Alisha Wormsley, in collaboration with the Office of Public Art (OPA), is seeking proposals from artists, teachers, and community members to engage with There Are Black People In The Future, an Artwork-in-Residence. Individuals and teams who live and/or work in East Liberty, Bloomfield, Garfield, Larimer, and Homewood are invited to submit proposals that explore the relevance of Wormsley’s text, There Are Black People In The Future, in their own communities. Each awardee will receive an honorarium of $1,200 to implement their identified proposal, with additional funds available on a case by case basis for materials and related expenses.

This residency is proposed in response to the events of April 2018, during which Wormsley’s text was removed without her consent from the billboard on which it was displayed. The text was the latest iteration of artist Jon Rubin’s The Last Billboard project, housed on a 36-foot-long billboard on a building at the corner of Highland Avenue and Baum Boulevard in East Liberty. Citing tenant and developer concerns, the building’s landlord removed Wormsley’s text. This residency will focus on the predominantly Black and African-American neighborhoods proximal to the artwork’s former location that have been most directly affected by the rapid transformation of East Liberty and the social, cultural, and physical displacement that community members have experienced.

Shocked by the failure to engage the community in the decision-making process, Wormsley and Rubin held an open gathering at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater on April 18, 2018. Wormsley was saddened by reports from community members who felt their voices were being ignored as East Liberty rapidly developed and gentrified. “I realized how much of a privilege it is to simply decide what you want,” says Wormsley. “I want to give that to this community. They didn’t ask for the text. But they protested its removal and many have asked for the text to return in another form. I hope through this residency the community has time to process and share their feelings on the work.”

The Artwork-in-Residence will unfold over the course of nine months:

  • In January 2019, artists, teachers, and community members are invited to apply to participate in the residency. Wormsley, Rubin, and OPA will host an information session to introduce the opportunity, the call for applications, and field questions.
  • In February 2019, ten applicants will be awarded microgrants of $1,200 each to implement their proposals, with additional funds available on a case by case basis for materials and related expenses. They will be provided with a “toolkit,” designed by Wormsley and Rubin, that includes curriculums showing how the text might be engaged by a variety of groups.
  • Between February and August 2019, participants will implement their proposals. During this time, Wormsley and Rubin will host a workshop for awardees and several community meetings with invited speakers, guests, and stakeholders. These gatherings will provide a platform for conversation on the meaning of the text and the issues behind its removal. Documentation of projects will be gathered by filmmaker Chris Ivey and Wormsley’s project team. Participants will also be asked to document their work through social media, photography, and/or video.
  • In Fall 2019, Wormsley and Rubin will host a final community gathering that will present and discuss the participants’ project outcomes.

Data will be collected from participants and attendees from the community through surveys from Wormsley’s team. This process will inform the direction of Wormsley’s There Are Black People In The Future artwork as she considers possibilities for a future installation.