Sovereign Futures: A Conversation About Land Use in New York City

This conversation brings together three New York City-based artists and organizers who center Land and communality in their work. In Sovereign Futures, Alicia Grullón, Madjeen Isaac, and Iakowi:he’ne’ Oakes will discuss how their artistic practices shape their relationship with Land while also being a tool for reimagining ways of living that prioritize housing, gardening, knowledge exchange, and other needs of their communities. Moderated by Gabriela López Dena, Associate Curator of Public Practice at Public Art Fund, the discussion will highlight the importance of building alliances between artists and organizations working to reclaim Land for collective purposes and fighting against forms of displacement.

Sovereign Futures is part of the exploration of Land and borders prompted by Nicholas Galanin’s Public Art Fund commission In every language there is Land / En cada lengua hay una Tierra. This program is organized in partnership with Smack Mellon, a nonprofit arts organization that nurtures and supports emerging, under-recognized mid-career and women artists in the creation and exhibition of new work by providing opportunities, studio workspace, and access to equipment and assistance for the realization of ambitious projects.

This program is curated by Gabriela López Dena. You can email [email protected] with questions and requests for accessibility. Please, send any services or accommodations to support your participation in this program, including ASL interpretations, by Monday, August 28.

Image: Madjeen Isaac, The Presence of Gran Bwa, 2022

About the Artists

Alicia Grullón is a Bronx-based artist moving between performance, video, and photography. She channels her interdisciplinary approach towards critiques of the politics of presence–an argument for the inclusion of disenfranchised communities in political and social spheres. Grullón’s works have been shown in numerous group exhibitions, including The 8th Floor, Bronx Museum of the Arts, BRIC House for Arts and Media, School of Visual Arts, El Museo del Barrio, Columbia University, Socrates Sculpture Park, Performa 11, Old Stone House and Art in Odd Places. Among her most important projects is Percent for Green, created with residents from the Bronx, it proposed a functioning green bill to earmark 1% of City-funded construction costs to support green initiatives in underserved neighborhoods. After this project, she was one of the co-lead organizers in the Bronx for the People’s Climate March. Grullón is also a founding member of The North Bronx Collective, a community group formed by socially-engaged artists and scholars stewarding for Land Back.

Madjeen Isaac is a Brooklyn-based Haitian-American artist whose practice is rooted in home, communality, and land stewardship. Growing up in a predominantly Caribbean neighborhood and being a first-generation American influences her process of reimagining landscapes, incorporating elements of her hometown Brooklyn and her ancestral homeland, Haiti. Isaac centers narratives of Black and Caribbean folks leaning into agriculture and tending to the spaces they occupy in exchange for joy, liberation, and leisure without the constraints of reality. Isaac received a BFA in Fine Art from The Fashion Institute of Technology and an MA in Art+Edu & Community Practice at New York University. She was a recipient of BRIClab: Contemporary Artist Residency Program, the Laundromat Project Fellowship, and LakouNOU artist residency program at Haiti Cultural Exchange. She is one of the six artists in residence at Smack Mellon from September 1, 2023, through August 15, 2024. Isaac also facilitates a growing art workshop called “Reimagine Your Hood” throughout community spaces in Brooklyn.

Iakowi:he’ne’ Oakes is a Mohawk woman, Snipe Clan. She resides in Akwesasne Mohawk Territory where she was born and raised, and New York City. She has trained in northern and southern tribal art, fashion, business, politics, and leadership, completing multiple degrees and certifications. She is the founder and director of the North American Indigenous Center of New York, a community center located in downtown Manhattan. Through the center, Oakes has partnered with many organizations and developed numerous programs and gatherings, including Native Census NYC, Premier Native Theater, the FIT Native workout series, Two Spirit gatherings, elder programming, traditional medicines programs, Native socials, Indigenous language forums, Native American heritage symposiums, Northeastern Native Arts Festival, and traditional to contemporary Native American arts and design workshops, lectures, panels, and seminars. Activism is a central part of Oakes’ life experience, from the Oka Crisis to Idle No More, the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign, and NoDAPL to the Mohawk Warrior Society.



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