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Close Read: New Era of Programming at Connect+Collect In Response to COVID

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When I started my position as Gallery Coordinator right as the world stopped in March, I was uncertain about what we would be able to accomplish in Connect+Collect’s physical gallery space. This summer was one of several shifts—seismic shifts, like the variance between our expectations for what the year would look like and what it has actually manifested as, and minuscule ones like the resignation of moving through one day of quarantine after another. All the while, in the midst of these transfers and movements, I was thinking about my role in the Baltimore art ecosystem. 

With fewer opportunities to exhibit art and make connections with collectors and viewers in traditional social settings, my mission has shifted to find new models of highlighting artists’ work in order to expose them to greater audiences that hopefully contain collectors. And with the help of Savannah Wood and the task of converting the gallery facade for her exhibition, Close Read, Connect+Collect is proud to move forward in a new direction, marking the next phase of innovative programming at the gallery. 

Close Read is a group exhibition featuring work by Akea Brionne Brown, SHAN Wallace, and Savannah Wood culled from and inspired by their research in the AFRO American Newspapers’ archives. We have transformed our physical gallery space into a surface for projecting video and digital works. Digital exhibitions will be viewable entirely from the outside on North Charles Street for people passing by. Close Read and all other subsequent shows will be screened nightly from sunset until 11 p.m.

Starting in November, I will begin considering submissions for video work to be exhibited in our window gallery. Each selected work will be screened at Connect+Collect for two weeks. The digital window gallery will allow Baltimore-based artists and creatives to see their work in their community on a grand scale.

I was initially overwhelmed and reluctant to switch the gallery from a physical exhibition space into something more unfamiliar, like a digital gallery front. When so many galleries and museums were creating online exhibitions, I am happy that this new phase of programming allows us to congregate and experience art together safely, on the street or in our cars from a distance. There are many things I miss about my old life, but the thing that I miss the most is the ability to see art out in the world and in the midst of other people. I know that many of you miss similar moments, and I am happy that Connect+Collect can create similar opportunities to occur in our unprecedented world and uncertain circumstances. 

Close Read’s opening will be held entirely outside, and is undoubtedly different from a typical art opening. Please join us at sunset if you feel comfortable, and wear your masks as we celebrate this exhibition in a socially distant manner. 

“We believe that everyone can benefit from engaging with the arts and, specifically, from collecting the art of their place and time. Connect+Collect was designed to create opportunities for collectors to build relationships with artists based in Baltimore through studio tours, speaker series, events, gallery openings, PD for artists, and through BmoreArt Magazine. We work with artists and galleries across the city and feature exhibitions in our gallery space.” —Connect+Collect Mission Statement 

More info: Connect+Collect IG: @connect_collect

 

Close Read runs August 27–October 1, 2020, screening nightly from sunset to 11 p.m. at Connect+Collect (2519 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218).

 

Exhibition text by Savannah Wood:

Close Read is a group exhibition featuring newly commissioned work by Akea Brionne Brown, SHAN Wallace, and Savannah Wood.

This exhibition marks the first time that artists have been explicitly invited to work within the AFRO American Newspapers’ archives. Following their individual interests, these artists have produced new work inspired by their research. Brown dissects a pamphlet on urban renewal, redacting the language used to promote its cause to reveal its underlying negative effects. Wallace’s animated photo collages combine her own images with photos from the AFRO archives to celebrate nearly a century of Black women and girls’ play and labor. Wood follows a genealogical trail, connecting the AFRO’s roots back to a former plantation (now a state park) in Montgomery County. The work produced for this show highlights different artistic approaches to archival inquiry, with Baltimore’s Black communities as a common thread.

Close Read is produced by Savannah Wood and the AFRO American Newspapers. This project is supported by a grant from the Grit Fund. Additional funding was provided by the Awesome Foundation and Afro Charities. 

Learn more at www.afrocharities.org.

 

Artist Bios

Akea Brionne is a photographer, writer, curator, and researcher whose personal work investigates the implications of historical racial and social structures in relation to the development of contemporary black life and identity within America. With a particular focus on the ways in which history influences the contemporary cultural milieu of the American black middle class, she explores current political and social themes, as they relate to historical forms of oppression, discrimination, and segregation in American history. 

Akea Brionne has received the Visual Task Force Award from the National Association of Black Journalists. Her work is also featured in the Smithsonian’s Ralph Rinzler Collection and Archives, and was recently acquired by the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art Collection. She was announced the 2018 Winner for Duke University’s Center for Documentary Arts Collection Award, as the 2018 Documentarian of Color. Her series, Black Picket Fences, was acquired for their permanent collection, and is on preserve at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. She was nominated for PDN’s 30 (Photo District News) 2018: New and Emerging Photographers to Watch. Brown was recently named the 2019 Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize Winner, juried by Laylah Ali, William Powhida, and Regina Basha.

Akea received her BFA (2018) from the Maryland Institute College of Art, in the dual degree program of Photography and Humanities. She is originally from New Orleans, Louisiana and is currently based in Baltimore, Maryland.

www.akeabrown.com / IG: @akeabrionne

 

SHAN Wallace (b. 1991) is a nomadic award-winning photographer, visual artist, and educator from East Baltimore, MD.

Inspired by the harsh racial, social and economic realities of her surroundings in Baltimore, SHAN learned about the importance of service, the power of collaboration and the effects of social change at an early age. Now, she uses her lens, collage and in situ installations as the basis of her work, demonstrating the cultural and political narratives of black life, confronting oppressive politics and histories within communities of the African diaspora, and challenging ideas surrounding existing collections, culture and archives of Blackness. 

SHAN has received recognition from publications like the Baltimore Beat for ‘Best Solo Show’, the City Paper for ‘Best Photographer’, and the Association of Health Care Journalists’ awarded her ‘2nd Place – Small Outlet Feature’ for her photojournalism piece “Losing Conner’s Mind” in the Atavist Magazine. Her work has received widespread support from publications like The Charlotte Observer and The New York Times.

SHAN lives and works in many spaces between Los Angeles, CA and Baltimore, MD.

www.blacksandblues.com / IG: @_yoshann

 

Savannah Wood is an artist and cultural producer with deep roots in Baltimore and Los Angeles. Using photography, collage and sculpture, she uncovers obscured histories, taps into ancestral magic and disrupts linear readings of time. Recent group exhibitions include Tell Me a Story And I’ll Sing You a Song, curated by Bianca Moran at Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles, and Our Deep Waters: A Collective Body, curated by Maria Maea at Residency art gallery in Inglewood.

As a cultural producer, Savannah has lived between Baltimore, Chicago and Los Angeles, working in nascent and world-renowned archives; facilitating the creation of large-scale public artworks; teaching kids how to sew; curating exhibitions; hosting a podcast; and communicating complex ideas to diverse audiences. 

Savannah is a graduate of the University of Southern California, where she studied fine arts with minors in French and entrepreneurship. She is also an alumna of the Baltimore School for the Arts, where she studied theatre production. Wood is a 2019/2020 Robert W. Deutsch Foundation fellow, director of the Afro American Newspapers’ archives, director of Afro Charities, and a 2020 Sondheim Prize semifinalist. 

www.savannahwood.info / IG: @savvywould

 

Work List

SHAN Wallace

SHAN Wallace (b. 1991, Baltimore, MD) 

Revival, 00:33, 2020, single-channel video
Westbound, 00:38, 2020, single-channel video
Afrodaddy, 00:27, 2020, single-channel video
The Old Mt Hatten, 00:16, 2020, single-channel video

Akea Brionne Brown

Akea Brionne Brown (b. 1996, New Orleans, LA)

Urban Renewal, 02:06, 2020, single-channel video

Savannah Wood

Savannah Wood (b. 1988, Berkeley, CA)

Hard to Get and Dear Paid For (projection cut), 04:13, 2020, single-channel video

 

Images provided by Savannah Wood

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