ALJIRA’S BOARD ON HISTORY, HIATUS & COLLABORATION
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE STANDOUT HIGHLIGHT EXHIBITIONS FROM ALJIRA’S ILLUSTRIOUS 30 YEAR HISTORY?
Given that Aljira was founded in 1986 (by Victor Davson and Carl Hazlewood), there are too many! But certainly one real highlight is the 2003 exhibition, Bending the Grid: Black Identity and Resistance in the Art of Frank Bowling, curated by Dorothy Désir. The Bending the Grid series was part of Aljira’s core exhibition program that mounted solo exhibitions of artists who were over the age of 65 and under recognized relative to their contribution to the field of contemporary art. Of course it’s now exciting to see that Bowling will have a full retrospective at Tate Britain in 2019. That said, all of the annual exhibitions from the Emerge Program could make this list as well.
ALJIRA’S EMERGE PROGRAM HAS NURTURED THE CAREERS OF SO MANY OUTSTANDING ARTISTS. COULD YOU SHARE A LITTLE ABOUT ITS ORIGIN AND IDENTIFYING THE NEED FOR SUCH A PROGRAM? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CORE TOOLS THAT AN ARTIST LEAVES THE PROGRAM WITH?
We hope to be able to re-start the Emerge Program, which has been one of the hallmark successes of Aljira. It was started in 1999, and over the years provided professional development opportunities for over 250 Emerge Artist Fellows. In addition to receiving career advice on the art business, studio management, the law, and other important issues that artists will confront over the course of their careers, the program culminated in a group exhibition curated by an invited guest curator, and published a catalog. Past fellows include artists like Jeffrey Gibson, Carrie Moyer, Chitra Ganesh, and Firelei Baez, just to name a few.
AS A VETERAN NEWARK INSTITUTION, WHAT ARE SOME TIPS YOU CAN GIVE TO YOUR FELLOW, MUCH YOUNGER ART SPACES?
Do the best work you can as an organization while existing within your means. Don’t hope or assume that money is going to come in from somewhere. You have to know where the money is, and then go and get it. It’s not going to fall into your lap. Also, with changes in the tax law, not for profits don’t really know how some traditional fundraising activities may have to change, or whether over the long-term there could be a difference in the giving patterns of some donors, so we all need to be mindful and consult with our tax advisors.
AT THE MOMENT, ALJIRA IS IN A STATE OF REORGANIZATION. COULD YOU SHARE A LITTLE ABOUT WHAT THIS MEANS? WHAT ARE SOME EXCITING THINGS THAT YOU EXPECT TO COME OUT OF THE HIATUS?
A hiatus is a break in continuity of time or space, and that’s exactly what we imposed as a way to figure out how to move forward after confronting some difficult realities – mostly financial, but also relating to major changes in the city of Newark itself. It has been clearly a difficult time for Aljira However, this hiatus has forced us to take the time to be thoughtful and strategic about what to do next. Perhaps, this has been the silver lining in this period of reorganization. Although we recognize that it will take tremendous effort our part and a lot of help from the Aljira community to make this happen, we expect to come out of this period not only with with strong commitments and support, but also as a more nimble organization, which is so important now. We’re excited to be re-dedicated to Aljira’s mission in the arts, for artists, and in cultural and artistic education. We are re-dedicated to working with first-rate curators and artists from groups who still too frequently do not get the opportunity to organize shows and to show work in contemporary art spaces. And we are rededicated to staying in Newark. Within that frame, we’re excited to focus on new ways to show work, both inside the gallery and out. We look forward to working with independent curators, and to finding more creative ways to use space.
FOR THIS YEAR’S NAF, ALJIRA HAS COLLABORATED WITH SHINE PORTRAIT STUDIO TO PRESENT WINDOW INSTALLATION THE VISIBILITY PROJECT, BY PHOTOGRAPHER SCHEHERAZADE TILLET. CAN YOU SPEAK TO THIS PROJECT’S IMPORTANCE AND COLLABORATIVE ASPECT WITH THE COMMUNITY?
Aljira’s first exhibition since its hiatus is The Visibility Project, which is also part of our larger participation in the For Freedoms, 50 State Initiative. It is also kind of an introduction, of scholar Salamishah Tillet and photographer and social justice organizer Scheherezade Tillet and their work with A Long Walk Home, a Chicago-based nonprofit. While these first images are of girls from Chicago, the project addresses shared societal issues across our state borders, and is moving forward for two years to engage fully with girls and women in Newark. Scheherazade inaugurated the Girl/Friends Leadership Institute, a year long artist-activist program that empowers girls and young women in Chicago to be social justice leaders in their schools, communities, and Chicago at large, and the idea is to create Newark-centered projects for similar purposes. Girl/Friends has been at the forefront of Chicago’s recent protests against community, gender, and police violence, and is currently designing the Rekia Boyd memorial project, as part of their larger public arts program, The Visibility Project. Aljira, is excited to be the first to present The Visibility Project in Newark, and to continue to support this important social practice and photography-based art work.