Upstart Co-Lab Creates Member Coalition to Spur Creative Economy

Upstart Co-Lab Creates Member Coalition to Spur Creative Economy

Upstart Co-Lab, a research and laboratory project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, is aiming to boost investments made in arts and culture-related industries that are designed to stimulate local economies and generate jobs.The plan is to do this with investment capital from a new 10-member coalition of investors ranging from art institutions and artists to individual funders. Collectively, this member group—which includes the U.S.-based arts institutions and foundations Souls Grown Deep, an organization promoting the African-American artwork from the Southern U.S.; BRIC, a Brooklyn-based arts and media institution; and Denver’s Bonfils-Stanton Foundation—has $1 billion in funding capacity.

A New Resource Center Opens in Gee’s Bend, Home to Famous Quiltmakers

A New Resource Center Opens in Gee’s Bend, Home to Famous Quiltmakers

Since 2010, Atlanta-based foundation Souls Grown Deep (SGD) has introduced the works of the women quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend, Alabama into museum collections. Now, the foundation’s parent organization, Souls Grown Deep Community Partnership, has opened the Gee’s Bend Resource Center, a free public space to help increase census participation, voting registration, and economic stimulus check payment in one of the most underserved communities in the country. The foundation recently opened the Gee’s Bend Resource Center, a free public space staffed by members of the community in Alabama. Equipped with free internet access, the center’s paid staff assists residents in registering to vote, completing the 2020 Census, and receiving federal stimulus checks. The foundation has also partnered with the US Census Bureau to establish a phone bank to reach out to households that have never before participated in the census.

SGD Provides Direct Financial Support and New Community Resources Benefiting Black Communities in AL

Seeking to address historic underrepresentation in Gee’s Bend, Alabama, Souls Grown Deep Community Partnership is partnering with the United States Census Bureau to ensure a complete and accurate survey of its Census tract in Wilcox County, which currently has the lowest response rate in the state. To encourage participation and enhance access, Souls Grown Deep established the Gee’s Bend Resource Center, offering the first free, public Internet access and laptop computers for the community, employing residents to staff a phone bank, and incentivizing Census completion. Since 62.5% of the rural tract’s households have no home Internet subscription, the new Resource Center also provides essential access for residents to receive economic stimulus payments from the CARES Act and register to vote.

Alberta provided much-needed internet access through joint Force

Alberta provided much-needed internet access through joint Force

The Freedom Quilting Bee and Souls Grown Deep recently collaborated to provide internet access service to the community of Gee’s Bend and Alberta. This ensured they were able to interact with the IRS to check on and receive their stimulus payments. There are people who don’t realize they are eligible to receive this stimulus payment, and others who will not automatically receive it without providing the IRS with information. Souls Grown Deep (SGD), in its continuing commitment to the Alberta/Gee’s Bend community, supplied the laptops and personnel to make this access happen. Census 2020 completion was included in this project in an effort to increase participation in the census. 

My Soul Has Grown Deep Like The Rivers

My Soul Has Grown Deep Like The Rivers

Down in the north-central section of Wilcox County, Alabama, sits a little parcel of land. Five miles wide, seven miles long, and surrounded by the Alabama River on three sides, this area is known as Gee’s Bend, population 275. An hour’s drive from the county seat of Camden, which is the closest source of food and medical services, the area is geographically cut off from the world. Mostly left to themselves for nearly 100 years, this close-knit historically all-black community’s folkways and traditions survived well into the twentieth century and stand as a symbol of their resourcefulness during a time of great duress. Art admirers from all over the world come to this patch of fertile soil in Alabama’s Black Belt to get a glimpse of the artistic legacy of four generations of Southern quilters.

The Famed Quilters of Gee’s Bend Are Using Their Sewing Skills to Make a Face Mask for Every Citizen in Their Small Alabama Town

The Famed Quilters of Gee’s Bend Are Using Their Sewing Skills to Make a Face Mask for Every Citizen in Their Small Alabama Town

From creating visuals to promote public health tips, to producing posters that celebrate hospital workers, artists of every ilk are using their skills to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. Even down in Gee’s Bend—the tiny Alabama hamlet formally known as Boykin that has nurtured three generations of quiltmakers—artists are lending a hand, using their skills to make masks for members of their community. The project started when two of the community’s longtime quilters, Mary Margaret Pettway and Mary McCarthy, saw an article about medical professionals in a neighboring city dealing with a face mask shortage. Included in the story was a template for how to make masks at home—which is exactly what the quilters did.

A Soaring Visionary of Afrofuturism and Black Power

A Soaring Visionary of Afrofuturism and Black Power

“Visionary” is a term that has become somewhat overused in the outsider art field — and over on the contemporary-art side of the broader art market, too. In some ways, “visionary,” which is properly used to describe distinct or novel worldviews, as well as the sometimes bizarre imaginings of both self-taught and academically trained artists, has become, thanks to hyperbole-spewing publicists and dealers, as meaningless as “amazing,” “epic,” or “awesome” — a mere banality assigned to everything from bad pop songs to hamburgers. The current exhibition The Life and Death of Charles Williams, however, illuminates an unusual and varied body of work that is nothing if not genuinely, emblematically visionary.

What Museums Are Doing to Collect More Work by Women Artists

What Museums Are Doing to Collect More Work by Women Artists

Edward Hopper’s East Wind Over Weehawken (1934) was once one of just two paintings by the American realist in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA)’s collection. So in 2013, when the museum announced that it would sell the quiet streetscape to create an endowment fund, criticism followed. But what was then labeled by some as a “deplorable deaccession” was actually a measure to rectify institutional biases. The museum has since used proceeds from that $36-million sale to enrich its collections, with half of the draw going towards contemporary acquisitions, and the rest split evenly between modern and historic acquisitions. The priority, according to director Brooke Davis Anderson, was and continues to be on collecting artists who have historically been marginalized. “We are trying to build a collection that tells a truthful history of American art,” Anderson said.

Major New UK Exhibition Of Rare Artworks Shaped By American Civil Rights Movement

Major New UK Exhibition Of Rare Artworks Shaped By American Civil Rights Movement

The first exhibition in the UK to show art shaped by the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s opened last month at Turner Contemporary in the seaside town of Margate. It is due to run until May so hopefully there will still be an opportunity to see this inspirational exhibition. We Will Walk - Art and Resistance in the American South brings together civil rights photography, sculptures, paintings and installations by more than twenty African American artists from the Deep South, many of which have never been seen in Europe until now. The exhibition shows us the influence these artists had, and continue to have, on American culture, art that in the words of writer James Baldwin “illuminates the darkness.”

We Will Walk

We Will Walk

Over the years I must have been to dozens of exhibitions on black liberation. Some in Britain, some in Australia, some in the US and one in South Africa which had me in tears when I saw on display a “Free Mandela” sticker that I had designed for the Young Communist League in London in the 1960s. They were all about the politics and the campaigning but, this spring, the Turner Contemporary Gallery on Margate’s traditional seafront has an amazing exhibition that looks at this subject from a totally unique point of view. The exhibition looks at the way the various arts have reflected the amazing struggle of black people in the US’s southern states, particularly in the battle for civil rights.