Softness Overcoming Hardness
Angela Davis, Keynote Speaker
#OpenEngagement Conference, Oakland
May 1st, International Worker's Day, 2016
[Angela starts at 11:30, this video is long, but so good, so settle in, it's Angela Davis! and it includes Q&A at the end]
#AngelaDavis starts with the recognition that we were on the colonized land of the Ohlone, that the Oakland area is the foundation of the #BlackPanthers movement (50 years hence), home of #Occupy, #BlackLivesMatter, #transgender movements, #restorativejustice, #foodsovereignty and so much more.
The title of this conference, which focuses on #sociallyengagedart, was Power (with the palpable and obvious subtext of privilege). It was necessarily uncomfortable and and educational and expanding and connecting.
Angela adds, of course, Power ... To The People. She talks about artists who have been inspired by the Black Power movement and how this inspired others to make art and make change. How art plays a pivotal role in changing the consciousness and drives of those who can change the world. Art does, indeed, change the status quo.
To my delight, she talks about #DollarBrand and #AbdullahIbrahim, to whose music I was introduced in the 80s, (yes, in retrospect I see the colonial connection) when I was helping friends renovate a 1700s home in Long Swamp, PA and we spent our late nights listening to their eclectic music collection. Abdullah’s music remains soulful to me today, particularly, "Soweto" (link in comments).
She talked about the importance of softness in overcoming hardness, that softness is a place of reflection, imagination, and possibility. That we must continue to move.
I will not be in Billings for the 406 Pride event, so, today, I am spending some time in the lovely Stonewall National Monument across from the Stonewall Inn. Here is a link to the Stonewall augmented reality app (you don’t have to be here to use most of it) for history and much more https://stonewallforever.org/app/
The US Dept of the Interior memorialized this galvanizing event which set in motion 50 years of Pride.#stonewallforever #406Pride
Thinking about walls this morning as I ponder a piece of the Berlin wall my mother brought home after it fell and a piece of Doerte Weber's woven version of the US/Mexico border wall recently installed at the 48 Stunden Neukölln Festival in Berlin. (Thank you, Doerte!) And, hoping that our own version of unification - a common humanity, compassion, love over hate, peace over fear - will rise up and tear down the walls that separate us.
Photo 2: Doerte's piece in Berlin
Photo 3: Doerte's piece, "Checkpoint Carlos" in Karen Gutfreund and my exhibition at Santa Clara University, "Beyond Borders: Stories of im/Migration"
Doerte's statement about "Checkpoint Carlos"
"When the border wall between the US and Mexico was built, memories of my home country's border division (Germany 1961-1989) surfaced. Checkpoint Carlos forms ten passageways - woven plastic bags from from newspapers given to me by a vast number of people in San Antonio, TX. They symbolized our common humanity, support for human rights, and immigration reform." (This piece is the US and Mexican flags separated by a border)
Please join Dr. Sue Balter-Reitz, Stephanie Baucus, Reno Charette, Kelly Christy, Brittany Hommer, Juli Pierce, Kassie Runsabove, Chrysti M. Smith, Rian St. Pierre, and Erika Willis and me as we facilitate #HearMeTooMontana table ConverZations at this Zonta Club of Billings event!
Framing the #HearMeToo Narrative: Community Engaged Art
Zonta Club of Billings #HearMeTooMontana ConverZations
April 28, 4-5 Social Hour, 5-6:30 dinner and conversations, 6:30-7 final words
"With examples of national and international artists and art projects that encourage dialogue and seed social change related to violence against women, artist curator Sherri Cornett will facilitate a conversation exploring ways art could further understanding and action in our region".
I am inspired by how many artists I know, at quick glance, who address these issues and whom I will be including in a brochure for my table participants: Suzanne Lacy, Rebecca Belmore, Marita Growing Thunder, Sally Beth Edelstein, Mido Lee, Ianna Brooks, SA Bachman & Neda Nedd Vedd Moridpour, Audrey Chan & Elana Mann, Eva Preston & Joanna Fulginiti, Cat Del Buono, Veronica Cardoso, Carol-Anne McFarlane, , Jane Hickey Caminos, Kay Kang, Kathryn Shinko, Vanessa Filley, Jaime Schaefer ...
Here is my info booklet:
UNDOCUMENTED: DIFFERENCE IN AMERICA TODAY
Kirk's Grocery, Billings, MT
December 6, 2018 - January 6, 2019
Curated by Sherri Cornett and Dr. Aaron Rosen
The dual show features internationally recognized artists MICHAEL TAKEO MAGRUDER and BENTLY SPANG. Each artist reflects on discourses of intolerance and belonging in the light of their family histories and current events, especially the crisis facing immigrants at the southern border of the United States. Community response to this show, (and the addition of Plaid Shirt Guy's plaid shirt in the front gallery), was powerful.
For more information: https://www.sherricornett.com/undocumented-difference-in-america-today.html
'Undocumented' explores immigration, internment, land access at Billings South Side gallery Anna Paige Dec 7, 2018 Billings Gazette https://billingsgazette.com/entertainment/community/undocumented-explores-immigration-internment-land-access-at-billings-south-side/article_974ee693-9491-5dfd-a27f-aa187a54b896.html?mode=nowapp&fbclid=IwAR3ZyWcEQ-ZWkoSqGfUtNQIj_lzNAIJkfw_S3JFbvUrpoI5Q4Nl24fo8IRQ
As part of For Freedoms 50 States Initiative Billings, I invited participants in our various events to create lawn signs.
The beautiful What Freedom Means to You banner created by MSUB's Club Art Collective and the Freedom lawn signs that we are creating at the town halls
For more information about this project: https://www.sherricornett.com/for-freedoms-billings.html
The Dinners Project: Billings Creatives Potluck and Conversations
Part of For Freedoms 50 States Initiative Billings
Thursday, October 4, 2018
First Congregational Church of Billings, Community Room, 310 North 27th Street, Billings, MT 59101
Free To Be Me: Diversity at MSUB
Part of For Freedoms 50 States Initiative Billings
Saturday, September 15, 2018 (2:30 – 4:30)
MSUBillings Student Union Building, Rooms A & B (lower floor and east through the cafeteria) and Free Speech Lawn
1500 University Dr, Billings, MT
Native American Race Relations and Healing Series “For Freedoms”
Part of For Freedoms 50 States Initiative Billings
Thursday, September 13, 2018, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.,
Billings Public Library
510 N Broadway, Billings, MT
My latest thoughts on activist curating: "Beyond Hegemony"
... my essay for the RISE: Empower, Change and Action! exhibition catalog.
"I admit to a fascination with word play, linguistics, and derivations and that the upswelling of termininology that is aimed at moving us beyond our past—as with post-colonialism, post-capitalism, post-feminism, postmodernism, post-identity, post-heteronormativity—sends me down lengthy rabbit holes of investigation. While I do believe such exercises can expand one’s understanding, the most powerful and empowering actions and interactions come when we take the “Think Globally, Act Locally” motto to the intimate scale— sharing our personal stories and our art and in face-to-face
I am grateful to the writings, actions and suggestions which kept these musings evolving:
~Maura Reilly "Curatorial Activism: Towards an Ethics of Curating"
~Bently Spang, who recommended John Brown Childs' "Transcommunality: From The Politics Of Conversion to the Ethics of Respect"
~The artists from RISE, whose work supported these thoughts: Carolyn Doucette, Marisa Govin, Gina Herrera
~The perpetually stimulating work of Linda Nochlin
~And the lecture and conversation with Linda Nochlin, which Maura presented at the University of Sydney’s Curating
Feminism conference in 2014 https://vimeo.com/113864836
Exhibition curated by Gutfreund Cornett Art (Karen Gutfreund and myself), Suzanne Whitney-Smedt (Owner/Director, Whitney Modern Gallery) and Marianne Kennedy McGrath (Curator of Art at New Museum Los Gatos).
Whitney Modern Gallery, Los Gatos, California, July 18 – August 31, 2018
Reception: 12:30 - 2:30, Artist Talk: 2:30 - 3:30, Saturday, July 21, 2019
Catalog available via Amazon
Info about the exhibition
Thank you to our artists Priscilla Otani, Doerte Weber, Tessie Barrera-Scharaga, Shannon Wright and Carlos Cartagena, the staff and faculty of Santa Clara University and all those who attended from the community. Our Community Conversation with the Artists brought forth many stories to further dialogue around immigration, migration, assimilation and deportation and why and how we, as artists and curators, do such work.
Powerful art and emotional reactions leading to continued sharing of stories at the reception of our "Beyond Borders: Stories of im/Migration". Thank you to our artists, the SCU faculty and staff and the engaged community.
Beyond Borders: Stories of im/Migration
Santa Clara University
January 8 - April 7, 2018
Exhibition Reception: February 2, 2018
Curated by Sherri Cornett and Karen Gutfreund, Gutfreund Cornett Art
Migrations of humanity, whether instigated by war, conflict, persecution, poverty or climate change, transport peoples from the known, their homes, families and communities, to the unknown. Beyond Borders: Stories of im/Migration explored the personal and observed narratives surrounding the struggles of flight, the immigration process, asylum, assimilation, deportation, threats of violence and the perception of being “other” within the American culture. Despite the complex assortment of legal, social, emotional and physical challenges, increasing numbers still trade these risks for the chance of safer, better lives for themselves and their families. Beyond Borders acknowledged the dignity, dreams and sacrifices of these people and reflects on where we are going, individually and as community.
With recent tragedies, horrors and stories of hate and divisiveness, it is all the more important for us to share our perspectives, with whatever tools we have. As we know, art is a powerful way to start dialogue, to overcome language and cultural barriers.
At our Democracy show opening, a Turkish man came up to me to talk about the show. He was visiting his daughter in NYC, or more accurately, he was spending as much time in NYC as visa regulations allowed, escaping his beloved country due to the increasing fear and the loss of rights and democracy there. He was not an artist, but, that evening, he wanted to be in a place where democracy was being discussed, to be comforted that there are still safe venues to talk about concerns, about what is right and what is left, or remaining, of civil rights, human rights, dialogue. That brief conversation is why Karen and I do what we do with Gutfreund Cornett Art... creating opportunities for artists to start and add to conversations, to engage others to think more deeply about issues, to create community.
What's Right, What's Left: Democracy in America
Phoenix Gallery, Chelsea, NYC
January 6-30, 2016
Curators: Sherri Cornett and Kren Gutfreund, Gutfreund Cornett Art
Juror: Dr. Kathy Battista, Founder and Director of the MA Contemporary Art program at Sotheby's Institute of Art, New York
Artists with works in the gallery:
Nic Abramson, Ransom Ashley, Michael D'Antuono, Cat Del Buono, Justyne Fischer, Lindsay Garcia, Shawna Gibbs, Ruthann Godollei, Ingrid Goldbloom Bloch, Emily Greenberg,Gracie Guerrero-Bustini, Shreepad Joglekar, Sinan Revell, Monika Malewska, Victoria Helena Mihatovic, Kate Negri, Gina Randazzo, Nick Schmidt, Laura Sussman-Randall, Dan Tague, and Eike Waltz.
When Priscilla Otani and I decided to piggy back on the success of her previous postcard projects for the Women's Caucus for Art and the United Nations, we had no long range goals other than to give women, men and children a chance to consider the impacts women have had on the economy, human rights, education, the environment, world health religion, the arts, sports, politics and peace. We were inspired by the work of the UN Women's HeForShe campaign and its Beijing+20 program, celebrating the First World Women's Conference.
The call went out and the cards came in - steadily and from around the world, starting with a post card making gathering at my house and including gatherings in the Bay Area and classrooms around the country. The growing collection traveled, in 2015, to the WC and CAA Conferences, to the UN Commission on the Status of Women Conference and our International Caucus UN Program parallel event there, to Honey's Cafe in Red Lodge, Montana, and, in 2016, to the Torpedo Factory Art Center in DC, the Women's History Month Exhibition at St. Louis Florissant Valley Community College (near Ferguson), Arc Project Gallery in San Francisco and ... all were collected in our online gallery. Some samples are above.
The resulting mosaic of cards is a rich and inspiring diversity of media and message and women!
Thank you to all who nurtured this along its path, including Maureen Burns-Bowie, Janice Nesser, Maggy Hiltner, Kerry Wolfson, Cherie Redlinger, Michael Yochum, and Stephen Wagner.
More information and photos of events at https://www.sherricornett.com/women-do-it-traveling-postcard-exhibition.html
I am finishing up my home-made baba ganouj this morning and reflecting on the thought-provoking, conversation-inducing presentation (and delicious Palestinian food) by the staff (the director is Jewish) of #conflictkitchen during the Open Engagement conference in Pittsburgh last month. About how important it is to keep dialogue open between people, even if governments and organizations find it politically incorrect. And how the sharing of food during can assist in these conversations, such as the meals the Half the Sky: Intersections of Social Practice Art delegates shared as we discussed, processed and problem-solved our time and interactions in China.
"Conflict Kitchen is a restaurant that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict. Each Conflict Kitchen iteration is augmented by events, performances, publications, and discussions that seek to expand the engagement the public has with the culture, politics, and issues at stake within the focus region. The restaurant rotates identities in relation to current geopolitical events.... These diverse perspectives reflect a nuanced range of thought within each country and serves to instigate questioning, conversation, and debate with our customers."
Photo courtesy of conflict kitchen website
As part of the processing of our massive project in China, "Half the Sky: Intersections in Social Practice Art," several of the artist delegate leaders and I applied for and received a panel at the annual Open Engagement Conference, the artist-led initiative committed to expanding the dialogue around and serving as a site of care for the field of socially engaged art ... this year at Carnegie Melon University in Pittsburgh. Here is the conversational blog we created for the conference catalog:
In April 2014, artist volunteers from the Women’s Caucus for Art (WCA) created an exhibition and interactive events for women artists in China and the U.S. at Luxun Academy of Fine Arts in Shenyang, China, entitled “Half the Sky: Intersections in Social Practice Art (HTS:IISPA)” We were invited by the academy’s president and gallery director, who wished to create a dialogue between artists and their works about women’s issues. WCA has a 40+ years history of activist art, yet the choices about the collection of art and the events we brought to China were greatly influenced by the political and cultural restrictions there. Here is a conversation about our decision-making and reflections over time about our experience from some of the thirteen working delegates who went to China as key figures in this project
PRISCILLA OTANI: We had a serious debate just prior to our social practice art interactive pieces. I recall that we felt conflicted and debated as to whether we should cancel or go forward with the performances. In the end, we decided to go forward. I felt our discussion, and what ensued, was an important milestone. Some of the unease came from a cultural sensitivity, a feeling of not wanting to impose Western values and standards on Chinese students, artists and academics who may not have the same perspective or readiness. I remember making a comment that our role was to “sow the seeds of discomfort,” to bring forth concepts and ideas that may be new, strange and uncomfortable. Of course I didn’t know if in fact we would have any impact at all, or if we would have even an audience. In the end, I felt very good about the events of the day. And after viewing the short video created by Mido Lee, I was surprised at how much of an impact we did have, and based on recent letters, how the women-based exhibition and performances continue to have on students at the Luxun Academy.
Nearly a year after our Half the Sky project, in what ways have your views and opinions about what happened with our socially-engaged events at the Luxun Academy changed or evolved?
A place to decant my brain, to capture inspiration and share fresh insights. [Posts from 2015 onward]