• Dear Mazie,
    AD-WO (Emanuel Admassu and Jen Wood), The Black School (Shani Peters and Joseph Cuillier), Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, Kapwani Kiwanga, Abigail Lucien, Tschabalala Self, and Cauleen Smith
    Amber Esseiva
    Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU, Richmond
    Sep 06, 2024 to Mar 09, 2025
    Virginia Commonwealth University Foundation

“Amaza Lee Meredith in studio with incomplete painting,” Azurest South, April 19, 1972. Photograph, 4 x 6 Inches. Courtesy Virginia State University (VSU), Petersburg, Virginia. Photo: VSU Press, 1972

Dear Mazie, is a group exhibition, the first in the Richmond and Petersburg region dedicated to the life and work of trailblazing architect, educator, and artist Amaza Lee Meredith (1895–1984). Born in Lynchburg, Virginia, Meredith was denied formal architecture training due to her race and gender. Yet, she went on to design landmark structures in Virginia and beyond and became the first known queer Black woman architect in the United States. Meredith founded the Fine Arts department at the historically Black college Virginia State University (VSU) and exhibited at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and in galleries in New York and North Carolina. The title of this exhibition is inspired by the myriad letters and correspondences in Meredith’s 5,000-piece archive. The letter serves as a conceptual framework for contemporary artists to respond back to Meredith’s multifaceted legacy through commissioned artwork spanning sculpture, video, paint, and installation.

Amber Esseiva is a curator at the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University (ICA at VCU) and curator-at-large for Studio Museum Harlem. She curates Dear Mazie. A VCU School of the Arts alumna, Esseiva co-curated the ICA’s inaugural exhibition, Declaration (2018). She also curated Great Force (2019–20) featuring an intergenerational group of 24 artists; Martine Syms (2019); Provocations: Guadalupe Maravilla (2019–20); Gideon Appah: Forgotten, Nudes, Landscapes (2022); and Naima Green: I Keep Missing My Water (2022–23). Esseiva received her master of arts from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College and a bachelor of arts in art history from Virginia Commonwealth University.

AD-WO (Emanuel Admassu and Jen Wood) is an art and architecture practice based in New York City, and by extension, between Melbourne and Addis Ababa. The practice aims to establish an operational terrain between architecture's content and container: equally committed to designing buildings and reimagining their dynamic sociopolitical contexts.

Emanuel Admassu is founding principal of AD—WO and assistant professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where he teaches design studios and theory seminars in urban design and architecture. He has previously taught at Rhode Island School if Design (RISD) Architecture and Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD). Admassu’s teaching, research, and design practices examine the international constellation of Afrodiasporic spaces. Admassu completed his bachelor of architecture at Southern Polytechnic State University, followed by a master of advanced architectural design and advanced architectural research at Columbia University. He is founder of Black Reconstruction Collective (BRC). In conversation with the architects, artists, designers, and scholars, BRC considers the meaning of reconstruction, the relationship between equity and reparation, and the role of the institution in our visions for a more equitable and emancipated future.

Jen Wood is a founding principal of AD—WO and a licensed architect in the state of New York. Until 2018, Wood was at Bjarke Ingels Group as a project leader of The Spiral tower in New York City. Her project experience ranges from residential through to large-scale urban development. Wood received her bachelor’s and master’s of architecture at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and a master in advanced architectural design at Columbia University. Wood and Admassu serve as exhibition designers for Dear Mazie,.

The Black School (Shani Peters and Joseph Cuillier) is an experimental art school teaching Black and people of color students and allies to become agents of change. It was founded by Joseph Cuillier III and Shani Peters in 2016. The Black School (TBS) mission is to promote and extend the legacy of art in Black radical histories by providing innovative education alternatives centered in Black love. They have held over 100 workshops on radical Black politics and public interventions that address local community needs, serving over 400 students, and also produced three Black Love Fests, collaborated with more than 40 professional artists, and partnered with over 50 organizations. With this foundation, TBS is now working to build a physical home for its programming in the 7th Ward of New Orleans, Cuillier’s hometown. They serve as educators and institution builders interested in engaging with public education and the arts for Dear Mazie,.

Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo is an artist, activist, educator, storyteller, and curator who lives/works between Lisjan Ohlone Land (Oakland) and Powhatan Land (Richmond). With roots in storytelling, Branfman-Verissimo’s work is informed by their commitment to craft and community, engagement with society, and interests in preserving and broadcasting B.I.Q.T.P.O.C. stories. Their work has been included in exhibitions and performances at Konsthall C, Stockholm; SEPTEMBER Gallery, NY; EFA Project Space, NY; Leslie Lohman Museum, NY; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, CA; and Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, CA; amongst others. Their books and prints have been published by Endless Editions, Childish Books, Press Press, Sming Sming, Night Diver Press, and Printed Matter Inc. Branfman-Verissimo received their master’s of fine arts from Virginia Commonwealth University and bachelor of fine arts at California College of the Arts. Branfman-Verissimo contributes a commissioned work for Dear Mazie,.

Kapwani Kiwanga lives and works in Paris. Kiwanga studied anthropology and comparative religion at McGill University in Montreal and art at l’école des Beaux-Arts de Paris. In 2020, Kiwanga received the Prix Marcel Duchamp. She was also the winner of the Frieze Artist Award and the annual Sobey Art Award in 2018. Solo exhibitions include Haus der Kunst, Munich; Kunstinstituut Melly–Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; Kunsthaus Pasquart, Biel/Bienne; MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge; Albertinum museum, Dresden; Artpace, San Antonio; Esker Foundation, Calgary; Tramway, Glasgow International; Power Plant, Toronto; Logan Center for the Arts, Chicago; South London Gallery, London; and Jeu de Paume, Paris, among others. She has also participated in numerous group exhibitions. Kiwanga contributes a commissioned work for Dear Mazie,.

Abigail Lucien is a Haitian-American interdisciplinary artist. Working in sculpture, literature, and time-based media, Lucien’s practice addresses themes of (be)longing, futurity, myth, and place by considering the relationship to inherited colonial structures and systems of belief/care. Lucien was named on the 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30, is a recipient of a 2021 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) Fellowship, and the 2020 Harpo Emerging Artist Fellow. Past exhibitions include SculptureCenter, NY; MoMA PS1, NY; MAC Panamá, Panamá; Atlanta Contemporary, Atlanta, GA; Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA), Grand Rapids, MI; and The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, PA. Residencies include Amant Studio & Research Residency, NY; the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Fine Arts, Wrocław, Poland; The Luminary, St. Louis, MO; Santa Fe Art Institute, Santa Fe, NM; ACRE, Steuben, WI; and Ox-Bow School of Art & Artist Residency, Saugatuck, MI. Lucien contributes a commissioned work for Dear Mazie,.

Tschabalala Self is a New York-based artist whose singular style comes from the syncretic use of painting and printmaking to explore ideas about the black body. She constructs depictions of predominantly female bodies using a combination of sewn, printed, and painted materials, traversing different artistic and craft traditions. The formal and conceptual aspects of Self’s work seek to expand her critical inquiry into selfhood and human flourishing. Recent solo and group exhibitions include: Performa 2021 Biennial New York City; ICA, Boston; Pilar Corrias, London; Art Omi, New York; Studio Museum Artists in Residence, MoMA PS1, New York; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Frye Art Museum, Seattle; Yuz Museum, Shanghai; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville; Pilar Corrias, London; and New Museum, New York. Forthcoming exhibitions include: Kunstmuseum St Gallen, St. Gallen and Desert X 2023. Self contributes a commissioned work for Dear Mazie,.

Cauleen Smith is an interdisciplinary artist whose work reflects upon the everyday possibilities of the imagination. Operating in multiple materials and arenas, Smith roots her work firmly within the discourse of mid-twentieth-century experimental film. Her work has been featured in group exhibitions at the Studio Museum of Harlem, Houston Contemporary Art Museum, Yerba Buena Center for Art, The New Museum, New York, D21 Leipzig, and Decad, Berlin. She has had solo shows for her films and installations at The Kitchen, MCA Chicago, and Threewalls, Chicago. Smith is the recipient of several grants and awards including the Rockefeller Media Arts Award, Creative Capital Film /Video, Chicago 3Arts Grant, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Chicago Expo Artadia Award, and Rauschenberg Residency. Smith serves as faculty for the Vermont College of Fine Arts low-residency MFA program. She contributes a commissioned work for Dear Mazie,.

As the premier urban, public research university in Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University advances knowledge and student success by focusing on progressive scholarship and research as a thought-leader among Tier 1 research universities. The VCU Foundation was started in 1917 to support a vibrant educational experience and sustainable future for the University and its students. The Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University presents the art of our time and provides an open forum for dialogue and collaboration across the region and throughout the world. Opened on April 21, 2018, the ICA is a non-collecting institution that showcases an ever-changing slate of exhibitions, performances, films, and special programs that translate our world into every medium.