Yeyo Arts Collective in St. Louis!
01-20-2011, 08:31 PM
Yeyo Arts Collective in St. Louis!
It is not that often that we hear about the grassroots community work in St. Louis, Mo. Our city, much like Detroit in many regards, is the home of influential greats. Dick Gregory, Ntzoke Shange, and Maya Angelou are our natives and the Lou has been an incubator for creative, progressive thought for decades. However, with a declined urban population and corporate minded gatekeepers, it is slightly difficult for the budding, black, visual artists who call St. Louis their home.
Despite it all, we have wonderful pockets of progression. Sweet Art Bakery and Art Studio, offers soulful vegan and vegetarian cuisine. The artwork of St. Louis native Cbabi Bayoc, known for his awesome Violator's album cover, graces the walls. There are on-point drum circles, afrocentric clothing designers, and theatre companies such as Playback Theatre Worskshop, that is pushing through doors. More and more often you are finding community gardens, social entrepreneurships like the Juice Box, and independent businesses in our neighborhoods. These are the things that make me proud to be in the midwest.
I am a visual artist. After returning from art school to St. Louis I was greatly inspired by the spirit of BAG (Black Artist Group) and the pioneers from other arts communities and started an arts collective. Difficult as it has been, we are embarking on our first year (with minimal exposure...). We have been doing a huge amount of work from our small location. We are a few blocks from the old BAG headquarters, the Scott Joplin House and right across the street from the first African American YWCA in St. Louis.
Yeyo Arts Collective is comprised of five women artists of African decent. The collective combined has served the community in various facets in their individual careers. Together, they host a tremendous amount of arts opportunities for the St. Louis area.
The most impacting experiences have been those most closest to the women. Stated by collective member Chinyere Oteh, “I am so glad that my daughter has the opportunity to grow up in an environment where arts and culture is a part of her daily life! “ Each artist involves their family in the many classes and cultural events the collective hosts. Most of the artists are single mothers.
Yeyo Arts Collective is dedicated to women's art and topics surrounding women’s issues; including family youth and community.
Our guiding principals are:
-We believe in empowerment through arts based learning.
-We practice intergenerational collaboration.
-We encourage creativity and inventive efforts in daily life practice.
-We support independent, arts based entrepreneurial efforts.
-As women we stand together, and against gender stereotyping in the arts and society at large.
Together we operate Gya Community Gallery and Fine Craft Shop!
Gya Community Gallery is more than just a gallery! Since it’s opening in May 2010 it has had some great exhibitions. New Orleans artist Siphne Sylve presented a summer exhibition on the topics of creolization, African American historical firsts, and musicians. Sylve, a female beat boxer also performed with her group Artistik Approach for those who attended the reception.
Other exhibitions include Common Thread an exhibition and fundraiser for the Doris Marie O’kain Scholarship Fund curated by Pat Johnson including artists such as Luis Azaceta and Diane Kahlo. Pen & ink portraits by local artist Milton Holmes was the opening exhibition; and a youth exhibition by Yari Yari book club closed December 31, 2010.
Girls Create has been a weekly session hosted at the space. Created by artists Chinyere Oteh and Dail Chambers, Girls Create hopes to expand the art process of young girls age 7-14. The young people gather for yoga, journaling, creative writing, drawing and group sculptures. In 2011, the girls will have their own garden in the historic Ville neighborhood at Jamaa learning center, where they already have a wonderful ornamental garden planned.
Other classes hosted by the collective are a weekly watercolor session with visual artist Andrea Hughes and global craft classes lead by Fannta Drummer. Drummer partners with women from the local refugee immigrant community. The women lead classes on jewelry making, head wrapping and more!
The fine crafts shop hosts jewelry, wearable art, and crafts by local and national crafters.
At Gya, the group has started a community resource room and library. The books range from Vincent Van Gogh paintings to authors such as Bell Hooks and Alice Walker and many in between. In 2011 Yeyo Arts Collective will be hosting tutoring sessions and a book club. The Collective would love to expand their collection with your socially just and art related books.
Sixpence Cinema is a monthly film series highlighting arts, culture and socially just films. The collective kicked off the series with Brunuel’s surrealist film Un Chien Andalou, followed by Maya Deren’s Divine Horseman and Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates. The film series will be ongoing and has many more films in store. St. Louis performance legend David A.N. Jackson provides the technical support to transform the gallery into an intimate viewing space.
Gya has hosted a variety of cultural and community events. Just to name a few in 2010 were an indigenous fashion and dance show collaboration by Andrea Hughes and local dancer Anneliese Hubbard. Gya provided the space for a Know Your Rights informational session, and a playback theater performance by Playback Theatre Workshop and Jackie Masei. Memphis Artist and Washington University graduate Ronald “the Artivist” Herd facilitated a gallery talk and performance.
Two collective members Dail Chambers and Chinyere Oteh have reached outside of the arts community to collaborate. Both collective members will be the inaugural artists for EarthDance F.A.R.M.’s Artist in Residence program and will be participating in their organic farming apprenticeship in 2011. EarthDance is a local organic farming organization that promotes healthy living, organic farming and relationship building. Chambers & Oteh look forward to the collaboration and expanding their healthy living mission to Yeyo Arts Collective and the participants of Girls Create, with field trips and more in store!
Yeyo Arts Collective’s classes and workshops rotate. Each collective member cooperatively decides how our mission can touch the community and empower each person. We look forward to 2011 and are excited about our accomplishments in 2010. We could not do it without our supporting members and volunteers.
Please check us out online at yeyoarts.blogspot.com. If you are ever in town, please visit us, and know that we are with you and your progressive work, in spirit!
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