Winnipeg native and Montreal resident Kandis Friesen loved the two months she spent in Philly this year as part of Lancaster Avenue's Neighborhood Time Exchange
(NTE) residency, which offers studio space and a stipend for hours of service the artists contribute to community-based projects.
The intitative, continuing with multiple artist cycles until the fall, is a partnership of the Mural Arts Program
, the Ontario-based Broken City Lab
and the People's Emergency Center
An interdisciplinary artist who works with media including sound and video, Friesen, in her mid-30s, has been working as an artist only for the last five years or so.
"Before that, I was doing social justice-based and community-based work," she explains. "I’ve always seen it as part of my life, whether I’m making art or working a different job."
During her NTE stint (which ran from February 1 through April 1), she offered some of those project-manager skills to her peers: negotiating time, projects and space. In a program connecting residency artists to community service requests, that meant "working with really diverse groups of people who might have really different ideas, or similar ideas but…really different personalities," she explains.
Her own contribution to the neighborhood had many facets. She worked with the New Africa Center
on a walking tour of Black History in West Philly, focusing on the saga of the self-identified Black Bottom Tribe
, a thriving 19th-century African-American community living where University City stands today. The Tribe suffered forcible evictions under city development plans and university expansions in the early 1900s, alongside redlining laws that made it nearly impossible for African Americans to obtain mortgages.
This especially touched on Friesen’s interest in archives and memorials -- and how they’re made and maintained.
She also did a lot of work for the Artistic and Cultural Enrichment
(ACE) Program at Martha Washington Elementary School
ACE instructor Hope McDowell had written a script called More Than Martin
, and enlisted Friesen to help her shoot and edit it. In the film, now available online
, Martin Luther King, Jr. comes back to say, as Friesen explains, "I’ve been carrying Black History for myself for too long…I would like to introduce you to all these other people in African-American history, and you also might make history."
"It’s a great film, in line with my own practice as well," enthuses the artist. "People being able to tell their own histories."
She also led a variety of arts workshops for Martha Washington students, and collaborated with her fellow NTE artists on other projects, including time with the Earthship Philadelphia
project and the New Bethlehem Baptist Church.
"We all helped each other in different ways, and that was also really nice to have a collaborative environment for our community work," she adds. "I think the strength of this residency was that it really was an infrastructure created." The artist residents didn’t operate on any assumptions about what they were bringing to the neighborhood: instead, they listened to hear what needed to be done, to "reinforce or connect what is already happening."
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Kandis Friesen, Neighborhood Time Exchange