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How are you feeling today? This week? This new year?
Ciera McKissick (CM): Today, this week, and this year, I am trying to take baby steps with myself and enjoy small pleasures. Being a public programmer or cultural worker who is used to being on the go, working virtually has taken some adjusting. I’ve been feeling the fatigue, and mental fog like many of us may be feeling, but taking moments to go for a walk (even if it’s in the snow!) have been great for my mental health to break up the monotony and what can feel like long day of Zoom meetings.
Are you hopeful? If you are, what is giving you a reason to be hopeful in this moment?
Erin LeAnn Mitchell (ELM): I am hopeful of what the future holds. I’m still coping with the doubt, grief, and uncertainty from the year’s past but I’m aware of the power black artists have now and find strength in our power to push boundaries. We are the historians of our time and the work we create will influence generations to come.
CM: I recently received a grant for my organization AMFM, from the Hyde Park Art Center’s Artist Run Chicago Fund which was funded to 50 spaces by an anonymous donor. This came as a surprise and was very much needed to help me idealize some of my future goals and business moves. It feels very much like adulting and laying the groundwork for my hopes and dreams, which is exciting. I’m also really hopeful about the turn in weather and signs of Spring, my orchid bloomed, and I’m really looking forward to hitting the Lakeshore path on my bike, biking by the lake has been my solace throughout the pandemic.
What are you looking forward to doing this year in your curatorial practice?
CM: I am looking forward to working with some new galleries and spaces this year, and doing my first virtual reality art fair with Saatchi Art’s The Other Art Fair! We have been a fair partner for a few years, and they are hosting a global fair and asked my brand AMFM to have a booth, and it’s been really cool to curate in this way. I was able to add audio snippets from the artists to dive a bit more into their practice and work and music. This year I am working on a show featuring works from black art collectors at the end of April with the Southside Community Art Center, an 80-year-old black institution started by Margaret Burroughs and a collective of black artists in Chicago, a duo show with Andrea Coleman (Chicago) and Warith Taha (Oakland, CA) at FLXST Contemporary in July, and have a POD residency at Compound Yellow this fall where I will be doing programming and two exhibitions with sculptors Sydnie Jimenez and Marcelo Eli (September – November).
How can people continue to support artist in their communities?
CM: Buy their work, share their work, credit their work, and pay people what they are worth.
Do you have any #protips or things you have learned in the past year that you would like to share with fellow artists (and curators)?
ELM: Persistence is key.
CM: It’s okay to pause, and work slow and smart. Trust your own journey and don’t compare. It’s hard to do especially in the age of social media, but everyone’s path isn’t the same, nor should it be. Consistency and hard work do pay off.
Artist and Curator Bios:
Ciera McKissick is an independent writer, curator, cultural producer, and the founder of AMFM. She is also the coordinator of Public Programs at the Hyde Park Art Center, and Communications Associate at Ox-Bow School of Art. She created AMFM, originally a web magazine, as an independent study project in 2009 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she studied Journalism and Mass Communications. Her work since then often involves collaboration through supporting Black and brown artists, local arts organizations, and seeks to stimulate community engagement that’s driven by inclusivity, accessibility, intention, and care. Projects and events have been featured in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, The Chicago Sun Times, Southside Weekly, Afropunk, and DapperQ, The Milwaukee Business Journal, and Milwaukee Neighborhood News.
For more information about AMFM, check out the website: http://www.amfm.life
You can follow AMFM on Instagram @amfmlife
Erin LeAnn Mitchell is a Birmingham, Alabama native who attended The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2011. Mitchell’s interest in teaching and continued passion in the arts led her to Columbia College Chicago, where she graduated with a Master of Arts in Art Education in 2016. Upon returning to Birmingham, Mitchell’s work has been featured on the nationally syndicated television show, Empire, presented her work in honor of Dr. Angela Y. Davis, and is currently featured in the exhibition, “All Things Bright and Beautiful”, at the Birmingham Museum of Art.
You can learn more about Erin LeAnn Mitchell’s work on the website: https://www.erinleannworks.com/home and you can follow Erin @erinleannworks
Images of Erin LeAnn Mitchell’s work:
The Cookout (Juneteenth 2020)
Peace Be Still