Kemi Ilesanmi Moderates “What Will Be Different?”

July 25, 2017

On Friday, July 14, our Executive Director Kemi Ilesanmi moderated “What Will Be Different: A Conversation on Social Justice Arts Organizations in a Changing America,” presented by The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation at The 8th Floor.This discussion was part of a series of events curated by Brian Tate as part of “We Are the People We’ve Been Waiting For: A Festival of Visionary Ideas, Activism & Arts.”


This three-day festival of public forums and performances gathered artists, activists, and thinkers to explore what America’s new political climate means for arts and culture and what a changing America means for arts funders, social justice arts organizations, and artist-activists in our communities. Co-presenters for the festival were ArtPlaceAmerica, Creative Capital, Fractured Atlas, United States Artists, Caribbean Cultural Center (CCCADI), and The Tate Group.


Kemi was joined by Maha Chehlaoui, Founder/Advisory Board Member of Noor Theatre; Ken Chen, Executive Director of The Asian American Writers Workshop; Marissa Gutierrez-Vicario, Founder/Executive Director of Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE); and Lauren Ruffin, VP, External Relations of Fractured Atlas. They each shared their thoughts on what will be different for organizations that work at the intersection of arts and social justice, given the pivotal role that cultural narratives play in deciding public policy and the fates of countless communities. Also considered in answering these questions was the reversal of political momentum on immigration, mass incarceration, criminal justice reform, and continuing threats to public arts funding.


You can view this conversation in full through the recorded livestream, courtesy of The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation:


Risë Wilson, Founder of The Laundromat Project and Director of Philanthropy, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, also participated in a “A Conversation on Arts Funding In a Changing America” on day 1 of the festival that explored “what will be different for arts funding in a changing America”, and 2012 Create Change Artist-in-Residence Betty Yu participated in ”What Will Be Different for Artist/Activists in a Changing America.”


A video of Risë Wilson’s conversation is available here, courtesy of New York Live Arts:


Your can view photos and more information from “We Are the People We’ve Been Waiting For: A Festival of Visionary Ideas, Activism & Arts” on Facebook.

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Buttons Bring Neighbors Together on the Sidewalk by Alix Camacho

July 25, 2017

Every Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, since March, The Laundromat Project has been offering free art workshops in front of Laundry Pro laundromat at 938 E 163rd St in Hunts Point/Longwood. These workshops are spaces of experimentation and inspiration, where people can dedicate time to work with their hands, and connect with other dimensions of their lives.


According to The LP’s Program associate, Emily Mock, “The sidewalk workshops are a continuation of this idea of art in everyday places. The LP wanted to offer a consistent, visible, and accessible program at the laundromat around the corner from our community creative space on Kelly Street in Longwood.”


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The workshops occur in front of the Laundry Pro with permission from the family owners. In the words of Chris, one of the business owners, he likes the sidewalk workshops and believes, “this is something that the community needs, because there are not many activities that kids can do, and they need something to keep them busy.”The kids have a little bit of fun and he loves that.



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One of the activities offered by The LP at the workshops is “design your own button/ diseñe su propio botón.” It includes, but is not limited to coloring, drawing or writing on a template provided by The LP with the prompt “In my neighborhood I…,” and creating a button with the resulting image.


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Emily Mock also shared that “this activity of making ‘In my neighborhood I…’ buttons is something that has been in The LP’s programs repertoire. [The LP] likes [engaging neighbors through] this activity because it uses written and visual expression to think about neighborhood and community. The open-endedness of the prompt can lead to all kinds of verbs or memories.”


Some participants write the names of loved ones, other people write phrases coming from local organizing groups fighting displacement and gentrification, such as “The Bronx Is Not For Sale.” Lais, one of the participants, said that she decided to do buttons with the name of different people together with the phrase “my hero” because “these are all positive people in [her life].”


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These workshops provoke other creative processes within the community. For instance, Emily remarked that “Mary, a resident and community leader, started a project about two months ago making buttons for each person at her extended family’s first ever family reunion that was in June in South Carolina.”


Faye (pictured above),is another neighbor, artist, and community leader that has been frequently attending the sidewalk workshops. She is now trying out different techniques and styles. She says that at the beginning she used The LP’s template and then thought, “why don’t I use construction paper?” Since then, she has been drawing and doing buttons with her images at the sidewalk workshops. Animals, fruits, and landscapes are some of the elements that she depicts using paint, colored pencils, and markers.  In the words of our artist catalyst, Alicia Grullón, “Faye’s buttons are little works of art. From a distance, the colors and shapes are very prominent. A small world inside a button.”


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These weekly sidewalk workshops occur thanks to the collaboration of community partners like Laundry Pro, and the creativity, motivation, and generosity of our neighbors around our Kelly Street Collaborative space in Hunts Point.


Meet Yeji Jung, Programs Intern

July 13, 2017

Get to know Yeji Jung, on of our summer 2017 Programs Intern:


So, what made you decide to intern with The LP? How does the internship relate to your studies?

I wanted to intern with The Laundromat Project because I wanted to work at the intersection of art and justice at a grassroots level, and I really vibed with the LP’s community-centered values and vision. I also deeply appreciate that The LP has black women on its board and staff full and other people/women of color, as well as its model of building long-term, sustainable relationships with three specific communities.


Do you have your own creative practice? If so, tell us more!

I’ve recently started to develop my art practice primarily in visual media like printmaking and painting, but also expanding to pottery and other forms. Much of my practice centers around exploring my diasporic Korean American identity, and around concepts of abundance (as opposed to capitalistic scarcity) and healing. I’ve also played music in a variety of ways (violin, singing, guitar, uke, djembe) since I was pretty young.


Can you tell us about an artist or project that has inspired you?

Queer Korean American filmmaker Andrew Ahn’s “Spa Night” really wrecked me. It was the first time I saw something that wasn’t Korean, or American, but wholly Korean American, like my own lived experience.


What is your favorite… film?

hmm, Kiki’s Delivery Service??



maybe Funeral by Arcade Fire? or Surf by Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment?



My grandma’s dumplings. Once every few months, we have dumpling day at my aunt’s/grandma’s house, where the whole family spends hours making literally hundreds of dumplings.


Where do you do your laundry?

In my building off 137th and Malcolm X


In your opinion, why does art matter?

As a student of Jeff Chang (Executive Director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University), I believe culture precedes politics. In other words, culture changes first, and politics follow. So, I see art and culture as a crucial frontier for justice work.


And, while we can identify what we want to dismantle, we also have to have a vision for what we want to build. How else but through art can we heal enough, free ourselves enough to dream up a fundamentally different world?


Yeji Jung (she/her/they/them) is from outside of Dallas and a rising senior at Stanford University majoring in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. She is an aspiring artist-organizer seeking transformative justice and interdependence for and with her communities.