“The Elma Lewis 2018 Women in Community Arts Collectors Edition Trading Cards” set was created by Boston artist Neil Horsky to honor “the essential and inspirational leadership role of women” in Boston arts.
They’re a set of cards (like baseball cards) that he’s printed in collaboration with Boston Hassle, the online arts publication from Brain Arts, to celebrate Boston artists L’Merchie Frazier, Dell M. Hamilton, Dey Hernandez, Emma Leavitt, Shaw Pong Liu, Hilken Mancini, Marsha Parrilla, Veronica Robles, Femke Rosenbaum and Paloma Valenzuela. There’s a bonus card for Elma Lewis, the late founder of the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts in Roxbury, which grew into the National Center for Afro-American Artists and its affiliated museum.
There will be release party with some of the artists at 40 South, Mancini’s vintage store in Jamaica Plain, on Saturday, April 27, from 1:30 to 6 p.m. “They can autograph your card for you,” Horsky notes. Also there will be free cocktails and a sale on the store’s selection of vintage clothing. Admission to the party is free. Each 11-card set sells for $5.
The Jamaica Plain artist says, “Artists have a great power to make a difference in their communities, in all the ways it can unite people, it can inspire people, it can give people an outlet. There’s an endless benefit. You notice these women are also administrators. It’s not just about their creative craft. It’s their organizational skills.”
Horsky continues, “It’s a serious job. It takes a lot of work. You start with your creative passion, but to really apply it in the world in a way that can have a concrete benefit to the community takes a lot of work. That’s why these women need to be respected, need to be heralded. The city does not function without these women.”
The idea for the cards came when Dan Shea of Boston Hassle asked Horsky to write a year-end top 10 list last year. Horsky isn’t one to compile the usual list. Instead, he saw it as an opportunity for an art project.
Horsky also happens to be the author of the “This Month in Boston Counter-Cultural History” column in the monthly arts newspaper Boston Compass, a cousin publication of the Hassle. Horsky describes the aim of his column as “trying to radicalize the youth” by showing “here’s how artists in the past have contributed to social changes in your neighborhood.”
Horsky thought about Shea’s request and the column and came up with the question: “Who’s doing that now?” His idea was to assemble a list of people whom he would feature on printed trading cards. “I started trying to pick 10, which is really hard. Because you could pick 50. You’re always going to be leaving somebody out.”
“It just sort of came to me that I wanted to focus on women,” Horsky says. “First of all, it was an easy way to knock off a lot of people right away, get it closer to 10. And women are leaders in the community arts field. It’s an unheralded field. Or there could be more attention or respect. And maybe just maybe there’s a relationship between these two things.”
Horsky says, “In every card there’s a ton to be learned by the reader. The main thing being no matter what your artistic discipline is, your way of working, there are applications that have been a concrete social benefit. It’s okay to do something that goes on a rich person’s wall. Good for you. But there’s more to it than that.”
From the cards, he says, “You might learn about the problems these projects are trying to address.” He points to Paloma Valenzuela’s “Pineapple Diaries” web sitcom, which he praises for showing the true minority-majority face of Boston. He points to Shaw Pong Liu’s project “pairing Boston police officers with teens to write and perform songs about gun violence, racism and community-police relations.” He says, “It speaks to the power of music and the power of an artist with a vision and a commitment to affecting people and changing the world.”
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