Beginning this autumn, the Jacob Lawrence Gallery and School of Art + Art History + Design at the University of Washington welcome The Black Embodiments Studio (BES) as a resident program for the next two academic years. Now entering its fourth year, BES is a critical arts writing incubator and public lecture series dedicated to expansive, dynamic investigations of blackness in contemporary art. This residency is made possible by the Arts Divisional Reserves and the stewardship of Catherine Cole, Divisional Dean of the Arts at UW, whose vision supports the integration of the arts at the University. BES was previously housed within UW’s Simpson Center.
“BES’s new home will allow us to grow our connection with Seattle’s arts communities and continue creating complex conversations around the diversity of Black life, both locally and nationally,” says program founder and director Kemi Adeyemi. “The move reflects the program’s evolution toward greater sustainability and honors the artistic and pedagogical legacies of Jacob Lawrence.” Adeyemi is also a writer and UW assistant professor of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies.
Each quarter, approximately 10 graduate and postgraduate students are accepted to participate in BES. Over the course of 10 weeks, they are steeped in diverse genres of arts writing about contemporary Black art and artists, enhancing their dexterity with race and aesthetics while developing their own critical and creative writing for a broad range of audiences. BES is accepting applications for the autumn cohort through September 18.
BES’s public lecture series hosts popular conversations with nationally and internationally renowned artists, curators, scholars, and writers. Past residents have included scholar Sampada Aranke, writer Taylor Renee Aldridge, curator Claire Tancons, and artists Liz Mputu, Danny Giles, shawné michaelain holloway, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, and Will Rawls. In November, BES will virtually present sculptor and installation artist Ilana Harris-Babou, whose film Human Design appeared in the 2019 Whitney Biennial. Illana Harris-Babou will present a new BES-commissioned video, Articles Purchased Elsewhere (2020), which will be shown at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery alongside other recent work and contextualized by a conversation with arts writer Jessica Lynne, founding editor of ARTS.BLACK in November.
The Black Embodiments Studio and the Jacob Lawrence Gallery each value arts writing as a necessary component of an art practice and a bridge between form and meaning. At a time when outlets for arts writing are in shrinking supply nationwide, they champion professional discursive training and create opportunities to showcase written work. BES publishes A Year in Black Art, an annual journal honoring both the labor of BES participants and the diverse exhibitions of Black art staged in a historically white city and art market.
“The Black Embodiments Studio has brought some of the most incisive minds to Seattle to work with emerging Black writers to provide them with critical tools to enact change through the written word,” says Jacob Lawrence Gallery director + curator Emily Zimmerman. “I look forward to our collaboration in the years ahead.”