I’m deeply honored that The Laundromat Project will be lifting up my work at their annual SOAPBOX dinner and dance party this year. I hope all who are in NYC on May 22nd will attend. If you can’t attend, please consider making a donation to this wonderful group.
For many years, I’ve been trying to bring artists and organizers together, because I hold both of these identities so strongly in myself. The process of plotting out a campaign, writing an essay, and designing a baby blanket are so similar for me, even as I tap into different stores of knowledge to produce a good plan and an effective, evocative piece of work. I also consider creativity a birthright of human beings. The space to make art, to express ourselves, is a fundamental human right that should never be repressed.
This is what the folks at The Laundromat Project also understand - creativity exists in everyone. Laundromats are communal settings, hence the great number of romantic movies set among the washers and dryers. Around 2005, a group of activist artists (or artistic activists) realized that laundromats were the ideal place to build the ties that bind a neighborhood’s people to each other. Over time, communities built in such spaces might do more than their laundry together.
The Project’s strategy elevates the role of artists as people who bring us beauty even in desperate circumstances, but also as leaders of innovation and collective problem solving. They’ve designed programs that turn “strangers into neighbors” and activate people’s creativity where they already spend their time – in laundromats or other everyday spaces.
Through We The News, for example literary artist Lizania Cruz is filling newsstands and kiosks around Brooklyn with bilingual zines created by immigrants and their organizations, a “space of sanctuary through the use of language.” In Harlem, The Black School organized by Joseph Cuillier is setting up arts teaching programs that also serve as political education spaces in the tradition of Freedom Schools and Black Liberation Schools of the 1960s. The Khayamiya Monument by Katherine Toukhy is a public tent sculpture co-created by Arab women migrants and U.S. women veterans living in Bay Ridge. What’s not to love in this kind of creativity?
My co-honorees, Elia Alba and Tattfoo Tan are also incredible, as is Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, who will create this year’s featured print. And I can’t even believe I’m on the same bill with honorary co-chairs Ruth Carter, the legendary costume designer, and Merele Williams Adkins, the dedicated advocate for the arts.
Watch this video to learn more about The Laundromat Project.