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oCAC aims to create a space for 'of color artists'

Artists of color join together to foster a community of empowerment across the Valley


NAU graduate and content developer Dallas Diaz and ASU graduate and outreach manager Marissa Aguilar discuss the purpose behind Of Color Artist Collective at Fair Trade Cafe in Phoenix, Arizona, on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.

A new artist collective in the Valley seeks to empower artists of color to share their uncensored personal narratives. 

Started by local students and alumnae, Of Color Artist Collective, or oCAC is comprised of about 30 artists, both men and women, ranging from ages 18 to 24. 

While diverse in their artistic medium and professional background, the artists are bound by their shared experience of what it is like to be non-white in Arizona.

"POC (people of color) artists have been here a minute, but we just aren't extended the same opportunities as our white counterparts," Marissa Aguilar, ASU alumna in criminology and one of the founding members of oCAC, said.

While interning for the Obama Foundation as a member of the community leadership in summer 2018, Yewande-Theresa Lewis, a junior double majoring in justice studies and English, was tasked with identifying and solving a problem within the community.

Dallas Diaz, Theresa Lewis and Aguilar decided to use art as a way to organize against the barriers to exposure for artist of color in the community.

Diaz, an NAU alumna in communication, said that according to BFAMFAPhD's 2014 study on the lives of arts graduates and working artists, over 77 percent of artists who make a living wage from their art are white.

Aguilar said that this statistic was a motivating piece to start the collective.

“We’re tired of seeing white art,” Aguilar said. “We want a space for us, by us."

Theresa Lewis said the collective is composed of artists of different mediums and focuses on giving artists of color a space to express their experiences, frames and identities, and that the collective believes in radical art, intersectionality and representation. 

“We want to focus on radical art because a lot of times, art is meant to be subjective, and we want people to know that our experiences should still count as art, and our experiences, our traumas and our identities should still be displayed in a gallery,” Theresa Lewis said. 

The collective's first exhibit "Multitudes" will be on display at {9} The Gallery in Phoenix on Friday Oct. 26 from 7 to 10 p.m. 

The exhibition will showcase 50 pieces of art, at least one piece from every artist within the collective and will include paintings, photographs and spoken word poetry.

“This is a celebration, not a stuffy art exhibit,” Theresa Lewis said. “It’s more of a place to say, 'We did this, and we’re going to continue doing this.'”

The title "Multitudes" was inspired by the line, “I contain multitudes” from the poem Song of Myself by Walt Whitman.

“We wanted to really expand on what it means to be labeled people of color or artists of color,” Diaz said. “We’re tokenized with that, but we contain multitudes because we're not a monolithic people.”

The collective will also be collecting cash donations for DACA recipients

Theresa Lewis said she wants artists to know it’s okay to create a space where one doesn’t previously exist. 

“You belong in these spaces, these spaces are here for you too,” Theresa Lewis said. 

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