ALLISON MOSESAlison Croney Moses finds the moment in time, space and community where there is balance, and in that balance, we find the critical moment of transformation—transformation of wood, of a person, of an organization, of the field of craft and ultimately of a society. Alison Croney Moses has worked over the past 15 years in alternative education settings to build out education programs that center the communities they work with while fulfilling the missions of the institutions. Her work is in the collections at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and elsewhere and has been featured in American Craft Magazine. She is currently the Associate Director at the Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts where she founded Eliot School’s Teen Bridge and Artist in Residence programs to help cultivate the current and next generations of artists and leaders in art and craft. She holds an MA in Sustainable Business & Communities from Goddard College, a BFA in Furniture Design from Rhode Island School of Design.
Work Samples:Watch But Rather Short Here
Performed and created by Tanya Nixon-Silberg
Filmed by Bonnie Duncan
Description: But, Rather was created for We Create Festival 6/2021, Curated by Danza Organica. Puppet performance in the Brazilian Lambe Lambe style depicting a Black child playing. Performance includes a crankie, an old storytelling art form. This is an example of the type of work Tanya will explore during Phase Two of My Black Body Project.
Watch My Black Body here
Description: Brought together by Alison, a group of Boston-based Black mothers connected to develop a trusting, empowering community centered around the journey of Black Motherhood. In June of 2021, Bintu Conté - one of the mothers and an embodiment practitioner - guided the group in creating a sacred space to process lived experiences and cultivate a practice for sustaining physical, emotional, and collective self-care. This video is an excerpt of their weekend retreat at the Loring Greenough House in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, MA.
Artist Statement:I strive to create situations and objects where people are compelled to interact, to express, and therefore to challenge themselves to heal, to stand taller, to build community, and to work toward a more just future. This sometimes occurs in a classroom where my presence shows that art and woodworking are valid pursuits for young people who look like me; this also happens when I bring together mothers of color in Boston to build solidarity, support, and friendship while we navigate raising Black and Brown children to value their own identities in a white society. These interactions—along with my experiences growing up as a first-generation Guyanese American, where making was always an integral part of our daily lives—all serve as inspiration for the experience of working with wood.
The wooden sculptures I create engage the senses—the smell of cedar, the richness of walnut, the color of honey or the deep blue sea, the round form that signifies safety and warmth, the impenetrable feel that’s reminiscent of armor, the gentle curve that beckons to be touched. The process of making is a collaboration with wood, a material that even after being cut down still mimics life, changing with its environment. I push the wood to its limits and it pushes back. Finding this critical moment in time and physical balance transforms the material. In this material and process of working I see the connections to my community. I see the trust, the risks, the affirmations. I see my identity—as a Black woman, a Black mother, and a Black artist.
As I grow my artistic practice, I have begun to ask myself, what happens if we truly center community—community’s need to care for ourselves, to celebrate, and to commune—in the art we make, in the world we build? Does the art become living memorials to those that currently occupy the space and to the ancestors who are supporting them? If we center community, are we then filling our vessels with joy, love, affirmation and all things that are needed to thrive?
In focusing on the needs of Black mothers, my artistic practice centers my identity and my community and helps to contribute to a larger community that uplifts Black mothers. The project unfolds in two phases:
Starting in March 2021, I brought together Black mothers from my community, meeting every two weeks to build connection, trust, and develop embodiment practices. Our time culminated in a weekend in-city retreat that occurred for 3 hours on both Saturday and Sunday in June Led by Bintu Conté, one of the mothers, 10 Black mothers participated in meditation, dance, and yoga, to process our lived experiences and cultivate practices to sustain physical, emotional and spiritual care and wellness. During the retreat we shared wonderful stories of all the times we felt happy as a child. One of the Black mothers, Kelly, said “Unadulterated Black Joy” and Tanya Nixon-Silberg (collaborator) then parsed out the word ADULT. The way back to joy for us is to shed adulthood. Shedding the ideas of what is expected of Black women and reclaiming our childhood and joy. This vision was the impetus of Phase two, the focus of this request.
Phase one culminated in the exhibition at the Center for Architecture + Design in Philadelphia, PA in the Fall in which I displayed a 3-5 minute film that documented the retreat, alongside two of the three sculptures of the My Black Body Series. The sculptures are of my own personal physical experiences during motherhood—pregnancy and mother with child. The third artistic creation, representing the mother on her own, will be completed in Phase two.
Tanya Nixon-Silberg, Zahirah Nur Truth and I (Collaborators), all Black Mothers who have participated in Phase One, will collaborate to uplift un-ADULT-erted black joy for ourselves, our children and others, finding liberation in parenting.
Tanya Nixon-Silberg is a Black mother, educator, artist/puppeteer, and racial justice facilitator. In her puppetry she has been investigating the adultification of our young girls, researching the joys and perils of Black girlhood, institutional racism and how we find joy. Her interest grew deeper after having her own Black girl and fighting against institutional and familial forces that go against children being children. Even as a parent, she states that she finds herself aligning with white cultural norms that strip young Black girls of childhood. The work she will explore for this project focuses on play and liberation, consciously decolonizing play for herself, other black mothers and their children.
Zahirah Nur Truth, a mulit-faceted artist with an art practice that is varied via paintings, murals, jewelry, and performance. She makes art that invokes joy, empowerment, and thought. She found her true love of the arts in 2005 after taking on the artful journey of motherhood. There something was sparked in her and she began painting and claimed her throne as an artist.
Collaborators will plan and facilitate a series of gatherings of Black mothers, inviting more to be included from the broader Boston community, reconnecting them to the joys of their childhood—roller skating, hula-hooping, and double dutch and building habits of promoting joy for our own children in the face of injustice and oppression. Collaborators will use these experiences to fuel our own making process, creating puppetry, paintings, multi-media, poetry works as well as completing the My Black Body wooden sculpture series.
The artwork and documentation of gatherings from both phases will be exhibited at the Piano Craft Gallery in Boston (or similar venue) uplifting Black mothers in traditional art spaces with affirming visuals and experiences—an act of social justice, racial justice, and self-care.
Phase One has been supported through Designing Motherhood (see details in funding section). Phase Two is generously supported through the Ongoing Platform category of the Collective Futures Funds and we are seeking completion funds through the Boston Ujima Project Cultural Assembly Grant.
My Black Body focuses on Black mothers in Boston.
When I began my journey of motherhood, I found myself faced with scary statistics including that Black infants are at least twice as likely to die in their first year of life as white infants and that Black mothers are nearly twice as likely to die during childbirth than white mothers. I found myself without a supportive community that reflected my identity and getting ready to face the most challenging phase of my life. At the time it was inevitability that my children would learn to value white skin, culture and people more than their own just from living in ‘default’ culture was unacceptable. Boston is a fragmented place. Finding community is difficult whether you are a transplant or if you were born and raised in Boston. I began networking at playgrounds, work events and as I walked by people on the sidewalk, all to build a community for moms who look like me. In 2018 I started the Moms of Color Facebook group with the goal of providing resources, encouragement, and feedback regarding the realities of being a mom of color and raising children of color in a majority white society. Today the group consists of over 130 mothers from Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, Roxbury, Roslindale, and Dorchester—all mothers who experienced similar lack of support with the odds stacked against them.
During the pandemic, I set up regular virtual meetings to connect during this time of isolation and racial awakening due to the COVID19 pandemic and the publicly shared murders of unarmed Black people.
For My Black Body I recruited Black mothers from this group and we began to cultivate community through every other week virtual meetings where we created space for moms to be vulnerable to each other while also supporting and affirming each other. During phase two of the project, I plan to invite more Black mothers to participate, ideally impacting 30+ mothers in the Boston area. The culminating exhibition in Boston, along with accompanying public performances, will engage a larger community, likely close to over 250 people.
Culminating events always sound like the ending of something, but I see this series as a living creative experience and envision these gatherings and accompanying creative process to continue to evolve, broadening its Impact on Black Mothers in Boston and the communities they live within.
There is yet to be significant research on what Black mothers, specifically Black mothers in Boston, need to counter all of the negative health indicators but I have no doubt that community building and joy are essential.