Black Art WKND is back to kick off Juneteenth. This year, it’s bigger, bolder and blacker than ever! Black Art WKND Curator Taylor Davis and _OFCOLOR Director of Partnerships Marissa Rivera answer a few questions ahead of the weekend festivities.
By Cy White, Photos courtesy of Black Art WKND
Kicking off Juneteenth, the organizers at _OFCOLOR once again bring Black Art WKND to Austin. It’s a time to celebrate the cultural and social impact of Black artists. A moment to pause and learn. To absorb the history of Black people through their artistic expression. This year’s theme, “All Kinds of Black,” is more than just a slogan. It’s a statement. One that couldn’t be more pertinent in our current climate. Black Art WKND Curator Taylor Davis and _OFCOLOR Director of Partnerships Marissa Rivera answer a few questions about the event and what it means to the community.
Could you please introduce yourselves to our readers?
TD: My name is Taylor Davis. I am a curator and landscape architect living in Austin. My curatorial work focuses on creating spaces for Black women and Queer artists and their artistic practices. As a landscape architect, I’m interested in the integration of public art and the built environment; how to use it to increase community autonomy for Black and brown communities.
MR: My name is Marissa Rivera, and I am a queer Indigenous Tejana who’s proudly called Austin home for nearly 20 years. As the founder of Ola Wellness, a private psychotherapy practice serving Austin’s LGBTQ+ communities of color, my clinical work focuses on helping folks navigate anxiety, grief/loss, life transitions and trauma. I’m a firm believer that creativity is a major component of healing, both inside and outside the therapy room. This belief and my passion for philanthropy and service has called me to serve on the board of directors for The SIMS Foundation and as director of partnerships for _OFCOLOR.
How did you get involved with Black Art WKND?
TD: I met the organizers of _OFCOLOR at the opening for a group show I curated here in Austin. They approached me about wanting to expand their organization to include local Black curators in hopes of expanding the Black art community. We also talked about the importance of collaboration and community support. Black Art WKND seemed like a great opportunity to work with other Black creatives.
MR: Our co-founder, RuDi Devino, has been a friend for almost a decade. So in 2021, when he shared with me the vision for the first annual Black Art WKND, I knew I wanted to lend meaningful support. That support initially came in the form of being a fiscal sponsor. But on opening night of Black Art WKND 2021 I knew I had to be more involved. After raising the funds for Latino Art WKND 2021, curating one of the exhibits and forging some community relationships for _OFCOLOR, we made my role as the director of partnerships official. In that role, I spearhead fundraising and cultivate partnerships for our organization as we continue to grow our impact in Austin.
How did this year’s theme, “All Kinds of Black,” come about?
MR: When we had our leadership retreat at the beginning of the year, I shared with the team the importance of People, Places and Practices in my healing work with clients. It resonated with the team and especially RuDi, our resident wordsmith. He subsequently wrote a beautiful poem called “All Kinds of Black” that spoke to diversity within the Black community, as well as how Blackness is “surveilled and scrutinized, rather than celebrated” in the United States. From there it made sense to combine these two ideas to create an experience for Austin that speaks to the expansive impact of Black culture.
What does “All Kinds of Black” mean to you?
TD: “All Kinds of Black” is an outcry from Black people to be recognized in all the ways we exist. It is a resistance to a monolithic Black identity imposed by a hegemonic society that knows little about the nuance of the Black experience. “All Kinds of Black” is an opportunity to recognize all the ways in which Black creativity can be shared and expressed.
MR: For me it is a celebration and acknowledgement of the limitless creativity and greatness Black culture has always and continues to transmit globally, and especially in the United States.
I want people to honor and understand that the Austin that exists today would not be possible without Black creativity and community.Marissa Rivera, _OFCOLOR director of partnerships
How did you choose the artists who are going to exhibit their art?
TD: I met Tumi Adeleye through mutual friends in Austin. I love how her work pushes the boundaries of art direction in portraiture, using themes special to her identity as a Nigerian American. Temitope Olujobian is an artist I was lucky enough to find through Black Art WKND’s artist call. They are a game designer and video artist. Their work subverts traditional concepts of gaming concerned with recreating the violence of our lived reality; instead they create alternate realities in which we can imagine safe spaces for Black queer people, and we can focus on healing and community well being. Both artists use contemporary mediums of artistic expression to tell a story unique to their own Black identity.
MR: Leading up to each of our art experiences, we start with a community-wide “call for artists” to make sure we stay connected to emerging artists. We pull some from that list, but also empower our curators to search and select on their own once we’ve given them the creative brief for any experience we’re producing. I am always amazed at the talented emerging artists our curators bring to the table.
What are your hopes/expectations for this year’s Black Art WKND?
TD: I hope this year’s Black Art WKND helps Black creatives gain more access to opportunities within Austin’s art community. If every artist that is on display with Black Art WKND walks away with another opportunity, I will consider that a major success.
MR: My greatest hope is that all Austinites walk away from Black Art WKND with a more meaningful, authentic connection to Black culture and community. Whether through an amazing art piece purchased during the event, a conversation sparked while enjoying the experience or simply witnessing what happens when the beauty and power of Black Culture is thoughtfully centered and celebrated. I want people to honor and understand that the Austin that exists today would not be possible without Black creativity and community.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of planning this year’s Black Art WKND? The most challenging?
TD: The most rewarding thing for me was working with both of my amazing artists. Our creative and brainstorming sessions have been so fulfilling for me. As curator, I have been able to participate more intimately in the creative process. The challenge is fitting all of our big ideas into the relatively short time frame. But the creative process has been invaluable. I look forward to seeing what we came up with come to life.
MR: Growing our team has by far been the most rewarding aspect. Last year our team of Steven Hatchett (co-founder), RuDi Devino (co-ounder) and Chris Tobar (creative director) put on the first Black Art WKND with little logistical support. To have a team of volunteer coordinators, curators and project managers who believe in our mission and vision and are willing to roll up their sleeves alongside us is incredibly inspiring.
As with any event, production challenges, big and small, arise every single day. It is only through our continued volunteer, community and fiscal support that we are able to navigate and overcome the pitfalls of producing a three-day art experience in a city saturated with events.
Sky’s the limit, what would you like to happen in future Black Art WKND events?
TD: I am excited for Black Art WKND to continue to expand upon how we can support our Black artists and curators. I would love to see future iterations that keep the art open to the public for longer than a weekend. Hopefully [there’s] a chance to make this accessible to those who might see ticket sales as a barrier to participation.
MR: I would love for Black Art WKND to continue to expand across space, geography and time. Bigger venues, budgets and maybe even a two-weekend event that draws people from all over to attend, build community and collect art!
Any final thoughts?
MR: I am so humbly honored to share community with my Black siblings in Austin and help produce Black Art WKND. I would not be the person I am today without the influence, guidance and support of Black elders and peers. For me, co-producing Black Art WKND isn’t just another event production project; it is one way I choose to channel my energy as an accomplice in Liberation.
Black Art WKND Juneteenth kickoff begins on Friday, June 10. For more information and for tickets, visit the _OFCOLOR official website.