Month: September 2018

City Visions: Urban Space, Daily Life, and the Camera

Treated with fumes and mercury vapor, the silver-polished metal plate is exposed to the light of a sunny Parisian day and reveals a latent image on its mirror-like surface: the curve of a cobblestone street leads the eye down rows of various-sized structures, toward a far-off vanishing point in the cityscape. Legible in the foreground, out in front of what appears to be a residential building, we see two figures miniaturized within the sweeping panorama. Captured by Louis Daguerre, inventor of the eponymous daguerreotype technique, this 1838 photograph, titled Boulevard du Temple, is believed to be the first picture ever created of city space and daily urban life. With its elevated perspective looking down and across this vista, Daguerre’s photo situates the viewer as an observer who is simultaneously in the city but also looking at it from some remove, as if through a window. The wide angle and sense of distance allow the viewer to consider the scene aesthetically: the contrast and quality of light, the atmosphere, the architectural forms. At the same time, …

Broadcasting Art From Inside Cook County Jail

On the night of the screening of Radioactive: Stories from Beyond the Wall, the newest intervention in Maria Gaspar’s 96 Acres Project, the area around Cook County Jail was vibrantly alive. Cars zoomed by with teenage girls poking out of sunroofs, Mexican flags draped around their shoulders, and passengers shouting “Viva México!” in honor of Mexican Independence Day that weekend. Facing the north wall of the massive compound—the largest jail in the country—a parking lot was converted into a viewing space, with folded chairs orbiting around large speakers tuned into Lumpen Radio. William Onyeabor songs played as about fifty people settled in for Radioactive’s second screening. A group gathered around what looked like a food cart, but was actually William Estrada’s Mobile Street Art Cart project, making screen prints that read “Families Belong Together/Abolish ICE/Abolish Prisons” and pinning them up to dry on clotheslines. As the sun set the lot filled out, buzzing. Behind the wall, the light from a single room spilled out through a barred window. With the Radioactive screenings and other aspects of the 96 …

Color it Clean: An Interview with Jeffrey Michael Austin

I first met Jeffrey Michael Austin through an exhibition we were a part of at the Chicago Artist Coalition in 2015, during which he was a resident in their HATCH program.  He then had successive projects in the St. Louis vicinity where I was living, and I maintained an ongoing admiration for the cleverness, humor, and versatility of his practice (he is also an accomplished musician, one-third of the trio Growing Concerns).  He is an artist that is responsive to his environment, locating the wonders of natural elements, as well as wonder-ing about the state of human nature. His re-staging of common objects and occurrences straddle the playful and the political. As the latter becomes more and more urgent, he engages in critique that arises out of a call for empathy.  Over a very long email correspondence, we reflected on some recent bodies of work, as he prepared to open his solo exhibition ‘Outstanding Balance’ at Heaven Gallery.     Lyndon Barrois Jr: It is notable that there are a lot of stars in the recent …

The Thrival Geographies of Shani Crowe, Andres L. Hernandez, and Amanda Williams

Of the 2,240 licensed Black architects working in the United States, only 440 of them identify as Black women. While this number might increase slightly by adding those who have a degree in architecture and aren’t licensed, or who work primarily in teaching, this number becomes even more sobering when you consider the fact that there are about 109,748+ licensed architects in the entire country. My mention of these numbers isn’t simply a commentary on representation. Since architecture is a major influence on how we live and move through our daily lives, be it the spaces of home, work, school, play or otherwise, it’s unsettling to think that an overwhelming amount of spaces are likely conceived of and designed without someone like me in the room, on the team, or even in mind as the possible end user. After learning those numbers, it’s hard for me not to feel the significance of any time spent in conversation with two people who operate within that rare group. Andres L. Hernandez and Amanda Williams are architects and …

Poetry Series: Therefore We Can Be Free (Part 2)

“The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us-the poet- whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free” —Audre Lorde, from Poetry is Not a Luxury I aim to write a series of poems centered on the real and imagined landscapes of Chicago. While poetry isn’t often thought of as news, poems, more than anything, describe the truth of the world around us. While truth can come out of diligent and factual reporting, it can also be revealed by a few honest words that intimately and imaginatively give language to the unseeable pain and joy present in Chicago. There is so much more to Chicago than the fact of it and its events, there are universes of feelings that come out of the landscape we live in that break the bounds of reality. my best friend is black and she lives in lincoln park she comes from unsally’s beauty. from neighbors who grow shrubs to imagine she is unhere. from unsnow cone man. …

IMAGE: A black and white photo of AnnMarie Brown in conversation with three teaching artists from Circles & Ciphers. One of the artists points towards the others from out of the right frame of while AnnMarie and the two other artists look in their direction.

Restorative Lifestyle: A Conversation with AnnMarie Brown of Circles & Ciphers

Between August 22nd and 24th, several practitioners came together for Restorative Justice Summit 2018 to hold generative conversations about the meanings and shared narrative they locate within their work. One year into North Lawndale’s pilot of the Restorative Justice Community Community Court, we see these practices deployed in schools, correctional facilities, court systems, and community organizations throughout the city. All of these spaces hold their own internal relational dynamics which affect how restorative justice looks on the ground. In the Restorative Justice Community Court of North Lawndale, the practice looks like peace circles made available to non-violent defendants as an alternative to the harsh sentencing guidelines of Cook County Criminal Court. During their City Bureau Public Newsroom presentation,  Jenny Casas and Sarah Conway made clear that this is not a process designed to release the defendant from consequences or grant them full autonomy. Failing to keep the agreements made in the Community Court will mean a return to the Criminal Court. AnnMarie Brown of Circles & Ciphers prefers to view restorative justice through the lens of lifestyle and choice. This past May, Circles & Ciphers hosted a culminating event for the first session of …

Tonika G. Johnson Uses Visual Activism to Combat Distorted Truth

Tonika G. Johnson (she/her) is an Englewood photographer and activist who uses photography and digital media to explore Chicago’s racial and economic disparities. She harnesses the provocative power of photographs and moving image in her latest project Folded Map, where she looks specifically at issues of segregation and housing by juxtaposing images of streets on Chicago’s South Side with their sister addresses on the North Side. The stark difference in the care of buildings, houses, and streets between the two locations is jarring and visually unsettling. The omnipresent nature of structural racism and systemic oppression has never been clearer. But Johnson does more than show these disparities. She creates a bridge and creates space for North and South Side residents to come together and discuss how segregation impacts their lives. In doing so, Johnson urges the Chicago public to continue to have these difficult conversations. I have been an admirer of Johnson’s work since Everyday Rituals, her multimedia project that “asserts the divinity of regular people.” She captures her community with loving precision and pride. …

Restoring Community in North Lawndale: Interview with Rufus Williams of BBF Family Services

I met Rufus Williams at “Powerful Platforms: A Community’s Call to Action,” a BBF Family Services Open House event back in June, designed to bring community awareness to Envisioning Justice and BBF’s role as one of seven Envisioning Justice hubs throughout the city. Established in 1961 as a boxing gym for boys in the neighborhood, BBF (the initials reflect its former name, Better Boys Foundation) now provides resources for children and adults in North Lawndale, an area of Chicago historically vulnerable to political and social disenfranchisement. Current BBF programs address the broad developmental, educational, and employment needs of members of the community, including those reentering society from jail or prison. Williams is President and Chief Executive Officer of BBF Family Services. BBF is housed in a modern two-story building at 15th and Pulaski, luminous on the interior, with floor-to-ceiling windows on both floors that look onto an uncovered center courtyard. At the Open House there were arts and crafts for youngsters, and a community resource room where various local groups had set up tables, providing information …

“Leaf by Leaf” at the Chicago Artist Coalition

How does our environment affect our cultural memory and identity? What relationship does geography have with power and how does it affect diasporic communities? HATCH Project exhibition “Leaf by Leaf” at the Chicago Artist Coalition investigates these urgent questions that are embedded within the plants, the land, and the organic elements that surround us. Featured artists include India Martin, Whit Forrester, and Yasmin Spiro, who all create works that unveil a beautiful yet complicated ecology that is cultural, political, and spiritual. My experience with the exhibition grew from a sense of awe within the breathtaking photographs of India Martin’s birthplace of Hawaii, to the spiritual and sublime within Whit Forrester’s plant-turned-holy icons, landing at a textural encounter of materials found in the earth that comprise the sculptural work of Yasmin Spiro. To investigate these themes deeper in the artists’ work, I asked each of the artists three questions about one specific piece that was featured in “Leaf by Leaf.” Sabrina Greig, curator of the exhibition and HATCH project curator-in-residence, introduces us to a unifying theme …

Begin, Been, + From Within: A look inside Claire Ashley’s Sculptures

This article is part of the Sixty Regional project which partners with artists,  writers, and artist-run spaces to highlight art happening throughout the Midwest and Illinois. Written by Allison Walsh, an artist from Peoria, IL and in affiliation with Project 1612, this article is a first-hand account of what it is like to be in one of Claire Ashley’s inflatable performances. Sitting on the floor, cross-legged with a battery pack strapped across my chest, I looked up at the painted canvas floating around me. My mysterious surroundings brought me strange feelings—the safety of being inside of a womb, the playfulness of hide and seek, and the potential that I was discovering a new planet. I sat and waited inside the sculpture, seeing nothing of the outside world, but the occasional nebulous figure across the inflatable form. I slowly heard more and more people gather in the space. I could sense them look at me, but they couldn’t see past the opaque skin of the inflatable organism. None of the spectators knew I was sitting there, cross-legged in silence. …

Archivist Candace Ming Preserves and Uplifts the Cultural Memory of Chicago’s South Side

Candace Ming (she/her) is the current Project Manager and Archivist for the South Side Home Movie Project (SSHMP), an initiative spearheaded by Dr. Jacqueline Stewart at the University of Chicago. SSHMP collects, preserves, digitizes, exhibits, and documents home movies made by–mostly Black–residents of Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods. Candace regularly facilitates workshops focused on preserving digital materials and sharing ways people can create individual archives to sustain their family history, traditions, and heritage. I became aware of Candace’s work with South Side Home Movie Project while attending the Alternative Histories, Alternative Archives symposium in Fall 2017. She participated in a panel and discussed the role of alternative archives–those which exist and function outside of elitist, academic archival spaces. SSHMP is an alternative archive in that it prioritizes the personal narratives of everyday Black folks and creates a visual history of Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods. ‘Alternative archives’ are subjective in nature, (as opposed to “neutral”). They seek to preserve and collect materials from and about marginalized communities and historical moments. In doing so, they amplify the otherwise …

Chicago Archives + Artists Project: The Newberry Library’s Chicago Protest Collection

The Chicago Archives + Artists Project (CA+AP) is an initiative that highlights Chicago archives and special collections that give space to voices on the margins of history. Led by Chicago-based writers and artists, the project explores archives across the city via online features, a series of public programs and new commissioned artwork by Chicago artists. For 2018, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation has funded a series of pilot projects pairing three artists with three archives around the city: Media Burn + Ivan Lozano, the Leather Archives & Museum + Aay Preston-Myint, and the Newberry Library’s Chicago Protest Collection + H. Melt. This series of articles will profile these featured archives and artists over the course of their collaboration, exploring the vital role of the archive in preserving and interpreting the stories of our city as well as the ways in which they can be a resource for creatives in the community. For this installment, we sat down with Catherine Grandgeorge, the archivist from the Newberry Library’s Chicago Protest Collection. The Chicago Protest Collection builds …

Heart & Bone Signs, Electro Pepper Gallery, and Labor-Based Artwork

Kelsey Dalton McClellan and Andrew James Welch McClellan have owned and operated Heart & Bone, Gold Gilded and Hand Painted Signs for the past six years, specializing in gold leaf and hand-painted signs throughout Chicago and nation-wide. The duo has now expanded their repertoire as they open their new gallery, Electro Pepper, in the Uptown neighborhood. Their aim is to use this endeavor as a flexible space to promote learned trades and labor-based artworks. Sixty Inches from Center sat down with Kelsey and Andrew to learn more about their path as sign painters, artists, and now, gallery owners. Emily Breidenbach: We’re sitting in your new gallery space, Electro Pepper. What can you tell me about it? Kelsey Dalton McClellan: The space we are in is multi-use. The front is a flexible gallery space and the back is our sign painting studio. Eventually, we’d like to have workshops and other events outside of art openings. At the moment, we’re kind of testing it out and receiving community response through monthly art openings. The majority of the time, we’re working in the back in our workspace, so …

Who Are Your Teachers?: Angelique Power

I met Angelique Power while I was interning in the development department at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 2010. Although she wasn’t in that department, I can clearly remember the times I shared a room with her. The first time was during a meeting that she masterfully managed, keeping things clear and on-point, with everyone there leaving with their marching orders on how to move things forward. I never thought I could have such a transformative experience in something as basic as a staff meeting, but I was in complete awe. The determined spirit that led me to the office and classroom doorways of my Columbia College teachers and professors was the same spirit that helped me gather the confidence to step into hers.   Since then she has been a steady voice of reason and sound advice–which over the years has manifested as a consistent and piercing blend of love, logic, and honest but compassionate interrogation of self and others. And it is because of her guidance that I have stepped into …

Who Are Your Teachers?: Sherry Hazel

My parents, James & Sherry Hazel, are my first and continue to be, by far, my most influential and consistent teachers. What can I say about them? As a sometimes strange, incredibly sensitive, introverted, and creative child, I wasn’t the easiest one to parent. I was (and in many ways still am) stubborn, emotional, inward-focused, and constantly questioning everything–all traits that I undoubtedly got from my parents and also traits that can cause many sparks. But in addition to my inherited Hazel quirks, I also inherited all of my foundational strengths from these two–some born out of the fire of the child/parent head-bumping, but mostly born out of a deep, unwavering, and persistent love that they modeled for me and my siblings–love for friends, family, life, and work. I could write a book, paint the sky, and fill the ocean with the lessons I’ve learned and continue to learn from my parents, and all of the loving wisdom they hold. But for now I’ll let my mother, a.k.a. Momma Hazel or Newma, tell you about her teachers. This …

Who Are Your Teachers?: Remembering Sabina Ott

I couldn’t come up with a short list of my teachers without including the beloved artist, educator, space-maker and force-of-nature, Sabina Ott. And since she is no longer here for me to pose this question to her, I’ll share, at length, how important she has been in my life and the life of Sixty Inches From Center. In addition to this being a space for my teachers, this piece on Sabina also serves another purpose. Although we are known as an arts publication, at the heart of Sixty’s mission is a deep passion for legacy-nurturing and legacy-keeping for Chicago artists—especially those most vulnerable to the erasure that happens so often within art historical narratives. It is also in that spirit that I write this. Sixty started in 2010 with incredible support from a group of artists, historians, and mentors out of Columbia College  whose commitment and investment in me and my co-founding partner at the time, Nicolette Caldwell, was bottomless and generous in a way that often left us speechless. Sabina Ott is one of …

Who Are Your Teachers?: Amy M Mooney, Ph.D.

Similar to my experience with Dawoud Bey and Cecil McDonald, Jr., I met Amy M. Mooney, Ph.D. because of relentless determination. While I was an art history student at Columbia College Chicago, I was set on meeting the person who had literally wrote the book about Archibald Motley, Jr., and who also taught all of the classes I wanted to take–although they were unavailable because she was on sabbatical at that time. Since then, Dr. Mooney has sparked so many things in my life–including my first published piece of writing, Freedom in the Fragment, which was a reflection on a seminar with historian Richard J. Powell, which I was able to attend through her invitation. Most recently, I’ve gone on to assist her with her most recent research on Black photo studios in early 20th century Chicago, and particularly the incredible work of photographer William E. Woodard. You’ll be able to catch her work as part of Art Design Chicago through the project Say It With Pictures, a series of programs that explore the impact …

Who Are Your Teachers?: Madeline Murphy Rabb

Where to begin? I first learned about the art of collecting Black art and supporting artists in that way from Madeline Murphy Rabb. I first learned the value and knowledge that a personal arts library–with an emphasis on Black and African diasporic art history–could hold. I met Madeline during an internship I held at her art consultant company, Madeline Rabb, Inc. She gave me the incredible task of organizing her book collection of over 1,000 books over the summer before my last year at Columbia College Chicago.  I have her to thank for my love of art books, for my deep love and appreciation of Martin Puryear, and for her being an example of how to occupy multiple roles within the cultural community at once–she has been everything from the Director of the Office of Fine Arts under Mayor Harold Washington, to a fantastic printmaker and jewelry maker, to an advocate for the collecting of fine art through her consulting work. She’s an example of how to do work on multiple fronts while always maintaining …

Who Are Your Teachers?: Barbara Koenen

I first met Barbara Koenen when I got my first “real” arts admin job at the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) in 2010. I was a coordinator for Studio Chicago, a yearlong collaborative project that focused on the artist’s studio. From this position and still alongside Barbara’s leadership, I went on to do work for more of DCASE’s large city-wide initiatives like the Creative Chicago Expo (Now Lake FX), Chicago Artists Month, and Chicago Artists Resource. It was from seeing her tireless work to provide resources, connections, and opportunities for artists that I was able to develop my own philosophy and advocacy for artists and the organizations that support them. Someone like Barbara Koenen, who lifts up so many people at once, obviously has quite a few teachers. Here are some of them, in her own words. Her response has been edited for clarity and length.   Barbara Koenen Mrs. Braun  lived down the block from my family starting when we moved in until after I left for college. She loved life and …

Who Are Your Teachers?: Dawoud Bey

I first met Dawoud Bey as a student at Columbia College Chicago. Somehow he was teaching a Photo I class alongside Cecil McDonald Jr.–such a powerful pair.  Even though I was an art history student and I didn’t need a photo class, I signed up as a way to spend time learning from two photographers I deeply admired. Since that class, Dawoud has been instrumental in my development as a curator, writer, and historian–influencing all aspects of my personal ethos and how I approach all of my practices. I’ve turned to him for advice countless times over the years and we’ve had impromptu catch-ups in coffee shops and on street corners in Hyde Park. I have looked to the perceptive and careful way that he talks about and practices his everything–image-making, writing, teaching, and life–as a guiding light and example for how to create and celebrate Black excellence while also remaining open to what can be discovered in the vastness of the world we’re living in, in addition to that Blackness. He’s taught me about the …

Glorimar Sanchez on Puerto Rico, Film, and Disseminating Information

Glorimar Marrero Sánchez is a self-taught, multi-disciplinary artist-director-photographer-screenwriter based in Puerto Rico. She was selected as one of the two artists in the three-month Puerto Rican Disaster Relief Residency at the University of Chicago. The residency was launched to support academics, researchers, and artists who have been severely affected or displaced by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The program, which is a collaboration between The Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, Office of Admissions, Campus and Student Life, UChicago Arts, UChicagoGRAD, The Graham School, and the Office of the Provost, provides housing, transportation, stipends, and resources.  The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.  S. Nicole Lane: Can you begin with your background in film and photography, and where you’re from? Glorimar Marrero Sánchez: I’m from the town of Barranquitas. It is in the mountains of Puerto Rico. I am a result of the public educational system of Puerto Rico. Then I went to University of Puerto Rico. I did a BA in art, concentration in sociology, in the Mayagüez campus. After that, I got a …

Who Are Your Teachers?: After Richard Hunt at the Koehnline Museum of Art

This summer the exhibition Sculpting A Chicago Artist: Richard Hunt and His Teachers Nellie Barr and Egon Weiner opened at the Koehnline Museum of Art at Oakton Community College, curated by Nathan Harpaz. Using his relationship with these two teachers, this exhibition taps into some of Hunt’s most formative years and the people he gravitated to as he moved closer to his calling–from adolescence to his college days. As an artist who has been making work in Chicago for over 60 years, Richard Hunt has had an incredible influence–not just on artists, not just on Chicago, but from coast to coast and throughout the world. In a way that is often quietly kept and unseen, this exhibition shifts our understanding of Hunt’s influence in a new direction that positions him as the influenced–something we aren’t often lucky enough to see in an exhibition space, but rather is reserved for the pages of books. His resonance and expansive presence first registered to me in 2009 when I attended the James A. Porter Colloquium at Howard University. Determined to find a quiet …

Three Things You Need to Know About Bright Star Community Outreach

Bright Star Community Outreach (BSCO) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that has focused on improving the Bronzeville Community for over 9 years. Born out of Bright Star Community Church, they have a strategy which includes developing impactful community development initiatives. Their plan of action targets violence, poor economic opportunities, child safety, drug abuse, inadequate mental health services, and homelessness. BSCO has a mission to strengthen local families and communities as well as empower residents to work collectively, establish relationships, and share the responsibility of building the community. They particularly target the South side of Chicago’s third and fourth ward. There they see an extensive need for more violence prevention measures to be taken and to get the community more involved in being there for one another. The importance of an organization like BSCO is to shed light in all of the dark places and to make sure the voices of minorities are not just heard but taken seriously. There is a need for something different in our communities, and BSCO definitely brings different to the table on …

Who Are Your Teachers?: Cecil McDonald, Jr.

I met Cecil McDonald, Jr. at the same time that I met Dawoud Bey–which was during the Photo I class at Columbia College Chicago that I didn’t need to take but wanted to as a fan of both of their work. Since that day, I never imagined that Cecil would be the kind of person who would continue to offer me some of the most exciting and terrifying growth opportunities that I would have in my recent career. First, he asked me to write about his series Domestic Observations & Occurrences for the 2014 Contact Sheet, which is also known as the Light Work Annual. This marked my first piece of writing published on a renowned and national platform. I was terrified and honored–which I can feel between the words whenever I read back on that essay. Then, years later, when Cecil was working on his new monograph, In the Company of Black, he asked to use that essay for the foreword of the book, but I insisted on writing something new. After knowing him for …

Archivist and Activist Erin Glasco Envisions Rebuilding the Archive—From the Inside Out

Erin Glasco (her/hers; they/them) is an archivist and organizer based in Chicago. They have worked on archival projects with Free Street Theatre, the Chicago History Museum, and a Studs Turkel podcast project with WFMT Chicago and Eve Ewing. Additionally, they are currently a part of No Cop Academy, an effort led by Black youth in Chicago to demand $95 million for youth and communities, instead of a new facility for Chicago police. They received their Master’s in Library Science from UIC-UC and currently work as a Visiting Instructor  and Special Collections Librarian at UIC. I first met Erin at the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR) as a Journalism undergrad at Columbia College Chicago. They were studying the Paul Robeson FBI files while I was studying ethnomusicology and the interconnectedness of Jamaican Dancehall music within Black American Hip Hop culture. I was astounded by how familiar Erin’s presence felt. Immediately, we were joking and laughing as if we were old college friends. Since 2014, our friendship has strengthened and our careers have aligned and intersected …

Intimate Justice: Leah Ball

“Intimate Justice” looks at the intersection of art and sex and how these actions intertwine to serve as a form of resistance, activism, and dialogue in the Chicago community. For this installment, we talked to Leah Ball about erotica for the self, the role of the artist, and the documentation of pleasure in her Humboldt Park studio.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity. S. Nicole Lane: Can you discuss the basic groundwork for combining ceramics with sexual, sensual images and text? Leah Ball: At a young age I was super impressed that my dad could draw a realistic looking human from memory. I have no idea why, but as a kid I thought that was magic—so I practiced and practiced to do the same. I think the reality is that I have been trying to reclaim my body since as far back as I can remember. I have been sexualized my whole life. These moments are some of my most vivid memories, so I always revisit themes of reclamation in my work. I think that’s …

Meet the Envisioning Justice Residency Team

Envisioning Justice is a 19-month initiative presented by Illinois Humanities that looks into how Chicagoans and Chicago artists respond to the the impact of incarceration in local communities and how the arts and humanities are used to devise strategies for lessening this impact. As part of Envisioning Justice, a selected group of writers, photographers, activists, artists, and organizers are working with Sixty as residents to publish writing and photo documentation of the work happening at the cross-section of art and the criminal justice system across Chicago. Meet the residents: Ally Almore Photographer at Let Us Breathe Collective Website | She/Her Ally Almore is an artist and photographer born and raised in Chicago, IL. She grew up in a low-income immigrant family household in Pilsen that was always full of personality. A documenter for creatives from all walks of life, Ally is not afraid to saturate her images, because they usually accompany saturated narratives. The people she photographs are anything but bland and she believes that it’s her responsibility as a photographer to do them justice. She has always naturally been drawn to photography and the idea …

Locating Your Practice in ‘A Johnson Publishing Story,’ with Samantha Hill and Krista Franklin

“We had so many good times. I grew up with Johnson,” a fellow visitor to A Johnson Publishing Story told me of the more than fifteen years she had spent working with the Johnson Publishing Company. As we took in the many books and objects on display from the Johnson Publishing Archive, she shared how she had started as a young secretary on Johnson’s executive floor, then worked as an executive secretary for the company’s children’s publication Ebony Jr., before going on to serve as a Midwest director for community relations, visiting Black churches and other institutions in Oklahoma, Missouri, and beyond to promote Johnson Publishing subscriptions and charity initiatives. And when we stopped in front of a zippy red alligator embossed vinyl-sheathed typewriter, I was surprised by how evocative such an object could be when she remarked, “Oh, I remember these! IBM at the time made these Selectrics in black, steel gray, and putty, but Johnson had them made custom in red alligator. I hammered away at one just like this.” John H. Johnson started …

Gardens in Open Spaces: An Interview with Leslie Rose

Leslie Rose is a textile and performance artist who creates domestic spaces in public and transforms damaged garments into treasured garments of wearable art through her project Gardens in Open Spaces. Her pieces blossom as they commemorate the stories of wearers and inspire conversation. Rose is a working-class disabled transwoman and a sex trafficking survivor who has experienced periods of homelessness, and she draws on these experiences as she interrogates the nature of domestic spaces, access to public spaces, the gendering and invisibility of certain types of labor, and how to navigate the effects of trauma. Because she is often unable to leave her apartment due to her disability, sharing her project on social media and through those who have commissioned wearable pieces has become part of her performance. You can follow her on Instagram using the tag #gardensinopenspaces.  UPDATE: Since this interview, Rose suffered a heart attack and has launched a campaign to help her meet medical and living expenses while she recovers. This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness. Jennifer Patiño Cervantes: How did your …