The Beautiful Project Speaks to WRAL News About Experiences of Black Girls and Women in Pandemic

In 2020, we spent the time documenting how Black women and girls in NC have been impacted by this global pandemic. As storytellers, we wanted to write Black women and girls into this moment and gather testimonies, not just in the struggle, but also in our resilience and creative adaptation. Last week, our program director, Erin Stephens, and one of our apprentices, Noire Meyers, spoke to WRAL News about how the duel pandemics of COVID-19 and civil unrest are impacting our lives. We’re very grateful for the WRAL team, particularly to Lora Lavigne and Lena Tillet for lifting up our work. Watch below or here.

Also, the launch of TBP’s first cohort of youth apprentices last year was made possible by Grantmakers for Girls of Color’s Love Is Healing Fund. Thank you G4GC! We are grateful for all of the individuals and foundations that invest in the lives of Black girls and women. If you would like to support us with a monetary gift so that we can continue to do this work, visit here: https://bit.ly/DonateToTBP.

 

Don’t Worry, We’ll Hold Hands Again is a hopeful sentiment that has been stated and felt many times during the COVID-19 global pandemic. In fact, you may come across a large billboard or banner with these words in a city or town near you. In a black and white photograph, there is a small group of people holding hands as they stand together while facing the camera. Underneath their photo, you can read the aforementioned promise in bold text alongside a directive in red that reads, “Resist COVID / Take 6!” 

A RESIST COVID / TAKE 6! banner at the Nasher Museum. Courtesy of Carrie Mae Weems. Photo by Robert Zimmerman.

This image is one of many visual messages that is a part of a national public awareness campaign by artist and MacArthur Genius award winner Carrie Mae Weems. The campaign, Resist COVID: Take Six consists of large billboards, banners, and posters with messaging that seeks to enlighten and educate communities about the disproportionate impact of the virus on the lives of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.  In a statement released by Weems about the intention behind her campaign, she wrote, “We have indisputable evidence that people of colour have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. The death toll in these communities is staggering. This fact affords the nation an unprecedented opportunity to address the impact of social and economic inequality in real time.” 

Posters from Resist Covid / Take 6! are on view at Golden Belt in Durham, NC. Courtesy of Carrie Mae Weems.
Resist Covid / Take 6! street pole banner lining Campus Drive connecting Duke’s east and west campuses. Courtesy of Carrie Mae Weems. Photo by Wendy Hower.

As a result, Resist COVID: Take Six is just as much of an art exhibition as a public health campaign. Other messaging presented in the campaign includes important calls to action such as “Stop the Spread: MASK-UP, BACK-UP, WASH-UP.” There are also images that express gratitude to all of the frontline workers that risk their lives daily while working in this pandemic. 

A RESIST COVID / TAKE 6! banner on the Nasher Museum faces a pair of RESIST COVID / TAKE 6! street pole banners on Anderson Street. Courtesy of Carrie Mae Weems. Photo by J Caldwell.

Over the last few months, Weems partnered with art institutions across the country to bring forth this mixed media public art campaign to communities, including the city of Durham. The campaign is currently on view at Duke University, co-sponsored by Nasher Museum and Duke Arts. It is an outdoor exhibition that takes the route of Campus Drive throughout Duke’s campus so visitors can experience the artwork in person safely by car or on foot. To see it in person, head to the Nasher Museum at Duke University now through January. Here is an interactive map to see the images. Wear your masks and maintain your distance, of course. More information about the exhibition, Resist COVID-19: Take 6 can be found here.

 

2020 casted Black people as characters in the play we never asked for. 

Somehow, as the twists and turns threatened our sheer will to survive, you stood with us

You cheered from afar. 

You sent so much love our way it was (IS) impossible for us to give up on ourselves. 

We are still here.  And we know full well, we couldn’t have gotten this far without your support. We are grateful. 

On this Giving Tuesday, you can continue to support our work with a tax deductible donation.  

Our mission is to cultivate voice and power, encouraging Black women and girls to participate in the conversations that so often happen about us, without us. With your gift, we are able to create brave spaces where Black girls and women can claim our own narratives that elicit freedom and hope. The Beautiful Project is an independent 501c3. You can make a donation here: http://www.thebeautifulproject.org/give/

 

With love and solidarity,

Jamaica

Founder & Executive Director 

On Wednesday, October 14, at 10:15 AM ET, our founder and executive director Jamaica Gilmer will be speaking  about the importance of Black photographers and their roles in social justice movements. Hosted by the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University, this virtual panel is free and open to the public with a zoom registration. The discussion will be moderated by independent curator and art historian Anita Bateman and Jamaica will be in conversation with fellow photographers Dare Kumolu-Johnson and Jay Simple.

To learn more about the virtual panel and to register, visit here: https://fsp.duke.edu/events/practices-black-photographers/

Those of us who knew her know, there aren’t enough words to say, exactly, how well she loved us. And how fiercely, clearly, she fought for us.

One of our beloved has found her resting place.

We join the many who are grieving the loss of the beloved Allison R. Brown. For us, she was a friend, mentor, advocate, confidante, leader and Board member. She was a giant and her wide impact has left a significant mark on education justice and the philanthropy world. For The Beautiful Project specifically, her impact, love, support, and unconditional belief in us will forever be woven into the fabric of our story.

Allison believed in us wholeheartedly, individually and collectively. Even before she gracefully joined our Board, she chose to stand alongside us and fight on our behalf in philanthropic spaces. Years ago, we received our first significant grant that gave the women of The Beautiful Project jobs. It was Allison Brown who advocated for us to receive the funding we needed to build an institution and dream house for Black girls and women. Over the years, Allison had become a dear mentor, friend, fundraiser, and strategic thought partner. And she continued to fight for us in so many ways, even as she was fighting the final battles of her life. She was a quiet and powerful force–full of sage advice, wisdom and clarity.

There are people that are called to you for a reason, and when they are, it is best for you to trust and accept the gift of their presence. We are so grateful for her presence in our lives, professionally and personally in the times that we shared with her. We are so grateful for her choosing us, The Beautiful Project. We are so grateful for her commitment, love, and fight for her people. Her presence, leadership, and the work of her hands and mind have touched so many lives.

We’re sending love, light and peace to her children, her husband, loved ones, colleagues and team at Communities for Just Schools during this time.

Allison Brown, you remain our champion. We are honored to be among your legacy. Your legacy will continue. Rest In Peace and Power.

With love and love and love and love—truly and forever yours,

The Beautiful Project

Yesterday, February 24th, was the last day of the Pen, Lens & Soul exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Our team is very grateful for all of the responses, reactions, and reflections we received about the exhibit since its opening in December. We are also grateful for the various media outlets that shared about our work on their platforms. Here’s a quick roundup of the press about the Pen, Lens & Soul exhibit that have been published over the last few months.  

 

Essence 

Black Girl Magic Is On Display At The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Bridgette Bartlett Royall

“No one loves us, like us.

Black girls don’t regularly see themselves celebrated in mainstream spaces dedicated to the fine arts. In fact, the idea of walking into one of the world’s largest and most acclaimed art museums located on Manhattan’s affluent Upper East Side and seeing us on display, living unapologetically in our many colorful layers, from getting our hair flat ironed at the salon with a Biscuitville cup in the background to being a guest at a family birthday party where plastic cups are meticulously filled with ginger ale seems far fetched; even in 2020.” 

Read more

 

The New York Times 

‘Beautiful Project’ at the Met: Stories of Southern Black Girlhood by Salamishah Tillet

“On my way into the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently to see “Pen, Lens & Soul: The Story of the Beautiful Project,” an exhibition of poetry and photography by black girls and women based in Durham, N.C., I looked up to its facade. And there I saw Wangechi Mutu’s stately African and divinely inspired female quartet of bronze sculptures.

As I headed to show, at the Ruth and Harold D. Uris Center for Education, I began thinking that the spatial difference between these two collections was not a juxtaposition between high art for public viewing and art used for community outreach. Instead they were on a continuum, in which the black girls in the photographs and Mutu’s figures actively challenged the notion of who belongs in those cultural spaces.” 

Read More

 

Indyweek 

Black Girls and Women from Durham Visit Their Art Exhibit at the Met by Khayla Deans

“When the pen is in my hand, what will I write? When the camera’s viewfinder meets my eye, what will I see and capture? How will I leave an impact on this world through my stories and images?

These are a few of the questions that we at The Beautiful Project in Durham ask Black girls and women.

For fifteen years, we’ve worked to cultivate voice and power among Black girls and women to own their narratives and to tell their stories. We exist to challenge the narratives that misrepresent and misuse our likeness in the media and society. We do this work under the pillars of sisterhood and care, recognizing the power of collectivity, community, and belonging.

It is our committed intention to create spaces for Black girls and women to simply be, to feel valued, and to be seen as our full selves.” 

Read More

 

WRAL News

Meet local young artists contributing to The Beautiful Project – reported by Lena Tillett for WRAL News 

Forbes 

New Metropolitan Museum Exhibition Features Works By Young, Black, Female Artists From North Carolina by Jane Levere

“A new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, “Pen, Lens & Soul: The Story of the Beautiful Project,” presents over a decade of photography and writing by young artists who have been trained to use the camera and pen to document how they see the world and their aspirations.

The Beautiful Project is a North Carolina-based collective founded in 2004 that uses photography, writing and care to advance the representational justice and wellness of black girls and women.  Its black artists, scholars and educators encourage and equip black girls and women to be caretakers of their needs, images and stories.”

Read More

 

Our Town NY

Beauty, Strength and Promise: The Met showcases photography and writing by young Black women artists by Mary Gregory

“‘Just as you are, I choose you. And I’ll keep making that choice every time I see you.’

It’s called The Beautiful Project, and it truly is. The halls of the Uris Education Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art are covered by inspiring, creative, compelling texts and photographs by young Black women artists. The Met is partnering with the North Carolina organization, The Beautiful Project, whose goal is to assist and support the creative efforts of Black girls who use writing and photography to define, declare, champion, and celebrate themselves and each other.”

Read More 

 

PR Newswire 

The Art of Expression: N.C. Middle-schoolers’ Photography on Display at ‘The Met’ by National Heritage Academies 

“Middle-schooler Lacquen Tolbert beams with pride as she views her art installment at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) as part of The Beautiful Project. Her point of pride, the installment is a tribute to her grandmother.

Tolbert’s installment includes two pieces of photography titled: Self Portrait and Gran-Gran in the Kitchen. Her artwork is on display as part of Pen, Lens & Soul: The Story of The Beautiful Project, which presents more than a decade of work by image makers who create spaces for black girls and women to express their power and beauty.”

Read More

 

Additional Articles

Hyperallergic

Art Daily

Paris Photo

 

To our NYC friends: Come hang out with us this Friday, February 7th from 5:30-7pm at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue! We will be celebrating Black History Month for a photo lab during a Today At Apple session. Inspired by our Pen, Lens & Soul exhibit at The Met, our Founder & Executive Director Jamaica Gilmer will share her journey as an artists and leader of The Beautiful Project.

Also, you’ll get hands-on with iPad and learn portrait tips from artist Adama Delphine Fawundu and beauty expert Shennel Patrick. Bring a friend and an object that reflects your personality.

767 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10153

You can learn more about the event and register here.

The Pen, Lens & Soul exhibit is on view now through February 24th, 2020. If you would like to schedule a group tour, contact Suhaly Bautista Carolina, Senior Managing Educator, Audience Development and Engagement (Suhaly.BautistaCarolina@metmuseum.org) and Alexis Gonzalez, Program Associate, Audience Development and Engagement (Alexis.Gonzalez@metmuseum.org).

Two weeks ago, we had the great pleasure of partnering with Carolina Performing Arts in a creative workshop that explored identity and belonging through the powerful work of Carrie Mae Weems.

Using The Kitchen Table Series as an inspirational tool, we led the workshop participants in a reflective journey to think about the tables or structures in their lives that that have been instrumental in shaping their identities and beliefs. Through conversations, writings and illustrations, participants were able to share how these metaphorical tables affirmed, challenged, and shaped who they are today.

 


After the workshop, we attended Ms. Weems’ lecture, Past Tense, which was a multimedia meditation on culture, power, and identity, fitting perfectly with the theme of our pre-performance workshop. Many thanks to our collective members who came out to participate and support this workshop. We’re grateful for Carolina Performing Arts for the opportunity to bring the work that we do to a wider audience. And we want to send a huge thank you to Carrie Mae Weems for gracing us with her presence, brilliance, and artistry.

Iconic American photographer Carrie Mae Weems comes to University of Carolina-Chapel Hill on Wednesday, April 10 to present Past Tense, a striking lecture-style performance in which she examines the right to justice and peace through the lens of the classic play Antigone. Accompanied by startling imagery projected onscreen behind her, Weems explores themes of social justice, escalating violence, gender relations, politics, and personal identity within the context of contemporary history—recurrent subjects in her practice as a visual artist. Learn more about the performance and the artist’s motivation for creating this work.

We are excited and honored to partner with Carolina Performing Arts in a pre-performance workshop event before Carrie Mae Weems’ performance of Past Tense. Join us as we explore the impact of Weems’ art and celebrate the revolutionary power of words and images.

Our creative workshop, free and open to the public, will take place on April 10th at 6:00pm at Gerrard Hall, which is located right next door to UNC’s Memorial Hall. Also, friends of TBP who plan to attend Weems’ performance (and you should!) can receive discounted tickets ($15) by using our promo code:

TBPFRIEND can be redeemed online, by phone (919.843.3333), or in person at the CPA Box Office at Memorial Hall (M-F, 10 AM-5 PM). To redeem online: Select desired date on performance page. On next page, you must enter the code in the top right corner of the page before selecting desired number of tickets for the code to work properly.

Creative Workshop
April 10, 6pm
UNC’s Gerrard Hall
226-234 E Cameron Ave, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
https://www.facebook.com/events/305596270119342/

Past Tense
April 10, 7:30pm
UNC’s Memorial Hall
114 E Cameron Ave, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
carolinaperformingarts.org/pasttense