Lia Rivamonte, on behalf of the Beloved Community Communications Team and Artist in Residence Team
It was October of 2019 when Rebekah Crisanta de Ybarra began her artist residency at Unity Church. Rebekah is an interdisciplinary artist who identifies as Indigenous-Salvadoran-Norwegian-American and is based in the Twin Cities. Among the activities Rebekah offered was a hands-on demonstration of her approach to creating the Aztec-rooted ritual ofrenda for Día de los Muertos, the altar to honor loved ones who have died. This community presentation was the first official event of the Unity Church Artist in Residence (AiR) program.
AiR is an effort to embody multiculturalism through art, inviting gifted artists whose art practices explore the world from the vantage point of their own singular intersectional identities that are not predominantly white-bodied or white-directed.
Much has transpired since that first presentation. In February of 2020 Ina Yukka, the mother and son duo of Nia Biagetti and Vladimir Garrido brought enchanting Latin American folk music and dance into the building with worship service performances and workshops, but the Covid-19 lockdown prevented their long-planned in-person concert, and the remainder of their residency had to be conducted virtually. Despite needing to move into all-virtual programs and events, the AiR Team invited social practice-interdisciplinary artist Marcus Young to serve as resident artist. Marcus and his collaborators from DYFIT (Don’t You Feel It Too) encouraged us to move our bodies in any given space, uniting music and our intrinsic rhythms — in equal parts meditation and celebration — in the practice of public dance.
It seems ironic that a program meant to concretize our understanding of multiculturalism, inviting us to bring our whole selves into unfamiliar realms as individuals and as a community had to be experienced in our own, separate, cozy rooms at home by screen. And while the artists with whom we’ve been fortunate enough to work thus far have all been exemplary, their work widely known and extolled by critics and audiences alike, the unplanned barriers to participation that have beset the program for these last eighteen months have prevented the type of community engagement the AiR Team had hoped for. Add to this our lack of clarity regarding some aspects of the program including logistics and implementation, and we realized some changes were due.
We asked ourselves how we might nurture deeper artist-community relationships and raise the level of engagement by congregants? We thought about how to be more intentional in what we hope to accomplish: integrating arts opportunities for learning and discovery with Unity’s Ends, providing an opportunity for artists to expand their art, and offering the potential for spiritual growth and multicultural understanding for our church community as well as participating artists.
Of course, we’d hoped by now, we would all feel safe to meet in person. But while that has not yet happened, we are excited to move into the next phase of AiR. We have created program guidelines that outline the goals, expectations, and timelines for artist projects and we are reaching out to the broader Twin Cities artist community with a request for proposals (RFP). Eligible artists who take the time to familiarize themselves with Unity Church, our mission, values, and ends before applying for the program will have the advantage.
The application guidelines and deadline for submission will be posted on Unity's website. The team will then cull through the proposals, conduct interviews with a select group of artists, and hope to identify the next artist in residence by April or May 2022.
We hope that what we have re-envisioned will be a program that is more accessible to community members, allows for greater relationship-building, sparks our imaginations, and provides us with creative experiences that engender wonder, curiosity, and a profound recognition of and appreciation for our differences as human beings.
The AiR team members are: Lia Rivamonte, Ahmed Anzaldúa, Julia Brown, and Maura Williams. For more information visit www.unityunitarian.org/artist-in-residence.html.
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Beloved Community Resources
Unity Justice Database
Team Dynamics House of Intersectionality
Anti-Racism Resources in the Unity Libraries Collection
Creative Writers of Color in Unity Libraries
The History of Race Relations and Unity Church, 1850-2005
Beloved Community Staff Team
The Beloved Community Staff Team (BCST) strengthens and coordinates Unity’s antiracism and multicultural work, and provides opportunities for congregants and the church to grow into greater intercultural competency. We help the congregation ground itself in the understanding of antiracism and multiculturalism as a core part of faith formation. We support Unity’s efforts to expand our collective capacity to imagine and build the Beloved Community. Here, we share the stories of this journey — the struggles, the questions, and the collaborations — both at Unity and in the wider world.
The current members of the Beloved Community Staff Team include Rev. Kathleen Rolenz, Rev. KP Hong, Barbara Hubbard, Drew Danielson, Laura Park, Rev. Karen Gustafson, Angela Wilcox, Pauline Eichten, and Erika Sanders.