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Creative Community Care

“Creative Community Care: Artists Respond to Pandemic Times” is an interactive group exhibit exploring concerns and questions arising from COVID-19 and racial violence at the intersection of the arts, learning, faith, and the city. Eight artists adapted their creative practices to process their own experiences with grief and memory, relationships as neighbors and friends, and roles as parents and caregivers. Their works invite us to consider the relevance of the arts for healing and dream of new ways we might care for our communities.

This exhibit is part of City Seminary of New York’s Ministry in the City HUB, a national network that supports the flourishing of pastors, ministry leaders, artists, congregations, faith-based organizations, and theological education focused on cities.

Curated by Maria Liu Wong and Sarah Gerth van den Berg

Thanks to Lilly Endowment Inc. for making this possible.

EXHIBITION INFORMATION

Opening Reception
March 1, 2024 Friday, 6-8 PM

Drop in to celebrate the opening of our exhibit and hear from two of the featured artists! Light refreshments will be served. RSVP to eva@cityseminaryny.org if you’re coming!
DTSA First Saturday ArtWalk
March 2, 2024 Saturday, 5-10 PM

Stop by as part of Downtown Santa Ana’s First Saturday ArtWalk! We look forward to participating in this exciting event with many other local galleries.
Public Hours

March 2, 2024 Saturday, 1-5 PM
March 3, 2024 Sunday, 1-5 PM
Location

She/They Gallery
Santora Arts Building
207 N Broadway, Suite L
Santa Ana, CA 92701

EXHIBITION PROGRAMS

Art Conversation : Something from Nothing
March 2, Saturday, 2-3:30 PM

RSVP to eva@cityseminaryny.org by Feb 29
This event will involve a short tour of the exhibition, interactive art-making experience based on themes of friendship and gratitude in exhibiting artist Naomi Kuo’s work, and time for feedback and individual viewing. This workshop is designed for, but not limited to, artists, educators, youth workers, and faith leaders. Limited capacity: 15 participants.
Storytelling as a Currency
March 3, Sunday, 1-2:30 PM

RSVP to eva@cityseminaryny.org by Feb 29
This workshop is designed for youth (ages 14 years +), and will engage participants in art-making around the themes of community and care. Led by exhibiting artist De’Amon Harges, founder of the Roving Listener and creator of the “Perception: What’s Behind the Door” project, participants will explore the intangible currency of storytelling and practice techniques to listen and tell powerful stories. Limited capacity: 15 participants.
de'Angelo DIA
de'Angelo DIA investigates contemporary beliefs on cultural, social-political, and theological issues through poetry, performance art, and photography. His work focuses on the intersectionality of Black liberation theology and theopoetics. DIA’s poetry collections include dichotomy and bifurcation (Theurgical Studies Press, 2023). His forthcoming chapbook, Cocktails with Jesus, is a Black nerd’s poetic reimagining of the last seven words of Jesus of Nazareth. Dia’s poems have appeared in BLACK BOY Journal, The Skinny Journal, Artist Writing on Liberation, and Cru Arts & Culture.

DIA has studied art in Athens, Greece, Guadalajara, Mexico, and Nairobi, Kenya. He earned a BS in Communication and Sociology with a minor in Photography from Appalachian State University, a MA in Literature from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and a MDiv and DMin from Union Presbyterian Seminary. His artistic influences include ethno-gothic literature, comic books, graphic novels, and neo-Appalachian art. He is the recipient of awards and fellowships from Cave Canem, The Watering Hole, Hurston/Wright Foundation, the McColl Center for Art + Innovation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture. DIA is the Community Relations Manager of Goodyear Arts based in Charlotte, NC. For more information, visit www.dia1518.com.
As a theologian and mystic, DIA’s area of focus is theopoetics, the examination of the intersectionality of creativity and spiritual formation. DIA’s poetry and photography is the hybrid of exegetical analysis and sociological studies, which come together in the soul-piercing video installations Dichotomy. This installation examines an essential question or truth about the human condition in relation to radical tenderness and self awareness. How do we examine and embody these concepts in a hurting world? Dichotomy is part-memoir, part-sermon, part-liturgy, and part-lament as a summons to contemplation. DIA’s work is an attempt to holistically examine ourselves, the world we’ve inherited, and our behaviors by creating and documenting poetic and universal narratives of affirmation and discomfort.
De'Amon Harges
De'Amon Harges is a faculty member of the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute, Community Organizer, Creator of the Learning Tree, chairperson of the Grassroots Grantmakers Association Board, and featured in the new documentary “The Antidote: On Kindness in America.” Harges is a frequent speaker on ABCD in secular and religious groups around the world, and is a layperson at Broadway United Methodist Church, Indianapolis, Indiana. De’Amon’s role is to listen and discover the gifts, passions, and dreams of citizens in his community, and to find ways to utilize them to build community, economy, and mutual “delight.” For more information, visit www.thelearningtrees.com.
De’Amon Harges’s canvas is city blocks strewn together, to which he applies his ‘genius for community.’ He listens for and then paints the stories he hears from and sees in his neighbors. He shares the words of wise elders in the neighborhood, printed in extra-large print and on the side of abandoned buildings, reminding people of the wisdom held in that place. Doors on the front of people’s homes tell the stories they have chosen to tell, reminding people of the absolute abundance of life in each household.

“Black Wall Street Door,” featured in this exhibition, is one of those doors, painted by neighbor Jamahl Crouch. Chimes formed into the shapes of the gifts of people who live in that house decorate the yard. The next house has a front yard full of flowers, and the next house has a backyard growing over a hundred pounds of peanuts. A bicycle shop, begun at his encouragement, asks young people riding by if they want to fix the bicycles themselves (and even sell some). In the next yard, a neighbor hosts a party with homemade wine. Every avenue offers a festival with plates of food from neighborhood cooks. Photos of parents teaching their children art, math, music, and history adorn the outdoor walls of the building facing the school building in their neighborhood. De’Amon’s art is not that he did these things. All he did was make the invisible, visible.
Alysia Nicole Harris
Alysia Nicole Harris (Corsicana, TX) is a warrior-poet-linguist. She received her Ph.D. in linguistics from Yale University, her MFA in creative writing from NYU, and her seal of the Holy Spirit from Christ Jesus. Her performance poetry testifies to humanity’s trifold nature as embodied souls/ soulful bodies imbued with the Spirit of Life. Trained as a linguist, Harris is interested in how language means and mediates our relationships with the seen and Unseen. As a warrior, she uses storytelling and prayer in the creative practices of social intervention and spiritual intercession.

Harris serves as executive director of Meetinghouse Revival, an organization that preserves Black history by restoring Black churches. She is currently gestating her first full-length book aimed at building solidarity between Biblically conservative disciples of Jesus and radical organizers for social justice. Learn more about Harris’ work at www.alysiaharris.com.
History is an imperfect archive, a jagged and fractured window to the past. Despite the importance of Black contributions to Corsicana, Texas’s economic, cultural, and spiritual legacy, only shards of Black presence can be found in the town’s public history: a broken plaque, a faded tombstone, the frame of a house.

In this installation, poet and Meetinghouse Revival founder Alysia Nicole Harris frames the group’s work to restore the abandoned Wesley Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. This CME congregation was one of several Black churches in Corsicana dating back to the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction era. Using a mixture of oral interviews, archival material, and personal poetic reflections on the restoration process, Harris platforms the stories of Wesley Chapel, past and present. She hopes this installation sheds light on the many Black place-keeping efforts happening across Texas.

During her research, Harris scoured the online records of local newspapers such as the Corsicana Daily Sun, Oil City Afro-American, and Dallas Express for any mention of the church. From these mentions, she creates blackout poems to enact on the public archive the same intentional erasures and omissions enacted on Black Corsicanans. However, this time, the blackout poems work in service of Black residents to reveal layered truths about life in rural Texas. These texts are arranged into identical 12 x 16 frames and then positioned among contemporary and archival photos of the building to create a grid of historical fragments that mirrors the church’s broken stained glass. While the picture remains incomplete, glimpses of the past come into view.
Naomi Kuo
Naomi Kuo is a mixed media and social practice artist based in Houston, TX. Her work integrates drawings, textiles, oral histories, and direct exchanges of resources in efforts to help diverse communities strengthen connections of care with the environment and with each other. Her current projects explore the overlaps between climate activism, urban ecology, Asian American experiences, and solidarity economies.

Kuo received an MFA in Studio Art (Social Practice Queens) at City University of NY, Queens College. Her artwork has been exhibited at Queens Museum of Art (NY), Queens Public Library (NY), Houston City Hall (TX), the Houston Climate Justice Museum (TX), and more. In 2023, her work was supported by The Idea Fund, and she was an Artists on Site resident at the Asia Society Texas Center. She has also worked as a teaching artist, muralist, and community arts facilitator. For more information, visit www.naomikuoart.com.
“Eco-Crafts for Friends,” encompassing the collection of works “Busy Hands Open Heart,” “Gifts Received Gifts Given,” and “Something from Nothing” (featured), explores the intersection of environmental and relational sustainability through gift giving. Over six months in 2021, Kuo made crafts out of the plastic wrappers, old fabrics and other recycled materials that accumulated in her home over the height of the pandemic and gave them as gifts to friends and family: this process is recorded in the artist book Gifts Received Gifts Given. In that challenging time of loss, uncertainty, and isolation, the project served to keep the artist grounded with hands-on creative practices while tending to fragmented relationships. The gifts included scrap paper thank you cards (Something from Nothing), patchwork coasters and pot holders, scrunchies, plastic crochet planters (Busy Hands Open Heart), and propagated house plants. More broadly, Kuo seeks to encourage community care as a mode of self-care, to highlight the importance of nurturing that which nurtures you, and to show the generative possibilities of simple acts of generosity, that abundance can be found in unlikely places.
Olga Lah
Olga Lah is interested in creating site-specific installations that raise a heightened awareness to a space. She seeks to create a sensory experience that engages on multiple levels through color, form and size. She looks for her works to draw a viewer in through the narrative of a constructed environment.

Lah is typically drawn to building her work using commonplace materials. She invites a behavioral reorientation to the material and to the context that her work inhabits, thereby bringing into focus new connections within a setting. Her work suggests a new perceptual understanding to encourage a critical adjustment to the familiarity of our surroundings.

Through her works, Lah wants to explore the notion of reality. How is the understanding of time and the everyday constructed through individual perception? She is ultimately attempting to create a new language about the nature of existence, and engage with the idea of a transcendence that points to a truer response within ambiguity over a precarious nature of what is considered as absolute. For more information, visit www.olgalah.com.
“The Constellation Project” began as a conversation on grief, loss, and hope with five friends. This personal experience informed an artwork that attempted to trace these exchanges in memory. The project eventually broadened by inviting a wider community into the exchange to share their own stories of loss on a virtual platform. The widening of the conversation in turn shaped the artwork into a piece that uplifts a greater collective history.

In its visual form “The Constellation Project” is a wall piece (5’x8’) constructed from aluminum mesh with mixed media applied to the surface. Names of those who have passed on in death or otherwise are written onto areas of the work. These include names shared by the original five participants that started this project. And also present names submitted online by the public. These names and accompanying stories are posted on www.olgalah.com/the-constellation-project.

“The Constellation Project” is a work that holds the gathered memories of a community. It makes meaning of the life remembered as well as the life of the one sharing the remembrance. In recalling and reflecting on the past it supports a movement forward into healing. The hope is that it points to the inter-connectedness of our lives and the brief wonder that we experience together in a lifetime.
Naomi Lawrence
Naomi Lawrence is a NYC Fiber Artist based in East Harlem. She works with acrylic yarn to create oversized 2-Dimensional crochet flowers, trees and wildlife. The site-specific installations are sewn onto chain-link fences in parks and public spaces throughout the city. Public engagement is a primary goal of each installation, as communities with some connection to the theme and place of the final work often contribute crocheted pieces. Her installations take several months to produce but are usually approved by the city to stay in place for up to one year becoming part of the urban landscape. They are then washed, restored and often gifted to have a second life in a new location.

Originally from England, UK, Lawrence studied Floral Design at the University of the Arts in London. In 2009, she began experimenting with crochet and found inspiration in ‘yarn bombing.’ Her first work, Blue Iris, in 2014 endeared her to the East Harlem community that she now calls home. Lawrence has been creating floral and nature inspired installations ever since. Awards from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and UMEZ (Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone) have allowed her to expand her practice to include large scale murals and to hire women from the neighborhood, recognizing their skills as multi-generational artisans. For more information, visit www.naomilawrence.com.
“Chinatown Yarn Circle: Stand Speak Shape” was led by community activist Tina Lin and artist Naomi Lawrence, in partnership with local organizations and the support of a 2021 Catalyst Commission award, to STAND together; SPEAK up for justice; and SHAPE society through civic action and crochet. The flowers are in tribute to AAPI community builders, embodying collaboration, triumph over struggle, and inspiring future generations. Throughout the summer of 2021, Lawrence and Lin organized crochet workshops in Columbus Park inviting all levels to come and participate in this community mural. Think Chinatown, The Creative Sanctum, Oversea Chinese Mission Church, Knitty City, Asian Americans for Equality, Center for All Abilities, and City Seminary of New York, as well as other groups meeting in homes and small organizations across the city, organized yarn circles and brought Chinatown locals, experienced and novice stitchers alike. The final work, measuring 28 feet wide, consisted of over 1500 flowers, more than 800 green and yellow 2” squares mostly made by beginners, Chinese characters and bamboo made by mother’s and daughters. The floral section is made in special honor of the late Pearl Chin, owner of the store Knitty City, who so many of the textile art community loved and were inspired by.
Julian Davis Reid
Julian Davis Reid (M.Div., Candler School of Theology) is an artist-theologian who uses words and music to invite us into the restful lives we were created to live. A musician, speaker, and writer, Reid offers his contemplative-musical program Notes of Rest across the nation and he plays internationally with various musical outfits including The JuJu Exchange and Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few. He is a Fellow of Theological Education Between the Times and consults with the grassroots organization Fearless Dialogues. Reid writes about faith, music, Blackness, and rest on his Substack “Julian’s Note,” and his work has been featured in the Christian magazine Sojourners and the jazz magazine Downbeat. He lives in his hometown Chicago with his wife Carmen and daughter Lydia. For more information, visit www.juliandavisreid.com.
Julian Davis Reid incubated “Notes of Rest” within the Creative Community Care Residency program of City Seminary of New York. The residency helped Reid see how much all of his communities needed rest during the pandemic, and that he needed to approach rest theologically and musically. Out of this gathering with his fellow artists, Notes of Rest emerged as a spiritual formation ministry grounded in Scripture and Black music that invites the Body of Christ to receive God’s gift of rest.

Reid writes:

I pray that this video helps you attend to your own need for rest, as well as to the needs of those around you (fellow humans as well as the rest of creation). God promises us an eternity of rest in Jesus, so for now, in the here and not yet, let us practice receiving and sharing the notes.
Sophia (Dawson) Victor
Sophia (Dawson) Victor is a visual artist who tells the narratives of individuals who are striving to overcome the injustices they face. She aims to humanize social justice issues and to prevent such experiences from being repeated in the future. Some of the individuals featured in her work include mothers who have lost their children to police brutality, the Exonerated 5 and political prisoners from the Black Liberation movement that are still incarcerated within the United States.

Sophia holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the School of Visual Arts, and a masters degree in visual arts administration from New York University. She is pursuing a masters degree in art therapy from the School of Visual Arts. Her work has been exhibited in the Bronx Museum for the Arts as well as the 2020 US Open. She is a recent participant of the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study program and the Bronx Museum of Art’s artist residency program. She was a 2020 PAIR Artist fellow working with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. She facilitated art workshops as a teaching artist and a volunteer at Rikers Island from 2018 to 2023 and is a faculty member of the School of Visual Arts. In 2020, Sophia was one of three artists selected to design the “Black Lives Matter” street mural for Foley Square in New York City. Her work has been featured in Forbes Magazine, on New York 1, ABC Nightline, the Guardian and BBC News. For more information, visit www.sophia-dawson.com.
Of “Father and Son,” Sophia Victor writes:

When I went before the Lord concerning my marriage, I prayed from many different angles. When I began to grow weary, finally I reminded the Lord of the covenant that I have with him concerning my son Pharaoh. I stood on that covenant and interceded. My prayer was, “Lord, this child needs a kingdom father so that he can grow in your ways. I have given you full custody of him, now provide someone that will stand for him and guide him in this thing called life.” That prayer was answered and continues to be answered through the life of my husband.

During the year when the world shut down, so many changes occurred. I watched my son grow from a child into an adolescent before my eyes. He began to navigate art materials as an outlet to maintain his peace. My biological family grew closer than ever as we attempted to be a village raising four boys, my mother’s grandsons. My son’s biological father was also incarcerated during this time. I reflect in this piece on the community needed to raise a child and the new personal community of a new family that the Lord has given me. It is a reminder of the seeds sown at different stages in early childhood development and stands on the biblical instruction to train up a child in the way he should go.