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Soros Arts Fellowship Recipients – Repeating Islands

Our warmest congratulations to Deborah Jack (St. Maarten) and Chemi Rosado-Seijo (Puerto Rico), who were among the 18 recipients of the Soros Arts Fellowship, which supports innovative mid-career artists and cultural producers advancing social change around the world. The fellowship provides artists with the resources to develop a large-scale project on their own terms in their own local contexts.

Deborah Jack (pronouns: she/her) will create To Make A Map of My Memory: Wayfinding Along Synaptic Topographies, linking cultural memory preservation in St. Maarten with climate justice through an archive of oral histories, a connected film, and multimedia installation. She will center the experiences of communities in small island nations bearing the brunt of climate disasters and work collaboratively with her community in St. Maarten to produce self-determined narratives and representations that confront issues of colonial extraction and cultural commodification for touristic consumption. Jack will combine voices and recollections on the island’s shifting landscape from elders in St. Maarten with archival imagery, vernacular photography, and present-day images of the changed landscape to create a poetic documentary project. With To Make a Map of My Memory, Jack underscores the importance of preserving these intangible histories within the broader collective memory of smaller islands and advocates for the value of island consciousness as a counter and cure to the extractive nature of landlocked continental forces.

Jack is a multidisciplinary artist based between St. Maarten and Jersey City whose work includes video installation, photography, and text. Her practice engages a variety of strategies for mining the intersections of histories, cultural memory, ecology, and climate change. Her work was featured in the exhibition Forecast Form: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990s-Today at the MCA Chicago and will travel to ICA Boston in Fall 2023. In Fall 2021, a retrospective, Deborah Jack: 20 Years, was presented at Pen + Brush in New York City. Her work is in the collections of the MCA Chicago and the Smith College Museum of Art. Deborah received a Nancy Graves Grant for Visual Artists (2021) and she is a 2023 Changing Climate Resident at the Santa Fe Art Institute, as well as a Surf Point Foundation Artist in Residence. Deborah is currently a Professor of Art at New Jersey City University.

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Chemi Rosado-Seijo (pronouns: he/him) will work with residents from El Cerro, Puerto Rico, to transform the community into a “Green Barriada,” a self-sustaining and environmentally resilient community. El Cerro: From Metaphor to Reality seeks to position El Cerro as a model for energy, hydric, and food sovereignty. Rosado-Seijo will collaborate with this ancestral community to invest in its survival capacity and knowledge by building and teaching residents how to sustain energy and water-resilient homes through harvesting solar energy and rainwater. The construction of informal orchards and five new community gardens will encourage research about the agricultural history of El Cerro. The residents are instrumental partners in the design and implementation of these agro-ecological practices and community-led solutions for climate, environmental, and economic justice. The artist will collect and document these experiences, working methods, social and educational impact, and project histories to share in a print publication serving as a testament to the possibilities for other communities. 

Rosado-Seijo is an artist who uses organizing, visual art, and sculpture to tell the story of his Puerto Rican identity and community. In 2020, Rosado-Seijo was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art‘s education department to develop a project entitled Beyond the Uniform, which engaged Museum of Modern Art‘s security department officers. He currently has a long term site-specific sculptural skate bowl at Art Omi. From 2009–2014, Rosado-Seijo organized exhibitions in his apartment in Santurce, creating a center for meeting and exchange in the Puerto Rican contemporary art scene. In 2006, together with Roberto “Boly” Cortez, they inaugurated La Perla’s Bowl, a sculpture built with residents of San Juan’s La Perla community that functions as both a skateboarding ramp and a pool. Since 2002, Rosado-Seijo has worked with residents of the El Cerro community to present art projects, workshops, and other initiatives. Rosado-Seijo had his first solo show at the Joan Miró Foundation, Barcelona (2000). Before that he worked with Michy Marxuach to open a gallery in 1998 that transformed into a not-for-profit organization presenting resources and exhibitions for contemporary artists in Puerto Rico. 

For more information, see https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/grants/soros-arts-fellowship Also see https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/fellows/chemi-rosado-seijo and https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/fellows/deborah-jack

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