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September 9-12, 2021   Javits Center

Panel: Funding Creative Change: Artists, Neighbors, and Community Transformation

Sunday, March 8, 2020 4:00 PM

Armory Live Theater on Pier 94

Moderated by Deana Haggag (President and CEO of United States Artists). Participants include Kemi Ilesanmi (Executive Director of the Laundromat Project), Victoria Rogers (Trustee of the Brooklyn Museum and Creative Time), and Hank Willis Thomas (artist and co-founder of For Freedoms).

Artists are unique connectors who build bridges among disparate ideas, cultures, and points of view. Their ability to bring unconventional perspectives and creative solutions to challenges and situations make artists dynamic and powerful assets in our communities. What does it mean to support artists—creative catalysts—and their neighbors in New York with space, resources, and dedicated time, so they are free to use their imaginations to address pressing social justice issues directly affecting their communities?

Deana Haggag
Deana Haggag is the President and CEO of United States Artists, a national arts funding organization based in Chicago. Before joining USA in February 2017, she was the executive director of The Contemporary, a nomadic and non-collecting art museum in Baltimore, for four years. In addition to her leadership roles, Deana lectures extensively, consults on various art initiatives, contributes to cultural publications, and has taught at institutions such as Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and Towson University. She is on the Board of Trustees of the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Artistic Director's Council of Prospect.5, and the Advisory Council of Recess. She received her MFA in Curatorial Practice from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a BA from Rutgers University in Art History and Philosophy.

Kemi Ilesanmi
Kemi Ilesanmi is the Executive Director of The Laundromat Project (The LP). With 20 years of experience in the cultural arena, she is inspired by the immense possibilities for joyful justice at the intersection of arts and community. Prior to joining The LP, she was director of grants and services at Creative Capital Foundation, where she supported the work of American artists making adventurous new work. From 1998 to 2004, she was visual arts curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. While there, she organized several exhibitions, including The Squared Circle: Boxing in Contemporary Art, and ran the visual arts residency program. In 2015, she was appointed by the Mayor of New York City to the Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission, and has served as Chair since 2020. She has been honored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Project for Empty Space and serves on the boards of the Joan Mitchell Foundation and The Broad Room, as well as advisory boards for Brooklyn Public Library, Smith College Museum of Art, Black Arts Future Fund, Indigo Arts Alliance, and WNET All Arts. A graduate of Smith College, New York University, and Coro Leadership NY, she is also a Sterling Network Fellow.

Victoria Rogers
Victoria Rogers is an avid collector of art by artists of African descent who led Kickstarter's arts program, and has worked with institutions from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Victoria serves on the boards of the Brooklyn Museum and Creative Time, as well as the Global Council for the Studio Museum in Harlem. Victoria is a former fellow of the Whitney Museum of American Art's Independent Study Program, and a graduate of Yale University and Stanford's Graduate School of Business.

Hank Willis Thomas
Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and abroad, including the International Center of Photography, New York; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain; Musée du quai Branly, Paris; Hong Kong Arts Centre; and the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, Netherlands. Thomas’ work is included in numerous public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. His collaborative projects include Question Bridge: Black Males, In Search Of The Truth (The Truth Booth), and For Freedoms, which was awarded the 2017 ICP Infinity Award for New Media and Online Platform. In 2012, Question Bridge: Black Males debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, and was selected for the New Media Grant from the Tribeca Film Institute.

Thomas is also the recipient of the Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship (2018), Guggenheim Fellowship (2018), AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize (2017), Soros Equality Fellowship (2017), and is a member of the New York City Public Design Commission. Thomas holds a BFA from New York University (1998), and an MA/MFA from the California College of the Arts (2004). He received honorary doctorates from the Maryland Institute of Art and the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts in 2017. Thomas is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; Ben Brown Fine Arts, London; Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa; and Marauni Mercier, Brussels, Belgium.

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For Freedoms (Hank Willis Thomas and Emily Shur in collaboration with Eric Gottesman and Wyatt Gallery of For Freedoms), Four Freedoms, 2018.