‘Artist As First Responder’ residencies deal with justice and therapeutic

This story was first revealed by Oakland Voices, a journalism program led by the Maynard Institute for Journalism Training that trains Oakland residents to inform the tales of their neighborhoods. 

Ashara Ekundayo stewards a myriad of artist residencies and fellowships that she designed by means of her group, Artist As First Responder (AAFR). Ekundayo has been creating areas in Oakland that enable artists to gasoline and encourage their work for over a decade. Just lately, the interdisciplinary and impartial Black artist-curator established new residencies underneath AAFR for social justice and local weather change. 

Inside the ecosystem of Artist As First Responder is a collaboration of artwork and social justice activism: “Artists whose work is definitely therapeutic communities and saving lives. We’re wanting on the artists, the creatives throughout disciplines [of social justice] who’re already inside that motion work,” stated Ekundayo. There are 4 Black artists presently in residence in several phases of their observe. 

AAFR is predicated on the concept that artists present up first as healers by means of their creations, and in celebration of group options. In instances of disaster or misery, artists create the salve that’s used to appease wounds. Musicians create songs of protests and poets create phrases that gentle a hearth within the soul of individuals. 

Ekundayo defined that AAFR has a six-point philanthropic and interactive arts platform that features public talks, printing, exhibitions, grants, site-specific ceremony, and artist residencies. Inside the residency arm of the group, every of the particular residencies are distinctive to the artists themselves. 

The Oakland-based AAFR prints and publishes content material underneath the banner BLATANT, a triannual zine and discussion board of the identical identify, the place Ekundayo has ongoing discussions with Black ladies and femme artists on artwork, pleasure, and rage.

The residencies and grants usually are not one-size-fits-all. “They’re created in thoughts with every particular person artist,” Ekundayo stated. “Trying by means of an fairness lens, it’s been clear that not each artist requires the identical degree of steering or assist to succeed in their objective. We’re in a continuing state of collaboration.” Whereas one artist may have a reprieve from their roommates for a month to finish a venture, one other may have funding for an set up. Residencies usually are not stagnant or primarily based on one particular kind of program, however primarily based on the artists themselves. 

Creating artist house is nothing new for Ekundayo. In 2012, she was one of many seven co-founders of the Influence Hub, a now-closed co-working house in downtown Oakland, which was pivotal initially of her journey. Ekundayo created Omi Gallery inside Influence Hub to showcase primarily folks of colour whose work had by no means been proven in galleries earlier than.  

Ashara Ekundayo Credit score: AAFR

One would possibly discover the storefront reveals known as Black Pleasure StoryWindows, a multimedia artwork stroll by means of Downtown Oakland that includes shows offering a visible definition of what Black pleasure seems like. The shows had been co-presented by Artist As First Responder in collaboration with Oakland Central and the Black Pleasure Parade

In 2020, Ekundayo additionally co-founded Black [Space] Residency with Erica Deeman. These two organizations partnered to assist one of many AAFR residencies, the Omi Black Author’s Residency, which hosts the Poet-In-Residence at Black [Space] Residency.

Because the visibility of and demand for Black artwork have elevated, Ekundayo’s growth of residency applications has given artists a possibility to tip the scales and try so as to add some stability to an artwork world that has disproportionately excluded Black artists. 

In line with AAFR’s overview of a research revealed in 2019, over 85% of the artwork in U.S museums was created by males, who’re predominantly white, and only one.2% was artwork from Black/African American artists. Residencies for Black artists are actually showing extra incessantly, in accordance with Ekundayo.

Every of the present artists in residence has a component inside the framework that emphasizes environmental justice, social entrepreneurship, and literary arts. “I imagine that artists should be paid properly for our labor,” Ekundayo stated. “Additionally that we’ve to pay one another and assist one another in different methods by sharing alternatives for mentorship, skilled growth, and relaxation. So I’m an artist who pays artists and who can also be paid by artists—we’re manifesting a reciprocal cycle.” Funds for artists are raised by Ekundayo by means of grants and particular person supporters.

The present residency consists of local weather justice and social justice Artist-in-Residence Ietef “DJ Cavem” Vita, whose full-time employees place consists of well being advantages and mentorship sources to develop the world’s first and solely 100% vegan-powered document label, PlantBased Information

Oakland-based vogue advisor, inventive director, and entrepreneur Christian Walker is a social economic system and engagement fellow. His analysis and manufacturing of community-powered occasions and social media campaigns are placing a highlight on partnerships with native and nationwide designers and a sequence of artwork targeted on males’s psychological wellness.

The group’s Spring 2022 Poet-in-Residence Ra Malika Imhotep‘s latest e book gossypiin was launched in April 2022. This partnership with Black Area Residency allowed Black writers, primarily poets, to develop their writing into visible work corresponding to images, printmaking, and even ceramics on the Minnesota Avenue Challenge.

Most not too long ago, Muralist-In-Residence Christopher Burch started investigating racial justice by means of a sequence of public social observe artworks highlighting the great thing about Black folks at Liberation Park in East Oakland.

To obtain certainly one of these residencies, there isn’t a software course of or location to submit the work. AAFR’s artist residencies are by invitation solely. “That is me taking note of who’s working locally and alluring them to be a resident to work on a selected venture of their very own,” Ekundayo stated. 

As a curator, Ekundayo is aware of the significance of taking note of the artist’s panorama, to assist navigate or take away the limitations for an artist to create. “I’m on the lookout for areas of inquiry and alternative inside their assorted observe. Maybe it’s one thing they talked about the place they talked about being caught, or in want of just a little assist in fixing one thing or attending to the subsequent degree.” The mannequin for figuring out how one can service its members, Ekundayo defined, is solely to ask the artist what they should create and supply it to them. 

Very similar to most therapists have a therapist of their very own, artists want the assist of one other artist who could make room for them. Ekundayo defined that her long-standing curatorial observe is a part of her personal therapeutic and is modeling a approach to present up as a primary responder to different artists who’re rising, at a crossroads, or in want.

”All practitioners throughout disciplines want to heal themselves,” Ekundayo stated. “In my dedication to the therapeutic of myself, which requires that I research, dream, and act by myself behalf, I give permission to different folks to activate a sample of self-care and ease.” Ekundayo believes that by means of interplay with different folks, “I too… am additionally healed.”


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