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By The Editors
Asano Agarie Gomez installation her work. See more work from this artist in Quail Bell.
With New York City slowly re-opening, we're pleased to see the Queens Botanical Garden welcoming masked up visitors for the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown. QBG will be re-opening Tuesday, July 21st, with limited operating hours and social distancing guidelines in place. But this isn't the garden's only good news! This season also brings six new art installations curated by AnkhLave Arts Alliance, a non-profit arts platform for marginalized creators. (One just so happens to be our founder Christine Sloan Stoddard.)
We asked AnkhLave founder/executive Dario Mohr–previously featured as an artist here on Quail Bell—to tell us a bit about his organization, its Annual Garden Project, and what it has in store for Queens Botanical Garden guests this summer. Here's what he had to say:
What is AnkhLave Arts Alliance, Inc.?
AnkhLave Arts Alliance is a W.A.G.E. certified nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization for the advancement of marginalized communities. We created this platform or “enclave” of artists comprised of Black, indigenous and people of color, because we believe that art is an ideal platform for the exchange of ideas and perspectives. Art allows people the opportunity to engage in conversations that can be difficult to confront, politically and socially, and opens the floor for conversations between people of diverse communities that may not have engaged otherwise. We believe art has the power to influence, change, and even subvert culture in favor of more nuanced perspectives and equitable space within the contemporary art dialogue.
Installation by Natali Bravo-Barbee. See more work from this artist in Quail Bell.
What inspired the use of gardens in the AnkhLave Garden Project?
In keeping with our mission to facilitate exchange of ideas between and within communities, we seek to present programming beyond the traditional white-walled gallery space, and in alternative public spaces for the greater community to appreciate. People under the BIPOC umbrella don't always see themselves in the art establishment as it was founded within the framework and ideological perspectives of European majority nations. For this reason, many BIPOC have felt left out of these spaces, which is ridiculous, as art is a cultural universal and there are so many great forms of art, spaces, purposes that art was and is created and shared in that didn’t involve the Eurocentric traditional gallery space. That being said, we do still create exhibitions within that tradition as we seek to increase visibility of art from BIPOC in whatever avenues necessary to change the perspective and landscape of the contemporary art world.
For the Annual AnkhLave Garden Project, we believe that an outdoor community garden space is an ideal creative space where artists can create. They’re influenced by the sensory input from nature (the scents, sounds, view and textures of the surroundings) as well as the backdrop for their work, makes for a compelling process and final product for the artist and audience alike.
Installation by Kayo Shido.
How has the AnkhLave Garden Project evolved?
Last year we collaborated with the Manhattan Land Trust, and had six AnkhLave artists conduct art demonstrations, artist talks, and exhibitions in a community garden space in the East Village of Manhattan. This year we received an organizational grant from the Queens Art Fund for our six artist fellows to receive funding to create work that will stay up until 2021.
Tell us about this year's AnkhLave Garden Project.
Due to COVID-19, our live demonstrations and talks were in jeopardy due to quarantine restrictions preventing the possibility for an audience. The Queens Botanical Gardens had closed to the public until further notice, and we needed to figure out a way to present the work to the largest audience possible in these uncertain times. We worked out an agreement with the Queens Botanical Gardens to allow the artists to come install on site and be interviewed about their work for a documentary that we are producing. Individual extended interview vlogs will be posted on the Queens Botanical Gardens website and the AnkhLave website, as well as social media, and a short documentary film will be submitted for film festivals once completed. We had to figure out a way to make it work, and thankfully had the budget to purchase supplies for the videography in addition to hiring an Emmy-nominated video editor to help us out.
Cecilia André installing her work.
How did the partnership with the Queens Botanical Garden begin?
I had been living in Astoria, Queens for a few years, and a friend of a friend happened to work at the Queens Botanical Garden. I told her about how the 2019 AnkhLave Garden Project in the East Village went and she loved the idea. I am very grateful for the staff of the Queens Botanical Garden who have been diligently working with us throughout all of the uncertainty that COVID-19 caused.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact your partnership with QBG?
We had an in-person tour of the gardens planned so that the artists could select their spaces and get a feel for what they could create. Unfortunately, COVID-19 resulted in the gardens closing just a week prior, so we waited it out and cancelled date after date of the live demonstrations hoping that COVID-19 would subside.
What have you found out about the Queens Botanical Garden during this process? What do you wish more people knew about it?
The gardens have beautiful grounds, many plants from all over the world, as well as a fantastic education building for youth programs and camps. On top of that, they have a great little gallery space that our 2020 AnkhLave Garden Project Fellows will include an article of their outdoor installations inside of. We don’t have a date for this yet, but we are planning for it to take place in the winter months.
For those who may not visit the garden in person but wish to experience the art installations virtually, what can they look forward to online?
We will be sharing some extended interview on our websites after they are edited, leading up to the premiere of the short documentary on the 2020 AnkhLave Garden Project, which will be revealed after we submit and hear back from the film festivals we are submitting to, with the Astoria Film Festival being one of our primary options.
Christine Sloan Stoddard with her work. See more installation photos on Quail Bell.
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