(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- coLAB Arts has announced the 2021 cohort for its New Brunswick Artist Residency. These incredible social practice and socially-engaged artists will be working over the next year with and in service to local organizations and communities through oral history, workshop facilitation, studio practice, and socially engaged art making. Artist and organization pairings include: Daniela Ochoa-Bravo and Susana Plotts-Pineda in collaboration with Unity Square Neighborhood Revitalization Project and Rutgers University, Osimiri Sprowal in collaboration with SHELTER and Mercado Esperanza, Ashley Teague and Notch Theatre Company in collaboration with Reformed Church of Highland Park - Affordable Housing Corporation (RCHP-AHC), and Jody Wood in collaboration with Elijah’s Promise. These residencies are supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and a Rutgers University Research Council grant.
Social practice artists Ashley Teague and Jody Wood are each the recipients of a $20,000 nine-month residency and will be developing new sustainable artist positions for their respective community partners. Teague will be creating original theater pieces with the diverse refugee community served by RCHP-AHC, in an effort to share the story of how their mutual aid service work transforms lives. Wood is developing a “Health Hub” with guests of Elijah’s Promise’s community kitchen, documenting the stories, rituals, and personal health practices of those who are largely unhoused or housing precarious New Brunswick community members.
Osimiri Sprowal, in a shared residency between the Mercado Esperanza food justice collaborative (Elijah’s Promise, New Brunswick Tomorrow, and coLAB Arts), and the SHELTER pandemic recovery collaborative (Rutgers University, New Brunswick Theological Seminary, Reformed Church of Highland Park - Affordable Housing Corporation, and coLAB Arts) will be facilitating creative workshops for unhoused and housing precarious community members of the greater New Brunswick area and producing a digital archive of their creative output in conversation with artwork from commissioned professional artists.
Daniela Ochoa-Bravo and Susana Plotts-Pineda will be producing an original comic book in response to the oral histories and experiences of the Latino immigrant urban gardener community from New Brunswick’s Landers Garden and Feaster Park, managed by Unity Square. The collaboration is supported by Dr. Mary Nucci from the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
Daniela Ochoa-Bravo is a mixed-media artist, writer, and researcher based in Brooklyn, born in Bogotá. In her work, she often explores immigration, family structures, and the evolution of grief, often in the form of homage to Colombia, and her own family. She is the co-founder and co-editor of Egg y Pan Magazine, a publication that is dedicated to fostering a community between Latinx & POC writers and artists. She pursued a B.A. in Global Studies and minored in Ethnicity and Race at The New School. She was the 2019 Social Science Fellow at The New School, which allowed her to work for a civics education NGO, Generation Citizen, under the Director of Impact. Her undergraduate thesis, Of Youth During Sin: The Legacy of Peacemaking Practices in Colombia, was a two-year-long research project that she carried out under the mentorship of Chris London and Alexandra Delano. Currently, she is working on an oral history-based comic-book piece with CoLAB Arts, an organization based out of New Brunswick, NJ, that uses arts as a method for engaging artists and thinkers with larger themes of social justice, equity, and oral-archive preservation and creation. Some of her previous publications include 12th Street Journal, Lumina Journal, and The New Context.
Susana Plotts-Pineda is a Mexican-American theatre-maker, multi-media artist, performer, and writer, who grew up in Puebla, Boston, Bogotá, and Brooklyn. Her work is as dedicated to the careful crafting of dreamscapes as much as it is to exploring historical memory and social reality. She deals with themes of cultural identity, fragmentation, and revolution, delving into archive as much as utopian imaginings. Susana attended The Experimental Theatre Wing at NYU, where she wrote and directed The Alien Drift, a science-fiction exploration of cultural alienation and homage to Chavela Vargas. Her documentary solo play La Caravana de los Misterios, was initially workshopped at a Performance Studies International Conference in Calgary and later staged at Emerging Artists Theatre’s New Works Series. Framed within a life-sized shadow box, La Caravana uses the sensibility of the miniature to reconstruct a history of American intervention during the drug war and trace its impact on the current situation at the border. An article about the piece is currently under review for publication in Global Performance Studies. She is also the co-founder of Egg y Pan Magazine, a project created to highlight the voices of Latinx artists and artists of color. Susana has worked with Colombian artist’s laboratory Mapa Teatro, New York-based dance-theatre company Noche Flamenca and Mexico City-based theatre company for the Deaf, Seña y Verbo. Most recently, her short film Belmont or These Kinds of Dreams, which she developed as a fellow at the Hemispheric Insitute’s EmergeNYC program, premiered at the 2020 OC Film Fiesta.
Osimiri Sprowal is an international slam champion poet, author, workshop facilitator, creative director, and budding photographer born and raised in Philadelphia. They are an alumnus of the Philly Youth Poetry Movement (PYPM), Babel Poetry Collective, and the founder of deadname.arts, Philly’s only exclusively trans and gender-expansive art collective. Osimiri was the Philly Youth Grand Slam Champion in 2015, and a 2018 College Union Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) Semi-Finalist, where they received the Best Love Poem Award for their poem “Genesis”.
They were a 2018 Till Arts Emerging Trans Artist Fellow, and curated their first ever visual exhibition, inviting other QTPOC to “mask” as various Afro/Indigenous divinities to highlight the fallacy that queerness is antithetical to God and spirituality. They were the 2019 Feminine Empowerment Slam (FEMS) International Individual Slam Champion. They were a winner of the 2019 Shockwire Micro Chapbook Contest for their book Gemini:Duality of Self, a testament to their experiences of intergenerational trauma and the intricacies of being both Black and Trans in America. They founded deadname.arts in 2019, in response to the dearth of trans affirming spaces in their artistic community and their own experiences of transphobia in slam poetry.
They have hosted workshops at University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Arizona-Tucson, and Temple University, and have performed there as well as: Bowery Poetry in New York, George Washington University, The University of Gettysburg, Boston University, the 2019 True Colors Impact Summit, among many other locations. Most recently, they served on the planning committee of the Phreak N Queer Virtual Arts Festival, a virtual celebration of Queer artistry in the wake of the COVID19 pandemic.
Ashley Teague is the founding Artistic Director of Notch Theatre Company and recipient of the Embark Award for Social Innovation in Entrepreneurship. Notch creates community-responsive theatre to drive change around the pressing issues of our time, offering communities nationwide a platform to tell their stories on stage and be their own change makers. Notch is currently producing Wild Home, which takes an odyssey across rural America to tell personal stories about threatened wilderness spaces and the communities that depend on them. Wild Home has been awarded an NEA ArtWorks grant. Additionally, Teague is a participating partner on Remember2019: an effort to make space for the congregation of Black communities in the Arkansas Delta, by supporting and facilitating local artistic practices of self-determination, memory and reflection as directly related to the mass lynching of 1919, the lasting effects of racial terror and the current and future health of these communities. Remember2019 is the recipient of a Map Fund grant and has been featured by the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, Monument Lab, and HowlRound. Teague co-created FIT, a play about the American eugenics movement of the 20th century that partners with the Intellectually Disabled Community and features actors with Down Syndrome. While with Cornerstone Theater Company, Teague developed and produced Talk It Out, which travels California creating community-engaged theater to change public policy around the school-to-prison pipeline crisis. As a creative content producer, she worked on such films as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls, Gus Van Sant's Promised Land, Paul Haggis’ Next Three Days, and Tina Chism’s Peeples. Recent directing credits include: Voices from a Pandemic (Chautauqua Theatre Company), Anna Karenina: a riff (The Flea Theater, NYC; HB Studio, NYC; White Heron Theater, MA), Generation25 (Collaborative Arts Ensemble, Kigali, Rwanda), Gruesome Playground Injuries (Asolo Rep/FSU, FL), Capsized (Cherry Lane, NYC), Twelfth Night (Gallery Players, NYC), Wild Home (Live@Jacks; Delicious Orchards, CO), FIT (La Mama Studios, NYC; Spectrum Theatre/Trinity Rep, RI; White Heron Theater, MA), The Language Archive (UNC/Playmakers Rep), The Rehearsal (Asolo Rep/FSU, FL), CHQ Project (Chautauqua Theatre Co, NY), Scapegoat (Delta Cultural Center, AR), Willful (California State Capitol). Teague's work has received numerous awards including those for Best Director / Choreographer, Best Musical and Best Ensemble Cast, to name a few.
Jody Wood is an artist working in mediums of social practice, video, photography, and performance. Her recent work re-imagines routines in poverty support agencies, aiming to shift power dynamics and resist stigmas surrounding poverty. Her community-based work has been supported by prestigious institutions including A Blade of Grass, Esopus Foundation, Rema Hort Mann Foundation, an ArtPlace America Initiative at McColl Center for Art + Innovation, and through residencies at Headlands Center for the Arts, Yaddo, and Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture. Her work has been exhibited internationally at Manchester School of Art, UK; Parrish Museum of Art in Water Mill, NY; and FIVAC in Camaguey, Cuba and has been featured in publications such as The Atlantic, Hyperallergic, The Art Newspaper, and MSNBC.
coLAB Arts engages artists, social advocates, and communities to create transformative new work. coLAB Arts facilitates creative conversation through innovative programs and artist infrastructure, connects artists with community partners and mentors, and executes productions that challenge perceptions and inspire action. www.colab-arts.org | @colabarts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
Elijah’s Promise harnesses the power of food to break the cycle of poverty, alleviate hunger, and change lives. We fight to end hunger through serving good food for all at our community soup kitchen, providing education and jobs in the food industry through our Promise Culinary School, a community garden, community advocacy, and creating social enterprise food businesses that further social good. We envision a community where no one goes hungry for lack of food or funds; where a good meal is a nutritious meal; where our community learns to steward natural and financial resources wisely; and where we make opportunity available to those who seek it. www.elijahspromise.org | @elijahspromise on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Reformed Church of Highland Park-Affordable Housing Corporation (RCHP-AHC) provides affordable housing, supportive services, and connection to meaningful community to low-income individuals and families in central New Jersey. RCHP-AHC owns 20 properties in seven different municipalities in central NJ that house diverse low-income tenants, including veterans, women aging out of foster care, developmentally disabled adults, homeless youth, chronically homeless individuals, and others with significant life challenges. We also rent an additional 30 units and serve as a temporary intermediary for families – including refugees and asylum seekers – who would otherwise be unable to secure an apartment rental due to poor (or no) credit history, temporary unemployment, or other factors. https://rchp-ahc.org/ |@reformedchurchofhighlandpark on Facebook
Unity Square Neighborhood Revitalization Project is a community organizing and social concerns initiative of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen that works to empower community members and catalyze change in the poorest residential neighborhood of New Brunswick, NJ. In doing so, Unity Square addresses a diverse set of issues, including economic development, employment, civic participation, crime and safety, immigrants’ rights, and tenants’ rights.
Unity Square’s efforts focus on a target neighborhood of about 6,000 low-income residents. Most neighborhood families are working poor, and have young children. Most of the adults are Spanish-speaking immigrants from the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Unity Square operates out of a newly renovated Community Center at 81 Remsen Avenue. Once an active fire house, the Community Center hosts Unity Square staff offices, as well as space for community meetings and programs.
Led by community leaders, Unity Square works closely with partner organizations, city officials, and other stakeholders to achieve its goals. Among its accomplishments are New Brunswick’s only bilingual Crime Watch group; the passage a first-of-its-kind city ordinance aimed at preventing wage theft; the hosting of a bilingual candidate forum for the New Brunswick School Board elections; the maintenance of a growing system of community gardens; and education and outreach to over 2,000 residents on tenant rights issues. https://www.ccdom.org/USQ | @unitysq on Facebook
Mercado Esperanza is a community-led initiative sponsored by Elijah’s Promise, New Brunswick Tomorrow, and coLAB Arts. Building on previous work in the areas of healthy food access, neighborhood development, and creative placemaking, the three partners embarked on a planning process in 2016 – with support from the Kresge Foundation’s FreshLo initiative – to determine how to integrate and scale up these efforts for greater community impact.
The Mercado Esperanza was born in late 2017 after a year of planning and dialogue with local residents and other stakeholders, and embarked on the first full season in 2018. Along the way, the Friends of the Mercado group was created with resident leaders from New Brunswick Tomorrow’s Esperanza Neighborhood Project to act as a project steering committee. They, together with our core vendors group, continue to give direction to the project and work alongside organizational staff to continually make our collective vision of the Mercado Esperanza a reality: a vibrant community gathering place, a springboard for local entrepreneurial success, and a creative cultural celebration. www.mercadoesperanzanb.org | @mercadoesperanzanb on Facebook
SHELTER: Thanks to generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation, New Brunswick Theological Seminary (NBTS), in partnership with Reformed Church of Highland Park Affordable Housing Corporation (RCHP-AHC) and Rutgers University-New Brunswick, has launched a project to address the problem of housing insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. This new initiative offers a rapid response to a pressing question for some of the most vulnerable people in the wider community: In an age of pandemic, what does it mean to shelter in place when you have no shelter?
Through its Theology Program, the Luce Foundation has awarded $150,000 to NBTS for the immediate launch of the SHELTER project. Seventy-five percent of the awarded funds will be directed to RCHP-AHC to rapidly secure housing and provide ongoing wrap-around services for families and individuals whose housing and other basic needs, such as the purchasing of food and medicine, have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. These individuals and families are variously experiencing challenges related to undocumented or immigration status, recent release from parole or incarceration, HIV and other medical needs, and other social services needs that make them especially vulnerable during the COVID crisis.
PHOTOS: Daniela Ochoa-Bravo by Lauren Van Der Laan; Susana Plotts-Pineda by Travis Curry; and Ashley Teague by Georgina Cates