Sep 23, 2015 12:09PM

Introducing: The Art Hoe Collective

Feat. Amandla Stenberg.
@jjheyda & @eastsideessy

If you Tumblr/Instagram or follow young artists like Amandla Stenberg or Willow Smith closely, you've probably come across the term "Art Hoe". Like most internet-born words, the phrase can't be simply defined. And there's a good reason for that — the Art Hoe movement is about inclusion, creating complex identities and personifying the political.

Search "Art Hoe" on Tumblr or Instagram and you'll find collages with messages of activism pasted across them and images of young black artists superimposed onto traditional art works. Initially coined by rapper Babeo Baggins, Art Hoe describes self-reflexive work made mostly (but not exclusively) by people of colour to address issues of race and representation in art.


The creators/curators of this movement have formed an Instagram/Tumblr account called Art Hoe Collective. The account is a platform for contributors who work across painting, photography, dance, poetry and performance that also highlights international events of political relevance. We hit up Art Hoe curator Sage Adams, who founded the platform with movement creators Mars, Jam and a bunch of other curators, to chat about the impressive project's long-term goals. 

Lucy Jones: Can you describe what the Art How Collective is in a sentence?
Sage Adams: The Collective is a place where you are entitled to a complex identity.

When did you first come across the term Art Hoe and what does it mean to you?
I came across the term on Tumblr, it was in the caption of a selfie @babeobaggins took. I began to see it more and more on my dashboard though, and along with it images of black people superimposed on art, even some original art was going around!


Why did you think it was important to form a solid group around this movement?
I think we needed to have curators so that we could determine how exactly we were going to sort through submissions, what would get posted when and, of course, we needed creative input. The collective is my rock though, we critique each other's writing, push each other, and most importantly, we are a team.

What are the prerequisites for getting involved in the project as a curator or an artist?
I don't think there really were many prerequisites, we needed a group of people willing to put in serious time energy and creative vision, also we wanted a breadth of art forms like writing and poetry. Mars reached out to us and explained the project, and I have done previous organising work in youth-led movements so I wanted to help out! In terms of submissions, just send something that is meaningful. Those are the best submissions, the ones that tell a story whether than be through painting, dance, or any of the other categories.

Do you think it's important that all art has a strong social conscience?
I'm a strong believer in the personal as political. The collective is host to submissions of immense emotion and varied experiences. I don't think all art needs to be made with the intention of having a social conscience, but inevitably art made from truth manifests contain such conscience. So is there really such thing as apolitical art?


What issues do you hope to help represent/overcome through the project?
We at the Collective want to be a space and platform for marginalised artists, to interrupt business as usual, even if that is your Instagram feed. I personally want to see this initiative change how young artists of colour are viewed by the outside world.

Do you feel that people who experience stigma or feel underrepresented are forced to develop strong identities from a young age? Did those kind of ideas act as impetus for the Art Hoe movement?
I think that experiencing stigma and feeling underrepresented creates a necessity to find yourself, away from the stereotype or expectation the outside world pushes. This journey and this search helps you develop a strong sense of self, belief and purpose and often manifest through the arts. These kind of ideas, like self-worth, and self-expression, are essential to not only the founding of the movement but the sustainability of it. As long as people are being misrepresented, there will be a desire to showcase ability, creativity and beauty on one's own terms.


Do you think it's important that people like Amandla Stenberg and Williow Smith help to push the project into the mainstream?
I think it's both important and beautiful that revolutionary, forward, and free thinking black kids have found a space in the movement. While the media attention we have garnered is of course in part because of the names attached to the project, the intention is to create a safe space for ALL kids of colour!

If you could achieve one thing through being involved in the project (for yourself or others) what would it be?
I'd like people to feel proud of their work, themselves and their identities. That's all I've ever really wanted.

We'll be introducing three artists from the Art Hoe Collective very soon, so stay tuned.

Photos: Jheyda@arthoecollective

Lucy Jones