As an artist, cultural organizer, facilitator and strategist, I am passionate about using my skills and energies to create, support, and illuminate work at the intersections of art, culture and social justice. I am currently the Executive Director of the Leeway Foundation in Philadelphia. Leeway’s mission is to support women and trans* artists and cultural producers creating art for social change. *Leeway has a commitment to trans inclusion and gender self determination and we use the term “trans” in its most inclusive sense, as an umbrella term encompassing: transsexual, transgender, genderqueer, Two-Spirit people, and more generally, anyone whose gender identity or gender expression is non-conforming and/or different from their gender assigned at birth.
A decade ago, when Leeway began supporting artists and cultural producers interested in community transformation and working at the intersection of art, culture and social change, there were a lot of questions raised about the aesthetics of such work. The general presumption of the majority of our critics was that our appreciation for the aesthetic value (aka artistic excellence) of the work would be lost. This was a nice way of saying it would be bad art, because there seemed to be a belief that both things – beauty and social change intent – could not exist in a work of art or cultural act that would satisfy an aesthetic ideal. I believe we can find beauty in another reality, and I have recently written about finding beauty in another reality.
I have worked with cultural and social justice organizations regionally and nationally for over 20 years. Prior to coming to Leeway, I was Associate Director of Bread and Roses Community Fund (1998 to 2005) and before that, film programmer for the Neighborhood Film/Video Project and Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema.
I am committed to Leeway’s on-going efforts to support women and trans* artists whose artistic vision is steeped in a belief that I share: that art can both create change and must be an essential part of our efforts to sustain and transform our communities. For example, projects like MamaCITA Collective’s (ACG ’11) “One Year,” an installation of 331 wire sculptures to represent the number of murders in Philadelphia in 2012, highlighting public apathy surrounding urban violence. Our approach at Leeway is to create an environment in which this work is supported, without any agendas related to a particular issue.
In 2001, Leeway began a program redesign process resulting in the creation of grant programs for artists who create art for social change and its evolution from family-control to a foundation consciously engaging artists and the communities they represent in its work and decision-making. I was part of the redesign process in 2001 and served on the Advisory Council and interim Board of Directors before becoming Executive Director in July 2006.
I am honored to have been a part of Leeway at this pivotal moment in its history and to continue my work there. Like Sara Becker, former board President has said, “I am proud that as a result of this program redesign, Leeway is shaped by and support the creative energy of artists working for freedom and social justice.”
I am currently based in Philadelphia, PA.