Perseverance Theatre will host a month-long digital art exhibit to highlight Black artists across the state for a project they’re calling Black Alaskan Art Matters. The show, which is still being developed, will feature the work of more than 10 Black Alaskan artists as well as panel discussions and artist interviews.
“There’s a gap in representation when it comes to Black artists and Black art spaces,” said Fairbanks-based artist Alyssa Quintyne in an interview with the Empire.
Quintyne said as an artist she had never participated in or been to art shows highlighting specifically Black artists, and that one of the goals of the show is to strengthen ties between Black artists in a state in which they may be separated by thousands of miles.
Quintyne was selected to curate the show alongside Anchorage-based artists Amable Rosa and M.C. MoHagani Magnetek, according to Perseverance Theatre Artistic Fellow Irene Martinko. Curators accepted works in any medium such as singing, filmmaking or poetry.
Which artists will be featured is still being determined, but there are a few Juneau artists in the running, Martinko said. The all-digital art exhibit will begin Sept. 20.
Quintyne said the multi-media nature of the project is exciting, but it’s also why curators haven’t been able to decide exactly what the art exhibit is going to look like.
“There are pros and cons to virtual shows,” she said. “But it does lend itself pretty wonderfully to what we’re trying to do which is connect Black communities from around the state.”
Organizers do know the show will be entirely online, but how to best highlight individual artist’s work in their preferred medium and how to create an experience of viewers that’s more than just watching.
“We want to show the artists work they’re presenting using some software other than Zoom,” Magnetek said, referring to the video meeting software being widely used during the coronavirus pandemic. “We want to have a more elaborate experience, more interactive. I want people to remember there’s more to life than Facebook.”
The show has a number of tech-savvy people working on it, Magnetek said, and curators are working to find ways to create an immersive art show. Both Quintyne and Magnetek are activists as well as artists, and both said a show focusing on Black Alaskan art is more important now than ever.
“We have a historical legacy to talk about during this time, with Black art and why it matters. When we talk about pain in African American art, about artists like Jacob Lawrence, John Biggers and Maya Angelou” Magnetek said. “With all the uprisings, more people are interested. ‘Black lives matter’ is no longer just hashtag and we can use art to transform our experiences.”
Quintyne too talked about art’s power to convey a certain perspective as particularly important given the current political climate around race relations in the country.
“The Black Lives Matter movement and everything that it stands for is a continuation of the civil rights movement. People of color have worked tirelessly for our collective liberation,” Quintyne said. “One way we can share those perspectives about what it means to be Black in this country in general, and in Alaska. This is a place where we can see what our values are.”
Alaska has a small Black population, Quintyne said — about 3.7% of the state identifies as Black or African American alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — which is another reason that it was important to have an art show focusing specifically on Black artists.
“Seeing other Black creatives, you never know who’s looking at you,” Quintyne said. “It’s more or less who else in the community who needs to see someone like you is all the reason to do it.”
Magnetek expressed similar sentiments.
“I’m 44. I’ve been an artist a long time,” she said. “A lot of these folks have not even had the opportunity to be in an art show before. A lot of times (aspiring Black artists) think, ‘they won’t accept me because I have beautiful Black skin,’ but we want them to see this and get motivated and be in this thing and not be spectators.”
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.