Sunday, February 25, 2024

Providence Park-ist in Residence

Awarded Artists


Board of Parks Commissioners approve Funmi Aileru and Matthew Garza (not pictured here) as our inaugural Parkists in Residence. Photo courtesy of E. Charlot

ACT, and the Providence Parks Department are proud to announce that Funmi Aileru and Mathew Garza have been named the City of Providence’s first Park-ists in Residence! Beginning in January 2020, Funmi and Matt will live in residence in two historic homes owned by the Parks Department while they make new art, facilitate public programs and act as caretakers for the properties.

k. funmilayo aileru, Park-ist in Residence at Wanskuck House
digital artist + designer
pronouns: xi, xem, xyr(z)

Artist Statement

As a descendant of alien abductees, living in a horrendous nightmare, creating within postcolonial, speculative space is a radical practice of resistance and a tool for liberation. Within this space, I can exist beyond the bounds of my Blackness and my Queerness, a site of death and the dying in America. Therefore, I employ radical imagination, research, and AfroFuturist aesthetics to engage the genre from an alternative perspective and centralize and elevate the experiences of marginalized identities and marked bodies.

I enlist a variety of materials and media as a means of analyzing and synthesizing concepts such as [ancestral] memory, trauma, and Otherness. I seek to shift our oppressive framework regarding Western technology, which has been, and continues to be, brought to bear upon Black and Brown bodies. I rely on sculpture and site-specific installation to use culturally specific shape and indigenous pattern to activate form and space through projection mapping, elevate distinct vocal and drum pattern in sound design, and exaggerate color through lighting. I further active space via creative coding for sensor processing, providing opportunities for my work to react to my audience and my audience to explore further and examine my work.

Critical inquiry and research are the foundation of my creative process. In my most recent work, I am interested in investigating the nuances In the West’s obsession of Mars as the new frontier. This investigation is explored through the appropriation of Mars imagery. This cultural obsession leads me to wonder what marginalized identities and communities look like in celestial space and what marked bodies feel like on Martian lands. My critical inquiry is informed by Christian history and iconography as well as Yoruba and Narragansett traditions and folklore. These histories are important in thinking critically about the colonial and imperialist project of Mars exploration.

I am from the South Side neighborhood in Providence, an underserved and underrepresented community that is currently under the pressures of gentrification. In my community, imagination and dreaming often fall by the wayside because they perceived as distractions from survival. As a person who has the privilege of time and space to imagine and dream, I wonder what my neighborhood and community would look and feel like if we had the support and resources to radically imagine and create. As a Park-ist in Residence, I would like to directly engage surrounding communities, especially those that are underserved and underrepresented to collectively engage an equitable and inclusive Creative Capital through digital art and design.

In site-specific work, I intend to depict a future Providence where communities are not just surviving, they living and thriving. I also intend to familiarize the park’s visitors, and surrounding communities, with concepts and aesthetics of AfroFuturism. I hope to present imagery and experiences that inspire creative ways of thinking and being that incite radical collective imagination and active future-world building. Additionally, creating public art via digital art and design presents an opportunity to widen the scope of the discipline and to creatively address the local digital divide (exposure and access to technology and digital media).

Mathew Garza, Park-ist in Residence at Esek Hopkins House
pronouns: they/them/theirs + he/him/his

Artist Statement“The moment we choose to love we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves & others.” – bell hooks

I am a Queer Tejanx/Latinx performance artist & educator originally from Corpus Christi, now living in Providence, RI for just over 10 years. My work as a healer, educator, dancer-choreographer, musician, visual artist, & multidisciplinary performance artist explores the relationship between the individual human body & the collective body.

What does it look like, feel like, & sound like to cultivate compassionate spaces for us to practice freedom, strength, resilience, radical self-care, & revolutionary movement together? As the Creative Director of the TAPA Dance Company & Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Coordinator at TAPA: Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts; a founding member of the Glitter Goddess Collective & Haus of Glitter Dance Company; the Artist & Community Coordinator for PRONK; an adjunct theatre professor in the RI State Prison; a curriculum designer & professional development facilitator for Project Wayfinder; and an anatomy and yoga instructor for free/donation-based community restorative yoga programming as well as 200-hour yoga teacher certification training; my/our work in these communities aims to re-center our creativity & liberation-practices around Afro-Latinx traditions and feminist leadership. Our work as artists & activists is always informed by the identity we bring to the table. My process of working solo & in collaboration with community calls upon the embodied wisdom of our ancestors to heal, take care of one another, & share our strength. Thus, in all of my/our work, I am/we are actively working together to dismantle racism, sexism, & other forms of oppression in my/our imagination; in my/our collaborative process; & in the ways that we exist together in community.

Our* Residency Intentions:

1) Expand upon our sustainable creative practice and open up new space for education, community organizing, and youth advocacy work.

2) Use this as an opportunity to expand our network and seek mentorship around public event permitting, community engagement, and production logistics to:
– fulfill the responsibilities involved with this residency
– expand intentional community that will sustain beyond this residency

– mentor and support emerging artists, teaching artists, and other youth and adults with an interest in public service

3) Leverage our strong relationships with local organizations (such as AS220 Youth, Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts, The TAPA Dance Company, The Glitter Goddess Art Collective, The Haus of Glitter Dance Company, Project Wayfinder, Providence Youth Student Movement, Providence Student Union, Youth In Action, Youth Pride RI, The Avenue Concept, Higher Ground International) to collaborate artistically and strengthen the city’s partnerships with their scope of essential creative advocacy work.

4) Leverage our existing network (including but not limited to our audienceship and yoga/dance student email list of 400+) and expand the presence of diverse local artists, youth, families, adults, activist groups, and affinity groups in a historically underutilized park.

5) Utilize both the park space as well as the live/work studio space to produce solo, collaborative, and participatory public site-specific performance(s) involving Aesthetics of the Oppressed, dance, music, theatre, film, photography, sculpture, and other visual arts to promote more creative collaboration, intentional dialogue, and expansive/healing relationships in our community.

6) Expand free/donation-based community yoga and dance programming:
– Afro-Latinx dance (with live drumming circles) pop-up workshops
– (often poc and/or lgbtq+ focused) Restorative Community yoga, live music yoga, and meditation pop-up classes
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