Gallery Tour and Studio Visit at Laundromat Projects, one of our 2017 Grantees

Ubuntu – I am because we are, 2017. (Installation view) By Artist in Residence Ahmed Tijay Mohammed
The Rubin Foundation staff had an interesting visit to The Laundromat Project’s Kelly Street Collaborative. There we had a tour of the organization, and enjoyed studio visits with artists in residence Walter Cruz and Ahmed Tijay Mohammed. Read on for information on the artists and their projects.
Ayesha Williams, Emily Mock, artist Ahmed Tijay Mohammed and Kemi Ilesanmi, standing in front of Tijay Mohammed’s installation piece

Ubuntu – I Am Because We Are, by Ahmed Tijay Mohammed

The African proverb “ubuntu (uu-boon-tuu, Nguni-Bantu),” meaning humanity towards others, serves as the cornerstone for Tijay Mohammed’s residency project, Ubuntu – I Am Because We Are. Anchored in West African culture and traditions, the project will focus attention on the South Bronx’s connection to migration and create a gathering space to celebrate women, particularly those living within the community. Primarily using African wax fabric and incorporating other assorted materials and objects, participants will create mixed-media portraits in tribute to loved ones, neighbors and other women in their lives. Stories will be shared during the process and captured through audio and visual documentation, which will accompany the portraits.

Walter Cruz, Artist in Residence
Studio Visit with Walter Cruz

In late 2016, I was sitting at home painting on a rainy day. I had just heard the news that another police officer was cleared of all charges in the death of a Black body. It hit me hard. I was sitting there thinking about how Black bodies are grossly disregarded in the U.S. I glanced up and saw one of my jackets sticking out of my closet. Without thinking twice, I pulled it out and began painting on its back side. With  “Black Lives Matter” painted across the back, I threw it on and went outside to pick up my girlfriend at the time, from work. On that 45 minute commute from the Bronx to lower Manhattan something out of the normal happened. Folks were smiling at me, giving me high fives, nodding their heads in solidarity, asking to take pictures. I didn’t expect the reactions, it made me think about how heavy many people’s hearts were at the time and continue to be.

After a couple of months of sitting on the jacket, I began thinking about what else I wanted to say and why. Conversations, passages from books, positive affirmations, meditations and beyond began to stand out to me. I found myself constantly writing down phrases. I decided to take it on as a both a challenge and task, to create a new series that created positivity during such tumultuous times. Living in New York means that you are constantly around other people. You are constantly walking behind, standing behind, and sitting behind people. For better or worse, someone’s back is always turned towards us. With that knowledge, I wanted to activate that space and use it as an opportunity to inject positivity into the hustle and bustle that is NYC. That perhaps someone isn’t having the best day and they cross paths with me while I’m wearing a jacket that says “You Inspire Me” or “ Free Your Self”. In those few seconds that we walk past each other, it’ll give you a small boost of optimism.

It has been an intriguing and joyful experience to see what happens when I walk around the city wearing one of the pieces. That rainy day started it all, I can only hope that the phrases help others out as much as they have helped me over that last several months.

–Walter Cruz, 2017

Studio view of multiple pieces by Walter Cruz

About the Artist

Walter Cruz is a creator, collaborator and dreamer who seeks to create moments of critical thinking through his artwork and designs. He’s on a mission to pursue his passions and help others achieve their dreams along the way. A native New Yorker, Walter has been exploring visual arts for as long as he can remember. He holds a B.A. in Architectural Studies with a minor in Studio Arts. Walter aspires to be a social innovator using the intersectionality of design and the arts to create moments of critical thought amongst the viewers of his work and designs. Walter is the current Artist-in-Residence at The Laundromat Project’s Kelly Street Collaborative.

For more information: laundromatproject.org/

The Laundromat Project’s annual Field Day Festival of Neighborhoods showcasing arts & culture and celebrating community begins this Saturday. Through artmaking, storytelling, and healing, they will creatively explore and build spaces of safety and refuge for their neighbors and communities while celebrating solidarity, community-care, love, and joy.

The first day of their Field Day 2017 festival kicks off in Hunts Point/Longwood this Saturday, September 16, from 2-6PM. Please see the individual events below for exact times, locations, and more details: