In advance of the Jan. 28 launch of the ALL ARTS broadcast channel and streaming apps, we would like to introduce our readers to members of our editorial advisory board. Below, an interview with Kemi Ilesanmi, executive director of The Laundromat Project.
Name: Kemi Ilesanmi
Title/Organization: Executive Director, The Laundromat Project
Please describe your work.
I run an arts organization here in New York City called The Laundromat Project. Our stated mission is to advance artists and neighbors as change agents in their own community. And we really do this through supporting artists’ creation of new work, training artists who want to do work that is community attuned, and through our creative community space in the South Bronx — an actual two-bedroom apartment right off of a gorgeous community garden — we get to have an artist-in-residence on site and offer various kinds of arts programming that we create in partnership with our neighbors. And we do all of this because we feel like the arts are a particularly key avenue to building a better world and connecting people to one another to build that better world.
What excites you about ALL ARTS and what do you hope to contribute as a member of its editorial advisory board?
This new initiative is really pulling together a diverse and varied look at what the arts are and can be, and who is creating the art that is animating our world right now. And the idea of it being multi-platform was also something that really excited me and interests me. I was really honored to be invited. I work with artists of color primarily, in communities of color across New York City, and with folks who are creating what the arts look like right now in communities that are often undervalued or left out of the conversation but are actually on their own terms creating really beautiful, interesting conversations. So being able to bring that into a larger conversation about what ALL ARTS can be is something that really excites me.
What void do you think ALL ARTS can fill in terms of coverage of arts and culture in New York City and beyond?
A single yet polyphonic site for the arts, particularly focused and centered on New York City. But in the conversations that we’ve had so far, it’s not only about New York City — New York City is the entry point but really telling a global story of what the arts are on this one polyphonic site.
What was your most memorable arts experience?
Watching “Black Orpheus” at the iconic National Arts Theatre in Lagos, Nigeria, when I was about 7 or 8 years old. Seeing black people in love and on the big screen was revolutionary and planted some of my love of culture right in that moment.
What performance / exhibition / arts event are you most looking forward to in 2019?
I’m thrilled that the new Africa Center is finally opening in Harlem this January, under the direction of my friend and colleague Uzodinma Iweala!
What’s your latest obsession?
I’m really fascinated by the many African diaspora women playwrights taking up stages these days, including Mfoniso Udofia, Ngozi Anyanwu, Danai Gurira and Jocelyn Bioh.
What are you currently reading?
“Decolonizing Wealth” by Edgar Villanueva and “Contested City” by my friend Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani.
Top Image: Kemi Ilesanmi. Photo by Akiva Steinmetz-Silber.