This past weekend, freeDimensional was represented at the Prince Claus Fund for Culture & Development’s annual award ceremony. The ceremony is a great time to meet and network with others working in the fields of culture, free expression and human rights. At the same time, an award ceremony like the Prince Claus Fund’s or the Freedom to Create Awards recently given at the Citadel in Cairo, Egypt are lavish events that cost a lot of money to stage. This begs the question of how does the award, its ceremony and the resulting media help the artist who is doing frontline activism, the culture worker in distress. freeDimensional and the Creative Resistance Fund operate under the assumption that having the international limelight (even for a brief period) can provide a critical awareness (i) to the public about that individual’s situation and conditions in her/his community and (ii) to an oppressive regime that it is not acceptable to harass, threaten or censor the artist and that people, organizations and governments on the outside are watching. In keeping with this belief, we regularly use staff time, capacity and connections to nominate our stakeholders to various awards. For example, we nominated Uzbek photographer Umida Ahkmedova and Iranian cartoonist Kianoush Ramezani to the Freedom to Create Award. Whereas they did not win the award, another fD stakeholder, Owen Maseko (pictured here) was the third place winner, an accolade that came with a $10,000 prize. Similarly, we nominated Taslima Nasreen, Athol Fugard and Naseer Shamma’s Oud School in Cairo to this year’s Prince Claus Fund Award.
Support for people using creativity to fight injustice
The pilot phase of the Creative Resistance Fund runs from mid-2010 to mid-2011. During this period, the Fund will make 10-15 small, rapid-response grants to people using creativity to fight injustice. These grants may be used by the recipient to evacuate a dangerous situation; cover living expenses while weighing long-term options for safety; or act on a strategic opportunity to affect social change. During the pilot phase, the Fund will be relying on freeDimensional‘s board of directors for all grant decisions. Over the past five years, freeDimensional has helped more than 70 culture workers-in-distress through its Creative Safe Haven service; based on this track record we outlined potential uses of the fund (listed above); however we are also open to tackling new challenges faced by artists doing the work of activists. During the pilot phase the committee has a mandate to experiment with its grantmaking so that it can revise its funding parameters at the end of the pilot year. Here’s an example of that experimentation: Back in July, an advisor to the Fund alerted the committee of the impending eviction of 96-year old sculptor, Inge Hardison. With one look at Hardison’s ouevre, using the Fund to lend a helping hand was unquestionable. Much of Hardison’s work is emotionally involved to her heritage as a woman of African decent. She has created a series of busts of African American heroes that she has called Negro Giants in History. Hardison is often seen wearing pieces of her work, such as a two-inch pin depicting Sojourner Truth. The original piece was a two-foot work given to Nelson Mandela by (then) New York governor Mario Cuomo in 1990. In addition to being a sculptor, Hardison is an accomplished photographer too. She was the only woman among the six artists who formed the Black Academy of Arts and Letters. Hardison once said, “During my long life I have enjoyed using different ways to distill the essences of my experiences so as to share for the good they might do in the lives of others.” The Creative Resistance Fund chipped in $500 (along with many individual supporters) to build up a bank account from which her future rent payments will come.
The Creative Resistance Fund (CRF) is a new initiative started by the founder of freeDimensional. Currently CRF is being incubated and fiscally sponsored by freeDimensional. The Fund works in tandem with other services such as Creative Safe Haven; however, it is intended to become an autonomous fund built on an emerging principle of network philanthropy, which has sustained the work of freeDimensional over the past five years. freeDimensional is set to expire in 2015 because we feel that ten years is enough to pilot, document and transfer skills for the model of critical hosting upon which the initiative was founded in 2005. We expect that the name freeDimensional will eventually go away, but the practice of Creative Safe Haven will continue to develop and be modified at the intersection of the human rights and artist residency sectors. In its place there will be a new entity called the Creative Resistance Fund; we’ve started early because we want to pilot, build a track record, collaborate and, ultimately, show how the Fund is essential for supporting an overlooked (and under-supported) demographic of activists. By 2015 the Creative Resistance Fund will be housed at and receive technical assistance from a pre-existing, reputable foundation. In the mean time, we will continue to experiment raising resources and re-granting them to people using creativity to fight injustice. In addition to the emergency cash grants we make, we also have an artist residency, travel and living stipend combo that we re-grant in Bilbao, Spain. Now you might ask: How is this different from freeDimensional programming? When we conduct a Creative Safe Haven placement at freeDimensional, we have learned about a culture worker-in-distress from a trusted partner (organization or individual); we do research to validate the situation and then present the case to our global network of artist residencies. We usually narrow down the pool of residencies solicited by geography, proximity, visa eligibility, and good fit in terms of culture and professional needs as well as the level of support a residency can offer at the given time. This is a service we provide on demand from culture workers. Here’s how the placement in Bilbao is different: The Festival Against Censorship is an annual, weeklong event in Bilbao. As a way to support free expression year-round, the Festival offers a Creative Safe Haven space (with all expense paid) to people using creativity to fight injustice. This constitutes a demand on the part of the art space and festival. To date, we have organized residencies for Druze painter Fahed Halabi, Uzbek photographer Umida Ahkmedova, and Zimbabwe ceramicist Owen Maseko in Bilbao through this partnership with the Creative Resistance Fund.
It’s fair to say that we wouldn’t get anything done at all if not for a reliable network of supporters and friends. As we embark upon the R&D phase of the Creative Resistance Fund, both Res Artis & Wooloo are helping us get the word out about a new rapid response distress fund for artists doing the work of activists … and we thank them for this exposure!
This site is the new online home of the Creative Resistance Fund, a project of freeDimensional. Welcome!
Since formally launching the Creative Resistance Fund, we met Kianoush Ramezani, Iranian cartoonist and chronicler of the Green Movement. Reporters sans Frontières notified freeDimensional that Ramezani was stuck in Paris without a place to sleep as he awaited political asylum status and he became the first official grantee of the Fund.
Thanks to Kianoush for the drawing above and see more of his work by following his blog!