Co-presented by Gallery Aferro
Yasmine E. Bacon
Zhana Renee Caldwell
Cheryse D. Damon
Evonne M. Davis
Identity Blueprint presents Polaroid and cyanotype photographs and experimental digital animations created by young women from Newark, NJ’s high schools participating in Gallery Aferro’s workshop-based program taught by working female artists: Evonne M. Davis, Lisa Elmaleh, Ann LePore, Emma Wilcox and guest lecturer Noelle Lorraine Williams. The 2010-2011 students came from seven different high schools across the city, and worked side by side with working professionals the gallery each Saturday for three months in free workshops. The goal of the program is to enable each student’s sense of a competent, expressive self, by supporting experimentation, skill acquisition and peer-to-peer leadership.
Gallery Aferro’s hypothesis in launching the pilot was that the experience of making art is inherently about making choices, and that making choices is an empowering act for young women with an impact on their larger life trajectory. The program aims to create a “parallel universe” where it is the norm for girls and women to work well and enjoyably with “chemicals, computers and carpentry.”
Inspired by cultural anthropologist Mimo Ito’s studies on youth and digital media, we are focusing on the program, and the gallery’s functionality for youth as a “3rd space” – neither home nor school. This kind of space is: resource rich, safe, and both encouraging and challenging. Ito describes such spaces – both physical and digital – as important because they support youth and adults working together around projects, as well as fostering peer-to-peer learning. Such spaces offer opportunities for positive feedback for youth, nurture creative experimentation, and can help bridge existing gaps in digital literacy.
Cited most frequently by all of our students, regardless of other qualitative concerns about art education resources in their respective schools, was a lack of enough time for art during school. They wanted more time to work with materials or tools not available at home. They wanted more time to think, without interruption. They wanted more time to talk, about their ideas, or their challenges in realizing them. None of our surveyed students reported having art education experiences outside of school.
The Identity Blueprint Program has also utilized research from the American Association of University Women’s Educational Foundation. AAUWEF recommendations include the creation of “a critical mass of female participants” in programs and “initiating girls into the ‘tinkering’ aspects of computation. These activities are crucially important for empowering women as designers and builders, not just consumers and end users. Tinkering activities should emphasize the pleasures of experimentation and creative, artistic play.” Each student learned to measure and mix their own chemicals, use basic power tools such as drills and circular saws, and go out into the greater city neighborhood to scout, direct and film their videos. As Ann LePore, who taught the video workshops, commented, “it is really important, especially for women artists, to get out there in public and claim space.”
Gallery Aferro is a Newark, NJ-based nonprofit alternative arts organization founded in 2003 by artists Emma Wilcox and Evonne M. Davis, inspired by concerns over barriers to public arts engagement and the need for access to resources and support for artists. Our mission is to bring cultural education and aesthetic engagement with contemporary issues to all people equally, and to create an environment where artists can gather and share physical and intellectual resources. Gallery Aferro currently operates out of a 20,000 sq ft building in downtown Newark. We offer exhibitions and events featuring local, national and international artists, a year-round workspace residency program, a publication line consisting of artist’s books, essays and exhibition catalogs, and educational resources including school tours and Identity Blueprint, a free workshop program in photography, digital animation and carpentry for young women from Newark’s public schools. Visit their website: www.aferro.or
Evonne M. Davis is an artist working with sculptural installation and experimental video. Her work deals with labor, systems, class, language, and parallels, dichotomies and juxtapositions present in everyday life. Evonne’s work is informed by a deep love of modern and contemporary poetry, and an insatiable curiosity about human nature. Originally from the Woodstock, NY area, she briefly studied photography at the School of Visual Arts. Evonne lives in NYC and maintains a studio in Newark NJ. Evonne is also cofounder and Artistic Director of Gallery Aferro in Newark, NJ. She has exhibited at venues such as the Krampf Gallery, NYC, Theater for the New City, NYC, Walsh Gallery in Orange NJ, Pritzker Gallery in Poughkeepsie, NY, College of New Rochelle in New Rochelle, NY, Alley Culture, Detroit, MI, and countless other galleries and alternative spaces nationwide.
Ann LePore was raised in the garage under her father’s car and continued tinkering with analog video and kinetics in Western New York and later with computer-driven electronics and animation in New York City. A New Leonardo artist (2003) and Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation grant recipient, (2002) Ann has exhibited at events such as Digital Salon, the Free Biennial, and La Superette, in New York City and Internationally. She has completed residencies at Engine 27 Sound Space (2003), the Taliesin Artist Residency Program (2006, 2007) and was awarded a year-long studio residency at Gallery Aferro in Newark (2010-2011). The images and installations she creates as a result of her tinkering are heavily inï¬‚uenced by her experiences not just as an artist, but as a member of several communities that are defined by the physical assertions and limitations of a very specific environment. Ann received her BFA from Alfred University and her MFA from the School of Visual Arts. She is currently Assistant Professor of 3D Design and Animation at Ramapo College of New Jersey.
Lisa Elmaleh is a large-format photographer whose current work is a re-working of the landscape using the wet collodion process. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Elmaleh received the Silas Rhodes scholarship to attend the School of Visual Arts, and obtained a BFA with honors in 2007. In 2007 she received the Tierney Fellowship to complete a series of landscape images using the collodion process, which requires a portable darkroom. Lisa Elmaleh is also a current recipient of the 2008 Camera Club of New York Darkroom Residency, and was an Everglades National Park Artist in Residence (AIRIE) in 2010. Most recently she was awarded a Puffin Foundation Grant and an Aaron Siskind Fellowship in 2011. She teaches at the Center for Alternative Photography and at the School of Visual Arts.
Emma Wilcox is co-founder, with Evonne M. Davis, of Gallery Aferro, a Newark, NJ alternative space. As a photographer she is concerned with environmental justice, land usage, eminent domain, and the role of individual memory in the creation of local history. Her work is represented by Gitterman Gallery. Solo exhibitions are (2012) at the Print Center, Philadelphia, PA, 2010 at Gitterman Gallery, New York, NY and in 2009 with Salvage Rights, Real Art Ways, Hartford, CT. She is the recipient of a NJ State Arts Council Fellowship for photography, the Camera Club of New York residency, the Newark Museum Residency and was a core participant in Night School at the New Museum in 2008. She was featured on Women and Photography and participated in Emerge 7, Aljira, Newark, NJ and AIM 29, Bronx Museum, Bronx, NY. She lives by the river.