This month, I am thrilled to offer LIMITED EDITION tees in collaboration with two of my favorite artists Rupy C. Tut & Juan Carlos Escobedo. These t-shirts are helping raise money for Queering Dreams, co-founded by Crystal Mason & me. We are producing A Space for Dreaming, A Time for Study, Immigrant Artist Network co-founded by Rupy, and Queer Art School co-founded by Juan Carlos all for FREE! We need a website to share all of fabulous news about who we be & what we're co-creating.
I met both Rupy C. Tut and Juan Carlos Escobedo thanks to the New York Foundation for the Arts Immigrant Artist Program. In 2018, I was recruited to be a mentor for a new cohort of artists NYFA was supporting in Oakland by Rhiannon Evans MacFadyen at Emerging Arts Professionals. I gladly accepted the invitation and supported four artists over two years in better understanding who they be as people so they could better articulate who they were as artists and what they were creating.
NYFA announced that they had no more funding for the Oakland cohort at the end of the second year in Spring 2019. In our closing meeting, I mentioned that I had skills in cultivating deep, intentional, intimate virtual space across great distance for communities, and I would be happy to help co-build something for immigrant artists. But as I am not an immigrant artist, I cannot build anything without an immigrant artist co-building it with me.No one was initially stepping forward, and then I looked at Rupy. She volunteered to meet up and see what could emerge.
That first step has turned in to an almost four year partnership co-creating offerings for immigrant artists across North America. It has completely shifted my understanding of how solidarity, mutuality, and co-creation function, and I feel much more connected to a global network of artists that are engaged in deeply cultural art-making. It has reoriented my own practice as an expression of queer culture. And straight, immigrant artists taught me that.
During 2020 (even before COVID), Rupy and I were hosting Video Roundtables for NYFA to connect immigrant artists in the various cities they previously offered programming. As a result, we decided to curate a Virtual Artist Salon to give immigrant artists an exhibition opportunity. So many artists lost opportunities to share their work with a wide audience and gain an exhibition listing. For some immigrant artists, this loss of opportunity also impacted visa status's that required them to show work. Or on the opposite end, the loss of physical venue also created loss of informal incomes that, again, many immigrant artists rely upon.
Rupy and I knew we couldn't solve everything, but we knew we could put on a fabulous show with some moving and intimate storytelling. So we offered workshops on technical considerations for virtual presentations and culturally-specific personal storytelling. We coached six artists in adapting their artwork to a virtual, Zoom presentation format that was engaging and entertaining and supported their skill development. And then we hosted the Virtual Artist Salon on December 2, 2020.
Juan Carlos Escobedo was one of the artists Rupy and me supported. He is a fabulous artist out of San Antonio, Texas. His work uses materials like cardboard or found objects or existing materials to reconstruct landscape (physical and cosmic), symbols, and archetypes into wearable art, virtual tarot cards, and surreal video performance.
Juan Carlos has become an incredibly dear friend and comrade over the last two years even though we've never met in person. When my dad died on December 26, 2020, Juan Carlos was one of the first people I reached out to to ask for support in the forming of a Queer & Trans Virtual Art Salon. He was the first to say yes, and from February to June 2021 eight of us met to share works-in-progress with each other and give and receive feedback. It was salve when I needed it most.
It's now April 20, 2022, and Rupy and Juan Carlos are so central to my practice as an artist. They are two of the Co-Creators with Queering Dreams helping build an international Immigrant Artist Network and an intergenerational Queer Art School. Their commitment to making and creating things of deep importance and value to their communities regardless of what capitalism or White Supremacy or cisheteropatriachy tells us is what keeps me so connected and in deep camaraderie and co-creation with both.
Plus, we have a hell of a lot of fun while we are doing all of this.