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Minneapolis, MN – The Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery (MAAHMG) announces the four artists selected for its 2023 Artist-In-Residence program and two individuals selected for its 2023 History Fellowship program. The Artist-In-Residence are Shea Maze, Nikki McComb, Donna Ray and Azania Tripp. The History Fellows are James Curry and Leonard Searcy.

Both the Artist-In-Residence and History Fellowship programs are for six months where the individuals will work with the museum to create new works which will be showcased in separate exhibitions at the museum. Each artist and the history fellow will have their own exhibition at the museum. The artist residents and history fellows will each also plan and participate in at least one community engagement event at the museum.

The artist residents and history fellows each received a $12,000 stipend to be used for supplies, materials, research, design and other activities or items necessary to create new works for an exhibit during the program. The artist residents were chosen by a panel which included Ta-coumba Aiken, artist, arts administrator, educator and community activist; Seitu Jones, multidisciplinary artist and advocate; Roxane Battle, author and former journalist; and Tina Burnside, MAAHMG cofounder and curator. The Artist-In-Residence program is designed to give support, opportunity, and exposure to underrepresented Black artists in Minnesota to create new works exploring Black history, art and culture. Funding for the Artist-In-Residence program is provided by a grant from the McKnight Foundation.

The history fellows were selected by a panel which included MAAHMG Board Members Tina Burnside, Coventry Cowens, Verlena Matey-Keke and Jack Rainey Jr. The History Fellowship program is designed to provide experience and opportunities to African Americans, who are underrepresented in careers at museums and in the museum field. Funding for the History Fellowship program is provided by a Seeding Cultural Treasures grant from Propel Nonprofit.

“We are excited to continue these programs for a second year, which will provide these amazingly talented individuals an opportunity to explore and create new work by giving them financial resources and a platform to expand and grow their practices in their chosen fields,” said Tina Burnside, MAAHMG cofounder and curator. “They will be able to create and curate exhibitions that reflect the rich culture, art and history of the Black community.”

We are honored to welcome the 2023 MAAHMG Artist-In-Residence and History Fellowship cohort.

Meet the Artist-In-Residence

Shea Maze

He is an emerging multidisciplinary artist who is born, raised, and based in South Minneapolis. From the time he was born, Shea was surrounded by creative minds. His mother’s knack for precision, harmonious color palettes, and abstractive flow guided by subconscious intention blended seamlessly with his grandmother’s high level of craftsmanship, resourcefulness, and adoration of the natural world. These roots laid the foundation for the artist he is today. However, his path wasn’t always so clear. Growing up in an environment where creatives were plentiful, but their resources few, Shea didn’t believe that art could ever be a viable career path. Luckily as an adult, a brief but formative period in the restaurant industry would help reignite his creativity. In the kitchen, Shea found a passion for balancing the qualities of different ingredients to create a unique and memorable experience for the consumer. While he still throws down in the kitchen regularly, his ideology regarding cuisine has been adapted to feed into his visual artistic process. Allegorically, Shea believes, “some of the best meals are made when you think there’s nothin’ good to eat.” In his artwork, Shea embraces the bizarreness of the dream state and employs metaphorical representation to work through emotion and better understand the human psyche. This intersects with his willingness to get his hands dirty; often building, sculpting, or refining any elements necessary to executing his vision. He is taught by his community and is in constant collaboration with his environment by using what’s available, whether sourcing from the natural world or a trash heap. Shea believes that we can simultaneously stand against throw away culture and make art more accessible to our communities by not viewing “up-cycling” as niche, but necessary whenever applicable. During his artist residency at the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery (MAAHMG), Shea will create a new body of work and curate an exhibition of sculptures made from gourds from his grandmother’s garden. He also plans to use harvest and plants from his grandmother’s garden for arrangements and paint the gourds with natural pigments extracted from the plants. His exhibit will reflect a story of culture, family and community.

Nikki McComb

Nikki created a 2016 public safety campaign titled #ENOUGH which used art as a catalyst for change and social disruption. Taking on the unsolvable problem of illegal firearms, Nikki uses photographs and video to reach people from the street level to the legislative arena and to help provide communities an outlet where they feel safe enough to seek help, empowered enough to give help, provoked enough to work harder to unify, and unified enough to make change collectively through art. For 18 years, Nikki has applied her artistic interests and skills to working relentlessly in North Minneapolis and surrounding communities in youth and family achievement. In addition to being an art educator, she is the owner of Art Is My Weapon, an organization whereby local artists select decommissioned guns to then create new work for display to engage the public, community leaders, organizations, elected officials, the media, etc. in respectful nonpartisan conversations around gun violence that ultimately lead to greater public awareness, conscientious community action, and responsible solutions to reducing gun violence. Art is my Weapon was featured at The Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery in 2021. Nikki has developed The Healing heART trauma informed care program using art to serve those affected by gun violence as well as heART Equity, A Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training for medical and community professionals working with those affected by gun violence. Nikki is the first ever CURA Evictions project resident artist who developed “The Moving Walls of Minneapolis” exhibition in partnership with CURA displaying poor rental conditions in North Minneapolis. Nikki was a 2018 resident artist to the ReCast YPAR project with North News and the City of Minneapolis. In 2017, she was the recipient of The Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship, a 2016 recipient of a Micro Grant for photography and a 2014 and 2015 recipient of several community leadership awards in the arts. Nikki is currently preparing for the 11 th vol. of Art is my Weapon at The Hennepin County Library Cargill Gallery opening on April 23, 2023. During her artist residency at the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery (MAAHMG), Nikki will create a new body of work and curate an exhibition of photographs sharing untold stories of people who are survivors of gun violence and documenting their journey of trauma, recovery, coping, healing and hope.

Donna Ray

She is currently a Studio Resident Artist at Northern Clay Center, occupying leasing studio 16A since 2020. Since 2022, Donna has been a member of The Fearless Artist Young Curators Program in New York where she is learning about curating exhibitions and receiving hands-on experience and opportunities. Donna has participated in national art shows including Art Basel in Miami in 2022. Donna is continuing to expand her knowledge of curating exhibitions locally, nationally, and internationally and working with multiple disciplines of artists. Donna began her studio practice 25 years ago at Bloomington Art Center now the defunct Artistry located in Bloomington. She works predominantly in the ceramic clay arts, specializing in sculpturing, Mishima (inlaying) and Sgraffito (carving) techniques as well as throwing on an ergonomic potter wheel. Donna also works on public art, community based ceramic zip codes, and Messages in a Bottle projects, along with other educational adventures. Casually, Donna also uses other mediums such as painting, jewelry, and wood working to express her art. During her artist residency at the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery (MAAHMG), Donna will create a new body of work and curate an exhibition of ceramic tiles with story vignettes and other ceramic works of art exploring the issues of gender equality, landownership, education opportunities and the socialization of women of color.

Azania Tripp

She is a Minnesota native and self-taught artist who spent the early years of her practice focused on creating mixed-media paper jewelry. More recently, she has been translating some of her work to a larger scale for galleries and exhibitions. Her work revolves around themes of storytelling, historical trauma, and how Afrofuturism and joy are pathways to healing. In 2022, Azania’s work was featured in exhibitions such as “Blood on the Pavement’”curated by Ashley Richardson, and “Notes on Healing” at Friedli Gallery. Azania uses her lived experience navigating her intersectionalities as a Black/African American, Singaporean Eurasian, Pansexual woman, and adult living with ADHD. She hopes people receive whimsical joy when interacting with her art. During her artist residency at the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery (MAAHMG), Azania will create a new body of work and curate an interactive, visual art exhibition that showcases the stories of African American Minnesotans, their families, and the food they share. Azania will research how enslaved Africans brought with them to the United States a variety of foods which have become staples in African American cuisine and are a reminder of collective experiences and resilience. She will also explore through interviews with families how these dishes carry African American history and are a part of significant life moments.

Meet the History Fellows

James Curry

He is a producer, director, writer, editor, educator and author who has been active in filmmaking for over 30 years. His short film “Westbound” and documentary “Masterjam” have won dozens of awards internationally in multiple categories. In 2021, he was awarded the Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship for Film, and in 2022 the Arthur C. McWatt Fellowship where he was able to pursue social justice through the creation of a historical exhibit on Black Pioneers and the upcoming release of a graphic novel based on his ancestor’s narrative. He is a descendant of the Curry family of Southside Minneapolis and the Chairperson of He teaches film and production at Augsburg University and continues to build community through partnerships with historical societies, individuals and faith-based organizations. During his history fellowship at the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery (MAAHMG), James will research, write and curate an exhibit focusing on the intersection of Black, Native and Hispanic social justice movements in Minnesota and individuals working collaboratively to bring about change.

Leonard Searcy

He is a Minneapolis-based filmmaker and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) specialist known for his socially conscious films that promote social justice and equality. After completing his undergraduate degree in business and acting, Leonard worked as a writer, director, and producer on a project with Michael Starrbury called “Burner.” Leonard uses his filmmaking to create educational videos, documentaries, films and other media projects that tell African American Stories and is recognized as a leader in the field. Leonard is also an active member of the Minneapolis community, working closely with local organizations and schools to promote DEI initiatives, tell diverse stories and provide mentorship and support to young artists and filmmakers. His dedication and passion for social change continues to inspire others. During his history fellowship at the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery (MAAHMG), Leonard will research, write and film a documentary sharing stories of survival, resistance and achievement of Black families, communities and institutions from reconstruction to the present day.

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