Questions of Practice: Kemi Ilesanmi of The Laundromat Project on the Role of Artists in Community Development

The influx of socially engaged work among today’s artists has brought about conversations surrounding artists’ roles and long-term investments in the communities in and for which they create art. Here, Kemi Ilesanmi of The Laundromat Project in New York talks about the importance of regarding artists, not as interlopers, but as “neighbors” and “citizens” who hold multiple roles in the communities in which they live and work.

Kemi Ilesanmi, Executive Director of The Laundromat Project, on the role of artists in community development. Filmed at The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage on May 11, 2015.

Kemi Ilesanmi is the Executive Director of The Laundromat Project in New York, which brings art, artists, and arts programming into community spaces to amplify the creativity that already exists within communities. She has worked previously with Creative Capital Foundation, where she supported adventurous American artists, and the Walker Art Center, where she organized exhibitions and ran the visual arts residency program. In 2015, Ilesanmi served as a Center panelist in Exhibitions & Public Interpretation.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko is the President and CEO of the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine, which presents the history and cultures of the Wabanaki people. She served as a panelist in Exhibitions & Public Interpretation in 2015.

The Invisible City project consists of extensive oral history research, conducted with artists, critics, and curators active in the city’s little-known avant-garde visual arts community of the 1960s and 1970s.

Grants & Grantees

Brent Wahl (Pew Fellow, 2014) works primarily in photography and time-based mediums, transforming everyday materials and detritus into mesmerizing compositions.

In 2011, the award-winning writer, director, and actor became the Center’s first visiting artist. His residency functioned as a creative exchange between a working artist and the Center’s staff, constituents, and communities.

Jazz Bridge presents a concert featuring sets by jazz guitarist Pat Martino and jazz pianist and Pew Fellow Uri Caine.

Grants & Grantees

Built in 1829, Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous prison in the world. For more than a decade, the prison has had an active contemporary art program.

Grants & Grantees

Supporting, documenting and presenting Philadelphia area folk arts, the Philadelphia Folklore Project is committed to sustaining community cultural knowledge.

Artist Bob and Roberta Smith creates work in what he calls the “communicative realm,” from hand-painted slogans to social media campaigns.

This exhibition, which will be the Eastern State Penitentiary’s first to focus on the current state of incarceration in America, will shed light on this critical contemporary subject.

Questions of Practice

Noyes, director of the Center for Folklore Studies at Ohio State University, shines light on many issues of authorship within folk practices, including notions of conservatism vs. freedom of expression.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Nina Simon is executive director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History in California and author of The Participatory Museum.