With the generous support of the Wagner Foundation, NOMA recently announced the 2021–22 Creative Assembly Cohort, a multidisciplinary group of New Orleans-based creators selected to engage with the institution in a year-long exchange of ideas and inspiration. The disciplines of cohort members range from musicians, dancers, and poets to mixologists, activists, and educators. Cohort members will symbiotically use the museum as a space for inspiration and collaboration, and work with the museum and its staff to develop and implement programs that speak to a diversity of perspectives.
Last November, the Creative Assembly Cohort launched their experience with a retreat at the museum filled with intrigue, joy, and wellness. Each cohort member had the opportunity to spend a full day with the members of the Learning and Engagement and Curatorial staff. The day started with health and wellness check-ins, bonding, and community-building activities, leading to open discussion filled with transparency and mutual respect for each other and their creative practices. The Learning and Engagement staff shared their community programs to give the cohort an opportunity to learn of the work that has taken place at NOMA. Curatorial staff from the African art, decorative arts, and photography departments gave presentations on the history of the collection as it pertains to NOMA and discussion around the museum’s commitment to make our collection and curatorial work more equitable and inclusive of our city. The cohort also had a rare opportunity to spend time behind the scenes looking at notable and rarely seen works from the photographic collection.
Activities throughout the day included cohort members reflecting on their current mental and emotional state, especially in these unprecedented times, addressing the site of the museum and grounding everyone in its place and its history, and lastly, a reflective presentation on artist Fred Wilson’s historically significant Mining the Museum project as a means of exploring the substance of the cohorts’ own unique practices. The heart-to-heart discussions amongst the cohort were raw, supportive, and engaging which encouraged the flow of creative ideas around what is possible here at NOMA and beyond.
Here are some of what the Creative Assembly Cohort members shared as they reflect on being in the cohort, what they hope to gain from this experience, and what community looks like to each of them.
- Hospitality activist, sommelier, and bartender Ashtin Berry shared, “I want to explore ways to bring an exhibit to fruition and what are the ways to tell a cohesive artistic story.”
- Perfumer, herbalist, breathwork teacher, and craniosacral therapist Kathleen Currie says, “I hope to gain community, collaboration, connection, inspiration, and a new way of engaging with art.”
- Singer, violinist, percussionist, member of Les Cenelles ensemble, and professional bookbinder Joseph Darensbourg, with his creative interests around music, languages, books, and art, “I want to meet and connect other local artists and learn about the museum.”
- Poet, writer, and educator Tiana Nobile is excited about, “becoming more familiar with NOMA’s collection, finding ways and creating more avenues for access and inclusion for the youth, and creating collaborative projects with fellow cohort members.”
- Musician and member of pop-art and electronic band People Museum Claire Givens shared, “I am hoping to be challenged by the art and artistry of the people around me.”
Each cohort member will work closely with the Creative Assembly team to develop and implement their project proposals through the rest of the year. The cohort will also have several more group meetings through June which will provide additional opportunities to connect with each other and further familiarize themselves with NOMA’s exhibitions, collection and staff.
—Ilyanette Bernabel, Community Engagement Assistant
ABOUT CREATIVE ASSEMBLY
Creative Assembly is a community engagement initiative by the New Orleans Museum of Art that uses neighborhood-based participatory art experiences as a vehicle for personal exploration, community collaboration, and social change.
NOMA’s Creative Assembly community engagement initiative is supported by the Wagner Foundation.