2015 was a year packed with global travel, exhibition opportunities, community engagement programs & media mentions. See below for some highlights.
Art + Creative Change
One of the biggest highlights of 2015 happened as the year came to a close–the Smithsonian Channel interviewed Shani about her artistic practice, global travels and community work! See below for a sneak peek behind the scenes of this developing project…
Shani also had photography featured in a number of art exhibits last year, including All Rise at Princeton University’s Bernstein Gallery and The Time Is Now at the SCOPE Art Show, presented by the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation. Her piece in the Respond exhibit at the Smack Mellon gallery was mentioned in the New York Times as emblematic of the take-away message of what they described as “a knockout group show” that “produced a soundtrack of shouts, cries, chants and whispers to set against the wall of insulating white noise that enwraps the art world at large.”
Socially engaged art and internationalism are at the core of Shani’s work, and she delivered a speech about that at the Black Portraitures conference in Florence, Italy last summer. Video of the panel, Sister Outsider: Black American Women, Identity and Global Travel, and other featured presentations are posted on blackportraitures.info. Press play to check this work out!
After the conference concluded, she went on to spend several weeks touring the country– studying art and philosophy as a David Driskell fellow with the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. In addition to Italy, this year saw her travel to the Philippines, Abu Dhabi, Russia, Thailand and Taiwan.
Lastly, Writing On It All–which is an organization that offers artists a platform for building a site-specific creative practice– invited Shani to lead a community installation at Governor’s Island. She was given an entire house to use as her canvas, to imagine and invite others to imagine with her, what kind of future we could create if Black women and girls were safe from state sponsored violence. Shortly thereafter she went upstate to do a residency at Ryder Farms, which supports innovative practitioners who work at the intersection of art and social change. She spoke about the impact of her respective projects at the Creative Solutions symposium in NYC.
Public Speaking + Public Service
In December, Shani celebrated International Human Rights Day by curating Open Season 2015, an evening of art + performance + conversation about women and girls in our culture of confinement. The event was held at the National Black Theatre in Harlem, with additional support provided by The Studio Museum in Harlem, the International Center of Photography, the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, Angela’s Pulse and Dancing While Black. Click here to see gorgeous photos, check out the social media buzz and watch a full length video of the event.
Open Season is one of a number of events she’s organized in her capacity as a Managing Director of the Urban Justice Center. Another that bears mention is the 10th annual arts based human rights training that was held in New York City last May. This three day institute engaged a select cohort of social justice advocates from around the country. Participants discussed cultural strategy, community building and ways to use human rights mechanisms to address inequality in the U.S. Congrats to the latest class, who now join a nationwide cohort of really impressive alumni!
Just before the institute began, Shani gave a presentation about her work fusing the arts and human rights at NYU’s Creative Arts and Social Work conference. Six months later she was back on campus to speak about social practice at the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Tisch School of the Arts, part of a powerhouse group of artists and change makers talking about how to use cultural work to empower communities.
Finally, she made a small contribution to keeping creative change in the media: writing about attending the Movement for Black Lives conference in Cleveland and the Selma-Montgomery commemoration in Alabama in her Huffington Post blog and continuing to serve as a regular contributor to The Spin— an internationally broadcast program hosted by Esther Armah that now reaches Ghana, Nigeria and cities throughout the U.S.
Shani’s career achievements were recognized by her beloved alma mater, who featured a collage of her work on the school’s home page in February of 2015. The artwork was accompanied by an alumnae success profile called Human Rights Advocate Travels the Globe in Pursuit of Change. Thank you Spelman!
There are a ton of events and exhibits in the works for 2016! The next one up is The Gathering, a group of dancers, choreographers and scholars organized by Camille A. Brown. Shani will be joining a longtime collaborator and friend Paloma McGregor to facilitate a meaningful discussion about culture and identity with the participants.
Additionally, she will appear on the January 20th edition of The Spin with Esther Armah, Joan Morgan and and Dr. Christina Greer. The broadcast will be archived on SoundCloud.
Wishing each of you all the best for an amazing 2016! This new year needs us to bring our best to the table. Let’s continue to make an impact, inspiring each other along the way.