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From the Executive Director: Rebuilding Our Future through Art and Culture

Taking all the necessary precautions, we were recently invited back into artist studios. Embracing a new new normal, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. Like many, we were sorely missing up-close interactions—particularly those of the kind that define our films. And so, late in 2020 we got back to work.

Our effort in pandemic filmmaking resulted in our new films released over the last month with artists Abigail DeVille, Firelei Báez, Shaun Leonardo, and Michael Rakowitz. These films are full of the in-process revelations you would expect, even if we had to get creative with iPhone photography, remote Zoom interviews, and mask-obscured audio. Most interestingly, these four releases reveal how each artist adapted to issues of loss, emotionality, vulnerability, and invisibility that their work—and by extension the pandemic—has exposed.

Rakowitz, whose studio team continued to produce work over the past year despite becoming largely decentralized, reflected: “In this moment where we’ve lost the close proximity to one another, we still have these moments when we can locate one another and feel like we’re not alone.”

Art and culture have an important role to play in the rebuilding of our future and the reckoning of this time. As Shaun Leonardo stated: “The arts is the very thing that has power in this space because it is unfixed, it cannot be defined.”

We feel fortunate to be witness to this unfolding and subsequent re-fixing.

Tina Kukielski
Susan Sollins Executive Director and Chief Curator
February 24, 2021

Deepen your connection to Art21

Carrie Mae Weems looks to the past to understand the present

Working with students from the Savannah College of Art and Design, Carrie Mae Weems photographed reenactments of pivotal moments from the civil rights movement for Constructing History (2008).

“I just thought if I didn’t look at all of that trauma and the mourning and the sadness of the history of the last 40 years, then I really wasn’t worth my salt,” said Weems in our “Compassion” episode.

“It was important for me to look at this history…and it was important for me to consider deeply in my heart how we had arrived at this moment.”

Four new stories of artists confronting global crises

All four films from our first season of new programming for 2021 are now available to stream in full.

In films from our celebrated Extended Play and New York Close Up series, four artists—Firelei Báez, Abigail DeVille, Shaun Leonardo, and Michael Rakowitz—confront social, political, and institutional crises impacting cultures around the world, collectively capturing a portrait of contemporary history in the making, connecting personal and global experiences that play out across generations.

Watch all four new films.

Apply to join our community of educators

The Art21 Educators program is now accepting applications for the 2021–2022 cohort. Are you looking for creative inspiration in your teaching? Do you want to gain a new community of collaborators? Is it time for your practice to be challenged by artists and peer educators from across the nation?

Submit your application by March 31, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Recommendations from Art21 staff

Read: Composing a Life by Mary Catherine Bateson

Mary Catherine Bateson, who passed away in January, was an academic and anthropologist, following in the footsteps of her famous parents, Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. Profiling the life and careers of five women in the mid-1980s, it is both comforting to hear how they responded to challenges balancing work and family, and disturbing that those same challenges remain thirty years after its publication.

Shared by Emma Nordin, Manager of Education Initiatives; Available now from your book retailer of choice

Listen: “Mary Catherine Bateson—Living as an Improvisational Art” from On Being with Krista Tippett

To complement Emma’s recommendation, I recently listened to a re-broadcast of On Being’s 2015 interview with Bateson. A lovely and soothing listen, with ever-relevant takes on the environment, aging, relationships, learning and more, plus fun stories about her upbringing with two anthropologist parents

Shared by Danielle Brock, Assistant Curator; Listen now at onbeing.org

Thank you for supporting our work

More than ever, online access to the lives and stories of artists is crucial, and Art21 is proud to share them with an ever-growing number of visitors including students, teachers, parents, and art enthusiasts alike from around the globe. If you are able at this time, please consider supporting the work of Art21. Every dollar makes a difference.