The current Connecting Communities project at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center comprises a cohort of artists working together. In this multiyear project, four artists-in-residence work to engage Sheboygan communities in collaborative art making, creative movement, and ongoing conversation.
Artists Jessica Sabogal (CA), Ro Garrido (NY), Oskar Ly (MN), and Ana Maria Alvarez (CA) work alongside community members to celebrate the places, stories, and character of Sheboygan’s Indiana Corridor neighborhood. The cooperative nature of the cohort model lends itself to cross-collaboration, allowing the artists to learn from each other as well as from their interactions with community members. This exchange generates value for the artists both personally and in their artistic practice. Participants share their skills and knowledge as they learn from both the artists-in-residence and fellow community members. Through artist-led workshops, dialogues, and pop-up activities, all are prompted to consider how the neighborhood gathering spaces that make up our everyday experiences can bolster a community’s creativity, knowledge, culture, traditions, meaning, and vitality.
Ana Maria Alvarez is a skilled dancer, prolific choreographer, and masterful teaching artist who has received multiple accolades for her dynamic works. Alvarez is the founding artistic director of CONTRA-TIEMPO, a bold, multilingual Los Angeles-based activist dance theater company dedicated to transforming the world through dance. Their work builds community, facilitates dialogue, and moves audiences to imagine what is possible. Alvarez’s choreographic work with her company and beyond is rooted in salsa, Afro-Diasporic movement practices, and storytelling, where honoring our histories, building authentic partnership, deep listening. and improvisational play are at the heart.
Ro Garrido was born in Lima, Peru and grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens. Ro is a self-taught, multidisciplinary artist and educator whose work grapples with memory, intimacy, and place. They work with mixed media, fiber, sculpture, archive, installation and community engagement. Their work has been featured at the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, Goddard College, and Flux Factory. Ro was a 2014 Create Change Fellow and 2016 Commissioned Artist with The Laundromat Project. Ro is currently a 2018-2019 Engaging Artists Fellow at More Art and a 2019-2020 Artist in Residence at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. Ro has a BA in individualized studies with a focus on visual art and mental health from Goddard College.
Ka “Oskar” Ly is a Queer Hmoob (Hmong) French American artist and cultural producer based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Hmoob ancestral knowledge manifests enduring creativity without a word for “art." Ly draws on this to redefine Hmoob aesthetics, cultural innovation, and community futures. They are driven by deep personal inquiry, luxuriating in exploring previously unimaginable possibilities through fashion, murals, music, and organizing, and also as founder of ArtCrop, a Hmoob artist collective.
JMKAC Artist-in-Residence Jessica Sabogal is a queer Colombian-American muralist from San Francisco whose large-scale public artworks attempt to document and disrupt. She births her creations from the following framework:
"As artists, it is our duty to uplift the sacredness of women, people of color, the differently abled, queer and trans folks, immigrants and the undocumented, and our indigenous brothers and sisters, whom continue to face ongoing oppression and marginalization. We believe in the right to our own liberation, unbounded by man-made borders, white supremacy, and misogyny.”
For the past 10 years, Sabogal has consistently reinvented what it means to be a two-spirit muralist in a male-dominated medium. She has continually pushed the boundaries as an artist by utilizing her medium for social change, action, and empowerment. Her murals have been commissioned by Facebook, Google, 20th Century Fox, the University of Southern California, the University of California, the University of Arizona, and the University of Utah, among many others. In 2016, Sabogal received KQED’s Women to Watch Award and the following year was commissioned by the Amplifier Foundation for the 2017 Women’s March, after which her “Women Are Perfect” campaign gained international acclaim. Sabogal’s work has since been featured in national and international news and media sources including CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, and The New York Times.
Sabogal created this image, Uplift the Sacredness of All Black Life, in response to the calls for racial justice and equity, sparked when Minneapolis police officers murdered George Floyd this past spring. All in the community can share this image to remind us of past and present struggles and of the hope that is on the horizon.
Community members are encouraged to pick up copies of this image in poster and postcard form in the SOCIAL Studio at JMKAC. Digital copies can be accessed from the links below.
Major funding for Connecting Communities Residencies comes from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from the Bert L. and Patricia S. Steigleder Charitable Trust, Frederic Cornell Kohler Charitable Trust, Kohler Trust for the Arts and Education, and Kohler Foundation, Inc.