Conversations | The Immigrant Artist Biennial (TIAB)

Conversations | The Immigrant Artist Biennial (TIAB)

“To me, art has to shake things up, question the status quo, move barriers, erase genre-borders, engage the unseen, expose the unheard, and be somewhat difficult.” – Katya Grokhovsky

Artist, curator, and Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program participant Katya Grokhovsky envisioned an inclusive space for contemporary artists of all nationalities based in the U.S. and made it a reality by founding The Immigrant Artist Biennial (TIAB), a Fiscally Sponsored project and multi-disciplinary platform for immigrant artists to share, create, and experiment with their art and unique perspectives. NYFA interviewed Grokhovsky as she reflects on her own migration experience and relays her vision for TIAB in the early days of the project’s Kickstarter campaign

Stay in the know and follow The Immigrant Artist Biennial on Instagram, and join them for a Kickstarter launch event—including a panel and performance—at  Kickstarter’s HQ in Greenpoint, Brooklyn this Friday, November 8, 2019 from 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM. Register to attend here, and stay tuned for Spring 2020 when TIAB will launch a series of multi-venue exhibitions teeming with boundary-shifting art and public events.

NYFA: What gave you the idea for The Immigrant Artist Biennial?

Katya Grokhovsky: The idea for the biennial had been percolating in my mind for quite a while, inspired by my own story of migration—from Ukraine to Australia to the U.S.—as well as my work as a mentor over the years with immigrant artists in NYFA’s Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program. I took the plunge this year, establishing the project publicly and producing a model, which helped initiate ethical funding involving crowdfunding, fiscal sponsorship, and support through trusted and aligned private donors as well as social justice foundations. My intent in developing TIAB has been to celebrate the multicultural and vibrant fabric of the very foundation of the U.S. and to highlight and expose the extraordinarily valuable and significant contributions immigrant artists make to it.

Image: Kathie Halfin, TIAB at Assembly Room

NYFA: Why is this project important now?

KG: TIAB is an opportunity to rally behind immigrant artists and support their voices. I wanted to build a significant platform to highlight them, first in the U.S. and eventually, globally. I think immigrant artists have a unique position in society as outsiders and can often contribute a complex vision and an overview. The theme of the first biennial launching in Spring 2020 is
HERE, TOGETHER, which explores our ever pressing and urgent need for togetherness, community, and particularly, care under the current political climate.

NYFA: As an immigrant artist yourself, what are some of the unique challenges that immigrant artists face in the U.S.?

KG: I myself have never felt like I belonged anywhere in particular, and my journey as an artist and cultural producer in the U.S. has not been without struggle, misunderstanding, exclusion, underestimation, and dismissal based on other’s assumptions. As immigrants, we often don’t know local customs, or misinterpret societal standards and codes of behavior, which often leads to humiliation and anxiety. As immigrant artists specifically, we are also often barred from receiving grants, residencies, fellowships, or teaching positions due to Visa status, which stunts career growth and derails projects and ultimately, dreams and lives. So over time, I personally have developed strategies for building my career myself, through constructing my own pathways of practice as an artist, curator, and mentor.

Image: Pei Ling Ho, TIAB at Radiator Gallery

NYFA: Why was it important to you to select not only immigrant artists but those who work in difficult-to-define mediums?

KG: As someone who works in many mediums and genres and often lacks commercial success, funds, and opportunities, I’m passionate about exhibiting and supporting work which might not otherwise exist in the world. It is important to me to keep curating work which is experimental and challenging, igniting conversations and provoking new thoughts and ideas. To me, art has to shake things up, question the status quo, move barriers, erase genre-borders, engage the unseen, expose the unheard, and be somewhat difficult.

NYFA: Although this Biennial is produced every two years in New York City, there are ongoing events throughout the year. Can you share a bit more about this structure of programming?

KG: Beginning in April 2019, we have utilized a series of soft launch pop-up fundraising events at various venues that align with our mission and are mostly managed and directed by immigrant cultural producers, artists, and curators such as RadiatorArts Gallery, Assembly Room, East Village Art View, Art & Social Activism Festival, and Creator Residency at Kickstarter. My
idea behind ongoing monthly events has been to build an audience and maintain relationships with our supporters, artists, and contributors. I see TIAB as much bigger than an art project or another biennial: it is a mission, a political statement, a campaign to give a voice to silenced artists, to uplift, applaud, and unite.

Image: Natacha Voliakovsky, TIAB at Assembly Room 2019

NYFA: How can artists or arts appreciators participate in and support the Immigrant Artist Biennial?

KG: Artists can apply to participate in our upcoming Open Call, which can be found on our social media platforms and through subscription on our website very soon. To support and donate to TIAB, there are two ways: tax-exempt donations through the ‘Donate Now’ button on our project page on or through our crowdfunding Kickstarter campaign.

NYFA: Why did you choose NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship?

KG: When I first moved to New York City after graduate school, I applied to NYFA’s Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program and after completing it, felt much more confident in establishing myself in the city. Now, after several years of working as a mentor in the program and having access to a large network of immigrant artists, NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship seemed like a very natural choice for my project. I have never had a fiscal sponsor before, and NYFA has been very supportive, gently coaching me and helping to navigate a brave new world!

-Interview Conducted by Priscilla Son, Program Officer, Fiscal Sponsorship & Finance

Are you an artist or a new organization interested in expanding your fundraising capacity through NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship? We accept out-of-cycle reviews year-round. No-fee applications are accepted on a quarterly basis, and our next deadline is December 31. Click here to learn more about the program and to apply. Sign up for our free bi-weekly newsletter, NYFA News, for the latest updates and news about Sponsored Projects and Emerging Organizations.

Images (from top): Yali Romagoza (IAP ’17), Normal is Good, I Like America and America likes me, 2016; Kathie Halfin, TIAB at Assembly Room, 2019, Photo Credit: Alex Sullivan; Pei Ling Ho, TIAB at Radiator Gallery, Photo Credit: Alex Sullivan, 2019; Natacha Voliakovsky, TIAB at Assembly Room 2019, Photo Credit: Alex Sullivan

Amy Aronoff
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