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Letters from the Executive Director

Welcome to Community Folk Art Center for 2018!

January 3, 2018

2017 was a challenging year for many people and many communities. CFAC lent support to an effor to support post-hurricane supplies to Dominica and Barbuda. We had great community contribution, and the supplies are on their way to where they are ddeply needed. The University has focused much of its work on Puerto rico, which still has needs and serious challenges for its residents. As bas as the hurricanes were in the Caribbean region, we also had earthquakes, wildfires, and other natural disasters. And the challenges delivered by human hands also continue to call for expression, reaction, and action. Those challenges can lead to stress and exhaustion, ad I continue to beleive that art and culture are means to engage the senses and intelligences, as well as connection to our various communities.

This year will see many 50th anniversary commemorations of 1968, a year which had life-changing events for those of us who were alive and remember - from the crescendo of the Bietnam War to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. to the presidential campaign of George Wallace.

Now that we, in central New York, are in the deep mid-winter, we are looking to Black History Month, SPring semester, student projects and local and visiting artists.

We are looking across generations from a family storytelling event on February 17th, in conjunction with a hallway exhibition of Caldecott Medal winning Jerry Pinkney and Brian Pinkney, with a February 16th gallery talk by them and their story telling partners, Gloria Jean and Andrea (SU '85) -they are visiting campus for the Jo-Linda and Dennis Keith Distinguished Speaker Series Inaugural Lecture (February 16th at 6pm in Maxwell Auditorium.

In keeping with the theme of Art in an Age of Protest, our Winter exhibition in the main Galleries will be Transformación: Posters from Taller Arte Nievo del Amanecer (TANA) a show in partnership with University of California at Davis Department of Chicano/a Studies. Our shared educational missions and commitmentsmame me hope that this will not be the final event together.

Also in February we will have Phil Haddix, a dotoral student in Cutlrual Foundations of Education, with young people who have participated in various photography/writing programs through PAL, run by Prof. Stephen Mahan, at our opening reception and panel talk on February 2nd. The hallway show is up now through February 3rd.

We were proud to present Door of No Return in December. The Witer/Actor at the heart of the show, Nehassiau deGannes, was named in a year-end list of best performances by the Wall Street journal. She ran a workshop for high school students that left all the adults in the room misty-eyed at the way she was able to elicit creation and performance from the students.

We will be screening "Whose Streets?", a 2017 documentary film that focuses on the activism and resistance that arose in Ferguson, Missouri after the killing of Michael Brown (February 22), with a conversation to follow.

Of course Black history Month will be full of event, including the opening of Marvel's Black Panther (NOT at CFAC, more's the pity); don't miss it! Like the events that we will present in February and all winter/spring, it seems ti br a mix of art, cultual critique, and celebratio. So however much cold and snow we have in the coming months, we hope to see you at CFAC.


October 2, 2017

Images coming out of the island of Dominica, the first island to be slammed by the fullbrute force of category-five Hurrican Maria on Spetember 18, 2017, are hard to put into words. "Eden is broken," declared Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who was also pointed out to a UN audience that Dominica, an island with a population of (73,000) already diminished by previous disasters, had paid the ultimate price for climate change. The islanders were barely prepared for this disaster, as Maria catapulted from a category 1 storm to a category 5 monster, packing an unprecedented 175 mph winds, in just half a day. Witnesses say that the island, known for its vibrancy, verdure, and culture, has been reduced to "one giant field," with at least 80 percent of the buildings destroyed or severely damaged. With bodies still under the rubble, the current death toll of 33 is expected to rise as search and rescue operations continue into the remote villages. Not a single street island-wide was spared the fury of Maria's winds, wchi islanders descrived as  the sound of a "demented animal."

Maria was the second majot hurricane to crash into the Eastern Caribbean region in less than two weeks. With Barbuda (of the twin island-nation, Antigua-Barbuda) now a pile of "rubble," CNN headlines announced that "[f]or [the] first time in 300 years, no one is living on Barbuda," after another category 5 storm, Hurrican Irma, completely wiped out the tiny island's life-sustaining infrastructure. The island was previously home to 2,000 people, who have been evacuated and re-settled in the man island of Antigua. With near-total devastation and without the capacity of other islands administratively linkedi n larger, resource-rich territorial entities, the sovereign island-nations of Dominica and Antigua-Barbuda have been among the very worst casualties of recent hurricane history in the region. But they are not alone in their suffering. The Dutch/French island if St. Maarten/St. Martin, the Birtish Virgin Islands, and the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, whose unimaginable, and visceral desperation is now being played out on US television, have all endured the historic, life-altering impact of these catastrophic storms. Mainland USA has also experienced the wrath of two of this season's worst: Hurricane Harvey, whise territorial rains submerged Houston in lingering floodwaters, and Hurricane Irma, which slammed into Florida, causing major destruction.

Art in an Age of Protest

September 14, 2017

Art is sometimes descriptive and other times prescriptive; sometimes art is intended to be speculative, to show us the best or worst of what we can be. In any of those poses, art can be received as a sign of pain, sometimes suffered and sometimes protested. All art is, in its way, a provocation, but artists sometimes (oftentimes) deliberately speak out through their work against social conditions, conventions, relations, and injustices.

Various communities have significant hisotries of leveraging artistic expression in the service of public protest against injustices against their people.  Americans who are part of communities reflecting the African Diaspora are certainly no different - - across a long history, multiple median and many genres.

Communty Folk Art Center (CFAC) is a community, cultural space for Syracuse - the City, the University, the region - with its central mission being to elevate and exhibit art produced in the communities of the African Diaspora and other non-majority communities. We have always extended that celebration to a broad definition of cultural work; likewise, we are open to partnerships with other organizations, institutions, and communities that share our commitments.

For the period of September 2017 - Summer 2018, CFAC will be focusing much of its resources to examining, exhibiting, performing, discussing how art and cultural expressions of various sorts have demontrated, reated, amplified, and publicized various protest actions, networks, and movements. "Protest" in this case can take on multuple meaning in multiple arenas - from art galleries to university campuses to concerts to streets and town squares - Protest can be encapsulated in the projects of an individual artist or in a movement that encompasses multi-generational participants.

We want art to confront, move and inspire. And at a time when our communities are troubled by systemic challenges to identify and survival on adaily basis, we need everything at our disposal to shoine a light on the world that we are creating (DEMAND!) for ourselves and our children.

As Nina Simone offered us:

In the whole world you know
There are billion boys and girls
Who are young, gifted and black,
And that's a fact!

Young, gifted and black
We must begin to tell our young
There's a world waiting for you
This is a quest that's just begun

"To Be Young, Gifted and Black", NIna Simone, 1969

Please join us this year at CFAC for visual arts, performance, films, discussion, and classes this year as we make our art and our cultures matter in this time that is ripe for protest and resistance.

Please check our calendar for events (CBT, Alumni Exhibition, 14 Black Classicists, etc.)

Ashé, Ashé

Kal Alston


April 27, 2017


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.