Con Edison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter, Issue No. 25
Featured Artist(s): Create Collective Inc.
This month’s featured artist, the Create Collective Inc. (CC), generates and supports arts activities and arts education in under-served community spaces. They conduct free workshops and collaborative projects led by professional artists that enable community members to gain exposure to the arts, explore the uses of the arts, and learn arts-related skills regardless of age, income, race, sexuality or disability.
CC also provides education, fundraising and management assistance to artists interested in conducting community workshops and collaborative projects with community members that have limited access to the arts. Their programs seek to address issues such as crime and safety, homelessness, job creation and green initiatives – moving towards a definition of art that embraces its capacity to improve an individual’s quality of life and revitalize communities. Last month, they held their second digital photography workshop for three and four year old students at Old First Nursery School, where they showed the preschoolers how to compose photos and shoot subjects exploring the theme of community. Below are pages extracted from the book Community is Windows, assembled by CC after the first photo workshop. All photos are courtesy of The Create Collective.
Camera donor Caitin views the exhibition
IAP interviewed CC Co-Director Maril Ortiz about their programming and mission.
IAP: Tell us about Tucks and Out of This Space, two of your past visual art projects involving homeless LGBTQ youth at the Ali Forney Center.
CC: The luxury of a space of one’s own is not taken for granted by LGBTQ homeless youth. In this workshop series, we were interested in exploring the way socio-economic contexts can be re-imagined through the visual arts. How does the displaced homeless “queer” claim or imagine space in sculpture? Our workshop leader and visiting artist, Carlos Sandoval de Leon, asked the groups to conceptualize significant spaces in their lives from their past, present or future. These exercises began an ongoing creative exchange addressing the importance and the possibilities of inclusion in space both personal and political.
IAP: Did you note any recurring or prominent themes that emerged through the homeless youth’s participation in these projects?
CC: We found the work created with the youth at Ali Forney resonated with the larger theme of displacement as it functions locally to exclude various groups of people. As illustrated by the “(dis) located” exhibition presented by the Art for Change Gallery where the sculptures were displayed, there is similar psychological and emotional trauma created by the constraints of exclusion as a product of homelessness, sexual orientation, immigration, economic status, political affiliation, religion, gentrification, and ethnic or racial identity. Highlighting the similarities between the experiences of “exiles” fosters connections between seemingly disparate people. The ultimate aim of this exhibition is to open a dialogue to collectively empower newly built coalitions and lead to further activism. On a personal level, we were deeply touched by how proud the young people of the Ali Forney Center were of being included and seeing their work in a gallery space! Those reactions are the absolute best part of what we do.
IAP: How and why did you approach the Ali Forney Center?
CC: It was a natural fit; CC’s Executive Director Chelsea Lemon Fetzer is also a volunteer for the New York Writer’s Coalition and conducts weekly writing workshops for LGBTQ homeless youth at the Ali Forney Center Brooklyn location. Working so closely with this group she knew they would benefit greatly from further exposure to different art forms.
IAP: What are some of your upcoming objectives?
CC: Our mobility and openness to partner with NYC artists, alternative venues and community-based organizations allow us to be the most effective in our approach. In the near future, we would like to conduct certain programs in public or private schools- especially those deemed high risk. For that scenario, we are currently developing two creative writing workshops that will explore themes of community history, identity and beauty while also addressing bilingual literacy. Additionally, we see ourselves working more with traditional art spaces such as museums, galleries, concert halls and theaters to bring new voices from underserved communities to these venues with exhibitions and events of the collaborative art produced. Whenever possible, these events will be open to the public to further develop new audiences and create greater opportunities.