Together with VSCO, we were excited to host the inaugural cohort of VSCO Voices grant recipients and their mentors last week in Oakland for orientation. The program, which supports five creators by providing $20,000 of funding and a mentor to work on projects that help empower marginalized communities through art, also believes in the importance of hosting gatherings for these creators and mentors to connect and collaborate in person.

One of the exciting elements of bringing everyone together for orientation was not only being able to meet the creators in person but also introducing them to their mentors! We’re excited to partner with so many great mentors this year who are willing to come alongside the VSCO Voices’ creators to advise and support them through the completion of their projects. Our mentors this year are Sarita Alami, Shawn Theodore, Devin Allen, Melissa Spitz, and Jesse Bryan. Each of the mentors brings so much experience and insight to help our creators on their creative journey to using their art to give voice to marginalized communities.

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    Deun Ivory, left, is a Chicago-based photographer and illustrator whose project entitled "the body: a home for love," explores stories from women of color who have experienced sexual abuse as a child. Her mentor, Shawn Theodore, is a multidisciplinary artist working in photography, videography, and collage. Theodore's practice merges real and hypothesized mythological black experiences set within contemporary black environments.

We believe creators are a force for change and we wanted to create an environment at orientation that would help motivate and inspire them to be that impactful force. So during our time together in Oakland, the creators and mentors were busy in development workshops, project planning, and meeting one on one about their projects. Our goal for this initial gathering was to begin the process of building community, to create a support system, and to inspire each other.

Building Community

Together with VSCO, we believe in the power of community, therefore, building a sense of community amongst the creators and mentors was a major goal for our time together at orientation. We were hoping through face to face connections over meals, sharing stories, and exploring Oakland that it would help form this new community that would build confidence, create relationships, and challenge each other to be better.

Creating A Support System

The creative journey can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be that way. As this year’s creators begin working on really challenging projects and social issues, we did not want them to feel that their work has to be done in isolation. Instead, we wanted to create a support system within the community that provides open communication and a network of people ready to come alongside them at any point in their project. So during orientation, we explored the fears and challenges associated with each of the projects and a pathway forward.

Getting Inspired

We wanted the orientation for creators to be a time of education and development but also a time to be creatively inspired. From creating in VSCO’s open studio to listening to each other’s personal creative journey’s, creators were able to interact and immerse themselves in a new environment to spark creativity. Together with VSCO, we also provided opportunities for the cohort to explore Oakland’s creative community by visiting Creative Growth, a non-profit that serves artists with developmental, mental and physical disabilities, and attending an Art as Activism event featuring local artists.

Now that orientation for these creators has ended, we are excited for them as they begin working on their projects. We encourage you to follow along as Ash, Deun, Eric, Maegan, and Natalie start their journey to bring these projects to life. And for more updates and information about the project consider subscribing to our newsletter.

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Ben Terry

Partner, Creative