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Artist Safety Hosting: A Discussion on Practice

Artist Safety Hosting: A Discussion on Practive event image

For threatened artists, a safe haven residency can be life-changing. As artists around the world face increasing persecution, censorship, forced displacement, or worse, leaders in the field of residency programming are in a unique position to leverage their resources and expertise to create safe haven residency spaces for artists at risk.

Now in its third year, the New York City Artist Safe Haven Residency Program is an innovative cross-sector coalition-led residency program for at-risk artists, hosted at Westbeth Artists Community. The residency program’s coalition partners include Artistic Freedom Initiative (AFI), ArtistSafety.net, Fordham University, PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection, Residency Unlimited, and Westbeth Artists Community.

The publication of a safety hosting guide marks the residency’s graduation from prototype to program. In the guide, coalition leaders offer reflections on the history, ethics, and practice of artist safety hosting in New York City and other places. The guide’s celebratory launch event, held on September 19, is centered around an impactful conversation with Tania Bruguera, as well as a timely panel discussion moderated by Prerana Reddy and featuring Laura Raicovich, Francis Greenburger, and others. Copies of the guide will be available at the event.

Rashwan Abdelbaki is a Syrian visual artist based in New York, and is currently an artist in residence with the New York City Artist Safe Haven Residency Program. His work explores questions of racism, religion, and politics. Abdelbaki has been featured in solo shows at Metropolitan College Of New York, George Mason University and Syra Arts Gallery. Additionally, his work has been featured in group shows at the Queens Museum, the Museum of Korean American Heritage, Equity Gallery, Elizabeth Foundation for The Arts, ArtExpo New York 2018, Noyes Museum of Art, Montoro12 Contemporary Art Gallery, Cape Town Art Fair 2019, and other shows in Vermont, London, South Korea, Damascus, and Beirut.

Tania Bruguera was born in 1968 in Havana, Cuba. Bruguera, a politically motivated performance artist, explores the relationship between art, activism, and social change in works that examine the social effects of political and economic power. By creating proposals and aesthetic models for others to use and adapt, she defines herself as an initiator rather than an author, and often collaborates with multiple institutions as well as many individuals so that the full realization of her artwork occurs when others adopt and perpetuate it.

Francis Greenburger is an American real estate developer, literary agent, author, philanthropist, activist, and founder of Time Equities Inc., Art Omi, Inc., and the Greenburger Center for Social & Criminal Justice. Francis Greenburger is the Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Time Equities Inc. Founded in 1966, Time Equities Inc. (TEI) has been in the real estate investment, development and asset and property management business for more than 50 years. He is also the Chairman of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates (SJGA), a literary agency founded by his father in 1932. He is the Founder and Chairman of Art Omi, a sculpture and architecture park and arts center founded in 1992, which also provides residencies for visual artists, writers, dancers, musicians, and architects from all over the world. Most recently, Mr. Greenburger founded the Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice in 2014, which advocates for reforms to the criminal justice and mental health systems. He also serves on the board of several not-for-profit organizations and is an active donor to over 300 charitable organizations. 

Mr. Greenburger graduated from Baruch College in 1974 with a degree in Public Administration. He is an avid tennis player and traveler. He resides in Manhattan with his wife Isabelle Autones and is the proud father of four children: Morgan, Noah, Julia, and Claire.

Todd Lanier Lester is an artist, writer, and cultural producer. He lives and works in São Paulo, where he is developing Lanchonete.org—a project focused on the right to the city—with a group of fellow city dwellers. He has worked in leadership, advocacy, and strategic planning roles at Global Arts Corps, Reporters sans frontiers, and Astraea Lesbian Justice Foundation. He founded freeDimensional, a network that helps artists in danger by providing safe haven in participating artist residencies. Todd is a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute where he directs the Arts-Policy Nexus; editor and partnerships director for ArtsEverywhere in Canada; and serves as a board member for arts, rights, and literary organizations in India, Mexico, Brazil, and the United States. Todd is currently writing the biennial update on ‘Artistic Freedom’ for the UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. He coordinates ArtistSafety.net, a hybrid consultancy and volunteer network that provides case management for artists and culture workers at risk, as well as information services to projects and organizations in the arts, free expression, journalism, and human rights sectors.

Laura Raicovich is a New York-based writer and curator. Most recently, she co-curated Mel Chin: All Over the Place, a multi-borough survey of the artist’s work, and served as the director of the Queens Museum. She also launched Creative Time’s Global Initiatives, was Dia Art Foundation’s Deputy Director, and has held posts at the Guggenheim and Public Art Fund. She is currently the Emily H. Tremaine Journalism Fellow for Curators at Hyperallergic, is working on a forthcoming book on museums and neutrality, and is co-curating a public seminar series titled Freedom of Speech: A Curriculum for Studies into Darkness at the New School’s Vera List Center for Arts and Politics.

Prerana Reddy is Director of Programs at A Blade of Grass, a nonprofit that supports the field of socially engaged art through financial support for artists, public programming, and content creation. Previously she was the Director of Public Programs & Community Engagement for the Queens Museum in New York City from 2005–2018 where she organized both exhibition-related and community-based programs and public art commissions. In addition she oversaw cultural organizing initiative for Corona, Queens, residents that resulted in the creation and ongoing programming of a public plaza and a popular education center for new immigrants.

Ashley Tucker serves as AFI’s Director of Programs, leading planning and implementation of its programs and legal services for at-risk artists. Having lived, worked and volunteered abroad for many years, Ms. Tucker has dedicated her career to international human rights and social justice. Ms. Tucker has worked for the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, the Centre for Civil and Political Rights, and PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection. She has conducted research and human rights trainings in Haiti, worked on strategic litigation before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and worked as a volunteer in El Salvador and Nicaragua. Ms. Tucker received her BA from University of Arizona in Studio Art, and her JD from City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law. She is admitted to practice law in New York.

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