Sue Bell Yank Believes Artwork and Organizing Produce “Actual Social Change”

Sue Bell Yank Believes Art and Organizing Produce “Real Social Change”

Sue Bell Yank, the deputy director at 18th Road Arts Heart (photograph by Monica Nouwens)

Welcome to the 29th installment of Meet LA’s Artwork Neighborhood. Take a look at our previous interviews right here.

This week I interview Sue Bell Yank, the deputy director on the 18th Road Arts Heart, a Santa Monica-based nonprofit identified for its politically minded exhibitions and residency program. Yank has labored in arts, leisure, and public colleges for over a decade, together with because the affiliate director of educational applications on the Hammer Museum. She created an internet training platform for the Oprah Winfrey Community, and has labored as a instructor and curriculum specialist in public colleges and different academic settings. Final 12 months, Yank launched a podcast about Los Angeles housing known as Paved Paradise. When she arrived on this metropolis in 2003, she noticed it as “the land of alternative […] of swimming swimming pools and year-round sunshine.” This, she realized, was one huge phantasm, and this podcast intelligently and urgently dives into the rampant housing disaster.

Yank teaches Socially Engaged Artwork and Pedagogy on the College of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and has been a Area Researcher for A Blade of Grass and Asian Arts Initiative. She’s at present engaged on some fascinating initiatives centered on reasonably priced housing, Black Santa Monicans, and Skid Row, which you’ll be able to learn extra about within the interview under. 

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Patty Chang, “Milk Debt” (2020), video nonetheless, 60 minutes (picture courtesy the artist)

The place have been you born? 

I used to be born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and grew up simply outdoors town in a city known as Wyndmoor.

How lengthy have you ever been residing in Los Angeles? 

I’ve been residing in Los Angeles since 2003, in West LA, Hollywood, and now Glendale.

What’s your first reminiscence of seeing artwork? 

I’ve a really early reminiscence of changing into entranced by a Chuck Shut portray on the Philadelphia Museum of Artwork, and having fun with the way in which the picture modified relying on how shut or far-off I stood.

Do you prefer to {photograph} the artwork you see? If that’s the case, what machine do you utilize to {photograph}? 

If I see one thing that I actually need to keep in mind or study later, I’ll snap a pic on my telephone.

What was your favourite exhibition in Los Angeles this 12 months? 

My favourite latest exhibition in Los Angeles was Kathleen Henderson: Watch Me Make You Disappear at Monitor 16 Gallery, which was curated by Jessica Hough. Henderson’s humorous, darkish, and completely disturbing drawings left an enormous impression on me. The underlying menace and anxiousness in her work, mitigated by her mocking line, really feel extremely related to the occasions. I’m most trying ahead to 2 exhibitions developing at 18th Road in October: Patty Chang’s Milk Debt, which was postponed as a result of COVID, and Beatriz Cortez and Kang Seung Lee‘s collaborative exhibition Changing into Environment. Each are extremely subtle works by highly effective artists that really feel so related to our occasions.

What’s one of the best e-book you’ve learn just lately?

I’ve been digging deeply into the e-book Past Survival, edited by Ejeris Dixon and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha across the subject of transformative justice. I believe studying transformative justice is so essential to handle the violence inside and on our communities right here within the US.

Do you favor to see artwork alone or with pals?

I most get pleasure from seeing artwork with one or two different individuals — both pals with a information concerning the work, or of us the place we are able to have interaction in dialog. I additionally actually like seeing artwork with my nine- and six-year-old daughters as a result of they at all times have fascinating issues to say.

What are you at present engaged on? 

I’m at present engaged on a number of initiatives by way of 18th Road Arts Heart I’m actually enthusiastic about. One is with the artists Cognate Collective on forming an artisan vendor coop in partnership with Neighborhood Corp of Santa Monica, the nonprofit reasonably priced housing developer. One other is with the Quinn Analysis Heart and Danish artist Maj Hasager on a mission to make the histories of Black Santa Monicans extra seen and identified. Outdoors of my work at 18th Road, I’m finishing an essay concerning the work of Rosten Woo and the Los Angeles Poverty Division on their latest mission The right way to Home 7,000 Folks in Skid Row. I’m considering how artists and neighborhood coalitions can come collectively to intervene into unjust societal constructions and construct energy collectively.

What’s one accomplishment that you’re notably happy with? 

A few 12 months in the past I launched a six-episode podcast known as Paved Paradise about housing inequity and the affordability disaster right here in Los Angeles. It began as a method to scratch an itch to be taught extra about city planning, and my deep fascination with how Los Angeles developed in the way in which that it did. I spoke with artists, lecturers, longtime residents, housing and tenants rights actions, legal professionals and others, and the methods during which the podcast revealed the deep inequities constructed into our housing market and our relationship with actual property really feel extra related than ever. It’s arduous to think about a unique relationship to land on this metropolis, however we have to strive, as a result of what we’ve got will not be working for most individuals. The podcast is obtainable on most podcast streaming apps, and at

The place do you flip to for inspiration to your initiatives? 

I discover inspiration in quite a lot of completely different locations, however artists are most at all times on the core. There may be an thrilling area for me between cultural manufacturing and grassroots organizing that looks like it will possibly result in actual social change (and certainly, is maybe the one method to get there).

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