I love me a party!
Especially one that’s filled with beauitful, smart, and cultured Brooklynites.
The buppie set has been expanding their day party rolodex, but the same couldn’t be said for the artsy-fartsy folk like myself. I was looking for a space similar to the Brooklyn Boheme I dreamed of as a kid. Little did I know, one of my college classmates and neighbor-friend Jackie was in the works of making that dream come true.
Pittsburgh, PA (Garfield!)
Fave Bar or Restaurant in NYC:
Favorite Place to Travel in the World:
Current Song Addiction:
NaaNaaNaa (live) by Cory Henry (it’s such an infectious song. the organ just makes me smile. it’s like a happy pill.)
I love when my people share ideas they have with me and they come to fruition! How did you come up with the concept for Fete-Fete?
Jackie: Fete-Fete is an adaptation of an adaptation of my vision.
I heard this quote when I was younger that history is told by the victors. And so I was like, “Well shit, if history is told by the winners, then show me the art of the so-called losers,of the oppressed, so I can get to the truth.” Ultimately, I decided that I wanted my life’s work to be advocating for artists and to create a platform to elevate artists (no matter the medium) within our society, but with a special focus on artists of color and women, those typically marginalized by decision makers on the commercial side. We live in a country that does not value the role of artists as historians and mirrors to society and bearers of the culture, and until we rectify that, among many other things, we will keep making the same mistakes.
Fete-Fete came out of this desire to get moving on the mission. I was on a bus to Philly on Yom Kippur of last year and just thinking, “Jack, it doesn’t have to be perfect, you’re an artist, just get moving. These are the constraints. You have: time, money, and knowledge.” What was born out of that, was me having to be vulnerable and ask for help. I started looking at my circle and reaching out on some, “I don’t believe in broke artists. I want to break down that terrible mythology and I want to do it en masse. I want to throw a party where we incorporate these mediums and shift the dynamic between artists and their audience. I want people to fellowship. I want people to look forward to this. I want them to get comfy talking to artists. I want kids to grow up comfortable engaging with art. I want the idea of investing in an artist’s work to be top of mind at a young age. I want people working cooperatively to elevate these artists, becoming patrons. I want these artists in turn to discover a new network of collaborators. I want them sharing tools and information with each other on how to be successful at this art thing. I want them eating! I want them living, growing, adulting, shining. Do you want in?” And at almost every single turn, the answer was an enthusiastic, “YES!”
The original vision was HUGE and needed to be edited a little bit for the sake of making this happen, so I called Oshun Layne, curator, programmer, and art administrator extraordinaire. We narrowed the scope of the project down from this big giant thing with all these moving parts to this smaller,leaner thing with all these moving parts. Once we got it into that pocket size, the producer in me was like – man, I can do this and so here we are, less than a year later – ON MISSION!
We are eternally #TeamWomen, or should I say #YearOfTheRealBlackGirl. How important was it for you to host your inaugural event at Ode to Babel?
I wanted to host the event in a space that aligned with the larger mission of providing a platform for artists of color and women. The venue needed to reflect that, so Ode to Babel was one of the first places I reached out to and Marva and Myriam Babel were so welcoming of the vision. That openness made it a no brainer because they got it. Also, have we seen the space? It’s gorgeous! The energy is so on point. I’m glad it worked out.
You did a hell of a job curating the artists featured. With the thinking that Fete-Fete and events like it create community, how did you choose the participants and how intentional was it?
Well thank you!
The intention was real. I guess everything I do is inspired by the idea that I want to uplift all the great people in my life.
Kamau Ware and Chen Lo of Soul Science Lab, were easy choices. These guys were like the big homies when I was coming up as a part of that scene. Seeing them as young artists and then developing into established artists and here I am with this new thing in Fete-Fete. I just was not sure if they’d say yes to it. Would it be too small? Was I asking too much? I was a bit intimidated. However, I think the ethos of home filled in the blanks where the vision may have left some questions for them. Pittsburgh is one of those places where everyone grows up getting it drilled into them that you don’t forget where you come from. I think all of us really admire one another’s work, but we also admire each other’s spirits and so them saying yes to this wasn’t shocking, but it was just like – YAS! God work! – because both of their work is so on point. Chen Lo of Soul Science Lab with the massive undertaking that is Soundtrack ’63 and now they have a new album dropping soon. Then you have Kamau Ware, who can take a photograph that just captures so much with one click. That one click unfolds this narrative that you don’t want to put down. Those two accepting was a sign to me that Fete-Fete is on the right track.
Reaching out to D.S. Kinsel, who I met and went to Schenley High (RIP) with was breezy, as was reaching out to Anqwenique. I knew I wanted them in this show. They are both so talented, but they also bring a certain business savvy to this art thing that is refreshing as hell. They could easily be jumping into larger markets, but the decision to stay in Pittsburgh is intentional and the work they’re doing as artists, activists, entrepreneurs, and Pittsburghers is exemplary. They have created a framework for how artists all over the country, can impact their communities and I want to share that with this audience. I’m just so happy they accepted the invitation.
Pennybrew is Pittsburgh native, Rachel Pace’s new business, which is actually based in DC. She was an easy choice because her business is a pop-up, but her mission is very much so aligned with Fete-Fete’s. She is purposefully placing her business in the Black community, with a focus on serving that community. Also, the food is just bomb! I asked her to come to my rescue and put on for Pittsburgh and she threw on her cape and stretchy pants like, “Duh duh duh duh!!!”
Then the DJ’s Twelve45 and EYEJAY. These ladies are just so phenomenal at what they do. I trust both of them, their sound, their styles, their impeccable tastes in music, their ability to take us on a trip, which is exactly what they’re going to do. Twelve45 is the only non-Pittsburgher on the bill and that was intentional. I wanted to ground the show in the fact that this is still New York, and so I wanted make sure people felt at home before it’s wheels up to PIT with EYEJAY.
At the heart of Fete-Fete is the desire to not just create community within the audience, but to create more opportunities for collaboration between dope artists. Pretty much all of these artists know each other, have collaborated, or wanted to collaborate and hadn’t had the opportunity. With this platform, we’re giving them an excuse to do so.
Of course I ran into a couple of no’s along the way, but I’m of the mindset that there’s what you hope will happen and then things fall into place as they’re meant to be. I reached out to strong people, so we have a strong show in return. I’m hella excited. They’re hella excited. Y’all better be excited. It is a privilege to work with these artists. The synergy is real and I just hope the audience comes in and feels that love, cause that’s really all that Fete-Fete is made of.
You’re originally from Pittsburgh and kicking off Fete-Fete with an event featuring some hometown heroes. What are some of the parrallels between the ‘burgh and Brooklyn?
I think the influence of the Great Migration is where the two worlds parallel the most. New Yorkers love to front like they aren’t country, but they are. When you start asking people where their people are from, they’re all from NC, SC, GA, VA, FL. Well people in Western PA are from AL, TN, AR, KY, MS and PA, so that influence is very strong, and I think it parallels for both places. Also art just being infused into life is another parallel. There are murals everywhere, just like in BK. There’s a sick jazz scene there. My folks use to take us to the Crawford Grill, a now shuttered restaurant and lounge, when my sister and I were like 5 and 8 to listen to jazz and eat soul food. It’s just a part of life. It’s something you just do. You enjoy other people’s talents and gifts that they want to share with you and in turn, you develop your own talents and gifts, so you can reciprocate. It’s a nurturing environment to be an artist. I feel like Brooklyn, and especially my neighborhood, Bed-Stuy, have that same magic.
What’s your wildest dream for Fete-Fete?
I want to see this thing become a way of documenting and defining American art beyond New York and LA. I want us be a giant network of artists who are exchanging ideas, educating, and pushing each other constantly, and planting seeds all over the country, changing the way we, as a nation, view artists and their place in our lives, communities, and world.