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Art + Activism: Tiffany Auttrianna Ward

Tiffany Ward is a courageous writer and curator that has been an advocate for crucial initiatives and radical change within the world at large. I was introduced to Tiffany when she was hosting a panel discussion focusing on the importance of “Black-run spaces” and why we need more of them (in addition to existing organizations making space for more Black people in leadership roles). I have also thoroughly enjoyed discussions she has facilitated focusing on issues such as “rooting out anti-Blackness in Latinx communities.” Leading relevant conversations like these is one of the major reasons I believe Tiffany is an important activist in the creative realm.

1. How do you use art/platform as activism?

I am deeply interested in uniting folx throughout the African Diaspora particularly through art. Loving and connecting Black people is of course a form of activism - as Black love in all of its forms is revolutionary. Art is one of the greatest modes of communication and throughout the African diaspora its something that's frequently celebrated and unfortunately also commodified (without consideration to the artists).

I use my platform - my Instagram, my former blog Cores Brilhantes, and my writing and curating as a way to connect and celebrate. When I work I also try to work from a more global lens. I'm American so I work with other artists and cultural organizers from elsewhere to make sure that I'm decentering the American gaze. Even using the term American gaze is something I have found makes some feel uncomfortable. But discomfort is often the first step of growth. I was uncomfortable when I first realized the Black folx outside of the US often see me as American first and what that sometimes means. What ways had I internalized the ways I was raised as an American? Even when I saw and understood myself as hyphenated-American and an oppressed person here. But I have learned so much since I went deeper and learned about American imperialism and our impact on communities worldwide.

To me, conversations about art and culture are political as well. When I think about Black art (in all its forms) I am also posing the question - what are ways that our culture has been packaged and commodified abroad - to protect and grow the empire?

What are ways that we can reclaim our narratives while also celebrating cultural survival throughout the African Diaspora? I am constantly asking myself these questions and using my platform to further these discussions.

2. Why is it important for you to use art/creative endeavors for activism?

I love this question. I don't think it was a deliberate choice, but more of something that came to me. I have always loved art in many forms - theatre, music, creative writing, but visual art was inaccessible for me when I was younger. I began to become more interested in visual art when I first saw Black people represented. One of the strongest memories for me was in Sao Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), where I studied abroad and encountered paintings of Black Brazilians. I had had previous assignments in art history classes but they always focused on European art and European-American art. It wasn't until I learned more about Black visual art here and abroad that I realized I had actually grown up with art - via murals and "street art" in my own neighborhood in San Francisco. I grew so much as a writer, curator, and person making these connections abroad - specifically in Salvador and Sao Paulo. I came to understand more about our plight and our strength here in the Americas by seeing art from different Black people. I would see artists making connections in their work - artists who had never met - but shared similar questions in terms of identity, gender, diasporic experiences, and Blackness. Talking about and studying art became a way for me to understand and celebrate the African Diaspora. It is important for me to use art and creative endeavors for activism because it is is a natural extension of the work I am already doing. For me, there isn't a line between my artistic endeavors and any activism I participate in.

3. How would you encourage or suggest other creatives use their art/artistic talents for activism?

Find what you're passionate about and work from there. Be honest and question yourself. Where are the places you would like to go in your work and in your activism? Where is there room for growth? Who's having the conversations already? Who can you uplift through your platform? Support local creators and activists who are doing the work. Partner with folx to fundraise, be deliberate, and willing and open to learning.

4. What are some ways to support you and/or a cause that you are passionate about?

Last year I founded a residency through my group Mare Projects which is a writing collective between myself, Tatiane Schilaro, and Nohora Arrieta Fernandez. Mare Residency is about connecting artists of the African diaspora and highlighting historically Black communities in the Americas and the Caribbean. I successfully ran our first session in Baltimore, Maryland last year with SunSpot sTudios. This fall we will host another residency in Baltimore featuring artists from Baltimore, NY, and Recifé, Brazil. Next year we will move to Loiza, Puerto Rico followed by future partnerships in the Caribbean and South America. If you would like to know more please email me about how to support. Or contact me on Instagram at @mareresidency or @auttrianna.

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