A Blade of Grass Assembly is a biannual day-long learning exchange and magazine launch for creative changemakers to investigate the methods, ethics, challenges, and joys of practicing art that advances social justice.

Rooted in the themes of Issue #3 of A Blade of Grass Magazine, the Fall 2019 Assembly will be co-presented by the Museum of the Moving Image and explore how socially engaged artists are challenging the way we see others and conduct our lives in ways that exclude the lived experience and creative potential of those who do not fit into the social norms and physical expectations of capitalist society. How can art turn the disabling gaze of normative society toward the liberatory possibilities of those at the so-called “margins”? Can art that centers non-normative experiences expand our collective creativity and wisdom? Can it provide strategies for making our world more just and inclusive?

Assembly is structured to be intimate and dialogical rather than presentational. After introductory remarks, there will be film screenings and a keynote presentation by activist, filmmaker, and writer Tourmaline, whose work highlights the capacity of Black, queer, and trans people and communities to make and transform worlds. The afternoon will be entirely devoted to a series of interactive workshops by artists, many of whom have collaborated with the Museum of the Moving Image. Some of these take place at nearby culture organizations serving immigrants, low income tenants, and those with mental health diagnoses. We’ll focus on questions like:

  • How would society be structured differently if those who don’t fit mainstream norms of behavior or embodiment were centered in decision-making and world-designing?
  • What can we learn from the artistry and mutual aid models of those who experience life with physical, emotional, or developmental differences or impairments?
  • How can artists challenge stigmatization of those who experience housing insecurity, lack documentation, or are otherwise blamed for their precarious position in our capitalist and carceral society?

Assembly attendees will be able to choose amongst seven experiences specially curated by artists and collaborating organizations including A Blade of Grass Fellow Sol AramendiThe Blue Bus Project and Jacob Riis Neighborhood Settlement; Maya Ciarrocchi and Kris Grey; members of Citiview Connections Clubhouse; A Blade of Grass Fellow Ras CutlassEmerald Isle Immigration Center with Third World NewsreelFountain House Gallery with Michelle Hammer; Disability/Arts/NYC Co-founder Kevin Gotkin with Dominic Bradley, Pelenakeke Brown, and Yo-Yo Lin; and Shireen Soliman. Each of these intimate experiences will provide an in-depth look at how artists, cultural organizations, and community members develop tools to create more inclusive spaces of care, creativity, and joy.

Creating an Art World for Artists Living with Mental Illness

With Fountain House Gallery and Michelle Hammer

Fountain House Gallery and Studio provides member-artists living with mental illness with the resources, training, inspiration, and support to succeed in the highly competitive art world. We will meet artists in their studios at Fountain House before gathering for a conversation about the specific challenges and issues experienced by individuals with mental health issues in the artworld. Member-artist Michelle Hammer, founder of Schizophrenic.NYC, will share her art and advocacy work in normalizing conversations about mental health to combat stigma. We will then collectively design a dream art landscape inclusive of individuals with mental illness and focus the conversation to changes we want to see in the spaces we practice in.

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