ARTNOIR Jar of Love Spotlights and Supports Artists of Color
Angela N Carroll
In 1961, when prolific author and scholar James Baldwin was asked in a radio interview to describe what it felt like to be Black in America, his response was precise and unapologetic.
“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost, almost all of the time.” Iconic writer Lucille Clifton offered a similar lament in the poem, won’t you celebrate with me, “…come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed.” The persistence of African presence across the world and in America is miraculous. Neither slavery, Jim Crow, the KKK, redlining, medical experimentation, microaggressions, surveillance, the fraternal order of police, nor COVID-19 has been able to suppress our tireless efforts to sustain the safety and security of Black lives. Our collective imaginations, and desire to live, have provided the foundation for global liberation. We affirm each other by standing in solidarity and support of each other’s well-being. There is no freedom without community. We are all we got.
ARTNOIR, a global collective and 501c3 nonprofit organization operates with a mission to celebrate and highlight creatives of color. In partnership with Artsy, ARTNOIR recently launched From:Friends To:Friends Benefit Auction an exciting fundraiser to support artists, curators, and culture workers who have been impacted by COVID-19. The auction features a broad collection of prints, paintings, photographs and sculptures from a notable list of emerging artists including Tiffany Alfonseca, Delphine Diallo, Alanna Fields, Devin B. Johnson, Tariku Shiferaw, and Raelis Vasquez among many others.
Proceeds raised from auction sales will seed a microgrant initiative, the ARTNOIR Jar of Love Fund. The initiative highlights work by emerging creatives of color, each of whom has the option to retain up to 30% of the proceeds from auction sales. It also encourages the participation of early collectors by offering an affordable range of original artwork. The lion’s share of auction proceeds (60%) will feed into the ARTNOIR Jar of Love fund, a highly anticipated resource for art communities who have been devastated by revenue losses during the pandemic. To donate directly to the fund without participating in the auction, you can visit ARTNOIR Inc. on Paypal.
BAIA sat down with ARTNOIR, co-founder, President, and curator Larry Ossei-Mensah to discuss the initiative and the importance of collective funds like ARTNOIR JAR of Love.
BAIA: What motivated you to create the From:Friends To:Friends:Benefit Auction and microgrant?
LOM: I think one thing that has been at the foundation of [ARTNOIR] is really the community, the friendships, the relationships that make this worthwhile. Although we’re a 501c3, no one takes a salary; we don’t get paid for doing this. This is something that we just feel is an important service that needs to be offered to our community. Traditionally that [service] has come through real life events, and once we saw how things were going [due to COVID-19], I started shifting to virtual events. The key has always been about elevating Black and brown artists.
When we talked to creators, we noticed that a lot of the grants, [especially]the bigger ones, had a more cumbersome process. We wanted to just do something that would be $500 unrestricted micro-grants, so if you’re an artist, you can use that for materials or groceries. We wanted to consider the best ways to get resources in the hands of people in our community directly.
BAIA: I was surprised to see that the majority of works featured in the auction are from emerging artists.
LOM: Yeah, a lot of what we do in ARTNOIR is about education: it’s exposing you to those new dynamic creative voices that you might not be familiar with because as you know, most times artist don’t really start getting love until they get an article or end up on some list. For us, these are the artists who are doing the work, even when they are not in the spotlight. We also try to work to educate and cultivate the next generation of patrons, so if you’re a young patron who’s beginning to collect, you see a work by Gisela McDaniel that starts at $250…that’s a price point hopefully that works for you, but we also offer a spectrum of price point.
The other thing that’s important to point out with everybody who has participated is that we offer commission. Normally, the artists don’t get anything outside of maybe a tax receipt for the value of the work that they made, but we’ve offered a 30% commission based on whatever the final hammer price is. Some artists have decided to forgo that and donate 100%. We’re basically creating this cycle of generosity, so the artists get some high exposure through this art platform, collectors whether their seasoned or new, have an opportunity to be introduced to these artists and hopefully collect their work. The end product funds this micro-grant and allows it to run on a rolling basis through the rest of the year.
BAIA: Do you believe it is important for arts organizations, particularly Black-owned institutions and organizations, to support and advocate for Black and brown lives?
LOM: It’s a good question, and that’s something that we’ve been wrestling with. I think sharing information is just key, ’cause I think we’re all kind of searching for something to give us some levity. So whether that’s, how can we support an organization or how can we find support for other independent carriers. I think it’s also important to create space for conversation through virtual series and talks. Now that things are opening up, people are coming together under a variety of circumstances, so how do you not just create space for conversation, but conversations that are meaningful? We need more of that in terms of how [artists] are navigating this time or their process, ’cause I think we traditionally lean on artists to help us try to move forward: they tend to see things that we don’t see. So how do we elevate the artists who we feel have their hands on the pulse, who are operating at a different vibration, so that what they have to say can be motivation to people, informative to people, educational to people?
BAIA: Are you hopeful or concerned about the future of art markets and arts organizations post-COVID-19?
LOM: I think what COVID-19 has illustrated is what happens when we take away everybody’s ability to be in a physical space, what are [artists, institutions, and organizations] really offering? It was interesting to see who pivoted, who got aggressive on digital platforms, who financially wasn’t sound, even though everyone thought they were. So, I think if anything, it will up to the public to hold these institutions accountable, and we can do that just by our dollars and our attendance because if nobody is going to this museum, they can’t survive.
There’s been a lot of conversation internally and externally about what work needs to be done to recalibrate the whole thing. This moment provides an opportunity for new ways of thinking about how people experience art. So, I think you’re gonna see more projects that are trying to be sensitive to the fact that you’re not gonna be able to congregate in the same manner for the unforeseeable future.
I’m optimistic because I think at the end of the day, institutional frameworks are great platforms, but artists are going to create whether they have them or not. I’m excited about what artists are gonna do in response to whatever the new normal looks like, if it’s not equitable if it’s not accommodating to a broader audience, they’re just gonna take the people with them and go do something else.
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Angela N. Carroll is an artist-archivist; a purveyor and investigator of art history and culture in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia. Angela contributes contemporary art, performance and film criticism for BmoreArt Magazine, Arts.Black, Sugarcane Magazine, and Umber Magazine. She received her MFA in Digital Arts and New Media from the University of California at Santa Cruz and currently teaches within the Film and Moving Image program at Stevenson University in Baltimore Maryland. Follow her on IG @angela_n_carroll or at angelancarroll.com.
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