by Ronnie Estoque
During the 2020 protests against police brutality and amid a global pandemic, local businesses across the city shut their doors down and put up boards to cover their storefronts. The uncertain times gave light to many local artists who decided to use their time and talents to transform boarded-up storefronts with murals. Located on Rainier Avenue, Paradice Avenue Souf, a burgeoning youth-centered Black and Brown artist collective, chose to create a mural to show the importance of multiracial solidarity during times of social unrest. Through a collaboration with the Wing Luke Museum (WLM), their Black and Brown Solidarity mural alongside other art pieces and installations are showcased in their exhibit called “BACK HOME.”
“That year we further dedicated to uplifting BIPOC artists and focusing on Black and Brown solidarity, so it seemed like a really great opportunity to partner,” Jessica Rubenacker, exhibits director at the Wing Luke Museum, said regarding the planning process which began in fall of 2020. “We started thinking beyond just displaying the mural, but what [that] kind of collaboration would look like for a larger exhibit?”
This exhibition also features various artifacts and a video short documenting the story of PAS and their travels and connections throughout Africa and Southeast Asia. The artwork was created by lead artists Ari Glass, Harry Clean, and Jordan Nicholson and arts manager Gavin Amos-Lopez.
“We were following the migration of humans and that’s kind of like the concept behind it too,” Clean said regarding one of the exhibit themes. “We want them [viewers] to love themselves more, appreciate themselves and their ancestors. Have fun and then just enjoy the present time.”
PAS’ travels to Africa and Southeast Asia was also a process of retracing the Maritime Silk Road and seeing how art was preserved in various cultural spaces. While they conducted their research, they connected with community members such as Geo Quibuyen, co-owner of Hood Famous, to learn more about the various areas that they planned to visit.
“They [Geo] were able to give us more context, were able to look up more locations, that reflected this and that energy,” Glass said. “They are building around seasonal things like monsoons and wet seasons, dry seasons, flooding of the Nile and things like that and seeing how everybody’s connected, working with nature to work sustainably.”
Their travels led them to Egypt, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Thailand, which they documented through photography and videography. Prior to visiting these places, PAS held a retreat to help begin the art creation process behind the exhibit, which gave them an idea of how they wanted to compose their paintings. The retreat was beneficial as they had much more focus and less distractions around them. One of the PAS paintings in the exhibit dates to 2014 when the collective was much younger.
“A lot of the art was perceived before the trip. And then there’s some details that went in after seeing the trip,” Amos-Lopez said. “Another thing, too, is that the concept of the exhibit was so big. It took us years to really understand what we were doing. And we’re still working on understanding and learning how to make this work. They [WLM] pushed us to dream bigger.”
According to Glass, community input is an important aspect of their exhibit and they are eager to receive feedback. “BACK HOME” will be at the WLM until March of next year, but the PAS team is actively seeking to make it a traveling exhibit that would visit different cities across the country and globe.
“We also kind of use this concept of the seven universal laws … and seeing, you know, everything is synergetic,” Glass said regarding “BACK HOME.” “South Seattle, we all have different backgrounds. It’s very diverse, but we are all connected.”
The PAS and WLM held an event to kick off the “BACK HOME” exhibit launch, which was at capacity as people enjoyed the lively music and delicious food. Leading up to the opening, monthly meetings between PAS and the WLM starting in fall of 2020 made the “BACK HOME” exhibit a reality; WLM Deputy Director Cassie Chinn was instrumental as an organizer for the group.
“We’ve heard great things from our visitors, especially those who have seen the smaller exhibitions in that space,” Rubenacker said. “It really has transformed that space, with really incredible activation with their video productions, in addition to their powerful two-dimensional work and artifacts from their travels. From this last year, it really activates the space in a new and exciting way.”
Editors’ Note: This article was updated on 11/9/2022 to correct a misspelling of Jessica Rubenacker’s name.
Ronnie Estoque is a South Seattle-based freelance photographer and videographer. You can keep up with his work by checking out his website.
📸 Featured Image: “Mother of the World”’ was created by Paradice Avenue Souf in 2022. (Photo: Ronnie Estoque)
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