2016 ABOG Fellows for Socially Engaged Art

A Blade of Grass, Brooklyn / United States

April 25, 2016

A Blade of Grass
137 5th Avenue, 10th Floor, Suite R
New York, NY 10010

T +1 646 757 4599


A Blade of Grass (ABOG), established in 2011 as the first organization solely devoted to nurturing socially engaged art, is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2016 ABOG Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art.

Five artists and three collectives—Xenobia Bailey, Black Quantum Futurism, Courtney Bowles and Mark Strandquist, Chinatown Art Brigade, Joseph Cuillier, Simone Leigh, Rulan Tangen and Frances Whitehead—will receive an ABOG Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art. One collective—Rebecca Mwase and Ron Ragin—will receive the ABOG-David Rockefeller Fund Joint Fellowship in Criminal Justice, a new targeted fellowship resulting from a year-long planning process between A Blade of Grass and the David Rockefeller Fund.

Xenobia Bailey is a trash alchemist, single-stitch urban crochet aficionado, artist and community activist, whose practice industrializes the urban aesthetic of funk into utilitarian “Funktional” design. Her ABOG Fellowship will support Paradise Under Reconstruction, a pedagogical model combining design labs and historical remixing. Its goal is to collectively fabricate prototypes for health aids and services for the needs of African-American communities in Seattle, WA and Harlem, NY.

Working collectively as Black Quantum Futurism, multidisciplinary artists Camae Ayewa and Rasheedah Phillips will create Community Futurisms: Time & Memory in North Philly, a collaborative art and ethnographic research project through theirABOG Fellowship. It will use Afrofuturism as a critical activist theory and organizing tool to explore the impact of redevelopment in North Philadelphia, and culminate in the creation of a community-sourced time capsule.

Artists and community organizers Courtney Bowles and Mark Strandquist will use theirABOG Fellowship to create the People’s Reentry Think Tank, connecting former prisoners, artists, civil rights lawyers, reentry organizations, and other community experts in Philadelphia around art and advocacy projects. The aim will be to clear people’s criminal records, create a Bill of Rights for people in reentry, and organize a culminating assembly for legislative action at Pennsylvania’s State Capitol.

Working collectively as Chinatown Art Brigade, artist Tomie Arai and filmmakers ManSee Kong and Betty Yu will create Here to Stay, a project addressing gentrification, displacement and resilience in NYC’s Chinatown through community-led workshops and a public projection campaign incorporating original art and oral history in Chinatown and the Lower East Side.

Joseph Cuillier is a Brooklyn-based artist, designer, poet, and educator. His ABOG Fellowship will support The Black School, an experimental art school drawing on the legacy of the Freedom Schools of the Civil Rights Movement to educate Bedford-Stuyvesant students in becoming radical agents of social change through art making workshops, classes in radical Black political theory, and public projects. 

Simone Leigh is an artist whose prolific career includes sculpture, videos, installations, and social practice projects. Her ABOG Fellowship will support Home Economics, an underground series of workshops geared toward creating an arsenal of skills that will sharpen the critical thinking, self-awareness and strategic planning of a group of young Black girls in New York City. 

Theater artist and educator Rebecca Mwase and performing artist Ron Ragin will receive the ABOG-David Rockefeller Fund Joint Fellowship in Criminal Justice to support Freedom Chamber, an active collaboration with organizations in New Orleans. Together, they will co-create sound sculptures reflecting the experiences of currently and formerly incarcerated people, their families, and local communities, and act as a catalyst for action against mass incarceration.

Rulan Tangen is an internationally accomplished dance artist, choreographer and director. Her ABOG Fellowship will support REdGENERATION, a series of visioning sessions and collaborative movement workshops with Native community members from the rural Four Corners region, culminating in a transformative performance ritual in the fall harvest season.

Frances Whitehead is a civic practice artist with a long history of bringing contemporary art strategies to her practice of shaping cities. Her ABOG Fellowship will support Fruit Futures Initiative Gary, an experimental community orchard project in Gary, Indiana, that will foster the development of food shed resilience, grow civic pride, and collectively evolve new creative food ways for the local community.

About A Blade of Grass
A Blade of Grass nurtures socially engaged art. We provide resources to artists who demonstrate artistic excellence and serve as innovative conduits for social change. We evaluate the quality of work in this evolving field by fostering an inclusive, practical discourse about the aesthetics, function, ethics and meaning of socially engaged art that resonates within and outside the contemporary art dialogue. Learn more at www.abladeofgrass.org.

Field Supporters
The ABOG Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art is made possible by the generous Field contributions of our board members and friends, and through major contributions from the David Rockefeller Fund, and Groundbreakers Agnes Gund, Eva Haller, Shelley Frost Rubin and Linda Schejola.  

The ABOG Fellowship is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Related public programs are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Media contacts
Joelle Te Paske, Programs & Communications Manager, A Blade of Grass: T +1 646 757 5213 / jtepaske [​at​] abladeofgrass.org
Tara Plath, Blue Medium Inc.: T +1 212 675 1800 / tara [​at​] bluemedium.com

*Image above: Clockwise, from top left: Ron Ragin and Rebecca Mwase. Photo: Melisa Cardona. Chinatown Art Brigade: Tomie Arai, ManSee Kong, and Betty Yu. Courtesy the artists. Xenobia Bailey. Photo: Daisy Chen. Courtney Bowles and Mark Strandquist. Photo: Ryan Dennis. Simone Leigh. Photo: Paul Mpagi Sepuya. Frances Whitehead. Photo: Janeil Englestad + Chris Csikszentmihalyi. Black Quantum Futurism: Rasheedah Phillips and Camae Ayewa. Photo: Eva Wo. Joseph Cuillier. Courtesy the artist. Rulan Tangen. Photo: Daniel Quat.