Dearest friends and colleagues,
In the links below I wanted to share one of my occasional updates, but first to share a reflection.
There have been two people in my network pass away recently and I wanted to take a moment to honor their memories and work.
Blake & Brett
Blake Bradford was someone that I met back in 2007 when working on the Pedagogical Factory exhibit at the Hyde Park Art Center. We later re-connected in Philadelphia and he participated in programs I organized and eventually did some adjunct teaching at Moore College of Art & Design where I work. Blake was an incredible connector of people and had a great love for art and facilitating art education experiences – but also just seeing art and listening to music and being the kind of arts community participant everyone would hope to know. As part of a 2016 panel at Moore about cultural equity and Philadelphia museums, Blake said that “everyone says they want diversity, but what is the plan? What is the longitudinal thought about how to cultivate diversity, access and inclusion…We could do something tomorrow, but what happens when that goes away and where is sincere and long term invitation that would help people think not only ‘I could go there’ but ‘it would be valuable to go there, it would be enriching, I would be welcome there.’”
Brett Hunter was an artist that I met in 2015 on a train platform after leaving the Creative Time Summit in Brooklyn. Brett was a professor at Alfred University near the town where my wife Emily’s family is from and so we caught up on various visits over the years. Brett was so excited to talk about teaching and art practice and lit up when talking about the intersection of his engagement with community, arts and urban planning in Hornell New York. In an interview I did with Brett in 2016 for a piece about ecological art education, he reflected that “My focus is on the development of skills and methods that can be applied in multiple contexts, rather than in-depth study on history, theory, and larger context. This emphasis on building connections between the student, a specific place, and local issues is good for building their own capacity for this work and we touch on the larger contexts for these issues but often, due to time constraints, aren’t able to delve. An example of this might be a project that deals with the systems of river sediments and mid-river plant life, which develops ideas about the specific islands in a section of the river but we were not able to extend the investigation into sections of the river upstream or downstream, let alone the watershed or larger water politics.”
Blake and Brett passed away one week apart in late October 2022, both had cancer, and to my knowledge they did not know one another with Blake living in Philadelphia and Brett in Chattanooga Tennessee. But they were both fathers and partners, community engaged arts advocates and teachers, and deeply kind and curious people. I’m lucky to have met them and ever so lightly intersected with their wealth of contributions and energy. And that is really the pleasure I’ve found in doing the work of facilitating – to meet people like Blake and Brett. They will be missed by many.
And now, I wanted to share a few updates about some recent activity and some upcoming projects. I hope you can send me some news as well. I’ve been seeing more people lately but miss some of the casual stopovers from out of towners that used to be easier and more common.
Writing & Books
As with my last update in early 2022, the big project of the year was Lastgaspism with Anthony Romero and Dan S. Wang. We did a slew of events, an exhibit and got some press coverage – all that is posted now here https://lastgaspism.wordpress.com/
And since then I’ve worked on an art project that turned into a book with Set Margins press in the Netherlands. It’s based on some quotes I’ve been collecting for over a decade like “We Are All Socialists Now” and “We Are All Photographers Now” that I turned into a series of 150 drawings. See the book here: https://www.setmargins.com/books
I’m also super excited that an essay I wrote a year ago is now finally out as of December 2022! The essay is called “The 1 to 1 Tactic: Media and Public Mourning through Temporary Tactical Memorials” and it was written for The Routledge Companion to Art and Activism in the Twenty-First Century Edited by Lesley E. Shipley and Mey-Yen Moriuchi which you can read about here: https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Companion-to-Art-and-Activism-in-the-Twenty-First-Century/Shipley-Moriuchi/p/book/9780367748173
Recently I was able to contribute to the Philadelphia Cultural Treasures initiative https://www.philadelphiasculturaltreasures.org/ and am really excited by the outcome of the artist fellowships. The funding initiative was supported by The Barra Foundation, Neubauer Family Foundation, The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, William Penn Foundation, and Wyncote Foundation. Earlier over the summer I was invited to participate in “The Art of Engagement: foundations for an international learning community in social practice” which is funded by The Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) and convened by the folks at Social Practice Queens, Queens Museum, Tate Modern and Middlesex University. You can read about it here https://www.tate.org.uk/about-us/projects/art-of-engagement-international-learning-social-practice
Teaching & Programming
And as usual, a fair amount of my work happens within the context of my job as an Associate Professor at Moore College of Art & Design. One group I was really lucky to re-engage with this year was our alumni in these discussions with MFAs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cxlmFnYKfY&t=1689s) and MAs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_83diapIM0&t=318s). Last spring brought another group of people into the orbit of Moore’s campus when I was able to host the 2022 Inclusive Museums conference at Moore which included talks by Lonnie Bunch and Deborah Thomas among others. And another group was the speakers for our recurring Conversations@Moore program series that took place this November and focused around arts collectives working during and after the pandemic. You can see the video here https://conversationsarchive.wordpress.com/2022/11/03/shira-walinsky-laila-islam-isa-matisse-rheagen-king-diane-wong-and-denise-brown/ and please register now and mark your calendar for the next one focused on cultural policy in Philadelphia: https://moore.edu/events/conversations-moore-new-visions-for-cultural-policy/2023-01-25/
Looking forward, Next Year I’m excited to be:
- Starting a term on the PHDC/Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority’s public art committee to support the creation of new public art in Philadelphia,
- Moderating a panel at the College Art Association in New York City on social-engagement in museums,
- Presenting on a panel at the NeMLA conference in Niagara Falls, NY dealing with my recent writing on the ecological artworks developed by the Alliance of Watershed Education and Recycled Artist In Residency (RAIR),
- Contributing a catalog essay for “Al Mudhif” project at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education by Moore alumni Yaroub Al Obaidi and artist Sarah Kavage;
- Co-curating a 1- year retrospective of the People’s Paper Co-Op at Haverford College;
- And giving a plenary lecture at the Arts In Society annual conference in Krakow Poland.
Across all of these projects and contexts, I’m continuously thankful to be in community with all of you. Please take care of your people and enjoy the year as it wraps, ends and opens into 2023!