About After Dinner Conversations
Pittsburgh, PA — Office of Public Art (OPA) is pleased to announce the launch of After Dinner Conversations, a series of Instagram Live sessions that feature Pittsburgh-based cultural producers in conversation with peers across the country.
Prior to the COVID-19 health crisis, all of OPA’s public programming was in-person, which involved walking tours, artist workshops, artist talks, and working with other organizations to create robust public programming that centered on the public realm. In order to continue fostering connections and fill the void created by the COVID-19 crisis, OPA looked to social media for inspiration.
“We want to remain connected to our audiences and to artists, and to continue to provide a platform for talking about contemporary art” said program manager Rachel Klipa. “This program will encourage positive dialogue about what people are doing during these unprecedented times, easing the sense of isolation and fostering genuine conversations when we all can’t be together.”
From artists, to writers, to performers, OPA works with a wide range of cultural producers in collaboration with communities throughout Pittsburgh, and engages the arts and humanities to connect people in creative and meaningful ways. After Dinner Conversations will connect the Pittsburgh region to local, national, and international dialogue about the role of cultural producers during the time of COVID-19 and beyond.
Each session will be held every other Tuesday beginning July 28 at 7:00 PM, via Instagram Live and will run until October 6, 2020. Each month will follow a different theme of conversation. Sessions in July and October will be hosted by artists from the Latinx community, with Sheila Cuellar-Shaffer hosting on July 28 with guest Madeline Gent.
The theme for August will be Collaboration, hosted by Kilolo Luckett with guest Jessica Lynne on August 11, and Darrell Kinsel hosting with guest Vatic Kuumba on August 25. September’s theme will be Storytelling, hosted by Njaimeh Njie with guest Hourglass on September 8, and Bekezela Mguni hosting with guest Mi’Jan Celie on September 22.
After Dinner Conversations is made possible by a grant from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council.
About the Cultural Producers
Sheila Cuellar-Shaffer has been working as an artist, primarily as a painter, and designer for over 15 years. A native of Palmira, Colombia, Cuellar-Shaffer graduated with a degree in architectural design from the Fundación Academia de Dibujo Professional and studied fine arts at the Instituto Departamental de Bellas Artes in Cali, Colombia. She is a 2017 Flight School Fellow, and her work has been shown at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Susquehanna Museum of Art, Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, as well as at numerous galleries in Colombia, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania.
A native of Franklin, PA, Gent started at the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh in December 2017. She came to Pittsburgh from Washington, D.C. where she previously held positions at the Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler, University of Maryland Art Gallery, Michelle Smith Collaboratory for Visual Culture, and Johns Hopkins University. She completed her M.A. and Ph.D. coursework in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at the University of Maryland, where she specialized in 20th-Century Chinese Art and minored in Modern Latin American Art.
Kilolo Luckett is an art historian and curator. She is founding executive director and chief curator of ALMA|LEWIS, an experimental, contemporary art platform for critical thinking, dialogue, and creative expression dedicated to Black culture. She serves as an Art Commissioner for the City of Pittsburgh’s Art Commission. Luckett is currently writing an authorized biography on Naomi Sims, one of the first Black supermodels.
Jessica Lynne is a writer and art critic. She is a founding editor of ARTS.BLACK, an online journal of art criticism from Black perspectives. Her writing has been featured in publications such as Art in America, The Believer, BOMB Magazine, The Nation and elsewhere. She is currently at work on a collection of essays about love, faith, and the American South. Jessica Lynne is @lynne_bias on Twitter and Instagram. On twitter, ARTS.BLACK is @ARTSdotBLACK. On Instagram, it is @arts.black.
D.S. Kinsel is co-founder of BOOM Concepts, an award-winning creative entrepreneur, and cultural agitator. He expresses his creativity through the mediums of painting, installation, curating, non-traditional performance and #HASHTAGS. Kinsel’s work focuses on space keeping, urban tradition, hip-hop, informalism, and cultural re-appropriation. He has participated in numerous artist residencies at The Homewood Residency Program, Carnegie Mellon University Digital Arts Studio, and Pittsburgh Glass Center. He served as curator of #ACTIVISTprint at The Andy Warhol Museum, and recently served as the senior producer at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater.
Vatic Kuumba is an activist artist that began creating worlds using language. Kuumba believes that Rap is a gateway art. With a background in rap music and slam poetry, theater is an extension of both his artistic practice and political and social activism. Working with the youth of Providence has helped him hone his edge to engage with populations least consulted.
Njaimeh Njie is a photographer, filmmaker, and multimedia producer. Her work documents contemporary Black life. Njie’s work has been featured in CityLab, Belt Magazine, and the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Storyboard Blog. She has presented at TEDxPittsburghWomen, Harvard University, and Carnegie Mellon University. Njie is the recipient of several awards namely, the 2019 Duquesne University/August Wilson House Fellow, and the 2018 Emerging Artist of the Year by the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Njie earned her B.A. in film and media studies in 2010 from Washington University in St. Louis.
“Think outside the clock.” This self-dubbed phrase has been the motivation behind Hourglass’ approach since touching the turntables in Atlanta over five years ago. Raised in Charlotte, NC, Hourglass joined forces with creative agency WERC Crew to revive nightlife scenes across the country and curate alternative brand experiences, which has landed her performances on Boiler Room, Afropunk, A3C Festival, and the mountains of Switzerland.
Bekezela Mguni is a queer Trinidadian artist, librarian, and educator. She has over 15 years of community organizing experience in the Reproductive Justice movement and holds an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh. Mguni launched The Black Unicorn Project, a Black feminist community library, archive and cultural intervention that centers and celebrates the literary contributions of Black women and Black TLGBQIA+ people. She is currently an artist in residence at Artists Image Resource and the librarian in residence at the Pittsburgh International Airport. Mguni also serves as the Education Program Director at Dreams of Hope which affirms the voices and leadership of LGBTQ youth through the arts.
Mi’Jan Celie Tho-Biaz, Ed.D., is a cultural leader, oral historian, and restorative storyteller who shares narratives of personal transformation and community change. As the founder of the New Mexico Women of Color Nonprofit Leadership Initiative, she works with communities across the themes of sovereignty, transformation, healing, and equity. Celie is also a public speaker and has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Institute of American Indian Arts, and SXSW. Celie designed and led the Steinem Initiative’s public policy digital storytelling pilot at Smith College, was a visiting scholar at Columbia University, and served as a New Mexico Humanities Council Scholar. Her collaborations include serving as a 2019-2020 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist, a BMW Foundation Responsible Leader, and an Encore Public Voices Fellow.
March 1, 2020
OPA is seeking proposals from visual and performing artists for projects that aim to bridge the social distance created by efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.