Rhode Island Cultural Anchor: Kameko Branchaud

img-1013 - kameko branchaudKameko Branchaud is an artist and educator from many places, but mostly Providence, Rhode Island. She was brought on board as the new Director of Education at Newport Art Museum in summer of 2018, and her murals can be found in Providence, Salem, Hanover, and Miami.

We asked her a few questions about her life and art-making in Rhode Island for our series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.

RISCA: What do you love about the art community/scene in Rhode Island?

KB: I’ve lived in five states and Guam, and I’ve always found Providence the easiest place to feel at home. The art scene, the state’s richness in diversity, and the sense of community that is hard to find in larger cities have all enticed me to move back three times. As an artist, I immediately feel like I belong when I’m surrounded by other artists. As a cultural producer, I feel that the small scale of Rhode Island, combined with its saturation of talent, makes it an ideal place to make things happen.

RISCA: What are you the most excited about right now in your work as an arts and culture administrator?

KB: I’m excited to be in a leadership position in which I can build inclusive, relevant programming that provides whatever it is that our local artists need, and I’m excited to infuse our programs with public art components. We’re in the process of re-launching our monthly Saturday program for kids, our museum career prep program for high-schoolers, summer camps, new workshops and classes through our School, and there’s more in the works. This spring we will be renovating some of our spaces for the Museum’s first-ever artist-in-residence program. I’m excited to see what our programs will look like in six months, and in two years.

RISCA: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you, drives you, to create or enable the creation of art?

KB: Being an artist was never my choice; the arts chose me. I was pricing my drawings as young as age 4, and I think I was 6 when I wrote my first pricing structure for art lessons. Making art is how I process the world. Even if that doesn’t come naturally to someone, I believe there is intrinsic value of processing information, feelings, events, and responses through the arts. I want everyone who can benefit from doing that to have access to the arts and to be empowered by them.

RISCA: What is one thing you think the art community in Rhode Island needs?

KB: Across the board, art institutions need to become more inclusive. This is a major issue for museums throughout the country as huge segments of our changing population are not reflected in our museums. Being a person of color working in museums, often with students of color, I see and feel issues of representation at every level — who’s working in museums, whose artwork is on display, how people of color are represented when they’re the subjects of artwork, and how it feels to be a person of color visiting a museum. What the art community needs is for the gatekeepers — museum workers, gallerists, event organizers, program coordinators, funders — to move beyond dialogue and actively work towards building racial equity at every level of our local arts institutions. Define your communities, train your staff on what diversity is and is not, identify barriers to participation, to start. I know that Newport Art Museum and other arts organizations in the state are working towards equity and inclusion, but I’d love to see collaborative efforts along the way. I want to see organizations sharing their tactics and successes so we can elevate our practices statewide, until every person knows they are welcome in our institutions.

You can check out Kameko’s work at atelier-fuuna.com.

You can see what Kameko and her colleagues in education are up to at Newport Art Museum at https://newportartmuseum.org/education/.

Rhode Island Cultural Anchor: Lydia Perez

Yoruba 2 - Puerto Rican Institute for Arts and Advocacy, Inc.Lydia Perez is the founder and CEO of the Puerto Rican Institute for Arts and Advocacy, Inc., a non-profit organization in the state of Rhode Island that advocates for and enriches the lives of Latino artists and the Latino community. She is also the director of a nationally renowned traditional Puerto Rican music and dance troupe called Yoruba 2.

We asked her a few questions about her life and art-making in Rhode Island for our series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.

RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?Plena workshop at schools - Puerto Rican Institute for Arts and Advocacy, Inc.
LP: My husband and I were born and raised on the island of Puerto Rico, knee deep in its traditions and culture. After the birth of my first daughter, we moved to New England. After a few years off the island, I began to get homesick. One day at a friend’s child’s birthday party, I sang them Happy Birthday on a Pandereta de Plena (a traditional hand-held drum) and was delighted to see their eyes lit up with wonder. “OH! THAT’S SO COOL! WHAT IS THAT??” they asked. I knew then that I needed to bring the traditions and culture of my island to the American-bound Puerto Ricans and other communities interested in our culture. My family and I now live in Warwick, but we take our work with us on the road. We work with schools, workshops, community events, and festivals in Providence, Boston, Hartford, Springfield, New York, and as far north as Portland, Maine, and as far south as Tampa, Florida.

RISCA: What are you the most excited about right now in your art practice and work as an arts and culture administrator?
LP: I always find it exciting when people have heard about us and what we do and invite us to share our culture with them. We like to travel!School workshops - Puerto Rican Institute for Arts and Advocacy, Inc.

RISCA: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you, drives you, to create or enable the creation of art?
LP: That’s easy: I LOVE MY CULTURE! I love that I get to spread what makes me happy with others: I love that I can make masks and wooden figurines, and dance choreography for a living. My love of music and dance, in turn, inspires others to do the same. It’s like a fire that spreads. As a teaching artist I love to teach children and students about our traditional instruments and ancestral heritage.

Visit the Puerto Rican Institute for Arts and Advocacy’s website and facebook page.

Wickford Art Association Scholarship Program Applications due February 21

March is Youth Art Month and in celebration, The Wickford Art Association (WAA) will present its annual Scholarship Fund awards to three Rhode Island public high school senior art students with a fourth award presented by the Rhode Island Art Educators Association in March.

Each Rhode Island public high school chooses one college-bound senior art student for consideration. The four winning students will receive cash scholarships in the amounts of $1,500, $1,000, $500 and with a fourth award from Rhode Island Art Education Association of $500 to use towards college. Winners also receive a one-year membership to WAA, a fine art exhibit in our gallery and exhibit space at the 57th Wickford Art Festival, ranked the #7 fine art festival in the country. This is an excellent, resume-building opportunity for college bound students. Interested students should speak with their art teachers about submitting their portfolio for consideration.

The 2019 WAA Scholarship Program application may be downloaded at http://wickfordart.org/scholarship-program-exhibit-and-awards-ceremony/ [wickfordart.org]

Application submission period ends February 21, 2019.