Artists Creating Health
Open A.I.R. Artists Services Program

What is the artist’s role in creating health with communities?

The idea of co-creating health with communities, within and beyond our current system, is becoming a national conversation, and one that should involve artists. “Artists Creating Health” will allow artists working across varied spaces of health an opportunity to introduce/discuss their work with a greater network of peers and those across disciplines. The goal: to expand understanding and support around the variety of ways that artists can and do engage in creating health, discuss strategies to connect with and/or further work in these areas, embrace broader definitions of health and increase literacy in community-level health systems.

The event will begin with a short presentation on health disparities and reform by artist and activist Robert Sember, followed by a panel discussion allowing five artists to introduce a particular project or element of their work/perspective. Finally we will break into roundtable discussions where each panelist can go in to further depth and engage others in dialogue. This is interactive, so we encourage you to share your thoughts, experiences, projects and ideas in the roundtables.

Confirmed Presenters

Robert Sember is a public health ethnographer, artist, and community organizer. He has taught public health at Columbia University where he was a member of the Center for Evaluation and Technical Assistance and the Secretariat for the International Working Group on Sexuality and Social Policy. Robert is also a member of the international sound-art collective, Ultra-red. For twenty years, Ultra-red has investigated the contribution experimental sound art can make to political organizing.  Ultra-red projects focus on concerns related to (im)migrants’ rights, affordable housing, sexual and gender rights, and anti-racism and anti-poverty struggles.  Robert brings to his work with Ultra-red training in cultural studies, medical anthropology, art, and ongoing involvement in the field of public health. He is the co-founder of the Arbert Santana Ballroom Archive and Oral History Project, an initiative by and for members of the African-American and Latino/a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community in New York City. The Ballroom Archive is an element of Vogue’ology, a long-term collaboration between Ultra-red and the Ballroom scene that was initiated during Robert’s 2009-2010 Vera List Center fellowship. Robert teaches in the Arts Program at The New School’s Eugene Lang College.

Carlos Rodriguez Perez, MA, RDT/BCT, LCAT, is the Director of the Wellness and Recovery Division at Kings County Hospital Center. He is a graduate of the NYU Drama Therapy program (class of 1994) and served at the NADTA and NCCATA board directors. Carlos worked at Bronx Psychiatric Center, where developed his practice utilizing mask making as an intervention with people with Severe Mental Illnesses.  In 2009, he was recruited by HHC to be part of a team aiming to transform the Behavioral Health Service at KCHC.  At KCHC he redeveloped the group programming for the inpatient services, building one of the largest teams of Creative Arts Therapists in a single institution.  Most recently, he has established a relationship with a Dutch organization, the Beautiful Distress Foundation, which engages artists as studio residents within the hospital campus. http://www.beautifuldistress.com

Harriet’s Apothecary, a wildly passionate healing collective based in Brooklyn, NY. It is comprised of Black Cis-women, Queer and Trans healers, artist, and healthcare professionals. The collective comes together at the start of the season to host a healing village that is committed to providing accessible healing spaces to Black and POC folks. The collective will be represented by two members herbalist Natalie Sablon. Sablon founded Wild Herban, an herbal apothecary that was sown by grief, hope, beauty, and anger from the recent slayings of unarmed Black, POC, Trans, and Queer folks. Through promoting an expanded concept of health by engaging in community skills shares and dialogues about our body’s ability to attract the components it needs for health. Sablon is a nurse who adores all things herbs, and has experienced their healing on a first hand basis. Equally important, she has witnessed herbs usher in healing in her community.

Gabriela Álvarez is the Health & Wellness Coordinator for the Green Light District at El Puente. She is a chef, wellness coach, and activist: inspiring personal transformation and social change through food. She is the Health and Wellness Coordinator with El Puente’s Green Light District. Gabriela also facilitates a cooking class at the Williamsburg Leadership Center, integrating health-supportive cooking with holistic healing and food justice. Gabriela received a bachelor’s degree in Community Health from Brown University and went on to study at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts.

Sara Zatz is the Associate Director of Ping Chong + Company and project manager of the Undesirable Elements performance series, an interview-based theater project exploring issues of culture and identity in the lives of individuals in specific communities. Since she joined the company in 2002 has worked in collaboration with partner organizations ranging from regional theaters to community-based arts organizations, exploring themes such as the experiences of people with disabilities, immigrants and refugees, and disenfranchised youth.  She is the writer and director of “Secret Survivors,” a work in a series which explores the experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse, and oversees Ping Chong + Company’s Secret Survivors National Initiative, which partners with non-arts-organizations to use theater to end child sexual abuse. Most recently she co-created “Say My Name, Say My Name: Stories of LGBTQ Youth of New Orleans,” featuring true stories of transgender youth of color fighting criminalization in New Orleans.

Veronica Ramirez is a mother, a community educator, and a community leader who fights for the rights of women, children, and the immigrant community. Vero firmly believes that access to health and education should not be a privilege but rather a right for all, and that Popular Art, which is born from the knowledge and experiences of the people, is a powerful tool for these struggles. She is an undocumented immigrant from Puebla, Mexico who for the last 18 years has built her home and community here in Corona, Queens. Vero is a leader in the IMI Corona Community Council and the founder of Mujeres en Movimiento (MEM – Women in Movement). MEM is a collective with over 150 members, mostly immigrant Latina women. This initiative’s main goal is to encourage health and community empowerment through exercise by practicing bailoterapia (dance-therapy), biking, and mutual aid. MEM is based in IMI Corona, a community organization in Queens, NY.

Featured Image:Robert Sember, Artist and Researcher from South Africa in dialogue with Zanele Muholi, Visual Artist from South Africa about sexuality and art at “All That Is Banned Is Desired,”the World Conference On Artistic Freedom. Photo by Vimago.

Presented in Collaboration with ELNYA (Emerging Leaders of New York Arts), a networking and professional development group for arts administrators in our 20s and 30s.

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About Open A.I.R Artist Services Program

The expanded Queens Museum features a new, expanded slate of artist services, including a brand new Studio Program, with professional development features and a networking Lecture Series that draws on human resources at the Queens Museum. Open A.I.R.  programs will offer professional development topics targeted specifically to all interested emerging artists.

Open A.I.R. is made possible by a generous grant from The Scherman Foundation’s Katharine S. and Axel G. Rosin Fund.  Additional support provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

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