To celebrate the Joan Mitchell Foundation's 25th anniversary, we invited 25 artists to reflect on the impact of receiving support from the Foundation over the years, and to share how they activated the resources provided by the Foundation. We collected their stories, along with studio portraits of the artists by photographer Reginald Eldridge, Jr., into an exhibition and book entitled Widening Circles: Portraits from the Joan Mitchell Foundation Artist Community at 25 Years. Here is the 21st story in our series, from Ashley Teamer:
I first came into contact with the Joan Mitchell Foundation in 2014 when I had my first solo show, Booty Galaxy, at the Joan Mitchell Studios on Rampart Street in New Orleans. This was where the Foundation hosted residencies and other programs while the Joan Mitchell Center on Bayou Road was under construction. The opportunity to participate in Visual MashUp made me feel like there was space for me in the “new” New Orleans. The feeling of recognition continued four years later when I was accepted into the Artist-in-Residence program. It felt like I wasn’t on this nebulous path of being an artist alone. It is uniquely empowering to know there is an arts organization invested in multiple generations of New Orleans artists that is also invested in me.
I will never forget going to an information session about the residency in 2017, and being surrounded by Black artists from New Orleans. Simply being in that info session impacted me because according to the art openings on St. Claude, the contemporary art scene in New Orleans is predominately white. Being a part of the local Joan Mitchell community means being connected with artists who reflect the expanse of New Orleans visual culture.
When I started the residency in February 2018, my art practice was at a point where I needed guidance on how to achieve my vision of success, and I needed the space to experiment. Within the first few weeks, we had a workshop with Creative Capital specifically about strategic planning. Over the course of the five-month-long residency, I was able to explore ideas that would have taken me twice as long to materialize outside the residency. The monthly stipend, the access to a large-scale printer, the meals provided by the Center, and the space itself allowed me to actually focus on just making the art.
Lastly, this residency has shown me how I should expect to be treated as an artist. I had gotten used to unsafe studio spaces, opaque financial practices, and the attitude that I should be lucky to have any opportunity. The amount of thoughtful care that went into my experience at the Joan Mitchell Center made me see that my artistic vision is valuable and should be treated with respect.
Ashley Teamer is a New Orleans–based artist whose work explores the complexities of Black femininity through painting, collage, and animation.
Read more about Widening Circles and download the full book here.
All photos © 2018 Reginald Eldridge, Jr.