This past weekend I attended a portfolio review at the Asian American Arts Alliance to meet with and receive feedback from various NYC arts organizations about my work. The review was a "speed-dating" event of sorts in which I met with organization after organization, each for 20 minute spurts, beginning at 10am and ending at 1:30pm with no breaks in between. The results?: my research and time spent at Fleisher developing relationships with Aunty Kim at Tweedy's Nails, meeting with VietLEAD, and speaking with CAAAV organizer, Cathy Dang about her experience growing up in and organizing with nail salons, will propel me into coming projects in New York.
I gave them a bit of context for how I developed the project idea through research during the fellowship at Fleisher, and remarkably, all of the organizations that I met with seemed to be interested in seeing or supporting the development of a project like Free to Care / Care to be Free. Not only is social practice / socially engaged work becoming more and more prevalent and desired in residency and grant applications, but even for organizations like the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, which doesn't typically accept social practice projects that step too heavily across the line distinguishing art from organizing, expressed to me during the review that perhaps their organization needs to change their policies so that they can support meaningful social practice projects like mine. It was quite an encouraging thing to hear.
It makes me think that it is looking more and more possible that I will be able to launch Free to Care / Care to be Free in New York sometime in the future.
The feedback I received during the review also made me reflect on how, through my museum education work at the Rubin I have been able to develop key relationships with Nepalese organizers at Adhikaar. They have done a fair amount of nail salon organizing with their Nepalese refugee community and could be a potential partner for the project. Additionally, through my work with Chinatown Art Brigade and CAAAV I am sure that I can connect with Vietnamese nail salon organizers with Mekong NYC. Mekong is already in the practice of gathering community members to hold conversations and storytelling gatherings, which could make collaboration a bit easier.
The piece of the puzzle that I felt was missing towards the end of the fellowship was consistent contact with the newer populations of refugees. My hope is that I can reach out to some of the organizations in NYC that support refugees in the coming months to volunteer, and otherwise be present to make connections with that side of the community. In that way, I'll bet that Free to Care / Care to be Free will become much more feasible as an endeavor.
I guess that endings really are just new beginnings.