Abstractions of Black Citizenship 3 / Student Conversations / Molly Mac and Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud

This series for “Thinking With” centers around the online exhibition Abstractions of Black Citizenship: African American Art from Saint Louis curated by Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud and produced by Molly Mac. In a series of short essays and interviews, Mahmoud, Mac and student members of the exhibition team will reflect on how to do the work of curating, educating and art making amidst the COVID-19 crisis and ongoing racist regimes. Originally designed for the space of the Hedreen Gallery at the Lee Center for the Arts, Seattle University, the exhibit went virtual in May 2020.

Thanks to Terrance Wooten, faculty at University of California at Santa Barbara, Abstractions of Black Citizenship will again open online on Thursday, February 11, 2021 via the UCSB Multicultural Center. This series will be published over the second online run of the exhibition during February-March 2021, and as you read the essays and conversations, we encourage you to also view the online exhibition. Click here to view the exhibition. 

Below is post #3, a conversation between Jasmine and Molly Mac, and students who worked on the exhibition.

— Ken D. Allan, Art History, Seattle University, and Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud, curator of Abstractions of Black Citizenship: African American Art from Saint Louis

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Introduction

Molly Mac: It was great to work with SU students and to support them to take a lead to create the education guide material for this exhibition. Some of the students involved in this process had worked in the physical gallery space during previous projects and exhibition seasons, but creating the pdf education guides for an online experience was a new challenge that required an even closer reading of the works, audience(s), and context of Spring/Summer 2020. I think some of the most powerful conversations involved questions about how the authorship of an education guide becomes a kind of creative partnership with the artworks and artists.

Education guides are not just a reflection or interpretation of the art in relation to the themes of the show, but a whole new platform for visitor engagement. With that creative opportunity comes a lot of responsibility and accountability to the artists and ideas. It was exciting to see Jasmine guide students through that process and to see the students support each other.

Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud: Stepping into the Hedreen—despite our move to virtual space—made me aware of how much Molly often integrates students into curatorial, education, and administrative work. I wanted to honor this in working with students and the surrounding neighborhood. Prior to the shift to virtual engagement, we were excited about connecting this exhibition with learners of all ages including at nearby public schools. Seattle University and Hedreen Gallery are located at the cusp of many gentrifying, and often marginalized neighborhoods including the Central District, International District/Chinatown, and Capitol Hill.

In designing our education engagements, I wanted to honor the expertise of our team. Meilani Mandery, who graduated with a BA in Arts History & Arts Leadership in 2020 during the run of the show, has so much youth arts education experience. She works at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, located in Seattle’s International/Chinatown neighborhood, where she assists the Wing’s YouthCAN program, which provides free after arts education to youth aged 15–19.  She also supported the Creative Justice | Up From the Table exhibition at Hedreen Gallery—centering artistic alternatives to youth incarceration—and thinks about youth education in such nuanced, but always anti-oppressive ways. Ellen McGivern, MFA ‘19, has worked with On the Boards (leading experimental performance art house in Seattle), and curated experimental works with attention to community, collaboration, and experimentation, including ASSEMBLY in 2019. I wanted to honor her commitment to thinking with adult learners, as well as her geographic knowledge being from Kansas, having worked in Oklahoma—both states geographically near the aesthetic traditions of this show. Ashley Marshall, MFA ‘21, is so committed to early learners in arts education. She herself grew up playing music, and currently works at Youth in Focus, an arts education nonprofit centered on photography.

Given their expertise, it made sense for Ashley to author the K-8 Guide, Meilani the Youth Guide, and Ellen the Adult Guide; each included activities deepening engagements with the artists and themes of the show. So each authored her own guide, but also edited and gave feedback to each other, so collaboration was woven throughout. Using Dev McCauley (BA20)’s beautiful design work, Meilani was able to iteratively design the guides so they had a cohesive theme. Anna Iwasaki, BA/BM ‘20, served as the Hedreen Gallery Assistant, and provided amazing administrative support including indexing all of the artwork.

Also, Meilani, Ellen, Ashley, and Anna have all been my students at Seattle University, so in supporting their work, I thought about their strengths, passions, and ways to productively challenge them. I urged them to spend a lot of time browsing other museum websites, and looking at arts education standards within Washington State. What exists in educational guides, and how might you write and design yours to best animate learning for this exhibition? They compiled numerous examples from the American Folk Art Museum, Frye Art Museum, National Museum of African American History & Culture, New Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Whitney.

What follows below is a conversation with Meilani, Ellen, Ashley, and Anna.

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Jasmine: I would love to have each of you tell us about yourself: your name, pronouns, and field of study in connection to this project. Also—if you want—tell us where you’re located right now during COVID, current employment, community organizing projects, and anything else you want to share.

Meilani Mandery: I’m Meilani. I use she, her pronouns. I got my BA in Art History, and Arts Leadership from SU. I was a Curatorial Assistant for this project, and I made the Youth Education Guide. Post grad, I am still in Seattle and working at the Wing Luke Museum and organizing with the CID Coalition and Asians 4 Black Lives.

Ellen Mc Givern: Hi. I’m Ellen. I also use she, her pronouns. I’m a graduate of Seattle University in the MFA Arts Leadership program. My graduate research focused on artist rituals, creative labor practices, artist communities, and collectives, in relationship to the greater arts ecosystem. I am currently an access services assistant at Seattle University Lemieux Library and Learning Commons. In this position, I’ve been able to work on the Arts Ecosystem Research Project, which is a multi-year initiative that aims to collect written and oral histories of Seattle’s art sector from 1962 to 2012.

Ashley Marshall: Hi. I’m Ashley. I also use she, her pronouns. I am currently in the MFA in Arts Leadership program at Seattle U. I am located in the Tacoma-ish area, more on the -ish. I currently work at Youth in Focus, and I am currently working on a research paper for Wa Na Wari, and am hoping to get it published with the AERP (Arts Ecosystem Research Project at Seattle University) timeline, about how Wa Na Wari is able to sustain itself as a cultural facility in the Central District, seeing as how the Central District has gone through several different changes in the last decade.

Anna Iwasaki: Hi everyone. My name is Anna and I use she, her pronouns. I graduated from Seattle University in 2020 with a B.A. in Art History and a B.M. in Strings Performance. During my time there, I also worked at the Hedreen Gallery as a student assistant, so my connection to this project was through there. I am currently located in Pakistan, and I am a student studying for an M.A. in Communication from Johns Hopkins University.

Ashley Marshall

Molly: What experience with arts education, curating, and cultural organizing did you have coming into this project?

Anna: Yes, as I mentioned in my intro, I studied art history at Seattle University, which really helped me realize my interest in the art field, including art curating. I was also working at the Hedreen Gallery, the art gallery at Seattle University for three years as a student assistant, where I had the opportunity to help install different exhibitions. Aside from that, I also had the opportunity to intern at the Frye Art Museum as a gallery tour guide.

Ashley: I feel like I am the odd one out. I have no experience with curating or cultural organizing. Just because of the nature of my job, I have a little bit of experience with art education, but I came into this kind of belonging, so to say.

Jasmine: Ashley, I’m curious to hear more. Because you are someone who grew up as an art education student. That experience is really important, including playing in orchestras.

Ashley: I will say public school is probably not the best place to get an art education, but it kind of opened the door for me in going down the path that I ended up going down, which was majoring in digital design. For me now, it makes understanding artists and the arts ecosystem, period, a little bit easier, because I already have that experience with being in art education.

Ellen: My interest in curation, artistic directing, and cultural organizing definitely started when I was in my undergrad at University of Kansas, where I got involved with a student advisory board. That outlet got me involved with different student exhibitions and just becoming friends with different creatives and students that were studying and wanting to be artists, in general. After graduating from KU, I got a job working in marketing communications at a non-profit craft gallery space, and was able, because of the non-profit nature, to also participate in different educational programs. One, specifically being the Any Given Child art education program. In addition to the community focused art education initiative, we also did a lot of exhibition tours and panels–some adult, young adult, and/or children programming. After almost two years working in marketing and communications, I quickly realized that I didn’t want to be working within that realm as much anymore, which then brought me to Seattle U.

Once I was in the MFA program, I began working at the Hedreen Gallery with Molly, I was able to meet the artist Dan Paz, who got me involved in studio managing and research based art practices. I then started a curatorial practicum with a contemporary performance space, On the Boards. Since then, I’ve been able to do a few of my own curating projects, such as ASSEMBLY, a pop-up performance incubator and residency space which I worked with Hanako O’Leary and Jordan Hougham-Macintosh, who are local performance and ceramicists in town.

Meilani: I’ve worked in curation in arts education, or really the combination of the two at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, and now at Northwest Folklife, in addition to this project, and Up from the Table. At the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, I work with our high school arts program, Youth CAN. I write the curriculum for our students and curate their work every quarter. For the last five years, I’ve been curating an annual publication of art and writing for the QTBIPOC community called Sirens Zine. In 2020, I had the opportunity to work with the CID Coalition and the Seattle Public Library to host a program to introduce young people to organizing in the CID. As part of that project, I also designed a publication with all the information from the curriculum so students could hold on to a tangible resource.

Meilani Mandery

Jasmine: Can I put Meilani and Anna on the spot a little bit? Because you also just recently curated Distance Dialogues at Hedreen Gallery online.

Molly: Just to chime in so people know… in Fall 2020, Seattle University’s Hedreen Gallery and Vachon Gallery hosted an online exhibition program, Distance Dialogues. This series includes four video programs created by emerging curators who graduated from Seattle University in Spring 2020. These interview-driven programs were inspired by the work we started through the studio visit video series in Abstractions of Black Citizenship: African American Art from Saint Louis. The Distance Dialogues projects explore the leadership of a working artist, activist, and/or creative community member through conversation and close-readings of their recent work.

Meilani: My experience with Distance Dialogues is just slightly different than everyone else’s in that it’s a continuation of a project I’ve been working on for like the last year with Up from the Table. Throughout that exhibition, I was compiling an exhibition text that would also serve as an archive of organizing work on campus. I had a lot of ideas for it, and because of circumstances, it didn’t all come to fruition, which is really disappointing. But I think the work with Distance Dialogues has actually made up for it in a way.

For my dialogue, I chose my friend, and mentor, and inspiration, Anab Nur, who was a student at SU as well. She’s one of the people that introduced me to organizing, so I thank her for a lot of my analysis and getting me started. She’s currently an educator with Teach for America, teaching fourth grade. I wanted to talk to her about the prison industrial complex, in general, the school to prison pipeline, and her personal experience with those systems. Using the framework of Up from the Table to guide these conversations was the goal of my Distance Dialogue.

Anna: My project within Distance Dialogue was reaching out to a local artist here, a Pakistani jewelry artist. I believe, when that project was starting, I had just recently moved to Pakistan. I really wanted to take this time to learn more about the different art scenes in Pakistan. The artist that I was able to reach out to was a jewelry artist named Sana Nisar. What was amazing about getting the opportunity to talk with her virtually was that her inspiration, her jewelry inspiration was heavily connected with the geographical nature of Pakistan. My conversation with her was about what kind of work she did as an artist, as she also ran a non-profit where she provided an opportunity for Pakistani women living in rural areas of Pakistan to learn how to mold different metal works that can later then turn into jewelry.

The exhibition was called Shaping Jewelry as Art. Seeing how we can shape jewelry in an art exhibition setting rather than at a store, where they sell jewelries. I think that shift in perspective was also something I was interested in exploring further in this project.

Anna Iwasaki (Hallie Kathryn Photography 2019)

Jasmine: That’s great. I really appreciate your framing Anna and Meilani. It’s so interesting also, just remembering where you are right now, Anna, and bringing that into our conversation and your curatorial practice. The next question is about the educational guides. I would love for each of you to tell us about the process of creating education guides. How was the project workload structured? What audience age range did you focus on? What were the aspects of the exhibition you hope to highlight for this group?  (Click here to view the educational guides on the exhibition website.)

Ashley: My process was trying to find a lot of examples and study those. I don’t think I’ve ever used an educational guide whenever I’ve been to an art museum. It wasn’t a new thing, but it was a new thing, kind of.

My age range was K through 8th grade. I feel like that was a good range for me because it spans a very large age, and it gave me a lot of wiggle room, I feel. Yeah. My workload was kind of just like: do something and then walk away, and then go back to it to see how I felt about it later. If I still liked it, then I was like, “Okay, I’ll go with this.” I feel like I kind of needed a little bit of reassurance with mine because I had never done educational guides before.

Jasmine: I was re-reading all of your guides, and I feel like in yours, Ashley, in addition to the activities, focused a lot on terminology, identification, and redlining. That was actually really interesting to think about the show through those terms you highlighted for us.

Ashley: I think I was coming off of that, of your class, Jasmine, and I was just like, yeah, this is the thing. It needs to be talked about. I think that’s why that was coming out so heavily.

Meilani: My age range was youth, broadly—really, high school aged youth. But I think everyone could take something away from this guide. I took inspiration from the book You are an Artist by Sarah Urist Green, who is also the host of the PBS Digital series the Art Assignment. That book is a collection of assignments designed by the artist, based off of their work. For this project, I wanted to take the works by the artist that were shown in the exhibition and develop my own art assignment for it. I wanted students to be able to engage more deeply with the works, and also make something in response. A lot of the time, there’s that ability to just swipe really quickly through the photos.

I think with Jasmine’s introduction and organization of this exhibition, it calls for that taking time out, and actually going through it thoughtfully. I wanted to do something that complemented Jasmine’s structure, and to make people slowdown and analyze something specific within a piece rather than just look at it as a whole. Some of my assignments are more inspired by the media. Some are inspired by themes. Something that I was cognizant of the entire time is, as an Asian-American who says, “I’m for Black lives.” Or, “I’m pro Black,” when I say that, what does that mean, and how does that show up in my work? Especially because of how this exhibition coincided a lot with the uprisings this year.

I wanted a space that engages the hard conversations that were going on but without pushing anyone outside of their safe zone. Again, as an Asian-American, I do not want to alienate, or ask for too much from the Black community that was engaging with my education guide. A lot of the artists do talk about protests and other things of that nature. That’s something that’s going on right now and could be traumatizing for a lot of folks, so I engaged it in a way that centered healing and self-care and community care. That was something I wanted to highlight for the students that while a lot is going on right now, there’s still that space, and time, and community there for you to unpack everything and make something out of it.

Ellen: I was assigned to do the adult education guide, and I believe when we were first talking this out, it was just the first couple weeks into COVID. Being in full-on lockdown was definitely part of the process of helping create this guide. I wanted patrons to engage with the outside world, safely, whatever that looked like, whether it was in their neighborhood or physical home. I’m going to kind of piggyback off of a lot of what Meilani said because I definitely relate to what she’s speaking to. In terms of finding inspiration in the mundane and the nuances and of just life, which I think a lot of the artists focused on within their work.

As much as what was going on politically at the time, many of the works focused on just being and being present, not just your body, but your family, and your home, the communities you’re a part of. I just kind of felt like it was interesting for us to reflect on those concepts during this transformational time for all of us. I also feel like I really wanted to have a guide that prompted adults to make. I feel like a lot of adult programming is a lot of sitting in chairs, listening to panels, or audio recordings, situations like that. I wanted to invite people to actually create something and get some creative juices going, especially during this time when we were just scrolling through Instagram and Netflixing as much as possible.  I thought that was something that I really thought was important at that time. In addition, I was able to work on social media and marketing for the exhibition.

Ellen McGivern

Jasmine: Molly, do you want to add any insight to the education guide process?

Molly: I want to thank all of you who were involved in the creation of education guides, and note that this kind of work is something that the Hedreen Gallery and Seattle University galleries usually don’t have the capacity and capacity and support to do. This was a really special project.

There are three guides, but the production was very collaborative. For months we had weekly check-ins with this exhibition production team. Also, a lot of this work drew on the team’s experience at Seattle U and working at the physical gallery. Whether it was through jobs, internships, or coursework, everyone was already connected to the campus and the gallery exhibition process. I’m very grateful for the long-term trajectory of this work. [Click here for the educational guides on the exhibition website.]

Jasmine: Thank you Molly! Anna, do you have any thoughts you want to share about the education guides?

Anna: Yes. From the perspective of someone who wasn’t directly involved in the education guide, it was amazing to see how the exhibition that was originally planned to be shown in a physical had adapted and came alive within the virtual space. I think the education guides allowed the visitors from their own computer to participate more intimately and I think helped make the exhibition feel more immersive. I was also very grateful for the conversation that I was able to listen in, and participate weekly because through these dialogues, the exhibition was able to shift and grow in the virtual platform.

Jasmine: Thanks, Anna. Ashley, I want to single you out and ask you to talk a little bit about the Virtual Youth Field Trip event you planned.

Ashley: I had a feeling that was coming. That was an experience for me. I was doing it solo, so I didn’t really have… I mean, Jasmine, you helped me too, and you helped me kind of set up the space and everything. Everyone helped me in listening to my drafts and everything and giving me feedback, so I appreciate that. But yeah, I enjoyed it. I thought that it was kind of like an extra step to my educational guide. It gave the participants a chance to experience the educational guide and the exhibition end of it in a more hands-on way. I really just enjoyed being able to kind of be it in several different people’s houses at one time and get them to see what I was seeing in my brain and kind of think about things differently and hopefully change their perspectives about a lot of different topics that were happening at that time.

Jasmine: That’s great, Ashley. I remember you had us—over Zoom—grab objects that were made during Transatlantic slavery and with prison labor. It is so important to think about those objects as part of our homes, and then how that relates to the exhibition. It was a really moving lesson.

A question for everyone: how did your understanding of the artworks, artists, and curatorial framework of the exhibition shift as you develop these guides through spring and early summer 2020?

Ellen: I feel like we, as a team, we’re really trying to make a conscientious effort to create space and this vision for the artists. I know that with some of the conversations I had with Jasmine about how we really didn’t want this to necessarily be a Black Lives Matter exhibition. We didn’t want it to be an exhibition that focuses on the horrors Black people experience on a daily basis. The work is beautiful and is a celebration and meditation on Blackness. Then obviously, with the political climate being what it was in the summer, we couldn’t really deny that conversation anymore. That conversation was just being forced upon us and the artists.

In addition, obviously, we just had so many plans for in-person conversations and programming, parties, and things that we wanted to have to celebrate this work and the conversations with these artists. It was just a total bummer. I’m excited to see this exhibition live outside of the virtual realm, potentially, and/or the artist career trajectory right now. A lot of them are having a lot of amazing press, and their work is really becoming more and more interesting and political. Those are definitely what came to my mind when you asked that question, just how the plans we had and how the world had other plans for us and this exhibition.

Ashley: I enjoy hearing from the artists, and then describing their artwork through their words. I can look at something and think of it my way. But to hear them say, “This is my inspiration, and this is why I did this.” It kind of makes me take a step back and then re-evaluate why I thought of something that way. I was also kind of shocked that we had to kind of pivot so quickly. Everything kind of just pivoted really quickly. But I think we did a really good job of shifting and then being very intentional about how we approached the exhibition after everything that happened with COVID and also the protests that were happening. Yeah, I think my understanding definitely changed. It’s one thing to experience art in a closed space, like a museum. Then, there’s another of being in a virtual reality space. Being a part of this exhibition, writing the educational guide, and leading the Virtual Field Trip definitely made me appreciate art more, and museums more, and physical space and being able to engage with people more.

Meilani: Yeah, I definitely agree and feel what everyone else has said so far. In addition, I think this shift from doing it IRL to having it in a virtual space was really impactful for me in terms of site specificity. We’re doing a show in Seattle about art from St. Louis, but not really because it’s also online.  I thought that was really interesting. Especially because it was online, so many more people got to see it. Whereas, maybe, say we didn’t have our programming online, people might not have ever heard of it. But yeah, I’m really interested in how the shift from doing it based in Seattle to having it be in this nebulous online space, what that means for the site specificity of the show.

Jasmine: Thanks, Meilani. That’s great. I think about it now too with Zoom events in Seattle. You often recognize people’s names or faces, and think about what site specificity means in this virtual world. Anna, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Anna: I think, for me, this project, in general, has really given me the opportunity to think about the power of the virtual space and how that virtual space is a different experience from let’s say when we walk into the  physical gallery space. For example, the artist’s videos, the studio visit videos. We were able to see a much more intimate version of what the artist showed through their camera lens. While the virtual exhibition was a re-adaptation of what the physical exhibition may have been, it also allowed me to think about the extra layer the virtual space can bring out. I think it was by playing around with this concept of substituting these exhibition experiences into a virtual platform, we were able to explore and think about what more can we do, to make that experience immersive and meaningful.

Molly: I just want to follow-up on something I heard, Ashley speaking to specifically. That the practice of listening to artists was a driving, organizing part of this process.  There’s a kind of close reading that I thought was really powerful. I really appreciate the re-readings of the work in the exhibition guide process. If we could have continued to revise the exhibition guides, we could still be doing it today.

Jasmine: I appreciate that. Thinking about revision is something that was such a current. I still remember in March, especially because I had De’s work, and Damon’s work was on campus. I remember sending an email to artists like in March, being like, “I think that we’re going to start in May.” Like, “COVID will last a month, and then it will be over.”

It’s interesting looking back on the time how so many of us were like, “Oh, this is going to be like a month long thing, or like a two month long thing.” Then when we realized, in that process of revision, I’m really grateful for all of you and also the artists and kind of just like rolling with things. Because a lot of emails were like “redo: we’re actually not going to do that, but we’re going to do this now.” I appreciate everyone’s flexibility.

Final question: What has been your favorite or most memorable part of this experience?

Molly: I can actually remember being in these (many) meetings where there was a long agenda with a whole bunch of details on it, but there was also a real collective focus and attention on making space to deep-dive into a discussion of the artworks again and again. That type of work is essential to collaborative curating processes. And transformative curating processes more broadly. It was a really memorable part of the project.

Anna: I think for me it would be looking at each of the different artworks from a 2-dimensional screen, when originally they were to be experienced 3-dimensionally in the physical gallery space. In a way for me, that experience where the audience is trying to imagine what those artworks are from our device screen was something I wasn’t very used to and had not yet considered. And yet, because it was necessary, I loved how I got to explore ways to shift my perspective and interpret the artworks through my screens, which I thought was a very memorable and valuable experience.

Ashley: I have a favorite and a most memorable… I think my most memorable part of this experience could be… I’m going to throw it all the way back to when you and I, Jasmine, had talked about you doing something like this art exhibition that you planned and curated. Then, also asking me if I wanted to be a part of it and thinking of me. I appreciate that. Thank you. My favorite part is really getting to listen to the artists talk about their work. Even in the studio visit videos, and then also in the… I don’t remember what we called it, but the kind of wrap up of the exhibition. I enjoyed being a part of that and getting to listen to them talk, and listening to you, Jasmine, interview them… Yeah. I’m just very happy to be a part of it.

Meilani: Yes to everything Ashley just said. I think my favorite part has just been watching Jasmine and Molly curate. Honestly, I feel like I’ve learned so much from this experience just watching y’all, and I’m really grateful for that. I’m also really grateful for Jasmine inviting me to this project. I remember when Jasmine asked me to. It was right before class. I was still like, “Really? You want me?” I remember that being really meaningful for me to see that someone was noticing and appreciating the work I was doing.

Then, in terms of actual exhibition, I helped edit the transcripts for Jasmine’s interviews with the artists. But I remember listening to them, and I was like, “I don’t know how anyone else is going to get a full experience of this exhibition that I’m getting right now because I’m hearing this.” Then, I remember being at our programs, and I was like, “No, everyone did get this.” Our programs were at such a level that people are getting a full exhibition experience from their homes. I remember thinking nothing was lost here.

Jasmine: Aww. Thanks, Meilani. I remember sitting with you in the library and saying, “I hate Instagram, Meilani. I hate it. How are we going to do our show when I hate Instagram?” You were like, “You should set up an Instagram page.”  I’m like, “Okay.” Ellen, we had similar conversations. I stress called Ellen a few times being like, “I don’t want to post on Instagram.” Ellen, I’d love for you to share as well, some memorable moments for you during this show.

Ellen: Instagram is the devil. I want that to stay in the transcript. I have several really awesome moments that I can remember. I think the element I’m most proud of is highlighting art being made in the Midwest. There is so much coastal elitism in the art world, I am happy to see middle America highlighted here in Seattle. I’ve been to St. Louis a few times, and just like growing up in a similar environment, it was really rewarding to see the community being highlighted as a location for innovative and radical art making, which it always has been historically.

I think the virtual studio visits were a really awesome touch to the exhibition. I love having access to artists’ studios. I love seeing where you work, how you work, why you work the way you do. I think that was a really cool and personal touch that you really don’t get often. That was probably my favorite part.

I do have one last thought. I think the diversity of voices and experiences all of us have within a curatorial team is pretty amazing, having alumni, having current students, having BA artists, curators, professors all working as a team together is pretty interesting. I don’t really know anyone else that’s worked on a team as diverse as us, coming from so many different perspectives and experiences.

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This is one of four essays from Abstractions of Black Citizenship. Read the other posts here:

Post #1: Online Curating During 2020, by Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud

Post #2: Interview with Molly Mac, Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud, and Ken Allan

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Anna Iwasaki graduated from Seattle University in June 2020 with undergraduate degrees in Strings Performance and Art History. She has become interested in exploring how music and art can be a form of communication and is now a graduate student studying communication at Johns Hopkins University.

Meilani Mandery 周秀明 is an Asian American creative and community organizer, currently working in arts education at the Wing Luke Museum while organizing in the Chinatown International District. She graduated from Seattle University (BA ’20) summa cum laude, with a double major in Art History and Arts Leadership.

Ashley Marshall is currently studying in the MFA in Arts Leadership program at Seattle University. She works at a nonprofit organization called Youth in Focus, whose mission is to amplify teen voice through photography and arts education. Her primary focus is arts administration. She’s also very passionate gathering and sharing knowledge of BIPOC involvement in the arts ecosystem in Seattle, WA.

Ellen McGivern (MFA ’19, Seattle University) is a curator, arts administrator and library worker currently living in Seattle, WA. Ellen’s research and curatorial practice focuses on artistic labor practices, rituals, and craft-based mediums.

Molly Mac
Molly Mac is a Seattle-based educator, cultural organizer, curator and new media artist. Her multimedia performances and immersive video and sound installations have been shown in Seattle, New York, London, and Glasgow. Molly has taught art history, video and media art production courses and workshops for youth and adults at Seattle University, University of Washington, The Henry Art Gallery (Seattle), Seattle International Film Festival, Reel Grrls and Photo Center Northwest. She earned a BFA in Printmaking from University of Washington, an MFA in Combined Media Art from Hunter College in NYC. She is currently the Galleries Curator at Seattle University.
Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud
Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud is a performance historian who writes about black aesthetics, contemporary performance, feminist/queer of color critique, cultural policy, and urbanism. Her writing appears in Hyperallergic, the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies blog, and The Arts Politic, a magazine she co-founded. She is currently an Assistant Professor in Arts Leadership program at Seattle University.