Black Box Press Foundation, which provides resources for the creation of spaces where artists can continue the history of artists as agents of cultural change, has announced that jurors Rabéa Ballin, Lauren Kelley Oliver, and Vicki Meek have selected Nastassja Swift and Rashaun Rucker as the inaugural winners of its 2021 Art As Activism Grant (BBPF – AAA). The award gives $5000 each to Swift and Rucker along with solo exhibitions at Art League Houston and the Galveston Arts Center, respectively.
Created to support and encourage artists whose work focuses on activism and social change strategies, the jurors selected projects from Swift and Rucker out of 72 applicants. Each artist’s work focuses on what the fund describes as “the emotions of the prison industrial complex and mass incarceration in the United States.”
Rucker’s proposal, I hit more than I missed, employs a motif in his work that contrasts pigeons and Black men and will address the inequalities of mass incarceration in America. He describes his project: “The installation is going to use ‘clay pigeons,’ which are red or orange flying disc used for target practice in sport shooting. I would like to have these disc fabricated with a vector drawing that I have created of a black man amalgamated with a pigeon on each disc. Each disc will have the exact same face to speak to how we are invisible to some in society and all of us have the same narrative to those who seek to keep us in our constructed social spaces no matter what our story is.”
In Swift’s proposal she explores her relationship with her brother through his letters and telephone calls, routed through the prison system. She describes her project, Canaan: when I read your letter, I feel your voice, as “a multi-layered installation and collaborative performance that intimately facilitates communication between me and my brother, who is currently incarcerated within the Virginia Department of Corrections. The work, to include sculpture, audio, and text, narrates — through a series of letters and conversations — the close relationship he and I have, articulating feelings of grief, absence, erasure, institutional repression, and the personal and communal impact of mass incarceration. I question: What comes with one’s incarceration? What does it mean to be the loved one of someone trapped within the US prison system? What does my own cell look like?”
To learn more about the artists and their winning proposals, please go here.
The BBPF – AAA fund is a targeted initiative to bring focus to how art can be used as a captivating means of shifting perspectives, changing mindsets, and evoking powerful emotions which can have a broad effect on the landscape and discourse around social justice in the world.
Nastassja Swift is a visual artist holding a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is the owner and artist of D for Dolls, an online collection of handmade needle felted figures. Along with being a doll maker, she works with fiber, audio, performance, and film within her studio practice.
Rashaun Rucker (b. 1978, Winston-Salem, NC) is a product of North Carolina Central University and Marygrove College. He makes photo- graphs, prints and drawings and has won more than 40 national and state awards for his work. In 2008 Rucker became the first African American to be named Michigan Press Photographer of the Year. He also won a national Emmy Award in 2008 for documentary photography on the pit bull culture in Detroit.