What sparked your interest in being the Artist-in-Residence at Town Hall Seattle?
A friend of mine recommended me to Stesha Brandon, Town Hall’s previous Program Director, and Town Hall’s convening power is what most interested me in the Artist-in-Residence program.
What are you working on right now?
I have been working on a lot of really amazing projects throughout 2015. As part of the City Arts series Genre Bender curated by the amazing Jenn Zeyl (I love everything that she and Andrew Russell are doing at Intiman), I collaborated with the ingenious composer Hanna Benn on a piece entitled “The Deeps” (I returned to this project for my residency at Town Hall). I also worked with brilliant duo Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker and Erika Dalya Massaquoi; they included a new video piece of mine—”Avatar: Fanon & Decca”—in the Frye Genius group show. Additionally, I had the opportunity to co-curate a small photo and video show with Megumi Arai at SOIL Gallery, featuring some of my favorite artists: Rodrigo Valenzuela, Zorn B Taylor, Kat Larson, and Cahn Nguyen. I also had an essay called “The Ataxic Body” published in The James Franco Review.
I don’t make a big distinction between my art and social change work, because both require imagination. I am proudest of being part of Social Justice Fund Northwest’s Fall Momentum grant, which focused on Black-led Organizing, as well as an ongoing project focusing on Black Lives Matter with Pecha Kucha Seattle, Leilani Lewis, and Diana Falchuk.
Artist Shaw Osha included me in the group show “Sensations that Announce the Future” at The Evergreen State College, and I had a really inspiring exchange with their students—especially with their students of color.
I have accepted a job at the Seattle Public Library; my dream is to make the library and Town Hall these magical places where you really get to contemplate the world in which we live in exciting, life-changing ways.
I’m currently working on some exciting new projects. For example, I have an upcoming work that will be included in a show curated by Dawn Cerny and Daniel Webb at Greg Kucera.
I also plan to complete production of my newest project—“Bodies of Knowledge”—and that means lining up money, and making time to create.
But I laugh as I say this, because I honestly might be due for a short break after working on so many projects this year; after I received The Stranger’s Genius Award, I said yes to so many ‘heart-stealing-say-yes-kinds-of-things’—I’m tired (in a good way)!
Overall, I’m doing a lot of thinking and reading.
How has your time here at Town Hall affected/influenced/supported your work?
The talks by folks like legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw, immigrant rights scholar and activist Deepa Iyer, and cartoonist Alison Bechdel all inspired me. I think the programming is outstanding at Town Hall! I really want to commend whoever is getting all the Black Lives Matter programming at Town Hall, because it is an ethical, life-affirming thing to be doing right now and incites great conversations.
I think it’s always important to remember that artists are always inspired by other doers and thinkers. You all do really important work. It’s inspiring—really and truly.
How do you feel you have been able to influence Town Hall?
“Bodies of Knowledge” was probably my most personal work to date; it included aspects of my life that I don’t often share. It might help people understand how my background intersects with my interests—in social justice, creativity, and radical imagination—and with some of my imagery. Even though I am not a videographer, my work uses video, and I understand how the medium is part of our zeitgeist. I often say that I am a writer who went to art school. I love directing. And I also love the connection I have with other people. I will never be the artist who wants to work alone in my studio. When it is time to bring an image to life, I want to bring others in to share my vision, and I want to showcase their work along the way, because I work with amazing people. For example, Inye Wokoma and Andrea A. Stuart-Lehalle are two amazing media professionals that I have recently collaborated with—they know how to make a vision become true.
My work has a long history of representing folks who do vital community work, such as organizing, activism, and cultural work. So when you look at my piece at the Frye, you see the artist Eve Janeen, poet Caitlin Clark, sound artist, singer and arts advocate Lara Davis, and spoken word poet and activist Tiffany Dockery. That was also the case with my specific installation, “I Wish a Mother Would.”
As shown in the examples above and my approach to collaboration, my work constantly widens the awareness of the brilliance found in communities of color, and maybe that’s an influence I have extended at Town Hall.
What value would you say the Artist-in-Residence program has for our wider community, if any?
I hope the community knows that it is still very rare to get individual artist support. I have worked in Seattle for a decade and have only received three major grants. In the black community, I am considered an artist who is very privileged in terms of receiving institutional support, but in reality, there are very limited amounts of funds out there, especially once you factor in race and gender. For these reasons, the Artist-in-Residence program at Town Hall is a very vital thing, and I was really honored to be one of this year’s recipients. I hope this resonates with your donors, because I really understand how that broader support translates. From my perspective, The Frye, Intiman, and Town Hall are leading the field in supporting artists and making new work possible.
photo credit: Brenna Nardinger