Mississippi Museum of Art’s Center for Art and Public Exchange (CAPE) today announced Shani Peters (b.1981) as its 2021 national artist-in-residence. Starting in early spring 2021, Peters—a multidisciplinary artist and educator based in Harlem—will embark on a multi-part project, Collective Care for Black Mothers and Caretakers.
Incorporating aspects of her multi-faceted community-based practice, Peters’ public, project-based, collaborative work considers painful truths and creates opportunities for collective momentum toward learning, wisdom sharing, and community exchange. Her process is informed by her lived experience and in-depth research as she examines the politics of shared society to reveal individual and community approaches to managing the weights on and demands of Black mothers and caretakers.
During her yearlong residency, Peters will build relationships with the local Jackson community and establish a platform of self-care and community care. As a collaborative endeavor, the goal is to demonstrate the essential importance of caring for each other. To start, Peters reviewed data from the Pew Research Center and other sources. Her research revealed that the Black population in the U.S. ranks among the lowest across indicators of well-being including health, wealth, and numerous other categories. Mississippi’s Black population consistently ranks among the most vulnerable and underserved in the nation. COVID-19, the resultant economic crisis, and the Black Lives Matter movement have further exposed these disparities to the country and the world.
Mississippi Museum of Art Chief Curator and CAPE Artistic Director Ryan Dennis said, “Shani Peters’ residency project will consider hard realities in our community through an investigation of the challenges mothers and caretakers encounter 24/7. Her practice is perfectly suited for this process-driven endeavor because her work intersects histories of activism and inequity, community-building, and the creation of accessible experiences for viewers of and participants in her work. We are delighted to welcome her to Jackson and look forward to a rewarding collaboration with our community.”
Peters said, “Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream remains elusive. Black communities nationwide, especially in majority Black cities like Jackson, are locked in a perpetual state of survival. This prolonged reality, dating back centuries, must change. As our national government continues to institutionalize our suffering rather than our care, it is we ourselves who nurse our communities to see another day. As we patch our wounds, who cares for our caretakers?”
Peters will center her project in local community, wellness, self-determination, Black Love, and the urgent need to prioritize the care of Black and POC mothers and caretakers of all gender identifications. She will create spaces for listening and wellness in Jackson with the wider goal of sharing those discoveries and benefits with the communities that those individuals support. The components are as follows:
Collective Care Exchange Sessions
Peters is approaching the residency with an open structure beginning with conversations with a preliminary group of Jackson-based mothers and caretakers. By asking them what forms of care are already available and effective in the City, as well as what gaps and needs exist, the group will identify an agenda for a series of Collective Care Exchange Sessions to determine activities they deem valuable and restorative. These may include guided meditation, art making, vinyasa yoga, massage, and/or gardening. Where Peters’ expertise is limited, local practitioners will be engaged. During all care-centered activities, space will be made for generative dialogue about care and sustenance. Advice from this richly experienced group on survival, healing, and self-love will be shared with their community.
Culminating form: Public Service Announcements (PSA) campaign
Once the Exchange Sessions are complete, Peters will provide artistic direction to Studio Design Apprentices from New Orleans-based The Black School (TBS), were she is a co-director. Together with members of Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba’s Youth Council, TBS participants will transform the caretakers’ words of advice into a compelling PSA campaign (billboard, posters, leaflets, zines, etc.) to be disseminated and displayed prominently in Jackson. The PSAs will be designed to communicate the accumulated wisdom of Black mothers and caretakers for wider community benefit. The young participants will learn more about the legacy and ongoing role of art and design in Black radical histories and transfer their knowledge directly to their peers.
Rise, Set, Rise Again
Unifying all elements of the project will be a guiding concept and aesthetic of Peters’ wider practice: a consideration of the balance and relationship between cycles of Black activism and the natural world, namely solar cycles. While we rise, settle into daily routines, and set, Black Americans must wake each day to resist the oppression of post-colonial conditions. While the project will be rooted in the consideration and reversal of injustice and trauma, its components will strike a balance that ensures participants are always met with compassion and encounter joy, beauty, and the power of art and community.
The project will follow CDC and Museum guidelines and the final PSA component is projected to be completed and released in the fall.
About Shani Peters
Shani Peters (b. 1981, Lansing, MI) is a multi-disciplinary artist based in New York City. She holds a B.A. from Michigan State University and an M.F.A. from City College of New York. Peters has presented work in the U.S. and internationally at the New Museum; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem; Seoul Art Space Geumcheon in South Korea; the National Gallery of Zimbabwe; and the Bauhaus Dessau in Germany. Selected residencies include those hosted by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, The Laundromat Project (New York, NY), and Project Row Houses (Houston, TX). Her work has been supported by the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Rauschenberg Foundation, Rema Hort Mann Foundation, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Peters is a faculty member at City College of New York, Pratt Institute, and Parsons School of Design focusing her teaching at the intersection of art, design, and social change. She is a co-director of The Black School, an artist initiated experimental art school in New Orleans that has led 100+ workshops since 2016.
The Center for Art and Public Exchange (CAPE) is an initiative of the Mississippi Museum of Art supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and founding partners the Henry Luce Foundation, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Bradley. CAPE’s purpose is to use original artworks, exhibitions, programs, and engagements with artists to increase understanding and inspire new narratives around issues of race and equity in contemporary Mississippi.
About the CAPE Residency Program
Once a year since 2018, the Center for Art and Public Exchange (CAPE) and the Mississippi Museum of Art have invited a nationally recognized artist to travel to Mississippi to engage deeply with communities in metro Jackson. These residencies explore legacies and issues that resonate both locally and nationally, and use art as opportunity to inspire dialogue, empower personal experiences, and connect people across geographic boundaries. The resulting art installations, performances, and programs will be the products of collaboration between artists, makers, participants, and organizational partners. CAPE and this series of residencies are funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
About the Mississippi Museum of Art
Established in 1911, the Mississippi Museum of Art is dedicated to connecting Mississippi to the world and the power of art to the power of community. The Museum’s permanent collection includes paintings, photography, multimedia works, and sculpture by Mississippi, American, and international artists. The largest art museum in the state, the Mississippi Museum of Art offers a vibrant roster of exhibitions, public programs, artistic and community partnerships, educational initiatives, and opportunities for exchange year-round. Programming is developed inclusively with community involvement to ensure a diversity of voices and perspectives are represented. Located at 380 South Lamar Street in downtown Jackson, the Museum is committed to honesty, equity, and inclusion. The Mississippi Museum of Art and its programs are sponsored in part by the City of Jackson and Visit Jackson. Support is also provided in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. msmuseumart.org