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Exploring the Intersection of the Arts and Social Impact


Erie Arts & Culture, in collaboration with the CHROMA Guild, is pleased to announce the first annual Arts + Agency Week, slated for April 11-17, 2021 in Erie County, Pennsylvania. During this week, artists, cultural organizations, and advocacy groups will be aligned to explore the ways the arts are being leveraged to raise awareness of systemic issues, amplify under-represented voices, and generate creative solutions to societal challenges. 

   You're invited!

Save the date April 11-17, 2021.

In a time when communities are facing ever-changing needs and an increased urgency for creative problem solving, interest in arts-based solutions to community development challenges is growing among both arts and non-arts stakeholders. Erie Arts & Culture invites you to attend a week's worth of virtual presentations and discussions designed to provide direct examples of the ways artists and arts organizations from around the world are serving their communities as advocates and activists. 

Presentations will explore how the arts and humanities are being used to address systemic inequalities and injustices representing a wide variety of issues. Presenters will share how they've leveraged their talents, abilities, and resources to develop and implement strategies that promote social change. 

All presentations are free and will include a Q&A session. 

Objectives

  • Provide national examples of the arts and humanities being used as a tool for combatting injustices, inequities, and oppression.
  • Empower Erie-based artists, cultural organizations, and advocacy groups to think about ways the arts and humanities can be used to address systemic issues relevant to our community.
  • Encourage collaboration between artists, cultural organizations, and advocacy groups.
  • Increase vocabulary, skill sets, and knowledge bases to build the capacity of artists and cultural organizations so they can see the arts and humanities as tools to be used in advocacy, activism, and social change.

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This programming is funded through our New Horizons initiative by the generous support of the Erie Community Foundation.

 

Streaming Partner: Community Access Media

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Registration and Presenter Information

SUNDAY

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Artistic Interventions in Public Life

About Conflict Kitchen:

Conflict Kitchen was a restaurant located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that served cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict. Each Conflict Kitchen iteration was augmented by events, performances, publications, and discussions that sought to expand the engagement the public has with the culture, politics, and issues at stake within the focus region. The restaurant rotated identities in relation to current geopolitical events.

About Jon Rubin:

Jon Rubin is an interdisciplinary artist who creates interventions into public life that re-imagine individual, group and institutional behavior. He has exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Mercosul Biennial, Brazil; the Shanghai Biennial; the Carnegie International, The Lyon Biennale; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver; the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, New York; Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City; Rooseum, Malmö, Sweden; Sazmanab Center for Contemporary Art, Tehran; as well as in backyards, in living rooms, and on street corners. Rubin has received awards from the Art Matters Foundation, the Creative Work Fund, Americans for the Arts, the Creative Capital Award and was a finalist for the International Award for Participatory Art. Conflict Kitchen, his collaborative seven-year work with artist Dawn Weleski, was named as one of the 100 Artworks that Defined the Decade by Artnet News. He recently collaborated with artist Lenka Clayton on projects for the Solomon Guggenheim Museum in New York and the 15th edition of The Lyon Biennale. Jon is a Professor and Graduate Director in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University.

 

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MONDAY

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Fire and Flood

For almost 15 years, Gideon Mendel has been traveling the world documenting our climate emergency. With his Drowning World project, he has photographed floods in thirteen different countries. In his series of Submerged Portraits individuals from some of the poorest and wealthiest communities in the world stand together, with a shared vulnerability to rising water. Continuing this committed approach to the consequences of global warming, and struck by the scale of the fires that Australia underwent in 2020, Gideon Mendel opened a new chapter in his work with Black Summer. Mendel introduces us to the protagonists of this catastrophe, standing among the ashes of their homes, witnesses to the consequences and inconsistencies of our relationship with nature. In this presentation, Mendel will present the various narrative threads that make up this complex and important body of work

Gideon Mendel’s intimate style of image-making and long-term commitment to socially engaged projects has earned international recognition. Born in Johannesburg in 1959, Mendel began his career as a news and ‘struggle’ photographer documenting the final years of apartheid. This experience marked him deeply, and much of his subsequent work has been engaged with the key issues facing his generation. In 1991 he moved to London, and continued to respond to global concerns, especially HIV/ AIDS. Since 2007, using stills and video, Mendel has been working on Drowning World; an art and advocacy project about flooding that is his personal response to our climate crisis. His work has been widely published in magazines and newspapers including National Geographic, Geo and the Guardian Weekend.

Mendel’s images have been used in climate protests while his photographs; installations and video pieces are increasingly seen in gallery and museum contexts. Mendel has received the inaugural Jackson Pollock Prize for Creativity and the Greenpeace Photo Award. Shortlisted for the Prix Pictet in 2015 and 2019, he has also received the Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography, the Amnesty International Media Award, and six World Press awards. Mendel has recently extended his work on global warming to include the element of fire, along with developing new projects addressing the Covid-19 crisis we are all facing.

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Reimagining Our Energy Landscapes

"Before change can occur, it must be imagined. "

Robert Ferry, Founding Director, LAGI

Robert Ferry is a registered architect and LEED accredited professional with two decades of professional practice experience on both consultant and client sides. Following a decade of design and project management on sustainable new-urbanist developments in the United States, he spent four years as a consultant on large commercial projects in the Middle East, where his focus shifted to ways in which buildings can move beyond net-zero and contribute to the energy needs of the surrounding city. His concept designs pushing the envelope of building-integrated renewable energy technology have been published widely. Through the Land Art Generator, he is able to help support the critical role of architecture and urban design as part of a comprehensive solution to climate change. Robert is the co-founder of the Land Art Generator, partner at Studied Impact Design, and a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University.

Elizabeth Monoian, Founding Director, LAGI

Elizabeth Monoian (MFA, Carnegie Mellon University) is the founding co-director of the Land Art Generator Initiative, an organization that is developing global partnerships between private and public entities around interdisciplinary projects that address issues of climate and sustainability through the lens of creativity. She works closely with cities, universities, corporations, arts organizations, and community groups to design customized approaches to renewable energy installations. Elizabeth has published, exhibited, and presented globally on the aesthetics of renewable energy and the role of art in providing solutions to climate change. Under her leadership, LAGI has received multiple National Endowment for the Arts grants and has been awarded the J.M.K. Innovation Prize, a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund.

Land Art Generator

The Land Art Generator works with communities around the world to design installations that actively support climate solutions by integrating sustainable infrastructure as the medium for creative and cultural expression. Through open design competitions for Dubai, Abu Dhabi, New York City, Copenhagen, Santa Monica, Melbourne, and Nevada the Land Art Generator has inspired thousands of designs from around the world. Participatory design projects include Land Art Generator Solar Mural artworks in San Antonio, co-designing culturally relevant clean energy solutions with Maasai women in Olorgesailie Kenya, working with West Virginia coal miners on destination energy landscapes, and more.

Their publications include The Time is Now: Public Art of the Sustainable City (Page One Publishing), Regenerative Infrastructures (Prestel Publishing), New Energies (Prestel Publishing), Powering Places (Prestel Publishing), Energy Overlays (Hirmer Publishing), Return to the Source (Prestel Publishing), Land Art of the 21 st Century (Hirmer Publishing) and A Field Guide to Renewable Energy Technologies.

Partners and supporters include Masdar Abu Dhabi, City of New York, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, City of Copenhagen, European Union Commission on Climate Action, City of Santa Monica, J.M. Kaplan Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, Capital Region of Denmark, Danish Design Centre, US Green Building Council, the City of Glasgow, the State of Victoria (Australia), Carbon Arts, Creative Carbon Scotland, Climarte, Burning Man Project, Arizona State University, and many others.

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TUESDAY

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73 Stains: Sweet Potatoes, Sustenance & Sustainability

Inspired by the work of George Washington Carver and his use of everyday materials, Seitu Ken Jones looks at food, sustainability, and visual art at the intersection of self-care and the Beloved community. Jones will delve into artistic response to the environment. specifically how African American artists continue to shape and sustain their well-being.

About Seitu Ken Jones

Seitu Ken Jones is a multidisciplinary artist, advocate and maker based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Working between the arts and public spheres, Jones channels the spirit of radical social movements into experiences that foster critical conversations and nurture more just and vibrant communities from the soil up. He is recognized as a dynamic collaborator and a creative force for civic engagement.

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Intentional Intersectionality

From 2018 to 2021, 1Hood has been present in virtually every medium uplifting and amplifying voices for the Black community in Pittsburgh.  Be it in social justice through activism, education, creative and artistic endeavours and most recently in public health.  

1Hood has graciously been awarded the title of Pittsburgh's people of the year due to our efforts in activism and community development and liberation by the City Paper.  

1Hood has become nationally recognized for the community work and support that they believe is the access point to fair and equitable treatment for people of the global majority.

About Farooq Al-Said

Farooq Al-Said, professionally known as “Said” is an artivist (artist/activist) from Toronto, Canada, residing in Pittsburgh, Pa. Said has gone from a once incarcerated individual to K-8 classroom teacher and now serves as Director Of Operations for the national Arts & Activism collective, 1Hood Media.  

Formally known as Ayatollah Jaxx, the Black and Lebanese MC was signed to a major label in the mid-2000s.  Said released his critically acclaimed debut album "Hello, Hip Hop" and spent time ghostwriting for many artists before becoming disenchanted with the music industry and focusing his efforts on arts, activism and education.   Helping create an award-winning Arts & Education platform; Hip Hop On L.O.C.K, Said merged his musical endeavours into social activism by teaching in juvenile detention centres, schools and even the University of Sydney in Australia. 

Said recently released his first album in over 10 years, “The Kid With The Golden Arms”.  A semi-autobiographical journey that chronicles his evolution from being heavily involved in the streets to childhood trauma, and the political climate that made him switch career paths to activism. Riddled with political commentary, punchlines about social issues, and criminology, The Kid With The Golden Arms delivers one of the freshest offerings Hip-Hop witnessed in years. 

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WEDNESDAY

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Placemaking and Art for Social Change in Camden, NJ

Once a thriving metropolis, the city of Camden faces numerous challenges associated with its history of deindustrialization and urban decay. Learn how one non-profit is working to incorporate arts interventions into a flurry of revitalization efforts for this small city just across the river from Philadelphia. We’ll discuss Camden’s journey toward coalition building, community outreach and an upcoming project that uses art to bring attention to civic issues while creating a sense of place that builds on local culture. Participants will learn about how the Connect the Lots initiative has been creating vibrant outdoor spaces for the past 5 years and also about A New View – Camden: an art intervention funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies that is poised to change the physical landscape of Camden neighborhoods, empower residents in the fight against illegal dumping and alter perspectives and outsider views of Camden, NJ.

About Vedra:

Born and raised in Camden, New Jersey Vedra Chandler graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Government before pursuing a careers in business, music and community development.  After several years working in the private sector, Vedra’s heart led her away from Corporate America and on to the open road when she joined the touring company of the hit Broadway musical Hairspray. From there she performed in various theater projects until in 2010 she ran away with the circus to perform the role of the Soul Singer on Kooza by Cirque Du Soleil. Today Vedra is back in her hometown of Camden,NJ where she worked for two years as Associate Director of The Neighborhood Center, Inc. There she developed programs to cultivate creativity and stimulate critical thinking in young people before accepting the position of Community Events Manager at Cooper’s Ferry Partnership where she uses the arts as a vehicle to tap into the potential of Camden city and its residents, revitalize underutilized spaces through the Connect the Lots initiative and A New View Camden.  Vedra serves on the board at Perkins Center for the Arts as President of the board of directors at the Ritz Theatre Company, and as a proud member of the Camden County Arts and Heritage Commission. She is a member of Macedonia A.M.E. Church in Camden, NJ, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and performs with her musical ensemble CPR: Music Invincible on the 3rd Thursday of each month at the Victor Lofts on the Camden Waterfront. For art is one of the vehicles by which we tap into the potential of Camden and fuel the resurgence of this “City Invincible.”

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About LifeThruMusic:

The LifeThruMusic program is an innovative music mentoring program that integrates traditional music training with the latest technological updates in the music industry. In addition to music training, the LifeThruMusic program will incorporate a business training model that will prepare students to become leading music entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Through our program participants will become proficient musicians, recognize employment opportunities in the music field, and connect with music professionals who are already working in the field.

Corey Cook:

Corey L. Cook was born and raised in Erie, PA on the city's Lower Eastside. At age 14 he began to take an interest in music. He was introduced to music at the Shiloh Baptist Church of Erie, Pennsylvania. It was at Shiloh where he began to see how music impacted and changed lives and it was during that time that his own life began to radically change. After years of hands-on music experience playing with various artists and musicians, he wanted to bring back those experiences he encountered traveling across the eastern part of the country back to the youth in the Erie area. In 2012 he launched Lifethrumusic a non-profit music mentoring program designed to mentor and inspire youth for today's always changing music industry. Within the last 9 years, he has had the opportunity to work with over 500 youth in Erie, Harrisburg, and Asbury Park, NJ teaching drums, piano, bass guitar, and music production. Most recently he launched CookMediaLLC a media services company centered around his passion not only for music but visual arts and combining the two art forms together to help grow the community and local businesses. His passion for photography and video production developed over the last 9 years working in the nonprofit sector and finding ways to tell stories through picture and video. 

In service to his community, Corey serves on the Board of Directors for the Foundation for Erie’s Public Schools. He has served on numerous grant review panels on the state, regional, and local levels. Some of his accomplishments include being featured on Good Morning America (2018), the Erie Reader 40 under 40 award (2014), PEPS Star Award (2015), Regional winner of the UPS Community Service Award (2019), and being recognized by the Governor Tom Wolf for being an African American in Education (2019). Corey is currently a Dispatch Supervisor for United Parcel Service (UPS) where he has been employed for 15 years. Outside of music and photography Corey is married to Latasha Cook and is the proud father of 16 year old DaeVante Phillips, 15 year old Darrian Cook, 9 year old Camron Phillips, 5 year old Jordan Cook and 2 year old Neriah Cook.  He is a proud graduate of East High School and lifelong resident of the City of Erie.

About Beyond the Bars:

Beyond the Bars is a 501c3 music and career planning program that is dedicated to interrupting the cycles of violence and incarceration in Philadelphia. We work with youth ranging from middle to high school who have been impacted by violence to help them realize the talented musicians and leaders that they are.

Beyond the Bars work to combat problems facing our community such as divestment, mass incarceration and the impacts of trauma by working to build safe and accessible music programs throughout our neighborhoods where students can learn to be songwriters and express their emotions. We offer programs at every phase of the school to prison pipeline by offering: Community-based programs, Diversion programs and programs for Youth who are currently Incarcerated.

Our city’s youth are incredibly talented and brilliant young leaders. As a result Beyond the Bars is built in conjunction with student voice and guidance. Curriculums are built with our students to specifically cater to their interests, ensuring that their goals are being accomplished. Furthermore we work to create pathways where our students can grow to be teachers for the next generation.

Our program uses music as means of helping our youth express themselves in positive ways, build up their self efficacy and engage in self exploration in regards to future careers. Whether they are forming bands and performing shows throughout the city, or recording and producing their original beats Beyond the Bars works to provide a range of opportunities for students to express their emotions in a positive way. What began as a program that taught once a week in jail has since expanded to be running 6 programs throughout Philadelphia and serving youth in our communities who have been affected by a variety of forms of violence in our city.

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Matthew Kerr


Matthew Kerr is an incredibly talented, dynamic, and energizing educator, leader and community member. Founding Beyond The Bars in 2015, Matthew worked as a teacher throughout Philadelphia schools as both a history and a music teacher when he was asked by a student to come teach music at PICC. What started as a small once a week lesson has grown into a full program. Before his work with Beyond the Bars he performed in a variety of musical acts that have toured, graduated from Temple University Summa Cum Laude with a degree in education and started music programs in high schools.

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Christopher Thornton


Christopher Thornton is an educator, mentor, advocate and organizer with over a decade of experience supporting, educating and building with people young and old from diverse backgrounds in a multitude of settings. Working with Beyond The Bars as a teacher, strategic planner and most recently Co-Executive Director, from the very beginning in 2015 Christopher is well versed in how to provide effective, engaging, and student-driven music education and experiences to young people, effectively and intentionally coordinating as well as connecting with community partners to move forward the work of collectively supporting and uplifting youth of our community.

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THURSDAY

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Roadside Culture Stands: Rolling sculpture & Entrepreneur mobile

Wormfarm Institute commissioned the first Roadside Culture Stand in 2009. Culture Stands are mobile farm stands designed and built by artists, architects or design teams that reimagine the iconic roadside stand to be mobile, versatile and eye-catching. They have also been proven to be an effective tool to support food entrepreneurs and others at public gatherings and celebrations. The serve as a vehicle for developing partnerships between Wormfarm and a host of others as the dozen or so Roadside Culture Stands come together in what we call Food Chain- a marketplace of food art and ideas. Wormfarm Institute co-founder, Jay Salinas, will share their experience in the evolution of this initiative and how it feeds other Wormfarm programs

About Jay:

Jay is an artist & farmer. In 2000, with his partner Donna Neuwirth they formed the Wormfarm Institute, an award-winning nonprofit whose mission is to integrate culture and agriculture. Wormfarm creates community cultural events like the nationally recognized Fermentation Fest & Farm/Art DTour. Wormfarm also works to build regional networks through the Rural Urban Flow initiative and hosts an Artist Residency on a working farm.

Jay has worked to support the development of sustainable agriculture in urban and rural communities across the nation working with both Growing Power in Milwaukee and the Farley Center Gaining Ground project in Madison. 

Trained as a sculptor, Jay has developed and implemented innovative and successful art curricula for both at-risk youth and at the university level. He has also taught sustainable farming techniques to farmers across the nation and continues to work with growers with diverse backgrounds and abilities to build sustainable food systems. Born in and raised near Chicago, Jay holds a BFA & MFA in Sculpture.

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I Believe in the Power of Art

Vanessa German is a citizen artist creating sculpture, performance, immersive installation and photography, that center the earthling’s experience with loving, connection, intimacy, vulnerability and creative power, as definitive Human Technologies. German’s work centers the insistence of heart, Soul, and, loving, as critical engines of shape-shifting and future-making in the dynamic ecosystems of body and community.

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FRIDAY

event set upDr. Charon Hribar
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We Rise Together: Movement Cultural Arts and the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

The Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is building a broad, fusion movement to unite poor and impacted communities across the country. From Alaska to Arkansas, the Bronx to the border, people are coming together to confront the interlocking evils of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the war economy, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism. We understand that as a nation we are at a critical juncture — that we need a movement that will shift the moral narrative, impact policies and elections at every level of government, and build lasting power for poor and impacted people.

About Dr. Charon Hribar

Dr. Charon Hribar is the Director of Cultural Strategies for the Kairos Center and Co-Director of Theomusicology and Movement Arts for the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. She holds a Masters in Divinity from Union Theological Seminary and a PhD in Religion and Society from Drew University. Over the past 15 years, Charon has been dedicated to the work of political education, leadership development, and fostering the use of arts and culture for movement building with community and religious leaders across the country. Through her work with the Poor People’s Campaign, Charon has developed cultural resources to help leaders on the ground integrate arts and culture into their organizing work, including the We Rise Movement Songbook and the Justseeds’ Poor People’s Campaign Art Portfolio. 

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Path With Art
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Path with Art: Art Transforms Us

Since 2008, Path with Art has been at the forefront of a growing international movement that utilizes the power of art as a means to bring dignity, awareness, and healing to the complexities of issues surrounding homelessness and recovery from trauma. We break down conventional barriers and provide multi-disciplinary artistic opportunities to those who have the greatest need, and the least access to the healing power of the arts, no- to low-income adults in active recovery from homelessness, substance use disorder, mental and physical health challenges, domestic violence and other traumas. Our mission is to foster the restoration of individuals, groups and society from the effects of trauma through arts engagement and community-building. In short, Path with Art is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary arts organization with a social impact mission.

Year-round, individual-based and community-engaged programming utilize the arts as a tool for self-empowerment and connection. Participants gain new artistic skills, develop renewed confidence and stability, actively problem solve, and meaningfully engage in community. With the pandemic, we responsively expanded with access to online engagement programming; we provide free, software-enabled, electronic tablets, digital literacy training, tech support and internet access, which closes the digital divide while alleviating social isolation and increasing overall well-being.

Holly Jacobson

With a background in non-profit management, strategic planning and communications, Holly’s professional background spans both for- and non-profit institutions. She has created strategic marketing and product solutions for Microsoft, The City of Seattle, The Seattle International Film Festival and other entertainment and education institutions.  A passionate advocate for social justice, in 2003, Holly founded Voter Action, a national non-profit organization with the aim to secure accurate election systems. Voter Action led a national effort to develop reliable and fair voting practices which helped improve access and standards across the country. Having studied film at San Francisco State University, she has worked as a director in both documentary and commercial filmmaking.  Since 2013, Holly has been the Executive Director of Path with Art, an organization on the forefront of connecting the arts to low income adults living in or recovering from trauma. She serves on the Seattle Arts Commission, the Washington Women’s Foundation Impact Assessment Committee, and the steering committee of With One Voice, an organization supporting International Arts and Homelessness organizations and practitioners based in the United Kingdom. 

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SATURDAY

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How An Arts festival Was Created By Those Who Were Homeless

Find out how an ex-homeless artist created a festival space for artists who are or have been homeless, to help change society’s perception towards them, even though he had no way of funding it. This is the miraculous story behind the struggle and success of The One Festival of Homeless Arts in the United Kingdom.

The One Festival of Homeless Arts

The One Festival of Homeless Arts brings together works of art in many forms, from theatre and film to sculpture and photography, as well as traditional visual art, all of which have been created by artists who are or have been homeless. We aim to change societies perceptions of homeless people through the medium of art, providing a platform for the artists, bringing back confidence and social inclusion. 

About David Tovey

David Tovey is a formerly homeless artist, educator and activist who works in a range of media. He is a photographer, painter as well as an installation artist and performance-maker, At the heart of David's practice is a very special quality - the ability to bring you to the subject in ways both beautiful and hard-hitting in equal measure in order to raise awareness about the social issues he tackles. David has exhibited internationally in locations such as the Atsa Festival Montreal, Kunsthall Stavern Norway, Tate Modern and Tate Liverpool and he is also the founder of the UK’s first One Festival of Homeless Arts. He speaks regularly at housing and homelessness events and teaches art to people experiencing homelessness at Passage House. His Man on Bench performances have earned him significant acclaim and have taken place on the pavement of the London's Southbank, The Mayfield Depot Manchester and the halls of Tate Exchange. 

David is the Creative Producer at Arts & Homelessness International.  Is the Patron of The Gem Programme, Is a Trustee at Unlimited, a Big Issue Change maker 2019, a Core group member of the Museum of Homelessness and a steering group member for What Next?

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City of Asylum: Building Community and Protecting Creative Free Expression

 

Join Executive Director Andrés Franco for an overview of the origins of City of Asylum and how it became the organization it is today: the largest persecuted writer sanctuary in the world, a regional hub for global and underrepresented voices—presenting more than 150 free events annually, and a driver for economic development in Pittsburgh.

City of Asylum builds a just community by protecting and celebrating creative free expression. We provide sanctuary to endangered literary writers, so that the writers can continue to write, and their voices are not silenced. We offer a broad range of free literary, arts, and humanities programs in a community setting to build social equity through cultural exchange. And by transforming blighted properties into homes for our programs, we anchor neighborhood economic development.

About Andrés Franco

Andrés Franco was appointed Executive Director of City of Asylum in October 2020. Recognized globally for providing sanctuary and community for endangered literary writers, City of Asylum is now in its 16th year. Mr. Franco’s new role with City of Asylum allows him to fuse his commitment to creative free expression with his real-life experience as a foreign-born artist in Pittsburgh. A native of Medellín, Colombia, Andrés Franco became a U.S. Citizen in 2015. Mr. Franco formerly served as Resident Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

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Art, Dialogue, and Action

Blights Out

Blights Out is a Creative Capital supported project in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is a collective of artists, activists, and architects who seek to demystify and democratize the system of housing development and expose the policies that lead to gentrification. It was founded by artists Carl Joe Williams, Lisa Sigal, and Imani Jacqueline Brown. 

Blights Out recognizes that "development" is a murky and mysterious process that operates above the heads and outside the purview of most local residents. For the last three years, they have generated dialogue, art, and action in an attempt to make the system of housing development and its after-effects transparent, accessible and accountable to local residents; that supports the movement for permanently affordable housing; and that challenges blight, displacement, and gentrification.

Blights Out locates the lynchpin of gentrification in laws governing property, debt, and racialized wealth stratification. Between 2014 and 2018, their mission was to generate dialogue, art, and action that could challenge inequitable development and drive land use policy in New Orleans. We are currently in a period of hibernation and reflection.

About Carl Joe Williams

Carl Joe Williams is a contemporary African American artist known for his multimedia paintings , sculpture , installations , and interdisciplinary works Williams creates paintings and painted sculpture from found objects. He describes his works as “symphonies of colors” that present a powerful visual experience. Williams’ installation, Journeys, was featured at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Atlanta, GA in 2002. And his Sculptural Trees public art installation in Metairie, Louisiana was described as reminiscent of “lollipops in a Candyland forest,” with their custom acrylic light boxes attached to crepe myrtles. 

His visual interpretations are enhanced by his vision of art and music as extensions of one another. An accomplished musician as well as a visual artist, Williams incorporates his musical compositions into videos and installations. Found objects play an important role in Williams’s works by becoming elements of a narrative continuum that addresses societal and historical concerns.

Williams attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Art, NOCCA where he received formal training. Williams continued his studies at Atlanta College of Art earning his BFA.

Williams is a founding member of Level Artist Collective, which includes artists Ana Hernandez, Horton Humble, Rontherin Ratliff, and John Isiah Walton. 

Williams has had a variety of exhibitions including at the George Ohr-O'Keefe Museum Of Art in Biloxi, Mississippi; at Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, Arkansas; at Convergence: JMC@P3 Exhibition in conjunction with Prospect 3+ New Orleans, Curated by Deborah Willis and Sponsored by the Joan Mitchell Center, New Orleans Museum of Art, Ohr-O'Keefe Museum Of Art, at McKenna Museum of African American Art, Hammonds House Galleries, Atlanta, GA; permanent public art installations in Atlanta at Sweet Auburn Curb Market (as part of 1996 Summer Olympics) and at the Washington Park Tennis Center.  In 2013 he was a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Center NOLA Studio Artist Residence Program. His work is included in the Crystal Bridges Collection.  2020 exhibitions include PerSister Incarcerated Women of Louisiana at Ford Foundation NYC, MOCA Jacksonville Project Atrium, Arthur Roger Art Gallery-Art in the Time of Empathy and Gryder Gallery The Effect of Color.

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