizations are thrilled to be collaborating with Kimpton on the installation.

Kimpton herself views this joint effort as all about enriching the lives of the local community through the power of inspiration and solidarity. The artist has been staying busy, not only with her monumental sculptures and upcoming exhibitions, but with communicating with her wide network of fans and supporters through daily social media posts offering smaller works at attainable prices for her collectors. The new initiative, @apeaceofkimpton, continues the message that we can come together and support the arts while connecting with one another and making strides to build sustainability in the arts. Kimpton looks to innovative and meditative artists in her practice, including American artist Joseph Cornell and German artist Kurt Schwitters. Viewing their use of eclectic materials and aim toward a higher power of abstraction and even meditation in their work, Kimpton seeks to create art that will unite, inspire, and bring unique messages of hope to all who encounter it. She notes that though her world sculptures can… “have strong meanings,… to everyone it may be different. I love that about them.” From her large scale sculptures and handmade collages and everything in between, Kimpton’s practice speaks to everyone, bringing unity and comfort to all who encounter her creations. To everyone it may be different, but to many, her work both inspires and brings solace in a time when art brings out what is human in us all.

Culture Push Interview for 10xCommunity: “Voices that Will Help us Remake the World”

Interview by contributor Mariel Tepper

 

ANTE Mag is focusing on ten projects that span creative disciplines and seek to build wider community ties between creative disciplines in our new series of interviews, 10xCommunity. Featuring artistic projects, community-building initiatives and interdisciplinary platforms, ANTE is sharing these interviews on the mag and across social media that spotlight these endeavors through the current social crisis to pivot to sharing positivity and uplifting creative news to our audience. We here at ANTE have long been fans of Culture Push, a New York City-based nonprofit that unites art and social justice through its programs, including fellowships, an online journal, exhibitions and much more. Below we caught up with Artist, Professor and Culture Push Co-Founder Clarinda Mac Low for insights into the current events and initiatives Culture Push is moving ahead with in the time of CoVid-19.

ANTE: So tell us what inspired the creation of Culture Push, and how did you envision this organization as a way to foster artistic initiatives through public participation?

Culture Push: Dreaming up Culture Push was always a collective endeavor, because everything good, for me, happens in conversation. When the first glimmerings of Culture Push started, in 2008, I had been in conversation with many different people about the lack of space for hybrid artforms. At the time I was mostly situated in the dance and performance world, but not really fitting in there anymore (if I ever did) and talking to other people who felt the same way. I wanted to create a home for ideas that didn’t fit anywhere else. The name “Culture Push” came to me after a few conversations I had with Alejandra Martorell and Paul Benney, my partners in the collective TRYST. Culture Push was a name that left room for interpretation, but conveyed a sense of urgency. Then, after a series of conversations with Aki Sasamoto and Arturo Vidich, recent graduates of my alma mater, Wesleyan University, the first form of Culture Push was born. All three of us, though we were from different generations, had expertise both in dance and performance and in other disciplines and sectors, and an abiding interest in how art practice could function beyond the black box and the white cube. We could see how, by creating an entity, we could make a home for hybridity by creating an institution that was expansive in intent and encouraged cross-sector, public-facing conversation. 

We saw the institution itself as the art material, so, when we began, we didn’t actually know exactly what our focus would be. We were performance-makers, so we decided that the form of the organization would rise from experimentation and trial and error–our first step was just to create the institution–the entity–and then the form would emerge from action. So, in 2009, with the help of our amazing initial Board, we incorporated as a non-profit, and because of our Board member Michael Yi it went quite smoothly. 

As movement artists we were committed to corporeal practice and knowledge, and we began with a set of broad principles–our programs would bring together different sectors, would involve “hands-on” public participation and horizontal knowledge share, and would allow for collaboration. The first programs that we devised proceeded from these principles, and from our desire to nurture a fluid culture where the lines between art, politics, daily life, and social experiment could blur, and where challenging the lines between disciplines leads to challenging the form of society.   

ANTE: During this difficult time of the COVID-19 crisis, what are some ways that your organization plans to continue its mission in helping artists and communities affected by the pandemic?

CP: We currently have two major programs–The Fellowship for Utopian Practice (our bedrock) and the newer Associated Artists program. All of the artists we serve are in precarious situations financially and socially. Most of these artists also work as independent contractors, often within an arts context where they are facing cancellations, postponements, and lay-offs, as well as loss of future work. Many of these artists also act as community supporters, and are donating their time and energy to creating space and providing essential services to their fellow New Yorkers. 

To support our artists, we are working with our funders to expand the financial support we offer our current Fellows and Associated Artists, as well as our recent alumni, by offering expanded funding for their ongoing projects and funding for the projects they have begun during this crisis. We also want to offer them opportunities to share work and be in community with each other and with the wider world, and will be brainstorming about how to re-cast their projects for the current time. We are also planning on offering new opportunities, like paying them to give online workshops or presentations, or setting up networking events. The bottom line is to support these important voices in any way we can–they are the voices that will help us remake the world in a better form as this crisis develops and (hopefully!) resolves.

Storm Your Brain—Culture Push Program DOING, by Aki Sasamoto, at the Whitney Museum, 2010. Photo by Arturo Vidich

ANTE: Can you talk about how Culture Push has been able to amplify initiatives that have been started by individuals and groups to help artists and others who have been financially impacted by COVID-19?

CP: The people who are connected to Culture Push tend to be self-starters and community responders. In the initial shock of the shutdown, for example, Shawn Escarciga – at the time Assistant Director of Culture Push – reacted as an individual concerned for the impact that the loss of work would have on people who are already living precariously and responded by immediately starting a GoFundMe, the NYC Low-Income Artist/Freelancer Relief Fund. He was immediately joined by Nadia Tykulsker, one of the current Culture Push Board members. This was not an initiative begun by Culture Push, but, early in the process Shawn and Nadia reached out to Culture Push staff to talk about fiscal sponsorship for the Fund. I had also been thinking about this, and it was great to come together and offer this fiscal sponsorship to a fund that was addressing such urgent need. The fund has, to date, raised over $150,000.

At Culture Push we often talk about the “performance of institution”: that is, we are very small and barebones with a modest budget, but, because we are in good financial standing and our organizational bona fides are strong, we are able to act as a institutional partner when people require a financial or otherwise established entity to get what they need. So, after the success of the partnership with the NYC Low-Income Artist/Freelancer Relief Fund, we decided, for now, to expand our fiscal sponsorship program to include emergency funds independently initiated by staff, Fellows, and other artists in our community that serve low-income, BIPOC, and queer artists, and artists and others based in vulnerable New York City neighborhoods. So far, besides the NYC Low-Income Artist/Freelancer Relief Fund, we are also acting as a sponsor for the Dance Union’s NYC Dancers Relief Fund (COVID-19), started by J. Bouey and Melanie Greene, and for the North Bronx Collective, a group of activists in the Bronx (Alicia Grullòn, a Fellowship alum and current Board member, is a member of the group). By serving as a conduit for higher levels of funding from foundations or individuals, this fiscal sponsorship has so far enabled these emergency funds to greatly expand the financial support they can offer to the people they serve. We don’t take an admin fee, so all funds go directly to the people who need it.

ANTE: In your most recent exhibition, RE-TOOLING, artists developed multidisciplinary “practical tools” for resistance and social change, incorporating dance, performance, installation, and writing. A tool was redefined as a means for “individuals to change their environment (socially, politically, physically) or engage with it in a new way.” Can you speak on the power of creative tools and outlets to help us cope in times of hardship/uncertainty?   

CP: Culture Push is grounded in the conviction that having space for imagination is as important to survival as more tangible resources like food and shelter. Indeed, imagination is how we figure out how to gain those resources under difficult circumstances. Imagination allows us to create work-arounds and new situations when a situation is challenging, but also gives us space to be present, or to escape, or to fully realize ourselves as individuals or as members of a group. It allows us to transcend difficulty, to connect to each other and to the other creatures we share space with, to invent new ways of being.

So having access to creativity is imperative for all people, especially people in difficult circumstances. And everybody is creative–whether the results of creative endeavor are recognized as “art” by a mainstream art world is immaterial. Sometimes it takes a nudge here and there for people to find a voice, but it’s always present. The artists in the RE-TOOLING show have developed some nudging tools par excellence, and there are many important voices that are born from their experiments. I’m also reminded of Claudia Prado, who has devised a writing workshop that she runs with working-class Spanish-speaking immigrants (documented and undocumented). The work these people, mostly women, come up with is gorgeous and valuable, from voices we don’t hear often enough. The voices come out easily–they just need the right opportunity and the right catalyst.

ANTE: In addition to physical exhibitions and public projects, Culture Push also features the online journal PUSH/PULL. Can you explain how this publication is integral to the Culture Push mission, and how digital publications/exhibitions could be a way for arts organizations to adapt in the time of social distancing?

CP: This is a great question, and definitely one we have been thinking about a lot. From the beginning we have seen some form of publication as an asset to the Culture Push community. The first version of this was IdeaNEWS, a publication that reflected on the year that had passed through its form rather than its content. IdeaNEWS was active from 2009-2011. Then, in 2015, our then-Assistant Director Madelyn Ringold-Brown, proposed starting an online publication as a supplement to the Fellowship–a place for Fellows to publicly share their process, work with collaborators, develop ancillary philosophies… basically another part of the public square. It’s since evolved to be a venue where our Associated Artists engage as well. 

CP artists usually bring together groups of people as an integral part of their projects, but now that physical distancing has become a norm and so much of our lives are happening online, we will need a different venue for gathering and creating community. Since PUSH/PULL is already there, and is already known as a venue for quality content, we plan to expand it as a platform, and bring in as much of our community as possible. It’s an exciting possibility, because, while it has been an effective venue for writing, because it lives mainly online it also has been a repository for video, images, graphics, and other media. We are also exploring how it can be interactive.

ArtCraftTech: Tracing Trash, 2010, at McCarren Park. Photo by Peter Stankiewicz

ANTE: One of your organization’s early projects, ArtCraftTech, brought together several creative disciplines (artists, scientists, technology experts) to find artistic and practical solutions to short-term problems, like waste management, through collaboration and dialogue. What are some takeaways on how creative, publicly engaged projects like these can help us deal with real-world problems and inspire collective action for change? 

CP: When we first established Culture Push, all three co-founders started different programs. ArtCraftTech was my “baby,” so to speak, and the form of the program reflected both my experience in devising collaborative performance and my experience working in microbiology laboratories. 

I have a desire to address so-called “real-world” problems directly, but I am also suspicious of the abbreviated process that many cross-sector endeavours seem to engage in. With ArtCraftTech, I gathered people from different professions together and acted as a facilitator as we decided, all together, what problem(s) we wanted to take on. Once we determined that, we decided what questions we wanted to ask, but were not expected to come up with workable solutions–it was clear that solving the problems we were taking on required deep systemic change and far more resources than we had on hand. We did generally end up coming up with some very concrete possibilities for mitigating the problem, but also more subtle approaches, and projects that were provocations as well as “solutions.”

 Engaging in this process, which was a series of meetings that took place over several months, really showed us all how a long, slow, thoughtful process of development can illuminate different aspects of a problem, and bring new ideas to the fore that may have been hiding underneath the more obvious solutions. This was reminiscent of (good) laboratory research, where repeated experiments and the data they bring leads you into unexpected territory, and shows you where you need to go. It’s interesting to think about this now, because, when I was working in laboratories, I was working with HIV, and there is a delicate tension, in disease research, between the urgency of cure and the need for caution and careful observation. I think we’re all being gripped in that narrative now–so much desiring a quick fix for this overwhelming pandemic, but in danger of grabbing on to the first dubious solution that comes along…

Anyway, I digress. 🙂  This understanding of the importance of process imbued all of the co-founders’ programs, and it definitely influenced the form for the Fellowship for Utopian Practice. We were clear from the beginning that the Fellowship needed to be at least a year long, and it needed to privilege process over product, or, as I eventually said, “Process is our product.” This was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but it’s also true–we are advocating for an arts ecosystem that privileges and supports a thoughtful development process as much as if not more than a specific product or object. Only this will truly allow for deep conversation and lasting change.

ANTE: Can you tell us about some of your recent initiatives and where Culture Push headed in the near future?

CP: Currently our big project is Walking the Edge, a project we’re doing in collaboration with Works on Water and the NYC Department of City Planning. The two arts organizations are working with the Waterfront and Open Spaces Division of the NYC DCP to create a durational artwork that invites everybody to walk all 520 miles of New York City’s coastline, to get people involved with thinking about NYC as a city of water, and to gather deep engagement around the DCP’s Comprehensive Waterfront Plan for 2030. That walk was supposed to start on May 1 (520 in 5/20, get it?) and continue for 24 hours a day until the whole coast was covered. So yeah. We are adjusting. It’s interesting, actually, and not entirely bad, to slow down and reconsider. So, instead of the walk this year, now we are launching prompts and questions and suggestions and performances about our waterfronts, by artists from Culture Push and Works on Water, every Friday at noon on Instagram (at @works_on_water, @culturepusher, and @nycwaterfront).  

Also, we have gathered all the materials for a 10th Anniversary publication that featured several Fellows writing about subjects related to the projects they did with CP, and we were planning to publish and print in April and distribute in June of this year. Of course now that timeline has shifted, but we will be making that available soon as a downloadable .pdf

For the future? Interesting question. There was the Plan for the Future Before, and there’s a Plan for the Future Now. We were finally thinking about creating a hub space for Culture Push (we have been an itinerant organization this whole time, with no fixed physical location or office). That’s still our desire, but, because so many things are so up in the air, how that will play out is very much an open question. Regardless, we will continue supporting artists as they collaborate with communities and create spaces for imagination and solidarity.

 

AOT Project Salon Interview for 10xCommunity: “The Arts are Vital to Individual and Community Empowerment”

ANTE Mag is focusing on ten projects that span creative disciplines and seek to build wider community ties between creative disciplines in our new series of interviews, 10xCommunity. Featuring artistic projects, community-building initiatives and interdisciplinary platforms, ANTE is sharing these interviews on the mag and across social media that spotlight these endeavors through the current social crisis to pivot to sharing positivity and uplifting creative news to our audience. AOT Project Salon is the brainchild of curator and cultural producer Douglas Turner, a Brooklyn-based arts stalwart. We sat down with Turner for a wider perspective on the projects keeping him busy in these trying times.

 

Artist Courtney Alexander in front of her collaborative project sponsored by the Lower East Side Girls Club presentation, Art on Paper 2020 – coordinated by AOT Project Salon
 
ANTE: Thanks Douglas for sitting down with us today to discuss AOT Project Salon! Can you start out by giving us some background on AOT Project Salon and how it got started in 2014?
Douglas Turner: Hello Audra! And thanks so much for featuring AOT Project Salon. From the top, I would like to acknowledge all the people who made AOT possible; this is not something I could have done on my own. AOT is an acronym for the Architecture of Tomorrow and comes from a manifesto I wrote for myself after graduating from the New School back in 2009. From there I decided to focus my sociological writerly intentions on the arts. A retired art critic and I had become friends and he began introducing me to the art world. A few years later, I wanted to put ideas into action. I was sharing a tiny house in Williamsburg with a good friend who totally supported me converting the second floor (which was an open loft bedroom)  for exhibitions. I would hide the bed behind an armoire!
 
ANTE: How has AOT Project Salon evolved since its founding, and what current objectives are part of your mission?
DT: In 2015, I had (curated) something around seven or eight shows, focusing on re-emerging, emerging, and under-represented artists. Did you know that insurance companies google (certain) addresses, and when they find out something is going on in a home besides its intended purpose they get real threatening? This understandably made the landlord uncomfortable, and that’s when I began doing satellite shows in Manhattan, partnering with the Lower East Side Girls Club organization, where I am now on the Art Advisory Board. Partnering with them gave me access to a storefront location on Avenue C. I was able to continue a bi-annual project called Our Elements, a collaborative exhibition of queer and feminist art. During all of this, I had also begun working on arts-in-education projects in Brownsville and Crown Heights. What began as The Equal Education Initiative, I worked with former Senator Jesse Hamilton to bring workshops and summer art programs to children. Currently, the education program is on hiatus while I work in the background on a huge undertaking to fund a mobile art education program (MOart). Imagine a 26-foot box truck, converted into a classroom that can arrive at various locations, like housing projects and other community organizations to provide structured after-school art classes.
AOT Project Salon loft space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
ANTE: Incredible.. and so, how exactly has the current pandemic affected your programming and what are you doing to stay resourceful and create impact during this “pause”?
DT: Honestly, I was already on a pause, so I don’t feel AOT Project Salon has been deeply impacted, however, I’d say that organizations like mine that help to provide resources and opportunities (no matter how large or small) for under-represented artists and curators, and extra-curricular services for underserved communities will be in high demand in the coming years due to the fall out of the pandemic. I think it will take a few “Town Halls,” before I know what precise actionable steps I should take.
ANTE: You actively seek ways to stretch far and wide to engage varied members of the community, from your work championing the Lower East Side Girls Club to your online initiative, Wedge Studio. Talk to us about how these challenges feed one another and keep you inspired.
DT: Ideas are a natural resource, and I don’t seem to be low on those resources. The Girls Club has my heart. It was founded about 25 years ago by Lyn Pentecost and Jenny Dembrow. They now operate out of a new 25,000 sq. ft. facility on 8th and D. Their positive impact on the community is amazing. It’s an academy for Girls and expanding with services for the entire neighborhood. Serving as an art advisor is an amazing privilege, and amplifies my ability to provide resources to artists. My latest project was working on a residency for Courtney Alexander, a painter and sculptor who also created Dust ll Onyx – a melanated tarot deck. Courtney worked with the girls on a tarot project, which was shown at the Girls Club’s Art on Paper booth this year. Wedge Studio is a for-profit business I launched this year. Being able to play a part in providing the opportunity and exposure for Courtney, was simply a matter of doing the right thing.
In conversation at AOT Project Salon, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
ANTE: Arts education is an important subject for you: can you explain why you think it key to connect communities through arts programming?
DT: For me, it comes down to national statistics. When art education is provided in a child’s education there is a direct correlation between academic performance and the likelihood of going on to college. But in a city like New York, the arts have been defunded by 40%, and those impacted the most by these measures are poor and/or members of black and brown communities across the boroughs. The arts are vital to individual and community empowerment. Folks of these communities know this because they see what is missing in their neighborhoods and schools as generational poverty continues. In my experience in Brownsville, I saw not just parents but adults in the community rally behind arts education for children. The arts have the power to rally people, which in turn shows community vibrancy and strength, a great source of pride in where one calls home.
ANTE: What’s one challenge that you see not being addressed or underrated that you want to see more resources diverted to in terms of art and cultural production? And finally, what are your plans to connect the art community once this challenging moment has passed? 
DT: A disparaging amount of resources are being funneled upwards. Would that be late-stage capitalism? Think about the troubling levels of access to space and the dizzying pace of real estate. I think that path is suffocating, or cannibalistic, like a snake eating its own tail. It would appear that the focus is on prestige rather than merit, which lends itself to stagnation.
I want to hit the ground running. I have no desire to rush into things while this pandemic continues, but instead be strategic. Be honest, we have no idea what post-pandemic life will be like. The quarantine will end in the summer, but social practices will be greatly affected through 2021. My main focus will most likely be on digital presentations, focusing on online engagement for the benefit of artists. If there is anything I know I can do for the art community, it is to create platforms.

Social Distanzine Interview for 10xCommunity: “Give Artists as Much Visibility as Possible”

ANTE Mag is focusing on ten projects that span creative disciplines and seek to build wider community ties between creative disciplines in our new series of interviews, 10xCommunity. Featuring artistic projects, community-building initiatives and interdisciplinary platforms, ANTE is sharing these interviews on the mag and across social media that spotlight these endeavors through the current social crisis to pivot to sharing positivity and uplifting creative news to our audience. Social Distanzine is a joint effort by co -editors Allison Remy Hall, a Jersey City-based curator, and Detroit-based artist and illustrator Narciso Espiritu.
The Instagram platform features art created during the Zeitgeist of the CoVid-19 Pandemic. We discussed their initiative to learn more about the ripples it has made in the larger arts community.

 

ANTE:  Allison, Narciso, thank you both for chatting with us about this project – can you start by sharing the genesis of this with our readers?

Allison Remy Hall: Like a lot of people in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, I was following an impulse to start a project that would help to pass the time indoors. For me, the primary joy of curatorial work is that exhibitions are generative of community. I wanted to do something that would manifest virtual elements of those in-person encounters with art and people that we are all missing now. I asked my friend and illustrator @narcisoespiritu if he would come aboard as co-editor, and together with a few other contributors we have set about creating a document of the experiences and work of the global arts community during this time.
 
Narciso Espiritu: Initially, Allison approached me with a few tentative names for something that would function as a document of this time in the arts, and I quickly embraced the idea. I’ve had experience with art publications of my own, so I felt like I could lend a hand in this effort. Also, we have worked pretty well together on previous projects, so it feels like a smooth collaboration.
Images published as part of “Social Distanzine” on Instagram (@social_distanzine)
 
ANTE: Social_Distanzine serves as a platform for the wider art community to unify (remotely) in the time of CoVid-19; can you talk to us about what you are hoping to highlight with this initiative?
ARH: I think sharing the work of all mediums that artists are making now, as well as interviews with people across the arts community, is a way to collect and connect subjective experiences and impressions of this moment. This in turn creates a record through which we can consider the whole of this time, and perhaps be reminded of the smallness of our current physical separation from each other. Of course we also want to give artists as much visibility as possible–Times are tough psychically and materially.
NE: This time is important for everyone. It allows for everyone to pause, take note of what they really appreciate, and evaluate what’s broken or doesn’t work quite as well as they want it to. Artists of all disciplines are kind of the arrowhead here. Folks are absorbing what’s going on, and they’re gonna funnel that energy into something. Even if it doesn’t quite make sense now. There has to be a way to express this strange feeling a lot of people are living with.
 
ANTE: Does the platform have a particular lens on art that engages with the covid-19 pandemic, or merely works made during this time, and why?
ARH: As described, this is kind of an overarching archival or historical approach–we’re doing our best not to exclude any works–Even if they don’t reference covid-19 directly, they are still products of the time. We are really keen to maintain a diverse exhibition in terms of medium, and are hoping to see more performing arts, writing, and musical works in addition to all of the amazing visual arts submissions we’re receiving.
 
NE: I think we’re all processing the pandemic in our own ways. We could be checking the numbers every day, zoning out to some activity, or actually helping on the front lines– but it doesn’t diminish the importance of it on a granular level. Because we all matter here. Personally, the work I’m making is not reflective of the pandemic. Maybe I’ll make something related to my mental experience during this time later on, but it’s just a lot of information and anxiety that I don’t quite know how to transform.   
ANTE: You’ve provided insights through interviews on remote residencies and opportunities available to artists; what about this aspect of engaging the art community is critical to your team?
ARH: The interviews were Narciso’s idea. This is a really tough time for the arts and other related creative industries, and we felt there could be some practical benefit to sharing not only opportunities, but a kind of inside-perspective. We describe these interviews as lo-fi chats with people in the arts community across the world. We hope that adding these voices to the chronicle will lead to a better understanding of what people are doing/dealing with now, and what the arts might look like later. Our first one was with Matt Davis at @perfectlyacceptable, a risograph press and publishing house based in Chicago.
NE: Interviews with creatives and other notable folks in the local Jersey City arts community was something I used to do with a publication I used to run, called Instigatorzine. It was a vehicle for me to meet people and learn about how they got to that point in their lives, but I also just enjoyed the process and results. Sharing the personalities and work of many people with many people fulfilled me in a unique way. Doing the SD Interviews is very special for the moment we’re all in, because we’re delivering this perspective that you won’t likely see in other media. Inviting folks to see and listen to the people behind the artwork is important, especially now.
Interview featured on Instagram, “Perfectly Acceptable” (visit @social_distanzine)
ANTE: In terms of the submissions you feature on the platform, can you speak to the challenges in presenting certain mediums given the format of the platform (are some projects/works easier to present than others?)
ARH: Totally. We are doing our best to do justice to everything that is submitted. Instagram isn’t ideal for some works, which is why I also set up a webpage for the webzine at nosucharts.com/social_distanzine (a work in progress). We are playing with the idea of creating a print edition, which of course would pose other challenges for our inclusive approach.
ANTE: Can you walk us through the types of responses you hope to inspire in your audience?
ARH: I want people to feel less alone, and have the opportunity to experience a small form of collective engagement aside from our inexorable shared suffering.
 
NE: I moved to Detroit a few months before COVID got serious in the States. While I’ve been to the city several times over, it’s still new and I have a relatively small social circle compared to when I lived on the East Coast. Working with Allison on SD helps me feel less alone out here. It’s good that the SD audience can experience this unity, too.
“Untitled” featured on Intsagram (work by @artbyjosephinec | @social_distanzine)
ANTE: What are your plans for this platform post-pandemic?
ARH: It is so difficult to think beyond the end of a single day right now. There’s kind of a fog over the future, but we are doing some brainstorming about creating print issues (though that may happen before the end of pandemic?).  Who knows!
 
NE: Honestly, I get kind of upset that I cannot note time passing some days. It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves because of that. I tend to go galaxy-brain on this stuff, so I write things down instead and return to them later. I’ve always believed in printed material, but that’s a bridge I can’t see yet.

Artfully Learning Interview for 10xCommunity: “Lifelong Learning via the Arts”

ANTE Mag is focusing on ten projects that span creative disciplines and seek to build wider community ties between creative disciplines in our new series of interviews, 10xCommunity. Featuring artistic projects, community-building initiatives and interdisciplinary platforms, ANTE is sharing these interviews on the mag and across social media that spotlight these endeavors through the current social crisis to pivot to sharing positivity and uplifting creative news to our audience. Artfully Learning was founded by art educator, artist and curator Adam Zucker, and mounts an experiential and critical cross-examination of the fine art world and educational sphere. We caught up with Adam to learn more about how he is adapting his coverage to suit a post-CoVid19 society.

ANTE: Thanks for chatting! So tell us about your community. What urgent need inspired you to begin your work with Artfully Learning?
Adam Zucker: I entered the arena of art education (K-12) coming from a background that was largely in the fine arts field, so I had far less experience and training than many of my fellow students upon entering the Master’s in Art Education program at Brooklyn College. I was a bit apprehensive and timid initially. I felt out of place. However, my professors, Linda Louis and Toby Needler encouraged me to combine my prior knowledge of Art History and my professional experience as a curator and arts writer, with the experiential education I was receiving in art pedagogy.  I also took a class on Visual Culture with Dr. Cheri Ehrlich, where we were prompted to create documentation of our journey to become art educators, and that was the birth of Artfully Learning. It was initially about finding my comfort zone to approach topics related to teaching and learning, but it has evolved into a resource that has helped a variety of individuals integrate contemporary art practices into educational frameworks.

 

ANTE: You root the content and resources you provide in critical theory and in vanguard knowledge (such as the Lincoln Center’s Capacities for Imaginative Learning programtalk about your priorities when you are selecting what you include on the platform?

AZ: I select material and content that I find interesting and that I am passionate about. Because I believe that learning to create and respond to art is intrinsic with the human experience, I have taken a very constructivist approach to my platform. I present ways that contemporary art can benefit social, emotional and cognitive development, and suggest how works from a wide range of artists might be incorporated into K-12 curricula on a macro and micro scale. I am in full support of art-centered learning throughout the curriculum, which means that the arts are in partnership with the other subjects, not in service to them.
ANTE:  Does the platform have a particular lens on engaging the wider community and producing necessary resources during the CoVid-19 pandemic, and how?
AZ: There is a specific page on Artfully Learning on social distance learning, where I have been posting my own lesson plans (that can be scaffolded for instruction and realized at home), as well as other resources from the field in response to the sudden transition to remote learning and homeschooling. The page will continue to be updated for as long as educators and students are away from their physical classrooms.
ANTE: Artfully Learning has received incredible critical reception in light of the pandemic – can you tell us about where the platform has been featured and share insights into feedback you’ve received from your audience?
AZ: I am always most grateful and excited when I get feedback from readers of my blog. I speak to my educator friends on almost a weekly basis, and have been so inspired by their devotion and passion for both adapting and pushing the boundaries of the unique situation we’ve been facing. We constantly share ideas and resources. The education community is one of the most selfless and tireless professional communities. As far as where my blog has been featured, I have seen a lot of recent traffic coming from BOMB Magazine, Bushwick Daily, and various University listservs. I feel most rewarded for my work when teachers and school administrators share my writing with their own networks.
ANTE: What urgent need does the community have right now for greater access to art education?
AZ: Education in general needs to be more accessible to reflect the diversity of the community. More resources are needed for students and teachers, so that they’re able to collaboratively learn and thrive in a safe and healthy environment. It is painfully clear how underfunded and unprepared our education systems are to support the most vulnerable students and provide teachers with materials and aid that they need. There is enormous inequity. All students should have access to resources that nourish the mind, body, and spirit. The arts do this by giving students a means for personal expression, and fostering a sense of self and collective values. Everyone has the ability to think and perform in an artful manner, despite their technical skills. The arts strengthen our ability to be flexible and make judgements in the absence of clear cut solutions. In this day and age of unknowns and uncertainties, it is the critical and creative thinking we acquire from art education, which will keep us innovating and responding to problems in an empathetic manner. Just look at how many artists are currently making and donating masks for essential workers.
ANTE: Who do you envision as your audience for the content you share and has that shifted since the pandemic began?
AZ: My audience has always been in flux since day one. When I began, it was mainly my own network from art and art education circles. Later, my writing started to reach the larger arts and education community. It has grown and expanded to where I can’t define any one specific group or groups of readers. I want my content to be accessible and useful to anyone who comes across my blog.
ANTE: What actions are you taking in the near future to contribute to the wider community, and how can ANTE readers get involved and support?
AZ: I am going to stick with what I do best, which is to write about the relationship between the arts and our human experiences. What I hope that I can provide is a spark and a thirst for my readers to continue their quest for lifelong learning via the arts. As I mentioned, I’m maintaining a page where I’ll contribute my own original lesson plans and other resources from a variety of sources that focus on creating, viewing, and presenting art remotely. I’d be happy to connect with more people who have similar and different experiences. I’m always looking to expand and diversify the content that I write about. ANTE readers can feel free to make suggestions, share their experiences, and let others know about the blog!