Corvallis Social Justice: CitySpeak on Traditionally Excluded Artists, Welcome Weird World, Fat Activism & Body Liberation
Tonight at 6:30 p.m., The Corvallis Advocate will be livestreaming a CitySpeak on the topic of amplifying underrepresented, non-traditional, and historically excluded artists in Corvallis.
We’ll be speaking with folks in the Corvallis community who help make more visible the voices and creativity of people who have been traditionally ignored, dismissed, and unwelcome in conventional art venues; create with, organize shows and festivals about, and build caring communities around experimental, accessible, and non-normative mediums; and advocate for widespread access to more creative spaces and outlets that are safe, affirming, and inclusive.
Below are the panelists, who represent just a handful of local artists, organizers, activists, and advocates committed to this work:
You can watch the event live on The Advocate’swebsite or Facebook page. If you can’t make the live event, the video will be made available on The Advocate’s website and social media pages. Viewers can submit questions before and during the forum. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org, send a message on social media, or just post your question on one of the social media posts of the event.
Local Art Shop as Political Tool: Skye Pell and Ryan Oropeza, Corvallis-based non-binary artists, are the co-founders of Welcome Weird World, a local art shop specializing in handmade jewelry, thirdhand clothing, and repurposed art that prioritizes anti-consumerism, inclusivity of all sizes and genders, and radical self-expression. Though nascent, Pell and Oropeza say that Welcome Weird World has helped teach them powerful art can be in self-discovery and community building, as well as how both are inseparable from their own political lives as queer artists and activists.
“We use our shop as a political tool to facilitate a community of artists that is inclusive regardless of ability, skill or class,” they wrote in an email. “In a capitalist society, art for its own sake is discouraged. For a long time, we were hesitant to share our art because it was ‘not good enough,’ profound enough, or profitable enough. We want to inspire creatives – especially LGBTQ+, BIPOC, disabled, or otherwise marginalized artists – to engage in self-expression rather than creating whatever images corporations deem valuable.”
Part of this inspiration stems from the belief that anyone can create art when the proper resources and accommodations are made available to them.
“We believe that art should be accessible to those who love it,” they wrote. “We want to show people that art is more than just capital. Our art is not valuable to us because of the materials in it, the time invested, but rather the joy we see on community member’s faces when a piece of art resonates with them. For this reason, all of our prices are flexible because we want people to have beautiful things that bring happiness regardless of class or income.”
Both artists also work with customers to create custom pieces that “affirm their identities” and “improve their lives” at prices that are fair to them and to the artists themselves. Pell and Oropeza will also often provide their wares (especially those with explicit political messages) for free “to promote a gift economy” and the continued proliferation of their art and the inspiration it sparks in their fellow community members – values that align with their goals and vision for the future of their shop.
“As our shop expands both in-person and online, we hope to raise funds for decentralized organizations such as the [Corvallis] Really Really Free Market, and work with other mutual aid groups like Food Not Bombs to feed our community and fuel their creativity,” they wrote. “We hope to work with other organizers to host events that provide art supplies and musical instruments for free, building community around radical self-expression without the limitations of capitalism. We believe there are many people with unique perspectives and experiences who would benefit from resources to express themselves with, and that the sharing of those unique perspectives will benefit and strengthen the community as a whole.”
Additionally, with the shop focusing on sustainability and the use of recycled materials when possible, Pell and Oropeza would like to eventually host workshops on salvaged art, trash art, and “working with the bountiful resources available to us for free.”
Fat Activism, Body Liberation Through Art: Corvallis-based queer artist and activist Jayden Dukes, co-creator of AThought Zine, a collaborative zine series for historically marginalized and excluded creators, has been outspoken through their art, advocacy, and social media about the need for including fatness in queer, feminist, and body liberation movements.
“My artistic practice focuses on fat activism as it pertains to body liberation. I define body liberation as the liberation of all bodies, whether that be fat, disabled, queer, BIPOC, and other marginalized bodies,” said Dukes. “I prefer this in comparison to body positivity, which has become a movement that has been bought and sold back to us, and often centers white, thin, able-bodied folks. This distinction shows up in my work through the prioritization of fat, queer bodies. Intersectionality is important in my processes as a fat, queer artist.”
This prioritization is evident in their art and writings in the AThought Zine series, including their spotlighting of Maya Carey, a Black, fat and queer feminist educator, organizer, and self-taught printmaker, in Issue 4. Titled “Other”, this issue, which was released in 2020, explored Dukes’ and co-creator Serena Swanson’s experiences with both white privilege and othering – i.e., being perceived and treated as alien, foreign, or strange – while also offering space for special guests who do creative work based on their own experiences of being othered. The issue emerged out of the creators’ desires to “make space for more pressing issues” and open themselves and their platform “to being anti-racist and fighting for social justice for all marginalized bodies.”
Carey, whose art centers on women of color, LGBTQ+ folks, and fat and disabled bodies, wrote an artist statement that was featured in the issue on their “Bodies Like Oceans” series, which celebrates “fat bellies and big breasts and stretch marks and all of the things we’re taught to hate about ourselves” and encourages fat, disabled, dark-skinned and queer folks to find joy and empowerment in their own bodies.
“This series… asks the viewer to celebrate all that is robust and fluid in the body and demands we center Black femmes in our fat libration,” reads the statement. “To be Black, fat, and femme in this world is to be brutalized and deemed disgusting and unloveable. In this piece, Maya gives no choice in our centering of Black women and femmes in our fat liberation. While the world wants to celebrate thick thighs and small waists on light skin and white bodies, Maya is unapologetic in their vision of beauty and liberation in all things fat, Black, and femme.”
On the back cover of the issue, both Dukes and Swanson also gave a shout out to Black and Indigenous artists they had then recently stumbled across on social media, recommending their readers to follow and support these artists.
“Over the course of the last few months, I have stumbled upon an account on Instagram, @sassy_latte,” wrote Dukes. “In their own words, they ‘teach ppl [sic] to have critical discussions on body politics & racial justice w/o sacrificing femininity.’ Their Instagram is filled with photographs of their Black, femme body with radical social justice messages that everyone should read.”
For Dukes, continuing to learn and become a better activist involves creating art about the different ways in which people’s “social locations” intersect with each other.
“By social locations, I mean the combination of different identities, such as gender, race, age, ability, social class, sexual orientation, etc.,” they said. “Those identities effect the privileges and/or discrimination that an individual faces within our society and culture.”
Mutual Aid Groups Collaborate to Support Unhoused Neighbors:Stop the Sweeps Corvallis, the Corvallis Really Really Free Market [RRFM], and Sunrise Corvallis have been combining efforts to continue the undertaking of “resource runs” to distribute heat relief supplies to unhoused folks who don’t have access to local shelters or cooling centers, and who continue to be displaced by ongoing camps sweeps.
Throughout summer, organizers with the RRFM and Stop the Sweeps have been dropping off supplies at parks and other areas where unhoused neighbors have been staying. Most recently, Sunrise Corvallis activists, who have been fighting for the city to pass a resolution on climate and housing justice, helped source and provide new donations that were distributed by organizers over the weekend.
Now, more donations are being sought, as well as broader community connections and people who are interested and available to help out with these organizing efforts. Snacks, water bottles, packaged ice, ice trays, ice pops, coolers, and electrolyte drinks are especially needed. Items can be dropped off at the RRFM’s free store, located in room M252 of the Benton Hall Plaza on 408 SW Monroe Ave, between 12 – 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Venmo and Cashapp donations are also accepted to help pay for supplies; for more information on how to support in this way, send a DM [direct message] to the Stop the Sweeps Corvallis Instagram account.