port of harlem magazine
port of harlem gambian education partnership
World Arts Network and Residency Program Eyes 2021
April 09 – April 22, 2020
global arts program gathering in dakar

gambia arts project akiko suzuki

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.”

In addition to its residency program and international networking, membership provides artists access to participate in exhibitions and three Facebook projects. In 2019, GAP sponsored four exhibitions, one each at Galerie Sobo Bade Residency (Dakar), Gallerie Renee Marie (San Francisco), Schools of The Sacred Heart Flood Mansion (San Francisco), and East Village Art View Gallery (New York City).
“We have discovered,” emphasized Heyward, that “Facebook is a way to promote artwork and communicate with artists around the world.”
Generally, GAP provides free product storage in Holland or San Francisco and promotional materials. Artists must pay for items returned to them only if GAP does not sell them. “We have discovered,” emphasized Heyward, that “Facebook is a way to promote artwork and communicate with artists around the world.”

The group also maintains three ongoing Facebook projects. The first, GAP Frag Project, is where an artist sends fragments of materials they have used to another artist via traditional mail. The receiving artist then makes a creation using the fragments and posts the artwork. GAP no / MIND encourages artists to upload portraits of themselves. “Here we show our vulnerabilities to gain confidence in ourselves and to create artwork that is authentic and not over analyzed,” explained Heyward. The final project, GAP Solo Works, more simply encourages members to post their work.

GAP currently has 60 members representing 17 countries. GAP membership is $500 per year, some pay with in-kind contributions.  

They are scheduling the Gap VIII residency program for summer 2021 in Minneapolis. The organization is working with their new sponsor, the Soo Family Foundation, and the Soo Visual Arts Center (SOOVAC) on details. We are growing says Heyward, “It’s our first sponsored residency.”

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