Rasu

Meet Rasu Jilani, Board Member

February 22, 2017

Get to know Rasu Jilani, who was our 2015 Bed-Stuy Create Change Artist-in-Residence and joined The Laundromat Project’s Board of Directors in September 2017:

 

You’ve been a part of The LP as one of our 2015 Create Change Artists-in- Residence. What excited you most about joining The LP’s board, especially as an alum?

I was formerly an artist-in-resident with The Laundromat Project (in 2015). Now as a board member, I’m starting to look at my career in the trajectory of making resources available to emerging artists (like myself), specifically artists who are shaping the conversation around the power of art, community, and being audacious when doing so. Some of my curiosities are: who is out there pushing the boundaries of where art can exist? Who are the artists stretching the imagination of how art and society intersect? Those are the questions I have. I’ve recently been taking on and saying “yes” to any opportunities that allow me to be included in decision-making around these ideas, because I know it is such as a hill to climb as an emerging artist navigating your career, which in itself is a difficult task. But when you add other components like social justice, activism, critical consciousness, and community development, these aspects make the hill even steeper for emerging artists. I am looking to be an advocate on the other side of the table for this kind of work, which being a board member allows me to do.

 

You’ve worked with many arts organizations, and you’re an independent curator, cultural producer and social sculptor who investigates intersections between art, culture and civic engagement as a method of raising critical consciousness. Can you tell us about an organization or project that was a particular highlight of your work?

I think Griots in “The Stuy” project encapsulates my personal modus operandi of deep listening, allowing for discourse to happen by asking smart questions, allowing voice to manifests itself, and allowing people to speak their own truth, and it also epitomizes who I am and what I am doing (at least on a basic level).

 

I am making distinctions between social practice and a career path for what I’m doing, and what I do at NEW INC brings together my core competencies of technology, social entrepreneurship, civic engagement, social activism, and thinking of how to create equitable ecosystems. I consider myself as a cultural auditor of sorts… that in itself is what I’m looking to deepen my practice in, holding institutions accountable to what they say they want to do, and making sure it matches their mission statement and values.

 

Has The LP changed the way you think about art? If so, how?

The LP showed me that it is possible for organizations to put value on the creative process. Oftentimes, the museums and gallery industries put emphasis on the end result. The artistic product. The LP puts a focus on the process, embraces getting messy, and trying out what works. This is what I like to call establishing a creative-sandbox that artists and creatives, especially artists of color, don’t have the privilege to do those things. The LP has shaped my relationship to art – that it isn’t a product-based object but a process.

 

What song gets you going when work is hard?

It depends. If I need to do numbers or write, I listen to meditation music to quiet my mind, like Steve G. Jones chakra music, which is high-pitched music with instrumentation, no vocals. Then I may go to something chill like Little Dragon or the Internet, something that won’t interrupt my thought process.

 

If I’m doing something where I have to use my hands, or idle mind busy work, I’ll put on Wu Tang Clan, Rage Against the Machine, or Queens of the Stone Age to get my adrenaline going.

 

What have you been reading lately?

Outside of work, I’ve been reading spirituality and metaphysical theory books on the side; thinking about how the spirit and mind applies to the body and how we shape reality, reality shaped by perceptions. Right now – reading a book called Lucid Dreaming by Robert Waggoner and King’s Magic and Medicine by Daryl Peavy, which is about shamanism in West Africa. One of my favorites, that I recently finished, is Between the World and Me, by Ta-nehisi Coates.

 

Where do you do your laundry?

I drop it off since I don’t have time to do my own laundry anymore. At M&M laundromat in Bed-Stuy.

 




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Meet Curtis Young, Board Member

February 7, 2017

Get to know Curtis D. Young, SOAPBOX Co-Chair in 2015 and longtime LP supporter who officially joined The Laundromat Project’s Board of Directors in January 2017:

 

As a supporter of the arts, what do you feel is your connection to the arts?

I’ve been a lover of the arts and culture from the moment I picked up the alto saxophone in sixth grade. I didn’t know how much that would impact my life, but it has had a profound impact. I attended the Flint School of Performing Arts in addition to a traditional school. I also attended Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp each summer growing up, where I was surrounded by creativity most of my day. Music was my connection and entry point into the world of arts and culture.

 

What attracted you to The LP and excited you most about joining the board?

I was first attracted to The Laundromat Project’s commitment to making art and cultural programs more accessible to communities around New York City. I also fell in love with its mission to amplify the creativity that already exists within communities by using arts and culture. Back in 2014 I served on the host committee for The Laundromat Project’s annual Soap Box benefit and was co-chair in 2015. It’s been a pleasure to stay involved over the years and I’m extremely excited to take my support up a level while serving on the Board of Directors.

 

You have an extensive career in educational programming and language exchange. Can you tell us about an organization or project that was a particular highlight of your work?

I’ve been fortunate to have a colorful career, not only in education but also politics, which at time seem to be polar opposites, especially these days. I do feel that education is what I am most passionate about at this stage of my life.

 

One highlight was working at iEARN-USA (International Education and Resource Network). iEARN pioneered the use of technology in education connecting students around the world on collaborative project based online learning activities. Their projects aimed to have students learn with the world and not just about the world. With the current political climate in which we currently live, this simple act of understanding and working with others beyond our borders is what we more students need. Additionally, we were funded by the U.S. Department of State to implement several citizen diplomacy programs, one of which was the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES Program). This program afforded students from predominantly muslims countries opportunities to study in the United States for one academic school year, living with an American family. It has been truly life changing for thousands of youth globally. These same students returned to their home countries with a greater understanding of the world and equipped with more tools to make a difference in their local communities. Another amazing program I worked on there was the National Security Language Initiative for Youth. That was my baby for many years!

 

It was my experience in education technology and collaboration at iEARN that led to my current position at the Ross Institute, where our work centers around research in globalization and education, the functioning of the mind, brain and education, and curriculum development that fosters intercultural understanding.

 

Please tell us about an artist, curator, activist, or project that has influenced or inspired you:

I attended Hampton University, home of our nation’s oldest African American Art Museum. In the museum’s permanent collection are several pieces by John Biggers. In fact, two of his most prolific murals hang in the Harvey Library where I spent many long nights. I recall several times during my undergraduate days stopping in my tracks, almost mesmerized by the larger than life murals playing on abstract and symbolic themes associated with liberation, justice, history of African Americans and overall inspiration to all students passing. John Biggers is by far a unspoken inspiration for me and so many Hamptonians inadvertently.

 

Has The LP changed the way you think about art? If so, how?

Simply stated, The LP has helped me see my community as a piece of art within itself.

What’s The LP value that keeps you engaged in our work?

Propelled by Love! We need so much more of this in the world.

 

What song gets you going when work is hard?

“Brand New” by Pharrell Williams

 

What have you been reading lately?

“The Empathic Civilization” by Jeremy Rivkin

 

Where do you do your laundry?

Oddly enough, in my home. Long story.

 

What’s your/a favorite food?

Baked Macaroni and Cheese




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Meet Tresell Davis, Board Treasurer

February 7, 2017

Get to know Tresell Davis, our Board Treasurer. Tresell joined The Laundromat Project’s Board of Directors in September 2016:

 

You’ve been a longtime supporter of the arts. What do you feel is your connection to the arts, and what attracted you to The LP and excited you most about joining the board?

I truly feel as if I am a daughter and a sister to the arts. Literally both my father and sister are visual artists so I just feel that both artists and art are kin to me and flowing in my veins.

 

What most attracted me to the LP, and particularly the LP board is the fact that this is such a loving group of people who are making art accessible to communities of color. I was so fortunate to have been totally engrossed in art as a child and I truly believe that the incorporation of art and creativity has contributed to my success in a profound way; so to take part in the LP is a huge honor.

 

You have an impressive career in retail merchandising, financial planning, and analytics, and have studied consumer behaviors, patterns, and market analysis. Can you tell us about an organization or project that was a particular highlight of your work?

There have been quite a few organizations that I have worked for professionally (May Company, Macy’s Inc., Ross Inc.) and within each of those organizations, I have studied financial and retail analytics to develop successful strategies. However I believe that the greatest showcase of my work has been the promotion and growth of my associates. As their manager, coach and leader, each project has given me the opportunity to lead by example through my integrity, work ethic, humility and optimism. There is nothing in my professional career that gives me greater joy.

 

Please tell us about an artist, curator, activist, or project that has influenced or inspired you.

My father has been one of, if not the greatest influence and source of inspiration in my life. As a black set painter and visual artist in the film and television industry, he had to overcome so many obstacles. He taught me and my sisters how to think creatively and how to be savvy and strong. He’s truly a hero.

 

Has The LP changed the way you think about art? If so, how?

As an adult, art and the “art world” just appeared to be so monetized and limited in access. The LP, has made art feel like home again—a familiar place built by love. It’s a constant reminder that art is for all people.

 

What’s The LP value that keeps you engaged in our work?

Community-Centered and powered by love!

 

What is your neighborhood?

Harlem

 

What’s your favorite thing about it?

The feeling of being in a place where I am embraced and at peace.

 

What is your favorite book, film or song about NYC?

Book: Harlem on the Verge by Alice Attie

 

What song gets you going when work is hard?

HiiiPower, Kendrick Lamar

 

What have you been reading lately?

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

 

Where do you do your laundry?

At home

 

What’s your/a favorite food?

My mom’s Mexican chicken casserole