Amina Robinson's last show at Hammond Hawkins Gallery.
There are people in our lives that whether by divine intervention, situational circumstance, or familial ties; have the power to change everything we believe about ourselves. Richard Duarte Brown is such a person in my life. I would consider him family now even though we were not when we first met. When deciding about what to present on, I chose Richard and his organization in a sort of last minute realization of how powerful and important he is in the city. I feel that his impact is important to highlight and his work relevant and necessary to any discussion involving arts in the city. I recognize that my personal connection might influence my ability to evaluate the effectiveness of Art with Duarte and Transit Arts through an objective
Transit Arts is a bit of a fixture in the community and are almost guaranteed to perform or have some type of presence at many (if not every) Arts or Cultural festival in the city. Transit Arts consists of painters, dancers, DJs, percussionists, and singers. They are a community centered organization whose stated mission is to “transport young people to a place of discovery -- where creative abilities expand & doors open to a world of possibilities. Our team of inspiring professional artists guide and learn from young people as we travel together to reveal and nurture our talents and entrepreneurial abilities”. They are a collective of artists within an organization that offer classes, shows, and open-mic nights to the community. Transit Arts is located in the Central Community house on 1150 E Main in Columbus Ohio and runs all of its programming out of that space.
Transit Arts programming includes Beats with BBX (Mondays), Art with Duarte (Tuesdays), Hip-Hop with BHB (Tuesdays), Spoken Word with Jai Carey (Wednesdays) as well as monthly workshops and open-mics. The event I attended was Art with Duarte on Tuesday night March 1st 2016. The programing choices are specific to the audience demographic that Transit Arts is targeting as seen in their mission statement. An unstated but dominant demographic of Transit Arts; is young African American Males. Their programming is certainly catered to what is popular in that community right now: Protest Art, Spoken Word, Hip-Hop, and Beat Production. When I attended Art with Duarte there were fifteen kids there between the ages of 10 and 17. The students participating were all children of color (with my biracial orientation being the only white representation in the room). Being half-black myself, I did not find this to be repelling; but refreshing.
The environment was welcoming, warm, and friendly (which I recognize could have been a result of my color and personal connection). DJ BBX gave me a tour of the place and I even got to dance with the Hip-Hop artists as well as create with Duarte. All of materials as well as entrance to the class was entirely free, thanks to a grant from the Greater Columbus Arts Council. Almost all of the operating costs are in fact covered by grants. If the class was to move to a larger room or have another one dedicated specifically to storage; mobility and function ability of the painting space would greatly increase especially if expansion is projected.
There are few places for people of color to go and express their true identity in our Caucasian dominated society without being stereotyped or feared. Transit Arts provides a place for free, healthy, creative expression in a safe environment that hosts some of the most successful artists in our city. However, if I were the “average white person” living in Columbus; I probably would not attend a Transit Arts program or event unless it was hosted at a festival. I would first, probably not have heard about their programs unless I had personal connection within the organization (and even if I did I would think that those programs were not for me). This could easily be seen as barrier to participation or a lack of diversity. But if the organization is flawlessly reaching its intended audience; is the lack of participation by the unintended audience considered a barrier or a potential participation base? In either case, Transit Arts and Art with Duarte, could tap into this unintended audience in several ways. They could advertise their programs, workshops, and events in Olde Towne East business (which is just down the road), or use mediums like Facebook statistics or Constant Contact to attempt to reach that community via E-Mail and social media ads. They could also increase their presence at mostly “white” cultural and art events in the city. This begs the question however, does this undermine or enhance the intended mission of Transit Arts? A question I cannot answer, but I will say that Duarte says this about his class Art with Duarte
“This is the place I protect-This is the place I love”
Because Transit Arts
The city has clearly fallen in love with Transit Arts as seen in their constant presence on local television, radio, and news outlets. As long as they continue to stay true to their mission, they have reached a sort of nirvana many arts organizations dream about; in which their public relations are positively echoed effortlessly throughout the community. The biggest struggle for the organization and for Duarte himself is going to be remaining true the vision in spite of increased popularity. But based on his quotation above I do not think that will be too much of a struggle. Duarte taught me how to love myself and how to create. He was the first person who told me that I am an artist in spite of what has been told me by the rest of world. If it weren’t for him and his vision; would not even be involved in the arts or writing this paper at all. So to think of his impact spreading to our community through Art with Duarte gives me chills. It all begins with one person. I will now impact someone else ‘and then that person will, and so on and so on until the world is changed for the better. That’s why I am studying to be involved in the Arts; to change the world. Not sit in a lecture or get an easy A. Transit Arts has caught wind of what it is all about and I am glad I was able to analyze and report on their impact and the impact of my dear friend Richard Duarte Brown.