ECA News Briefs

WPA Announces Recipients of the 2020–21 Wherewithal Research Grant

Twelve DC-based artists receive $5,000 grants in support of collaborative research and idea development.

Washington Project for the Arts (WPA) has announced the first recipients of its Wherewithal Research Grants. The twelve artists and collectives, each of whom will receive $5,000, are: Sobia Ahmad, CONTROL-ALT-DELETE, Ayana Zaire Cotton, janet e. dandridge, Jeremiah Edwards & Jeremiah Long, Curry Hackett, Michelle Lisa Herman, MJ Neuberger & Susan Main, Mojdeh Rezaeipour, Asha Adia Santee, Jessica Valoris, and Monsieur Zohore. Their research covers such wide-ranging subjects as ancestral memory, abolitionist technology, socio-ecological relationships, and the resurrection of now-forgotten performances.

An independent panel of four artists and curators reviewed 94 applications and recommended the final 12 for funding. The panelists were Andy Johnson, Gallery Director and Chief Curator, Gallery 102, Corcoran School of the Arts & Design/George Washington University (Washington, DC), Ashley DeHoyos, Curator, Diverseworks (Houston), Christopher K. Ho, artist (New York/Hong Kong), and Sophia Maria Lucas, Assistant Curator, Queens Museum (New York). Wherewithal Research Grants are generously funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts through its Regional Re-granting Program.

“Despite the fact that many artists’ practices are increasingly research-based, grants that pay for intellectual labor and process-based collaboration are still rare,” says Peter Nesbett, WPA’s Keeper of Imaginative Futures. “WPA is proud to support this type of work and even more excited to learn, even if vicariously, about these compelling subjects.”

“The Warhol Foundation’s Regional Regranting Program supports ambitious public-facing artist-led projects in communities across the country” says Rachel Bers, Program Director at the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, “We are proud to partner with WPA on its Wherewithal Research Grants, which turn this moment of COVID- imposed restrictions on public engagement into an opportunity for artists to focus on exploratory thinking and to develop creative strategies for participating in cultural dialogues that address urgent local, regional, and national issues.”

Learn more about each grantee and their research project below and follow along on Instagram at @wherewithalgrants as their work unfolds. Grantees will present their findings during a virtual symposium in July 2021.

AWARDED RESEARCH TOPICS
Sobia Ahmad
Memory is a Homeland
Sobia Ahmad will conduct planning and research for the creation of a Knowledge Bank for Diasporic Futures. She will explore how textiles and traditional crafts preserve cultural memory and ancestral knowledge, specifically that of immigrant and indigenous communities. She will collaborate with elders and community members from her ancestral village in Pakistan through storytelling circles and skill-sharing workshops.

CONTROL-ALT-DELETE (Dawne Langford, Dafna Steinberg, and Alex Tyson)
A Series of Interventions in the Gendered Digital Space
This newly formed collective will build a visual language analyzing cyberpsychology, machine learning technology, and popular internet culture. During the grant period, they will train artificial intelligence (using machine learning) to explore gender inequality, performative reconciliation, and define nuances of tone inherent in built-in structures, both online and off. The collective will collaborate with machine learning experts, data specialists, artists who use AI, designers, and the public to realize a series of digital interventions.

Ayana Zaire Cotton
Crafting Care: The Poetics of Design, Computation, and Abolition
Ayana Zaire Cotton will research the relationships between abolitionist technologies and aesthetics to understand how they might help us imagine a liberated future. This will involve the study of Indigenous African objects and textiles, and how the fractals in their designs might be used to reorganize our physical world using computing and code. She will collaborate with artists, alternative schools, and an ethno-mathematician.

janet e. dandridge
Inquiries on Release and Other Paths to Liberty
janet e. dandridge’s research centers on Post/Present-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PPTSD) driven by the question: How can memory, dreams, asylum, and catharsis contribute to holistic healing for individuals who’ve experienced and continue to experience trauma throughout their lives? This research specifically pertains to societal trauma perpetuated by racism and misogyny, and in particular, the PPTSD of Black women and girls. janet’s primary investigations will include conversations with Black women whom are mental health professionals, spiritual guides, artists, activists, and law professionals.

Jeremiah Edwards and Jeremiah Long
Place Based Justice (PBJ)
With the goal of eventually developing curriculum, Jeremiah Long and Jeremiah Edwards will evaluate the impact of place-based education on local youth in DC’s Black community. They will work in collaboration with local community leaders, elders, artists, teachers, and youth in pursuit of answers to a central question: Can a holistic understanding of one’s relationship to a place instill political urgency, social awareness, and the will to uplift one’s community?

Curry Hackett
Drylongso: An Exploration of Black Life, Food, Plants, and Land
Curry Hackett will conduct interviews and write speculative case studies on “Black landscapes”—exploring the socio-ecological relationships that Black folks foster and maintain within urban environments. His research is based on the assumption that these relationships exist, or can be envisioned, in spite of pervasive neo-colonial attitudes. Curry will collaborate with such knowledge partners as Black landscape architects, ecologists, herbalists, ethnobotanists, and artists.

Michelle Lisa Herman
Up to Code? Where ableism meets patriarchy in art and technology
As a woman artist with disabilities working in and with technology, Michelle Lisa Herman will research the intersection of feminism, technology, art, and disability. Specifically, she will look at the relationships between ableism and patriarchy and the ways in which assumed defaults, when mediated through technology, continue to perpetuate assumptions that disenfranchise all. Her collaboration will include other women-identifying artists and artists with disabilities, and researchers who study gender inequity in the tech industry.

MJ Neuberger and Susan Main
Meeting Ground
In a time of ongoing environmental, social, racial, and economic inequity, as well as limited physical human connection, can touching the ground recenter attention, help us overcome trauma, and change the way we perceive the world around us? If so, how? MJ Neuberger and Susan Main will use their research to create a theoretical, practical, political, and aesthetic base for future projects that will grow a community of participants and researchers.

Mojdeh Rezaeipour
Mapping Fragments
Mojdeh Rezaeipour’s research focuses on a collection of ancient fragments of pottery that originate from over thirty sites located across the Middle East. She will build and share a library of resources, as well as organize a series of independently-led interviews with an intergenerational group of experts, locals, and creators with lineage across the sites. This inquiry is the beginning of a much more expansive body of research, as well as a first step, perhaps, of a collectively imagined work.

Asha Santee
ASCENTROIX
Asha Santee will research how galactic escapism—an outer space reverie and sonic frequency—in interaction with racial trauma, can offer healing for the Black community. Realized in collaboration with Black therapists and healers, musicians, and comic artists, Asha’s research will be driven by the question, “At what frequencies do Black people experience healing?”

Jessica Valoris
Black Fugitive Folklore
Jessica Valoris will explore the histories of Black fugitivity, flight, and petit marronage (ways in which enslaved Africans subverted the plantation and captivity through truancy, gatherings, harboring fugitives, creating networks of complicity, and other practices), and how these histories can inform current movements for liberation. She will uncover how small acts of freedom actualize larger movements for liberation, and how Black people carry the lineage of petit marronage. In collaboration with Black authors, thinkers, and artists, and accessing archives including Freedom On the Move and the WPA Slave Narrative Archive, Jessica will explore the question: “What does flight make possible?”

Monsieur Zohore
Ghost Stories
Monsieur Zohore will use research as a means of resurrecting performances that have gone forgotten as a result of the circumstances they were made in. Their research will focus on the following questions: What works haunt the specter of performance art? How can they resurrect them into our present? How can they use the resurrection of historical works to help resurrect performance art in the post-pandemic world? Monsieur Zohore will connect with artists, institutions, curators, and academics dedicated to performance art.

ABOUT THE GRANTEES

Sobia Ahmad is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice maps the various ways the personal and the political overlap. By charting her own experiences and community narratives, and weaving them with current and historical socio-political contexts, she highlights the inseparability of the self and larger power structures. The work poses questions like: What confirms or dissipates our sense of belonging? What effects do policies have on our personal and collective psyches? And how can our deeply intimate struggles of belonging inform larger conversations about national identity, notions of home, cultural memory, and gender?

CONTROL-ALT-DELETE is a newly formed collective with Dawne Langford, Alex Tyson, and Dafna Steinberg. Dawne Langford is interested in artist movements that are firmly rooted in the power of the collective, working towards developing collaborative efforts that can creatively set the path to our liberation and better future. Alex Tyson is a researcher and designer with a tech background. She is interested in projects which look at meme politics, internet addiction, technological violence, moving beyond information to understanding, and the role of an individual or group’s agency over technology. Dafna Steinberg is an interdisciplinary artist, whose current focus of her practice is photography and hand-cut collage that utilizes paper ephemera, found objects, and text. Her work explores the variety of people’s relationships as well as the emotions connected to them. The projects she creates unpack how and why humans need one another. Her work also addresses the inequalities between different people, predominantly by gender, specifically regarding issues of grief, sexual trauma, harassment, domestic violence, and body acceptance.

Ayana Zaire Cotton is a transdisciplinary artist, writer, and software engineer whose current practice is rooted in the research of craft, labor, and liberation. Her past projects include DISTRIKT, a collective print publication platform showcasing the art, politics, and style of the DC metro area artist community and Zaire Studio, a fashion line as a platform for researching labor studies and aesthetics through textiles, photography, and storytelling.

janet e. dandridge is an interdisciplinary artivist (fine artist + activist) based in Washington, DC. janet intersplices theatrical performance, photography, empirical data, identity politics, and whimsy into a keen reflection on social constructs and governing policies. Her creations are often viewed as public service announcements that initiate dialogue and solutions to cultural, socio-political, and socio-economic struggles of the disenfranchised and dehumanized.

Jeremiah Edwards and Jeremiah Long are longtime friends and artistic collaborators. Jeremiah Edwards is an illustrator/muralist based in Woodbridge, VA. Jeremiah Long is a ceramicist based in Alexandria, VA. They both are passionate about educating and creating art that uplifts the Black community.

Curry Hackett combines architecture, graphic design, and urban design. He is founding principal of Wayside Studio in Washington, DC, collaborating with communities and organizations to engage culture, ecology, and place. Hackett teaches architecture at his alma mater, Howard University.

Michelle Lisa Herman is a DC-based interdisciplinary artist whose practice spans theoretical and philosophical research, feminist and disability politics, comedy, and conceptualism. Her work broadly traverses the margins between ability and what is beyond our reach: particularly the limits of perception, attention, connection, and categorization in the digital age.

MJ Neuberger and Susan Main collaborate on research that considers the ground as a point of entry to shared space where interconnection between earth and self, individual and other is made visible. MJ’s installations, sculptural works, and social practice draw from indigenous and self-created ritual and natural processes to reoccupy bodies abandoned in intergenerational trauma and colonialism. Susan’s multidisciplinary work explores individual and social contracts between space, time, and attention, pairing the unmediated event with tools that attempt to measure, define, locate, and orient.

Mojdeh Rezaeipour creates mixed media works, installations, and films that explore notions of home, time, and memory. Her practice is largely process-led and moves playfully between media, resulting in a dynamic and ephemeral storytelling language that incorporates existing bodies of her 2D, sculptural, and video work as a part of its immersive vocabulary. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley, where she studied architecture, and of Alt*Div, an alternative divinity school centering the intersections of healing justice and art as spiritual practice.

Asha Adia Santee is a multidisciplinary artist based in Hyattsville, MD. She uses acrylics, broken drumsticks and cymbals, mixed media, and sound to create visual and audible experiences. Her current project, “ASCENTROIX” (pronounced ascentro 9), is a movement-powered, audio, and digital art galaxy that aims to heal the psychological impacts of racial trauma in the Black community through frequency and galactic escapism.

Jessica Valoris is a multidisciplinary artist and facilitator whose creative process is rooted in spiritual practice, historical study, and community wellness. Jessica weaves together mixed media visual art and sound to activate spaces of connection, healing, and visioning. Inspired by Afrofuturism, metaphysics, and historical memory, Jessica’s artwork celebrates the resilience and innovation of Black people, Black culture, and Black futures.

Monsieur Zohore is an Ivorian-American artist based between the DC area and New York City. Their practice investigates the “consumption” and “digestion” of culture through the conflation of domestic quotidian labor and art production through performance, installation, and sculpture.

ABOUT WHEREWITHAL GRANTS

Wherewithal Grants are a new funding source for visual artists in the DC-area. Generously funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts as part of its regional regranting program and managed by Washington Project for the Arts, these grants are intended to both sustain and stimulate artist-organized culture