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From the Executive Director: We All Have Agency in Our Small World

In the final days of 2020, I witnessed an overwhelming expression of relief as the proverbial dial reset on a year of grief. Many see it as an opportunity to leave behind the bad memories of the past year, to begin a recovery, and start again.

In the first regroup of the new year, the Art21 team shared what they would bring forward with them into 2021. Some would bring feelings hard and soft; some an alternating expanded and contracted sense of time; some an appreciation of the now, so different than what came before. Hopeful yet trepidatious is how I would summarize the sentiment.

As the new year began, we revisited the words of Kara Walker who, in the aptly titled film “Starting Out,” wrestles with the bind of selling art while at the same time allowing time for the process. “If one wants to prioritize critical discourse in one’s work and life,” she says rightly, “then you have to make it happen.”

It is a reminder that we all have agency in our small world—as gatekeepers, role models, friends, neighbors. In that prospect we find a lot of hope for a new year. We hope for new opportunities. We know that with a new year there is no true tabula rasa. And yet, we have a bevy of new stories, new words, new viewpoints to share in the weeks ahead that we think will offer us some much needed perspective on how to start out anew.

Tina Kukielski
Susan Sollins Executive Director and Chief Curator
January 6, 2021

Deepen your connection to Art21

Kara Walker offers a universal challenge

From her New York City studio, Kara Walker reflects on the state of the art world, imparting wisdom from her own experiences to the next generation of artists.

“There’s no diploma in the world that declares you as an artist,” says Walker.

“You can declare yourself an artist and then figure out how to be an artist.”

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Kara Walker

July 25, 2014

Daniel Gordon and Ruby Sky Stiler look back

From their adjacent studios, Daniel Gordon and Ruby Sky Stiler reflect on their respective practices in search of ways to continue growing creatively.

“I just want to keep making things that are beyond my expectations,” says Stiler, “and making things that are ambitious and terrify me.”

“For me, the only way to do that is to try new things,” adds Gordon, “to invent new ways of making pictures.”

Watch the full film.

Upcoming workshops for educators

Join Art21 for two virtual teacher workshops being offered this month.

The third and final program of a series co-presented with SFMOMA takes place Saturday, January 23, at 1:00 p.m. ET. Exploring three different aspects of the question—”What is contemporary art?”—each workshop encourages educators to think and work like artists, using thematic, inquiry-driven processes and strategies. The upcoming installment examines artists who question and investigate intersections of identity and power. Registration is free, but space is limited.

In “The Concept of Care,” a special program taking place on Monday, January 25 at 7:00 p.m. ET, learn about contemporary artists grappling with the notion of care in both their process and product. Consider how their ideas, actions, and results can serve as inspiration for future student lessons and in your own life. Registration is free, but space is limited.

Visit our education calendar for a list of upcoming workshops for educators.

Recommendations from Art21 staff

Read: Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals by Saidiya Hartman

This is the most recent book in Saidiya Hartman’s long career of shedding light on the intricacies, beauty, and hardship of Black American life, particularly the lives led by Black American women. Focusing on the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century in New York City and Philadelphia, the text is an act of careful and caring fabulation which continuously returns to photographs, diary entries, memoirs, and statistics from which Hartman’s imagination takes flight. At the start of this new year, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments is the perfect way to reflect on our history and carry its lessons forward into a better world.

Shared by Jurrell Lewis, Development and Administrative Assistant; Available now from your book retailer of choice

Thank you for supporting our work

Your indispensable, generous donations make our work possible. With safety measures in place, Art21 has resumed on-site film shoots and will release films in the coming year, and will produce even more digital education programs allowing for multiple avenues to discover and interact with contemporary art. Resources that are in higher demand now than ever before.

If you are able at this time, please consider making a year-end contribution to Art21. Your donation helps to ensure artists’ voices have a lasting impact for generations to come.