A Blade of Grass Announces 2016 ABOG Fellows for Socially Engaged Art


Clockwise from top left: Ron Ragin and Rebecca Mwase, Chinatown Art Brigade: Tomie Arai, ManSee Kong, and Betty Yu, Xenobia Bailey, Courtney Bowles and Mark Strandquist, Simone Leigh, Frances Whitehead, Black Quantum Futurism: Rasheedah Phillips and Camae Ayewa, Joseph Cuillier, and Rulan Tangen.

Clockwise from top left: Ron Ragin and Rebecca Mwase, Chinatown Art Brigade: Tomie Arai, ManSee Kong, and Betty Yu, Xenobia Bailey, Courtney Bowles and Mark Strandquist, Simone Leigh, Frances Whitehead, Black Quantum Futurism: Rasheedah Phillips and Camae Ayewa, Joseph Cuillier, and Rulan Tangen.

A Blade of Grass  is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2016 ABOG Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art.

Five artists and three collectives—Xenobia Bailey, Black Quantum Futurism, Courtney Bowles and Mark Strandquist, Chinatown Art Brigade, Joseph Cuillier, Simone Leigh, Rulan Tangen and Frances Whitehead—will receive an ABOG Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art. One collective—Rebecca Mwase and Ron Ragin—will receive the ABOG-David Rockefeller Fund Joint Fellowship in Criminal Justice, a new fellowship opportunity that was the result of a year-long planning process between A Blade of Grass and the David Rockefeller Fund and whose goal is to examine the transformational roles artists play in a criminal justice context.

About the 2016 ABOG Fellows

XENOBIA BAILEY is a trash alchemist, single-stitch urban crochet aficionado artist and community activist, whose practice industrializes the urban aesthetic of funk into utilitarian “Funktional” design. Her ABOG Fellowship will support Paradise Under Reconstruction, a pedagogical model combining design labs and historical remixing. Its goal is to collectively fabricate prototypes for health aids and services for the needs of African-American communities in Seattle, WA and Harlem, NY.

Working collectively as BLACK QUANTUM FUTURISM, multidisciplinary artists Camae Ayewa and Rasheedah Phillips will create Community Futurisms: Time & Memory in North Philly, a collaborative art and ethnographic research project through their ABOG Fellowship. It will use Afrofuturism as a critical activist theory and organizing tool to explore the impact of redevelopment in North Philadelphia, and culminate in the creation of a community-sourced time capsule.

Artists and community organizers COURTNEY BOWLES and MARK STRANDQUIST will use their ABOG Fellowship to produce the creation of the People’s Reentry Think Tank, connecting former prisoners, artists, civil rights lawyers, reentry organizations, and other community experts in Philadelphia around art and advocacy projects. The aim will be to clear people’s criminal records, create a Bill of Rights for people in reentry, and organize a culminating assembly for legislative action at Pennsylvania’s State Capitol.

Working collectively as CHINATOWN ART BRIGADE, artist Tomie Arai and filmmakers ManSee Kong and Betty Yu will create Here to Stay, a project addressing gentrification, displacement and resilience in NYC’s Chinatown through community-led workshops and a public projection campaign incorporating original art and oral history in Chinatown and the Lower East Side.

JOSEPH CUILLIER is Brooklyn-based artist, designer, poet, and educator. His ABOG Fellowship will support The Black School, an experimental art school drawing on the legacy of the Freedom Schools of the Civil Rights Movement to educate Bedford-Stuyvesant students in becoming radical agents of social change through art making workshops, classes in radical Black political theory, and public projects.

SIMONE LEIGH is an artist whose prolific career includes sculpture, videos, installations, and social practice projects. Her ABOG Fellowship will support Home Economics, an underground series of workshops geared toward creating an arsenal of skills that will sharpen the critical thinking, self-awareness and strategic planning of a group of young Black girls in New York City.

Theater artist and educator REBECCA MWASE and performing artist RON RAGIN will receive the ABOG-David Rockefeller Fund Joint Fellowship in Criminal Justice to support Freedom Chamber, an active collaboration with organizations in New Orleans. Together, they will co-create sound sculptures reflecting the experiences of currently and formerly incarcerated people, their families, and local communities, and act as a catalyst for action against mass incarceration.

RULAN TANGEN is an internationally accomplished dance artist, choreographer and director. Her ABOG Fellowship will support REdGENERATION, a series of visioning sessions and collaborative movement workshops with Native community members from the rural Four Corners region, culminating in a transformative performance ritual in the fall harvest season.

FRANCES WHITEHEAD is a civic practice artist with a long history of bringing contemporary art strategies to her practice of shaping cities. Her ABOG Fellowship will support Fruit Futures Initiative Gary, an experimental community orchard project in Gary, Indiana, that will foster the development of food shed resilience, grow civic pride, and collectively evolve new creative food ways for the local community.

For more information on the ABOG Fellows for Socially Engaged Art, click HERE.

About the ABOG Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art

A Blade of Grass is committed to supporting individual artists via its fellowship program for the next three years. Over this time frame the program will amass fifty case studies that will serve a larger discourse about the value of socially engaged art—how it works, what it looks like, and what can be accomplished. “These are artists who are changing what art is, who it’s for, and what it does,” said Deborah Fisher, Executive Director of A Blade of Grass. She continued: “We nurture these artists in a way that is specifically geared toward increasing the effectiveness and visibility of their work, and understanding its value both within the contemporary art discourse and the broader culture.”

Each fellow will receive a one-year fellowship that pairs $20,000 in unrestricted project support with strategic assistance, assessment tools, video documentation, and other tailored resources. Fellows applied via a nationwide open call that yielded 457 initial applicants and were chosen for their artistic excellence, the innovative and ambitious quality of their proposed projects, and the viability of their projects in everyday life. Two independent selection committees made up of a diverse group of arts professionals with administrative, artistic, community organizing and curatorial experience evaluated applicants’ proposals and made respective first and second round selections.

Through active training, incubator-style workshops and professional consultations, the Fellows will be given tools to assess their own progress, as well as gain feedback from peers, stakeholders, and an ABOG field researcher dedicated to developing understanding about their project. A Blade of Grass will also continue its FIELDWORKS films series and produce a three-to-five minute documentary on each project. The films will be accessible on www.abladeofgrass.org and at public screenings, extending the experience of these works beyond their immediate communities and illustrating some of the distinct challenges and advantages presented by socially engaged art. This documentation will complement the online debates, studies and resources that make up ABOG’s online forums, public programs, and publications.

Field Supporters

The ABOG Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art is made possible by the generous Field contributions of our board members and friends, and through major contributions from the David Rockefeller Fund, and Groundbreakers Agnes Gund, Eva Haller, Shelley Frost Rubin and Linda Schejola.

The ABOG Fellowship is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Related public programs are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Photo credits: Ron Ragin and Rebecca Mwase. Photos: Melisa Cardona. Chinatown Art Brigade: Tomie Arai, ManSee Kong, and Betty Yu. Photo: Courtesy the artists. Xenobia Bailey. Photo: Daisy Chen. Courtney Bowles and Mark Strandquist. Photo: Ryan Dennis. Simone Leigh. Photo: Paul Mpagi Sepuya. Frances Whitehead. Photo: Janeil Englestad + Chris Csikszentmihalyi. Black Quantum Futurism: Rasheedah Phillips and Camae Ayewa. Photo: Eva Wo. Joseph Cuillier. Photo: Courtesy the artist. Rulan Tangen. Photo: Daniel Quat.

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Black Quantum FuturismChinatown Art BrigadeCourtney BowlesFrances WhiteheadJoseph CuillierMark StrandquistRebecca MwaseRon RaginRulan TangenSimone LeighXenobia Bailey
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By Frances Whitehead
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