The Speed Art Museum has recently created a new residency position with the aim of encouraging activism and bringing the arts of under-recognized communities to the fore by featuring them in the hallowed halls of Louisville’s premier art museum.
Community activist, educator and artist Shauntrice Martin has been selected to be the Speed Museum’s first Community Connections Artist-in-Residence and will serve until the end of October of this year. The residency is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Grant. Martin will collaborate with the residents of The West End of Louisville and the Russell neighborhood with a focus on highlighting Black female artists.
“Shauntrice’s work within the Russell community continues to evoke the joy, passion and love she has for the Black community,” said Brittany J. Thurman, the Speed’s community relations manager in a press release. “There is truth within her art, and it is a truth that tells a history. This is the perseverance of Black elders and youth. We are eager to embark upon this work with Shauntrice, witness what she not only brings to Louisville’s Harlem, but how the community works with her to share and impart their own wants for Russell.”
Martin’s activism extends to being the director and the founder of #FeedTheWest, a food justice program sponsored by Black Lives Matter Louisville and Change Today, Change Tomorrow. She is also a founder of Black Market KY, a store in the Russell neighborhood that is focused on selling Black-owned goods and healthy produce at affordable prices.
Martin has previously studied food apartheids in Belize, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and across the U.S. She has earned awards including Louisville Forty Under 40, The Coalition of Black Excellence Impact Award, and Silicon Valley Business Journal Woman of Influence.
According to a news release on Martin’s appointment, the four-year old Community Connections program at the Speed aims at giving a platform to marginalized voices through art-making. The program’s goal is to bring contemporary art from diverse experiences into the Speed Art Museum through community collaborations.
“The Community Connections Residency Program is part of the Speed’s desire to reach out, amplify and empower the people by collectively creating a platform for artists of all kinds to share their stories and express perspectives on social and personal topics,” said Toya Northington, the Speed’s community engagement strategist. “Our intention is to co-create a self-sustaining community art program that can be critical, uplifting, progressive and transformative for the Russell Neighborhood.”
In service of that intention, Martin is co-hosting free art workshops and classes with the Speed Museum and Play Cousins Collective. She said, “My final exhibit will be a celebration of Black life in Russell. This will include stories, portraits and monuments dedicated to the residents’ stories.”
So far, her classes have been successful. The first class was the weekend of May 8 and had 20 participants. “Over the course of the residency, I expect to engage at least 100 residents,” Martin said.
“My teaching background makes is easy for me to incorporate culture and history. My goal is to make sure I teach both our youth and elders how to create, promote and sell their artwork. I am bringing almost two decades of teaching experience.”
When asked how the Community Connections Artist-in-Residence position serves her activism, Martin said, “Whether I try or not, all my work tends to lend itself to activism and advocacy. Through this residency, I’ve been going door to door in The West End listening to stories and grievances. I’ve been able to share resources (eviction prevention, youth programs, utility/rent assistance, free groceries, bail-outs and more). Art and activism are inextricably linked for me.”
Martin is encouraged about what her posting as the inaugural Artist-in-Residence for the Community Connections program could mean to the city.
“This is the first time the Speed has ever had a position like this. The residency speaks to a serious shift in Louisville,” Martin said. “I appreciate the recognition of Black voices and I hope the rest of the city takes meaningful steps to follow the Speed Art Museum’s lead.”