Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) is pleased to present the final lineup of outstanding artists for the reflect / project series. Artists Xochitl Rodriguez, Brian Ellison, Sav Rodgers, and the Saint Louis Story Stitchers were selected from a competitive pool of applicants from across the six-state M-AAA region (Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas).
reflect / project is an ongoing exhibition series featuring socially engaged video work by artists who identify as LGBTQIA+, Black, Indigenous, and/or persons of color. reflect / project serves to amplify underrepresented artists while creating a public space for viewers to consider their position in our rapidly changing world.
Selected artists debut new work on the first Friday of each month both online and in the street level gallery at Mid-America Arts Alliance, in Kansas City, Missouri.
Xochitl Rodriguez, April 2–May 6
April’s exhibition is from El Paso, Texas artist Xochitl Rodriguez. Grown Without Water is a collective video/oral history project that explores how the US/México border between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez marks and defines perseverance on a twenty-first-century border. Confronting tragedy and magic at once, the film, documenting and translating the stories of real women who are between the ages of twenty-eight and thirty-eight, provides an alternate lens through which to view border crossing, tragedy, and brown-skinned women.
Xochitl Rodriguez was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. In 2009, she accepted an invitation from Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck as Bhutan’s first artist in residence. In 2011, Rodriguez moved to the middle of America to participate in the Charlotte Street Foundation’s Urban Culture Project. She returned home to initiate the Caldo Collective, a non-profit organization. In 2016, she organized Boundless Across Borders—a womxn’s march on the border and Braiding Borders|Trenzando Fronteras. In 2018, Rodriguez and her daughter served as ambassadors for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation’s We Will Not Be Tamed Campaign. The artist also was awarded an Interchange grant, M-AAA’s program that supports artists working as change agents and connectors in the region.
Brian Ellison, May 7–June 3
Artist Brian Ellison of Houston, Texas, presents UnMASKunlinity, which explores the complexity of African American masculinity by documenting the daily lives of the Black experience and same-gender loving comradery, simultaneously creating safe spaces for Black men to engage in this dialogue. By dismantling the stigma associated with Black masculinity and speaking about subjects that are traditionally taboo in the Black community, the film impacts viewers and participants by allowing them to gain perspective on how the emotional boundaries that were created centuries ago, beginning with American slavery, have been passed down—reflected in how today’s Black men understand and experience their emotions.
Brian Ellison is a self-taught photographer, cinematographer, and conceptual visual artist. He is the director and producer of the film UnMASKulinity and the founder of The Black Man Project. Ellison believes there is no limit to self-expression and that art is a universal language that can be the catalyst for healing. Through his lens, Ellison documents the everyday Black experience such as gentrification’s impact on historical communities, under-publicized Black love and comradery, parenthood, and the persistent courage of Black women and men.
Saint Louis Story Stitchers, June 4–July 1
The Saint Louis Story Stitchers of St. Louis, Missouri, present WADE, a new film with lyrics from The WHY of MY City, which captures and documents elements of Black history through written word and art while training the next generation to become active, engaged citizens. Lyrics written and performed by KP Dennis with Stitchers Youth Council members AnnaLise, Branden, Cali, Emeara, Rachel, Shawn, and She’Kinah; Music by Ntegrity, KP Dennis, Branden, and Emeara; Urban Videography by Troy Anthony; Water and Editing by Susan Colangelo; Produced by Saint Louis Story Stitchers for The WHY of MY City, 2020.
Story Stitchers erase real and perceived divisions through cultural exploration and arts practice—by stitching together their city. Members include professional artists with experience in song and lyric writing, beat making, hip hop, and performance. Artists include photographers and videographers. Their mission is to document Saint Louis through art and word and to promote understanding, civic pride, intergenerational relationships, and literacy. The project The WHY of MY City was awarded one of M-AAA’s Artistic Innovations Grants in FY2020.
Sav Rodgers, July 2–31
Artist Sav Rodgers of Olathe, Kansas, presents No Reason for Celebration, an archival documentary project that juxtaposes the early gay liberation movement with modern LGBTQ+ rights activism. Relying solely on the archival footage sourced by the filmmakers, this project highlights how trans people are often shunned from their own movements for the sake of “progress.” The sharp juxtaposition of these images promises to leave an impact that leaves viewers questioning, “What exactly have we been celebrating?”
Sav Rodgers is a filmmaker, writer, podcaster, film festival professional, and nonprofit executive. His work tends to center on the queer experience through a comedic or personal lens. He is the director of CHASING CHASING AMY, an upcoming feature documentary about the cultural impact of Chasing Amy (1997) on the greater LGBTQ+ community and the profound, lasting impression on his own life. Rodgers also delivered a TED Talk on the subject titled, “The rom-com that saved my life” in 2018. In 2019, he received the Filmmaker of the Year Award at the Austin Revolution Film Festival.
This exhibition features video work projected in person at M-AAA headquarters and through an online gallery with supplementary works chosen by the featured artists. All in-person exhibitions will be displayed nightly at M-AAA headquarters, 2018 Baltimore in Kansas City, Missouri, from 7:00–10:00 p.m., as well as an online exhibition.
Check out a retrospective of the reflect / project series so far here.