The inaugural season of Artist Studios at The CJM is coming to a close, and we are so thrilled to have hosted artists Jose Arias and Leah King over the past six months. Throughout their time at The Museum, both artists engaged in dialogue with studio visitors, CJM staff, and artistic collaborators. In a conversation entitled Leah King and LaFrae Sci: On Music, Ritual, and Ancestral Futurism, Leah reconnected with renowned musician, composer, futurist, and educator, LaFrae Sci to discuss Afrofuturism, art, and music. Jose spoke at length about his family portrait series and what it means to be an American with CJM Assistant Curators Qianjin Montoya and Arianne Gelardin in Jose Arias: On Family, Representation, and Counter-Narrative.
In July, Jose facilitated a portrait photography workshop for The CJM’s Teen Art Connect (TAC) program, sharing how his artistic practice gives voice to his identity and relates to the world around him. He offered his extensive artist monograph collection for students to explore before setting them off to embark on self-directed portrait photographs. As part of Yerba Buena Day in August, Leah presented Diasporic Futurism: Taking Up (Outer) Space, a project by GLTTR Collective, which Leah founded with long-time collaborator Juan Carlos Rodriquez Rivera. The evening of multidisciplinary performances featured an extraordinary line-up of artists and was developed in partnership between The CJM, Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), and the Yerba Buena Festival, with support from the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District.
Shortly after Jose and Leah packed up their belongings and concluded their residencies, we reached out to them for one last take on their experience with Artist Studios. For his residency, Jose set out to organize his photographic prints; a small fraction of over 2,000 photographs in all were pinned up and sequenced thoughtfully on the studio walls. With the rare opportunity of having ample space to spread out and present his work, Jose invited peers, colleagues, and arts professionals to visit the studio, altogether forming a rich dialogue around his work that will inspire him and his guests for years to come.
Leah used her studio time to expand on a deeply personal project about her family that she had conceived of long before the studio opportunity arrived. Having the time and space to focus on this project enabled her to shift focus from ongoing sound and performance work to a visually-based, introspective series of collage work that she is continuing to develop beyond Artist Studios. When asked what her biggest takeaway from Artist Studios was, Leah shared, “Being in such an active space where gallery-goers from all over the world are in constant rotation with the internal workings of The Museum was a dynamic process that added some much-needed movement to the somewhat sedentary life of the pandemic before I started my residency.” She also added, “Big huge shout-out to the security team at The CJM! They were so kind and helpful. I was coming in and out at odd hours carrying everything from mannequin heads to eight-foot poles. We had great conversations about art and San Francisco, and I miss the whole team. Always say ‘hi’ to your local security folks, who are looking out for you and yours!”
Artist Studios at The The CJM is a program designed to support Bay Area–based emerging artists in need of studio space during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, artists Jose Arias and Leah King were selected as the program's inaugural participants, and were provided private studio space, opportunities for research, dialogue, and engagement with The CJM’s educational and public programs. Artist Studios at The CJM is part of our ongoing effort to cultivate community and adapt to its changing needs, as we continue to offer programs that educate, challenge, and inspire.
Jose Arias is a first-generation Mexican-American, Queer, Veteran, artist living in San Francisco. He is currently producing a body of work that broadens the conversation around what it means to be an American. Through a series of family portraits, Arias is developing a photographic vernacular that explores our relationship to the land that we inhabit, inherit, and occupy.
Leah King is a curator, artist, musician, and educator born and raised in the Bay Area. Her work is deeply rooted in afrofuturist aesthetics, joyful noises, and unabashed reclamations. She is a curatorial resident at Root Division Gallery, a member of female:pressure international DJ network, and the co-founder of GLTTR Collective. Find her on Instagram at @leahkinglive.