By Nick Eustis
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
The COVID-19 crisis has forced changes in nearly every facet of society, but the impact has been felt markedly in the arts community. Restrictions on large gatherings has made mainstay art events impossible for the foreseeable future, forcing art institutions large and small to get creative with how they present new work to the public.
One such institution, BOOM Concepts, works to provide a space for artists and creatives from marginalized communities to create and display their work. Pre-pandemic, BOOM organized monthly art exhibitions at their Garfield headquarters, social gatherings, classes for the community, and more. COVID-19 has forced co-founder D.S. Kinsel and his team to rethink how they do business.
“Our programs will be postponed right now as far as a lot of visitors coming to the avenue, visiting BOOM Concepts for a traditional exhibition,” said Kinsel.
To solve this dilemma, Kinsel and his team decided to replace their monthly exhibition program with a new artist-in-residence program.
“We wanted to still be in the community with our artists, and we wanted to still honor this season, knowing we had to adjust,” said Kinsel. “What we decided to do is offer a residency instead of an exhibition.”
The residency includes regular critiques of the artist’s work, access to their gallery space for 30 to 45 days to work, and a stipend, among other benefits.
“We’re giving them the opportunity to explore the exhibition that they planned on sharing with the public, and going deeper into that work,” said Kinsel.
The first installment in this residency program will be the work of local artist, Morgan Moody. Her project, entitled “Black Catholics,” details the history of black Roman Catholics in Pittsburgh, as well as her own personal journey.
“I was raised Catholic, like my mom and her mom, so identifying in this small subculture within religion is really unique to me,” said Moody. “Black Catholics have a long, and at times arduous, history in Pittsburgh that dates back before the start of the Civil War. Through their tenacity these Catholics were able to create a space and a way of worshipping that is all their own.”
While the entire work will not be presented publicly, select pieces of the work, as well as an interview with Moody, will be published on BOOM’s social media channels.
In addition to these changes, BOOM will also be continuing a partnership with sidewall, a mural exhibition space hosted on the side of a private residence, at 608 S. Millvale & Lima Way in Bloomfield.
Starting in January, BOOM and sidewall began a collaboration featuring Kinsel as a guest curator for the sidewall mural space.
“We’re doing a guest curatorship, and I’ll be curating and selecting all of the artists,” said Kinsel.
Currently on display at sidewall is Jameelah Platt’s, “We bloom in September.” Platt is a native Pittsburgher, and she studied at the University of Art in Philadelphia. Her work often deals with ideas of nostalgia, comfort, and fear, and those themes are evident in this work.
“Told through gestural figurative painting, mark making and vibrant colors, memory is reflected through dichotomies of being bright, muted, fragmented, well-defined, everlasting and fleeting,” said Platt.
“We bloom in September” is the second of eight works in this collaboration. Each work is exhibited for 30-60 days at a time.
“We’re super excited to be working with [Platt], as part of our public art arm of BOOM Concepts,” said Kinsel.
This collaboration to create public art pieces is certainly serendipitous during this pandemic, providing a safe outlet for artists to engage the public, something Kinsel intends to focus on in these uncertain times.
“We’re responding, evolving, and maturing as we exist in today’s new world.”