Reflections from our Artist-in-Residence: Nancy Musinguzi
When I thought about developing my career in the professional arts with photography, moving to the Twin Cities this summer was not entirely the foundation of my plan. Prior to my arrival in the Midwest, I traveled to Los Angeles for two weeks to explore the city and develop relationships with other artists who were rooted in the local underground culture scenes that could potentially lead me to permanent residence on the West Coast. However, the moment I began my Artist-in-Residence with Youthprise at this year’s Allied Media Conference in Detroit, my perspective on the arts transformed completely when I recognized the stark differences between my work back home and a career in the non-profit sector.
While I spent most of my time with rappers and performance artists in New York City this year, photographing shows and events in Harlem, Brooklyn, and the Lower East Side, I never thought to connect my work to community outreach or civic engagement. During the early months of my residency in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Youthprise introduced me to an entirely different side of photography that I had yet to experience. Working with “opportunity youth” and engaging them through the arts taught me that the medium of photography has the power to bring about real change that could potentially influence the health of a community.
From site visits at organizations working closely with young and extraordinarily talented spoken word artists, dancers and media makers, to displaying my work for the first time in a photo installation, the Artist-in-Residence program has left me with unforgettable memories and moments I will carry on with me into the next stage of my career in the arts.
While art is said to provide a limitless avenue for creativity and expression for the artist, I have also learned of its function to influence society in ways that politics and plain rhetoric simply cannot. Similarly, it is important for arts-based organizations to recognize how vulnerable youth can be once they leave the classroom, especially those who come from neighborhoods and communities that lack adequate resources to support their young people on their journey into adulthood. Art-making provides a space for safety and expression, spaces all too lacking for young people today.
My hopes for the future of Youthprise’s Artist-in-Residence program is to create a movement for fearless and dedicated people who have powerful stories to tell and are also deeply invested in telling the stories of those who are silenced and marginalized in the larger narratives of American history. Youth are one of the most depreciated populations in the nation and are currently in dire need of support by those who genuinely care about their future. I am optimistic that my time in the Twin Cities has catalyzed this movement into action and am excited to see the fruits of the young artists who come after me in Youthprise’s growing Artist-in-Residence program.