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The second edition of the New Wave Art Wknd in Palm Beach, Florida, takes place December 6–8. Consisting of a series of private collection tours, gallery and museum visits, and artist talks and panel discussions, this year’s event will focus on immigration. Participants include names like Isolde Brielmaier, Thelma Golden, Beth Rudin DeWoody, Ann Tenenbaum, Henry Reese, and Amy Phelan.
Whitewaller spoke with Sarah Gavlak, the weekend’s founder, about partnering with the nonprofit City of Asylum for the first immigrant artist-in-residency program in West Palm Beach.
WHITEWALLER: What was your initial vision for New Wave Art Wknd, and how has that evolved for the second edition?
SARAH GAVLAK: I wanted to create a weekend for collectors with access to some of the foremost local collections, and programming dedicated to vital conversation about the future of culture. The current administration was certainly a catalyst to stop hoping for change and actually get involved. Last year our public programming was centered around diversity and inclusion in the art world. Based on last year’s panels and heart-wrenching current events, we decided to focus on immigration as a topic this year.
WW: How did the partnership with City of Asylum come about?
SG: I grew up in Pittsburgh and have always admired the way they create a safety net for writers seeking political asylum. When I started talking about my desire to create this residency, my friend Eric Shiner put me in touch with City of Asylum’s co-founder Henry Reese, who has been invaluable in his insight and logistical support.
WW: Can you tell us about your vision for the immigrant artist-in-residency program and the work of the inaugural recipient, Renzo Ortega?
SG: Launching in 2020 with the support of the Advisory Committee and City of Asylum, the immigrant artist residency program will provide artists with financial support, mentorship, and a live/work studio space in West Palm Beach for six weeks. This is our pilot year, so we can evolve the program with feedback from our artist residents as we go on. Renzo Ortega, our inaugural recipient, will participate throughout the weekend’s events and be a featured guest on a public panel discussion at the Norton Museum. His work explores social, political, and cultural contributions of immigrants throughout this country’s history and examines the implications of his own transition from undocumented to documented.
WW: Who are some of the participating artists you’re looking forward to hearing from?
SG: I am looking forward to hearing from Renzo Ortega, the inaugural immigrant artist in residence; Lina Puerta; Saya Woolfalk; Jeppe Hein; and especially Francisco Maso, who I have heard is an excellent speaker and whose work examines the dynamics of power structures.
WW: You’ve described New Wave Art Wknd as “putting our money where our mouth is.” What kind of real-world change can come from this kind of event?
SG: Well, the immigrant artist-in-residency program was born out of a New Wave Art Wknd panel from last year in which Sanford Biggers, Gisela Colon, Diana Al-Hadid, Isolde Brielmaier, and Yvonne Force Villareal talked about the need for more systems of support for artists. They all agreed that this would be a good first step—literally bringing more diverse voices to Palm Beach to sow the seeds of empathy and encourage meaningful conversation. I huddled with a few key collaborators, and the next evening we announced that we were getting the money together to make the residency a reality. This weekend is all about constructive dialogue. We are listening, and our Advisory Board has the financial resources and influence to actually get things done. I’m excited to hear what suggestions this year brings.