My studio space is in a mixed-use building, so in March of 2020, like many people, I lost access to it for several months to safeguard the health of people who live there. In the midst of delayed projects there was a pause to ask myself what felt most critical during a year of overlapping crises. An issue that came to the forefront was our national housing crisis and who was vulnerable or unable to take refuge at home during the pandemic. As I prepared for a group exhibition that summer addressing the legacies of the Black Panther Party in New Haven, Connecticut, I found myself thinking about how the struggle for housing equity has been ongoing since the civil rights era and grappling with the question of why we don’t see housing as a human right in this country. In my research-based practice, I turned to simple drawing materials as a way to think about these issues. This fall I will be a research fellow at the Schomburg Center in New York to consider how policy, community activism, and images of housing as a critical social value are rendered through the racial imaginary and their relation to social forces like scale, time, and memory.
ALEXIS CALLENDER, artist and assistant professor, Smith College