Rasha Abdulhadi’s research will focus on the question, “How can tatreez, traditional Palestinian embroidery, be queered, and how can that queering re-engage this indigenous art form as a practice of communal creativity and pre-literate communication?” During the research year, they will study with lineage tatreez practitioners and research the queering of gender forms in traditional Palestinian dress.
Rasha Abdulhadi is a queer Palestinian Southerner who cut their teeth organizing on the southsides of Chicago and Atlanta. A fiber artist, poet, and speculative fiction writer, Abdulhadi is a member of Justice for Muslims Collective, the Radius of Arab American Writers, and Alternate ROOTS. Their writing has appeared online, in journals, and in anthologies. Their new chapbook is titled, WHO IS OWED SPRINGTIME.
Mukhe Mukhe will draw on the intangible heritage of songs, poetry, and food in DC and Bangladesh to reframe the story of climate injustice in these two communities. Bangladeshis face the possible displacement of up to 30 million people, along with massive loss of coastal land and irreplaceable heritage; DC is the center of federal power, but its residents lack political representation and are disproportionately impacted by climate change and food insecurity. Bose will transcribe, translate, and record village songs in Katakhali and spoken word poetry in DC with the goal of linking the two communities and drawing attention to their shared struggles.
Monica Jahan Bose is a Bangladeshi-American artist and climate activist whose work spans painting, printmaking, performance, film, and interdisciplinary projects. Her practice highlights the intersection of climate, racial, gender, and economic injustice through co-created workshops and temporary public art installations and performances. She is the creator of STORYTELLING WITH SARIS, a long-term art and advocacy project with her ancestral village of Katakhali, Bangladesh. She has partnered with the International Center for Climate Change and Development to present a knowledge-sharing and adaptation workshop.
Kufis and Pepperoni Pizza is a multimedia oral history project that seeks to answer the question, “What influences drove a significant portion of DC’s Black youth to practice Islam and identify as Muslims from 2008–2012?” Through this seemingly simple question, they aim to explore Islam’s relationship to Blackness within an American context. Through their multifaceted and intergenerational cultural preservation work, this research will serve as both a testament and an homage to the evolution of Black folks’ expression of Islam.
Safiyah Cheatam is a visual artist, researcher, storyteller, arts educator, and administrator. She focuses on material culture and social phenomena involving Black Muslims in the United States, and the role of Afrofuturism in Black folks’ daily lives. She co-produces the podcast OBSIDIAN and is a recipient of the Red Bull Arts Microgrant and Rubys Artist Grant from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. Safiyah was a 2021 VisArts Bresler resident artist and has collaborated with the Baltimore Museum of Art, Walters Art Museum, Morgan State University’s Center for the Study of Religion in the City, Black Islam Syllabus, and Rap Research Lab.
Hope Willis is an artist, art worker, researcher, and fourth generation Washingtonian. Her practice finds form through a wide range of creative outlets — from carpentry and archiving oral histories, to screenprinting and DJing—each of these connected through her overarching aim to serve the communities she is akin to. Living in the wake of rampant gentrification, Willis approaches the necessary work of cultural preservation and resource distribution with a careful urgency and keen understanding of the personal as political.
dyke’s day, a holigay is a multimedia and multisensory publication about a surrealist holiday for lesbians, edited by Mayah Lovell and Fabiola Ching. Writers and artists will work together to write and visualize a continuation of an existing manuscript by Lovell, resulting in a 25-30 page body of work exploring what a holiday for lesbians can look, sound, feel, taste, and smell like. dyke’s day will incorporate poetry, lyricism, fiction, research, sculpture, photography, and sound to iterate an ecology of enjoyment for lesbians. We will research classical and contemporary lesbian notions of warmth, erotics, celebration, truth, rest, at the intersection of dyke culture in order to craft our world.
Mayah Lovell and Fabiola Ching are friends and collaborators with a history and interest in curating virtual and physical spaces with artists and each other. Their individual practices meet at the intersection of literature and dyke performance, resulting in a shared interest to allow lesbian archives to expand and sustain our artistic queer urban community. dykes day involves several other writers, artists and designers within contemporary underground artist culture.
Larry Cook is researching the aesthetics of prison and club photography, and their relationship to the photographic archive. He believes it is essential to preserve this history and recognize its contribution to contemporary society. Through this research, he hopes to elevate these forms of image-making. This grant will support him in the development of an archive of club vernacular photography that can serve as source material for his practice, and research materials for other scholars and artists interested in exploring this aesthetic.
Larry Cook is a conceptual artist working across photography, video, and installation. Cook received his MFA from George Washington University and his BA in Photography from SUNY Plattsburgh. Cook has exhibited his work nationally at the Kemper Art Museum, MoMA PS1, the National Portrait Gallery, and internationally at Weiss Berlin. His work is in the public collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Harvard Art Museums, and Museum of Modern Art. Cook has done residencies at Light Work and The Nicholson Project. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Photography at Howard University.
Seeda School speculates: what is a pedagogical Black aesthetic? Grounded in an obsession with the immaterial generativity of Black study, Seeda School is a conceptual education platform rooted in worldbuilding. This experimental pedagogical project explores the Black feminist legacy of teaching and leverages online course frameworks, video, and the aesthetic of speculative fiction to help participants imagine new worlds. If we consider the curriculum as a landscape, this project asks, how might we collectively terraform this space to create an alternate reality? Through offering video work and sonic landscapes that leverage abstraction, non-linear narrative, and re-appropriation of YouTube videos, TikToks, and publicly accessible films, Seeda School offers a critique to the hyper commercialization, colonial, and disciplinary flattening of traditional “education,” an invisible infrastructure that sculpts our relationships, experience of time, imagination, and consciousness.
Ayana Zaire Cotton is a queer, Black feminist, artist, writer, and software engineer; understanding there is more that binds these disciplines than separates them, they can best be described as a weaver. Centering a sankofa sensibility, they build databases as vessels holding seed data and experiment with algorithms to spin non-linear narratives to build new stories and worlds from our existing one. While exploring speculative fiction, abolitionist aesthetics, and Black feminist ecologies, they are cultivating a practice of reverence, remembrance, and worldbuilding using language, video, and sculpture.
Darden’s research will explore the idea and the history of the act of liberating oneself from harm; a concept she refers to as a “colored exit.” The colored exit has deep roots driven by the question: “what does freedom mean to you? (No fear!)” Darden explains, “For black women it is in us to abscond from danger in the name of self preservation, and then use such freedom to liberate others. The depths of this concept go beyond the artist industrial complex and can be applied to slave revolts and rebellions, the network of the underground railroad, creation of the Green Book, Simone Biles sitting out of certain Olympic events, and more. It’s a crafted plan that I’m obsessed with following.”
Deirdre Darden is an emerging curator and artist. She began her curatorial practice in 2014 with Black Artists of DC. Since then she has collaborated with contemporary artists from DC, Baltimore, and New York, organized panel discussions touching on themes of race, womanhood, and societal pressures. In 2018, Darden received a curatorial grant from the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities to curate “We Got Next: Young Contemporaries”. She has consulted for Art on the Vine and as a curator at Eaton Workshop.
Archival forms and transdisciplinary languages are central to Rex Delafkaran’s research, centering questions that include: what can a physical archive of experience look like? In what ways do we translate our personal and historical archives into our bodies, and how do these haptic translations deepen and hybridize existing knowledge? Delafkaran will be connecting with Farsi language experts, queer communities, Iranians, dancers, archivists, and artists to explore these questions.
Rex Delafkaran is an interdisciplinary artist and dancer from California, based in Washington, DC. Using movement and objects, she explores ideas of failure and hybridity among bodies, objects, identities and language. Delafkaran has exhibited and staged performances at the Hirshhorn Museum, Panoply Performance Lab, Southern Exposure Gallery, and the Textile Museum. She is the co-founder of but, also, an artist-run space that sells artist-made products, produces exhibitions, and works with a mission of modeling transparent and equitable work structures.
Over the course of 2022, Dirt will commission original research and content from established writers and organizers who are working to explore, expand, and expose topics of labor, equity, and socio-political justice within the arts. Seeking to present a broad range of perspectives, the content and collaborations will not be limited by geography, but will rather embrace the overlaps, exchanges, and edges of like-minded thinkers that align with our core belief — that arts writing should be easily accessible; and that artists and arts workers are integral to the evolution of culture and society.
Dirt is an independent platform, collective, and resource for accessible critical arts discourse in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area. In an increasingly jargon-ridden and elitist contemporary art field, Dirt’s mission is to challenge the idea of what critical arts writing looks like, prioritizing underrepresented artists, histories, and archives and foregrounding creative and alternative approaches to covering the arts and culture.
This project will result in a guidebook for first time O-1 applicants. It takes the position that these immigration processes are unjust obstructions to living and working in the US that have significant structural and individual consequences, and aims to cultivate a solidarity network among visa seekers, aspiring allies, and supportive cultural institutions in the US. The guidebook will be published in print and available online. Additionally, they will also organize a free professional development workshop.
Naoko Wowsugi writes, “Extraordinary Artists International (EAI) is a growing support network that champions emerging international artists and art professionals in the United States. One of our core mandates is to help artists apply for the O-1 visa, which according to the USCIS is for the individual who possesses “extraordinary ability” in the field of arts.”
Wowsugi, the representative of EAI, has obtained three F-1 visas (student visas) followed by two OPTs (year-long Optional Practical Training periods for recent graduates); one H-2B visa (work visa); three O-1B visas (artist visas); and the EB-1 (green card). She undertook these extensive visa processes without much guidance or many resources, spending more than $16,000 along the way—an experience that both motivates and informs her work with EAI.
Hinojosa seeks to engage a general public in the discourses surrounding trans rights, including sex workers, trauma, and the need for social reform to protect trans women of color. This new series will utilize film and textiles as a means to draw parallels between epic poetry and non-fictional epics, and the histories and stories which exist in her community. Historically, tapestries were created to memorialize significant happenings or to represent fantastical allegories—crystallizing a moment in time and canonizing these tales as legends. Using tapestry work as a medium, Hinojosa intends to do the same with the contemporary stories of trans women taken too soon.
Imogen-Blue Hinojosa’s practice concerns the stage as an opportunity for the suspension of disbelief, the reclamation of space, and fantasy as mechanisms for shifting power dynamics. Recently her work has focused on her experience as a Latinx Trans woman, exploring modes of normalizing public conversation around trauma, specifically as it relates to trans identity. Working in photography, film, and installation, Hinojosa uses the stage (sometimes a public site) to allow the body to become greater than it is in isolation, shifting everyday dynamics to allow fantasy to become a reality.
Lopez-Bircann’s research will focus on how artists can nurture queer ecofeminist thought through emerging Extended Reality (XR) artwork and social technologies. It will explore how the artist/activist, or “artivist,” can use affect and glamor to communicate a compelling, optimistic vision of the future. The title, Cy-Fae, is inspired by the fairy or nature spirit as a liminal figure, blurring the lines between humans, animals, and plants. This symbol already has cultural affordances that can help mediate identities in ways that transform bleak narratives surrounding environmental degradation and our perceived lack of agency to create change. The hope is that the research becomes a useful tool or framework for an eco-friendly, ethical, queer culture.
Armando Lopez-Bircann is a Latinx artist that engineers wearable sculptures, digital media, and performances through Extended Reality (XR). Their practice is framed by queer ecofeminism, immigrant narratives, genderfluid/non-binary expression, and digital native sensibilities. They currently work independently and have designed works in collaboration with dancers, circus performers, photographers, videographers, musicians, and other artists. Lopez-Bircann is a DC Commission of Arts and Humanities fellow. They received a BFA from the Corcoran College of Art + Design, as well as a graduate certificate from Concordia University.
DRYLONGSO: AN EXPLORATION OF BLACK LIFE, FOOD, PLANTS, AND LAND
PLACE BASED JUSTICE