Luckily for me – as the new digital content producer for the Rocketblog – half the work is already done. Rocket Grants have gathered together some of the wonderful talent bubbling to the surface around Kansas City. And now, as a recent University of Kansas graduate and budding hoarder, I will be helping some of those artists, past and present, tell their stories. I hope you will follow this series as it documents the enlightening, chaotic, and comforting moments that have brought them to where they are today.
2018 Rocket Grants applications are now open so it’s easy to get swept up in the wave of new artists who will be joining the program. But let’s not forget the faces of the 2017 Rocket Grants artists who have been (and still are) putting in hours at the studio and working out in the field since last spring, preparing to execute their projects.
I connected with a few 2017 Rocket Grants artists to see how they have been doing since receiving the award. We talked about some of the work that happens behind the curtains and I got some insight as to where their heads are at after warming up in the new year.
Solomon Bass / Black & Blue
Solomon Bass is producing a documentary titled Black & Blue, based on the experience of being black and working as a police officer in Kansas City. The film explores the disconnect that comes when trying to reconcile these parts of an identity. To do this it looks at the black community’s relationship with both individuals who work in local law enforcement and the Police Department as a whole. Bass seeks to tell a story that often goes unheard and to create dialogue around acknowledging community needs and building unity between both sides.
If you could think of any recurring themes in your life over the past year, what would they be?
STRUGGLE. If I could be brutally honest, 2017 was the worst year in my life. Struggling personally with inner demons and disappointments, I thought it would never end. Going through a divorce in June of 2017 was very difficult, especially smiling in peoples faces and putting things together for the project. In November of 2017 I was in car accident that totaled the car and tried to take my life, but I’m still here. I almost slipped into a dark hole but surrounding members in my squad that are participating in Black and Blue pulled me out. It shows me the importance of the documentary. I’m very grateful for the struggle because without it I wouldn’t appreciate the success.
Has your original vision evolved in any way since winning the award and being in the field working on the documentary? Have you had any significant realizations along the way?
Yes, things have definitely changed in some ways. I thought I would get more participation from the KCPD but they are very serious about (not) giving their opinions on camera. That didn’t stop me though because I ran into an old classmate who is willing to express his heart to everyone about his experience of being a black police officer and dealing with the black community. One significant realization I’ve learned is that there are a lot of people in the black community that do have love for black officers and want them to succeed.
How do you view the role of artists in the community?
I view the role of artist in the community to be a platform for the voiceless. Artists are bold and strong-hearted.
Is there anything you think we should be looking out for in 2018?
Be looking out for more short films produced by myself.
Boi Boy, Bo Hubbard / ALTER: Art Space
Bo Hubbard and Boi Boy are the co-founders of ALTER: Art Space, an eclectic gallery/music venue, and hosts to monthly installations, dance parties and discussions centered around different themes. They’re using Alter as a platform for local artists to connect and produce multidisciplinary work while welcoming audiences to be a part of the experience.
If you could think of any recurring themes in your lives over the past year, what would they be?
The past year has been a learning experience in many different and unexpected fields. Learning new skills including event organization, budget management, publicity, and maintaining creative stamina has been a recurring theme. The quick turnaround of our monthly events demands a disciplined, organized, and collaborative routine.
Has your original vision for ALTER evolved since winning the award and getting some experience curating events?
Having events every month has been a greater challenge than originally expected. The idea for Alter was to create a collaborative, multidisciplinary event space. We believe we have achieved this goal, yet it has been somewhat difficult to engage with as many as we would like. Going into the spring our objective is to expand the list of artists and showcase a diversity of creative disciplines.
How do you view the role of artists in the community? Have your ideas changed at all?
We stand by our original idea that artists should engage in the community. We believe that social practice can go beyond an individual studio practice and that greater impacts can be made when many creative minds come together.
What should be looking out for in 2018? What are you excited for over the next year?
Larger more collaborative events! We will be hosting a 24-hour residency for 10 to 15 artists in March which will double as the shoot for a DIY reality TV show.
Keep up with the Rocketblog to hear about upcoming events, projects, and stories!