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Letter from the Executive Director


I want to introduce what I hope will be a regular feature of our relaunched website: a message from the Executive Director. I have been involved with Community Folk Art Gallery in various ways since I arrived in 2005, and I have been excited to serve as Interim Executive Director this year. We emphatically still miss the FABULOUS Kheli Willetts, and we have endeavored to carry on in her absence.

Celebration of arts and culture of the African Diaspora is our mission, and fulfilling that mission in these time lives in a space of tension between deep concern about the state of the world around us, the fate of the arts and culture, and the state of higher education AND an ever firmer conviction that an important part of care of self and community is engaged, public expressions of generative energy.

We are fortunate to live in a community with people who care deeply about our City and the region – as well as the nation and the world. We have a vibrant community of folks from Africa and all parts of the diasporic world. The Center aspires to be a place where those and other cultures meet for celebrations, communication, and education.

We are also fortunate to be home to some great artists –

  • Tanksley, a musician who is a graduate of Creative Arts Academy and performed twice this year at the Center;
  • Jackiem Joyner who is a graduate of Fowler High School and a Billboard charting jazz saxophonist – I moderated a discussion with him and two faculty colleagues under the auspices of the Humanities Center – and an entrant into young adult science fiction;
  • Spencer Stultz ’17, who exhibited her paintings in our spring exhibition – holding her own with professional artists (like Jamaal Barber, whose pieces PLUS an additional print are on exhibit in our hallway gallery)
  • And many others!!

Ebony Magazine published a special issue this month, “Ladies First: 100+ of the most powerful women of all time.” Two of the women, both MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellows, have Syracuse connections: LaToya Ruby Frazier, who received her MFA at Syracuse University in 2007, has been hailed for her incisive visual/photographic portrayal of racial and economic injustice in America; and, Carrie Mae Weems, whose most recent work, “Grace Notes,” connects music, movement, poetry, and visual landscapes to incite audiences to consider the role of grace in the pursuit of democracy.

Not that we necessarily need the reminder, but all of these incredible artists in our midst do remind us that telling our stories (in every medium) is vitally important to a thriving community and world within and across difference.