“Iyapo Rrepository” At The Bed-Stuy Museum Of African Art With Salome Asega and Ayo Okunseinde

August 18, 2016

As we approach the peak of 2016 Create Change season, we have been checking in with our artists-in-residence as they make progress on their projects. We most recently had a site visit at The Bedford-Stuyvesant Museum of African Art (BSMAA), which will host 2016 Create Change Artists-in-Residence Salome Asega and Ayodamola (Ayo) Okunseinde’s project, “The Iyapo Repository.”


Our visit started at the main entrance of BSMAA, where we were introduced to Vira, founder and owner of BSMAA. Vira explained how the museum came into existence and how its collection comprises of masks and other sculptures, most of which represent female fertility. She has collected these pieces from various sources over the years and some date back to the 1930s-40s! Vera’s vision is to make BSMAA an educational, world-class museum, and though the museum currently occupies only half of the first floor of a residential building, Vira plans to expand it into the entire first floor.





After Vira completed her introduction of BSMAA, Salome and Ayo spoke about their purpose for the site visit, which was to have us help brainstorm how “The Iyapo Repository” would be implemented into the BSMAA. “The Iyapo Repository”—named after the protagonist from the Lillith’s Brood series by science fiction writer Octavia Butler’s—was conceptualized by Salome and Ayo to create a black future through a resource library of artifacts. Among the artifacts are some phenomenal pieces such as a sensory suit that gives the feeling of being underwater and is able to cure individuals of trauma or a phobia of being underwater. Another noteworthy item is a portable device that can fit in the palm of a hand or be worn around one’s neck that picks up negative vibrations and warns the wearer if they are near the scene of a police shooting. We were split into three groups for the brainstorming session, and group one had the task brainstorming ideas for the activation of the front of the museum. Group two created ideas for the curation of the actual exhibition, and group three brainstormed how the to develop “The Iyapo Repository” which starts in the back room of the first floor and continues into the garden.


Group one came up with some great ideas to activate the facade of BSMAA. With the museum still being new, there are many people who walk by and do not know of its existence, so the group thought it was key to create a visual that will instantly draw passersby into the space. The group proposed a mural as a visual that could contain images that symbolize what the entire museum represents. As the individual enters, the idea is to make the experience as immersive as possible with interactive masks or electric faces to create an augmented reality. Group one did also incorporated the use of technology such as smartphones and visual codes, as a way for guests to access information about the art on display in the museum.



Group two was presented with the challenge of considering the space available compared to the growing collection of art. They thought about implementing shelves for the display of the pieces of art presented in the exhibition. They also played with creative and visually appealing ways of displaying the work, such as stacking the art into totem poles and placing the beaded chairs into a circle around the poles as a way to also conserve space. The group also came to realize that an issue a lot of people have is referring to “Africa” as if it were a country. People will refer to places like Italy, Spain, France, etc., as these countries pertain to the continent of Europe, yet many people rarely mention countries such as Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, when referring to the continent of Africa. From this realization, group two presented their idea of separating the art on display by country and region, and into relevant cultural themes such as beauty and fertility.


Group three presented ideas of how to space the artifacts in “The Iyapo Repository” and utilize the smaller space in the backroom. They also proposed that the garden hold chairs and tables for workshops while visitors and observers could be given  clipboards to walk around with, similar to the experience at a larger museum.

Our site visit with Vira, Ayo, and Salome was very productive and left much to look forward to once their BSMAA exhibitions come to fruition. After we completed the brainstorming session, everyone headed over to Ayo’s home for a potluck in typical LP Create Change site visit tradition.

For more about “The Iyapo Repository,” click here.


For a behind-the-scenes look of the site visit with Ayo and Salome, click here.


Cynthia Tobar and Lindsay Catherine Harris in Creative Conversation

August 4, 2016

2016 Create Change Fellows Cynthia Tobar and Lindsay Catherine Harris met at a pub in the East Village and chatted about identity, living in New York, labels, community, and more. Here are a few snapshots from their Creative Conversation:





















Tobar, CynthiaCynthia Tobar is an oral historian and media artist whose interested in making public history freely accessible to the community. She seeks to collect stories that highlight the meaningful connections between people, communities and public policy.




Harris, LindsayLindsay Catherine Harris is a media artist and critical educator, engaged in creating multimedia projects exploring identity, presence, and history. She currently spends most of her time working with teenagers on arts and social justice public programming and interpretation projects at the Brooklyn Museum.



#BlackLivesMatter: The LP Community Responds

August 4, 2016

It’s been over a year since the deaths of Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and countless other lives lost to racial injustice and violence. Our community continues to reflect on and respond to the #BlackLivesMatter movement with the recent news of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and several other people of color killed, as well as the killings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.



Below, you will find creative responses shared with The LP community. It is our hope that these works, readings, and resources will provide healing and encourage self care during this volatile time in society:


Courtney Cook

Aisha Cousins

Walter Cruz

Tarah Douglas

Nicky Enright

Brian Howard King

Sarah Elizabeth Lewis

Mitch McEwen

And, additional readings and resources


Courtney Cook, writer, teacher, and artist:

A Dialogue with the Curriculum of our Nation: A Critical Reading of Moments is Courtney’s poetic response to the murder of Philando Castile, which is in direct dialogue with Diamond Reynolds, the officers at the scene, & Ms. Reynold’s daughter.
Courtney Cook is a former high school English teacher who has been engaged in justice work and critical education in high schools, prisons, and youth-run organizations. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Cultural Studies in Education at University of Texas at Austin.


Aisha Cousins, 2013 Resident & Teaching Artist:

Aisha Cousins BLM Buttons

Aisha made these buttons and shared the following:


“Today’s to-do #1 was to mourn. And to wonder: How do you mourn a person you’ve never met… Why do we mourn? Is it for us or for them? Lately I think about how turning people’s deaths into an activist statement takes away their identity… makes us blind to who they are/were as people just as much as the ones who killed them were blind… I feel like every time I mourn a death as a political statement it lets the killers win in some way.. but how do you mourn a person you’ve never met for who they were as if you would mourn a friend? Is it silly to try? How do we mourn Alton and Philando in a way that affirms their individual identities instead of lumping them into a group?


I made these buttons as a form of defensive propaganda, because I was concerned the media would begin trying to paint these men as criminals. I looked online for the kind of photo I would want of myself if it were going to be seen by lots of people who didn’t know me. Then I listened to or read about their funeral ceremonies and put a note about how each person’s family and friends described them.


But I also made these buttons to share with people who like me wanted to mourn. I feel like I / we mourn constantly… so often we forget to say it… feel redundant saying it. I don’t know if these buttons work the way I had wanted them to. It’s admittedly weird to wear a button like this for someone you don’t personally know. But one happy accident when making them was that the names wouldn’t fit. Which means people who don’t recognize the face sometimes ask “Who is that?” That means they have to say/learn the person’s name or ingest their name in a different light. If you choose to make your own buttons, I think that aspect is worth copying… especially if you live or work in a place where you interact with lots of people who are likely to assume the criminalizing stories. I think creating moments where people experience the name and face as being respected and mourned by someone they know can help undermine those assumptions.”


Aisha Cousins


Walter Cruz, 2016 Create Change Fellow:

Members of the BLM-NYC chapter have been working to support an on-going action called #SwipeItForward, and Walter has been helping out by creating visual graphics:



#swipeitforward infographic_2



Tarah Douglas, artist:

Tarah shared her poem, “untitled.” and artwork, both created in response to the #BlackLivesMatter Movement, and the many deaths and acts of violence against the black community due to police brutality. Her visual piece, called /sā/, encourages all of us to speak up against these injustices, whether we are experiencing them or witnessing them.




black boys bleed like running water

in excess

we clog wounds with old rags

hoping the water will run out

yet still

it drips

like tears down tired mothers’ cheeks

blood on pavement

filling crack with lost love and reminders

of blood we’ve lost before


black boys bleed like leaky faucets

their appearance leads others to

suspect that they are faulty

that they need further tightening

only to be pushed too far

and broken

red water flows too fast

old rags still wet with rage

are replaced with hands

not holding flesh but blood

and chests and breaths

which turn to fists

still stained red

from black boys before us


– Tarah Douglas




Tarah Douglas is a multidisciplinary artist focusing in textiles, photography, and graphic design.



Nicky Enright, artist, educator, DJ, and writer:

Nicky shared two of his works as his creative response:


Time to Break Silence, audio-video piece, 2016.

A Man Was Lynched Yesterday 2014, acrylic on board, 32″x40”, 2014 (below).




Nicky Enright is a multimedia artist, educator, DJ, and writer. Working at the crossroads of audio and visual media, he explores the construction of identity, and the related theory and practice of currency and borders.



Brian Howard King, artist:

Brian shared with us his sculpture ‘Moloch,’ an iteration of a piece initially created in 2009 using a headless black torso with arms raised. In the previous version, the torso was placed on an elevated platform. The current version (below) is placed on a stool, which creates a human-sized dichotomy between the menace perceived and that exhibited.


Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 3.36.01 PM


Brian Howard King is a conceptual artist based in Oakland, California, who works primarily in sculpture and video.



Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, author, curator, and Assistant Professor at Harvard University:



Sarah’s creative response to #BlackLivesMatter has been an ongoing focus on “Vision & Justice,” a generations long interplay of art, race, and citizenship. The Vision & Justice issue of Aperture was her first engagement with the theme. She was the guest editor of this issue, and “Vision & Justice” will be the topic of her first course at Harvard University and a related exhibition at the Harvard Art Museums.


More about the Vision & Justice Aperture issue can be found here.



Mitch McEwen, urban designer and Assistant Professor in Architecture at University of Michigan:



Stay Black and Die: A Possible Ethos for Architecture in a Post-Racial Imaginary is an article Mitch wrote, which also features some images of her work. The author would like to acknowledge her mother, Lillian A. McEwen, who recalled the significance of the phrase “There are only two things I have to do: stay Black and die” during civil rights marches and protest speeches in the 1960s.


As Principal of McEwen Studio and Partner at A(n) Office, Mitch McEwen works in architectural and urban design. Before founding McEwen Studio, she worked as an urban designer in the office of Bernard Tschumi Architects and New York City’s Department of City Planning. She is also Assistant Professor in Architecture at University of Michigan.


More readings and resources: