by Roxana Lopez
June 23, 2020
While we have all adjusted to social distancing and continue to avoid large gatherings, we are finding new ways of connecting. Whether it is through Zoom or conference calls we are reaching for new ways to stay connected with one another.
On this particular day, my partner was on a Zoom call with his coworkers, which resulted in my having to sit in my car on an 85-degree day in San Diego for a conference call with San Diego Art Institute’s Executive Director, Jacqueline Silverman and Director of Product and Development, Caleb Rainey. The ice broke quickly as we all shared and laughed about the exact location we were in in order to take the call.
After our introductions, we didn’t hesitate to discuss the global and local impact of Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter. During a time of uncertainty, San Diego Art Institute (SDAI) didn’t hesitate to acknowledge the importance of this social uprise and took the time to give Black, Indigenous, Queer, and artists of color the platform they needed to thrive. “We are committed to making a platform of equality and inclusion for artists’ voices in the time we live in,” Silverman says.
In the midst of a global pandemic, the art world froze, uncertain how to carry on. For a global perspective, UN News reports that while 90% of museums are temporarily closed, 13% of those face the likelihood of never reopening.
“Things are upside down right now. We are in the midst of a pandemic, we are seeing a social uprising with Black Lives Matter, and we at SDAI are able to present a place where you can have a critical conversation,” says Silverman. SDAI rose to the moment and stayed true to its mission statement by conceiving an idea that would both directly and indirectly support artists. The Institute created the Regional Artists Market, or RAM, to enable artists to sell functional contemporary art. From now until July 22, the RAM PRIDE collection will feature work by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Middle-Eastern LGBTQ artists. U.S. Bank provided micro-grants to the artists to kick start their projects. The pieces included in the shop are face masks, totes, postcards and illustration prints. 60 percent of each sale will go directly to the artist in which you purchased from. All items in the RAM collection are created to be functional, bring comfort, and to inspire.
The artists featured in this month’s PRIDE market are Claudia Cano, Hugo Crosthwaite, Demian DinéYazhí, Angel Divina, Elsoldelrac, River Garza, Jolonzo Guy-Goldtooth, Yamine Kasem, Texas Isaiah, Hector Silva, Maggie Thompson, and Casa Tamarindo.
Texas Isaiah is a queer visual narrator based in Los Angeles, Oakland, and NYC. Isaiah’s work was previously exhibited in SDAI’s exhibition, Forging Territories: Queer and Latinx Contemporary Art in 2019. Through his work Isaiah attempts to shift the power dynamics rooted in photography to display different ways of accessing support in one’s own body. His triptych photographic postcards are also available for purchase as single postcards.
Yasmine Kasem is currently working on soft fiber sculptures and created scarves and rugs for her market. Kasem says her work is inspired by the Mosque in her family’s town in upper Egypt. “I have designed these scarves and rugs to bring the mosque and remembrance of community and family in the threads of these textile pieces. Regardless of creed or belief, the communities we belong to are important in our lives, and that importance has become much more evident in our temporary distance from them.”
SDAI quickly turned to action after seeing the significant impact Covid-19 had on the welfare of regional BIPOC artists. “We wanted to prioritize artists and create a space for artists that were being disproportionately impacted by Covid,” says Rainey. Both Rainey and Silverman knew that the most impactful way to bring emerging artists to the forefront was to get their stories seen and heard. In addition to supporting artists right now, RAM is focused on longevity: the project seeks to create a supportive relationship between the artist and the audience. “It’s about connecting a national audience to our local artists’ community through this platform,” Silverman.
The San Diego Art Institute continues to spotlight artists from marginalized communities for the remainder of their 2020 season.
Contemporary Indigenous Art: The Pacific Coast, is their next upcoming exhibition. However, it has been postponed until further notice, and will create a critical artistic intervention through its focus on contemporary indigenous artists spanning the Pacific Coast, and their perspectives and practices.
It is encouraging that the power of community continues to drive SDAI’s focus on ensuring their exhibitions embody equity and inclusion. “SDAI is a space that recognizes the power of healing and hope. These spaces are important in shaping our communities,” says Rainey.
For more information about the San Diego Art Institute visit: https://www.sandiego-art.org/about-1