The 2022 iteration of Miami Art Week is underway, bringing with it the 7th annual Lexus & Whitewall Art and Design Innovation Series. The second panel discussion in the series, “Building a More Sustainable Future through Community,” took place at the ICA Miami on Tuesday evening, where Whitewall’s editor-in-chief Katy Donoghue moderated a conversation looking past matters of our carbon footprint to consider how engaging at a community level can better our relationship with the environment and maintaining sustainability in facets of our society like institutions, private entities, local environments, and online.
Featuring Micol Ap, Founder & CEO of VerticalCrypto Art, Lora Appleton, Founder of kinder MODERN and Female Design Council, Helen Toomer, Founder of Upstate Art Weekend and Co-Founder of Stoneleaf Retreat, and Greg Liburd, the Co-founder of Refraction, the panelists exchanged dialogue on how their respective foundations and platforms are fostering communities for creatives—especially those of marginalized backgrounds. This means grants for funding creative endeavors, residencies, collaborations, conversations, exposure, and even something as simple as providing a space to just be among other like-minded individuals.
For Toomer and Appleton, this idea of community exists in a more physical way. “When I get overwhelmed by the big questions, I think about what I have and what I’ve got. For us, that’s the space,” said Toomer, whose Stoneleaf Retreat is a haven for womxn-identifying artists and families. “The gift of community is pretty major. You give them the opportunity to be themself and see themselves,” said Appleton. Backed by a solid foundation of community, they noted, creators are able to reach new heights and realize things that might not have been possible alone.
For Ap and Liburd, these facets are part of what drew them to the Web3 space. More than just the buzz of cryptocurrency and NFTs that first come to mind when the topic arises, the discussion brought to light how the virtual space holds unprecedented opportunities for access to art and culture that weren’t previously available to those who might be excluded from more traditional spaces in the art world.
“All of [Refraction’s] founders are artists and we’ve come from a lot of backgrounds and underground scenes. We were really intrigued by the idea that we could make what we wanted to see happen,” Liburd said.
Likening community to a network of mycelium—each part of the network is at its best when its surrounding nodes are also thriving—Liburd, whose background includes work in activism, pointed out the importance of accessing spaces free of marginalization and Web3’s ability to meet this need. The panelists noted that in order to make changes in the larger institutions towards better serving a diverse range of demographics, the best policy is transparency, and initiating these conversations is the first step in better serving people in a way that can be sustained over time. Ap noted that collaborating with these institutional spaces is “extremely important for everybody to thrive.”
Before opening the conversation to questions from the audience, Donoghue asked each contributor to suggest how listeners can best support their missions. These contributions, they stated, include any number of things from monetary donations and purchasing artworks to nominating creatives for grants, patronizing art spaces, spreading awareness, and more.