Visual artist Carl Heyward (pictured on issue's cover) wasn’t too keen on social media in 2011 when he started to play around with Facebook. The self-described member of the Woodstock generation soon realized that with the social media platform he could create a global network of artists. He called his electronic design the Global Arts Project (GAP).
The flagship program of the San Francisco-based organization is its residency series where artists from around the globe gather in a city, create art, and hold workshops with the public. They held GAP VII, or the seventh residency program, in Dakar, in 2018.
During the 30-day Dakar retreat, 10 members representing France, Spain, Japan, Canada, Ireland, and the United States lived and worked in Sobo Bade, Senegal. These visual artists, who had met and coalesced via Facebook, stayed for varying amounts of time, with their stays overlapping each other. However, only upon meeting the local artists did Heyward realize that most of the West African artists were performance artists, dancers and musicians, and that a different type of melding needed to take place to unify the two types of creative souls.
Heyward, who is also the Curator/ Art Director at Gallerie Renee Marie near San Francisco explained, “The engine that drives any artist comes from a similar source and that is to communicate.” And, their New Year’s activity exemplifies their new found fusion. As the year 2019 started to walk, one performance included a modern dance, music, original art work, and video projections of artwork on dancers, all based on a written poem.
There were fewer visual artists in the local community than expected, but from them Heyward learned to place more value on materials such as sand, mud, and cardboard, and colors abundantly found in nature, items that he previously had taken for granted, in his artistic communications. “Material things,” the mixed media artist explained, “that Americans and others often see as waste.” Upon his return to the Golden State, Heyward reflected, “I now use more natural colors in my works.”
Similar to many Blacks on their first visit home, Heyward said, “I learned humility, even though I went in as a humble person. What we take for granted, they do without and with no feeling of deprivation.”