Community Needs Brought to Life
Future Arts undertook a half-year of intensive research prior to the conceptualization of AUGMENT. Spearheaded by Bruk and Laurel Newnham, the Research Director at Centre for Arts Workers (CAW), the research collaboration analyzed numerous creative economy surveys and identified what the community’s unmet needs were.
In 2019, for instance, the City of Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture held a number of community focus groups and published “A Community-Centered Road Map Towards an Equitable and Inclusive Creative Economy in Seattle.” The topics “Deepen Collaboration Between the Arts and Technology Sectors” emerged as the third most-mentioned theme next to “Lack of Opportunities, Resources, and Mentorship” and “Affordability and Wages.”
Out of this initial research, they came up with a list of strategies and an action plan to address the deficits in Washington State’s creative community. As new media artists themselves, Future Arts’ co-founders also has first-hand experience of the struggle that artists working in digital mediums face when they apply to various arts related grants and opportunities.
“[In applications,] there was never… [an option for] artificial intelligence, cybernetics, augmented reality, [or] virtual reality,” explains Bruk. “It’s very rare these [mediums]… are provided as categories.”
Thus, when it came time to create the public call for AUGMENT artists, Future Arts intentionally created an application where many digital mediums were available as checkbox options, and also provided long-form written responses for identity-based questions. The call generated entries from all around the world, and when it came to selecting which artists to showcase in AUGMENT, the team had lots of discussions about their blindspots. They knew that their positionality as co-founders afforded them a limited perspective.
“We’re always wanting to reach out to folks who might be able to add layers to what we’re doing…” explains Garcia, who has expertise as a restaurateur and organizer, with a background in dance. “We’re always doing our best to look towards… community… [and to] people with other information and ideas [that] can add to ours, [and] question our biases.”
Through a connection from one of Future Arts’ initial co-founders, Debra Webb, the collective hired artist and curator Adetola Abatan, who had worked with them previously on Michelle Kumata and Tani Ikeda’s “Emerging Radiance” project on Japanese internment, which also showed at AUGMENT this year.