Emily Chow Bluck Named Innaugural Dina Wind Art as Catalyst Fellow

New York-based artist, educator, and organizer Emily Chow Bluck has been selected as the inaugural Dina Wind Art as Catalyst Fellow. Envisioned in 2015 to honor the legacy of Dina Wind, an artist, Fleisher board member and supporter, and longtime patron of the arts, the fellowship provides visual artists at a critical junction in their careers the opportunity to enrich their practice by developing a participatory public art project within Fleisher and Southeast Philadelphia’s highly diverse communities.

As an institution, Fleisher believes art is most transformative when individuals actively participate in its creation and that artists help weave the social fabric that strengthens diverse communities. The fellowship intends to spur artists to transcend conventional notions of static art objects in public places while emphasizing how art and artists serve as catalysts for social action, problem solving, and relationship building.

Bluck was chosen through an intensive jurying process by a panel of jurors that included artists and past Fleisher artists-in-residence George Ferrandi and Miguel Lucciano; manager of Fleisher’s adult programs Vita Litvak; Fleisher exhibitions manager José Ortiz Pagán; VietLEAD executive director Nancy Nguyen; and journalist Leticia Roa Nixon. The Dina Wind Art as Catalyst Fellowship has been generously supported by the Wind Foundation and many generous donors, whose meaningful gifts in memory of Dina have made the fellowship possible.

As a socially engaged artist, Bluck has worked primarily with communities of color in urban neighborhoods. Employing her praxis to build campaigns for social justice at the local level, she has harnessed experiences of struggle and oppression to create new narratives of overcoming, social value, and self-determined futures. Bluck holds a bachelor of arts in politics and international relations from Scripps College and a master of fine arts degree in community arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She has been active in organizing in Los Angeles, Baltimore, New York City, where she’s worked with organizations such as the Labor/Community Strategy Center, No Boundaries Coalition, and the Audre Lorde Project.

Food is often a featured medium in Bluck’s work. In Philadelphia, with Asian Arts Initiative, her project Kitchen of Corrections created a socially engaged, alternative economy that translated the hardships of incarceration into power, leadership, and storytelling through food. The project was created with Rick Lowe, Aletheia Hyun-Jin Shin, Jeffrey Harley, and men overcoming homelessness, addiction, and incarceration in the city.

Of her work, Bluck says, “My interdisciplinary, socially engaged praxis is three-pronged — guided by what I call my three I’s: insight, incite, and in sight. As an educator I use my work to cultivate insight between disparate communities. As an organizer, I strive to make pieces that incite people to take action against the injustices affecting their daily lives. And finally, as an artist I collaborate with others to imagine and create a more just society in our sights.”

The six-month residency will begin in September. Driven by her intrigue of the dynamics of mixed community and culture and the ways in which narratives of western colonization and the American dream intersect in our urban immigrant communities, Bluck plans to begin a dialogue with residents, business owners, students, and passersby as a point of departure for her residency. Resulting works will be featured in regular showings in Fleisher’s Center for Works on Paper (705 Christian Street) gallery.

Fellowship Background

Founded in 1898, Fleisher is located at the geographic center of South Philadelphia’s diverse and vibrant communities and continues to sustain the vision of its founder, Samuel S. Fleisher, of art as a great social equalizer through its mission of providing access to art for all. The neighborhoods Fleisher serves, once a draw to Irish, Italian, Polish, and Armenian immigrants are now home to immigrating Mexican and Southeast Asian families, with significant projected population increases over the next five years.

Fleisher completed a community engagement research initiative to develop strategies to reduce barriers to participation in its arts programming, stay relevant to newly established communities, and uphold the tenets of our founder’s vision by serving an audience reflective of these neighborhoods. Informed by this research, Fleisher launched programs to attract new artists while deeply engaging current students and has worked to define arts-based community engagement as “a process of working collaboratively with groups of people affiliated by interests in art, culture, and creativity and a collective desire to make our communities better places for all by developing, sharing, and promoting creative resources.”

The Dina Wind Art as Catalyst Fellowship applies this perspective to Fleisher’s exhibition program by expanding beyond gallery wall presentations of art to a collaborative, people-centered explorations that engage the Southeast Philadelphia community.