In collaboration with TILA Studios, we have invited black women artists to interrogate systemic inequities and to open up our imaginations to the radical possibilities of a more just future through storytelling, performance, and visual showcase. Read more on our main digital residency page.

Vessna Scheff

2020 Digital Resident

Vessna is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Philadelphia, PA. During this season, she challenges us by presenting a more radical visualization of care that expands on the implications for those unnoticed and extends its significance to activists, artists, healthcare workers, and mothers.

Vessna's website

“Freedom isn't always played at one volume”

Series Statement

Black women have carved out spaces of freedom within oppression for as long as there has been a need to resist. While there have always been loud acts of resistance, there have been just as powerful small, quiet moments where freedom is felt deep within the body. Some people refer to this space as peace, and even though it is not loud and no matter how small the moment may be, it is extremely powerful.

The women in my family have carved out spaces of freedom for as long as I can remember. Some of my favorite memories are listening to my Mom practice flute while I was in bed. She worked long hours and would practice at night after dinner once I was tucked in. I would leave my door cracked to have a stream of light carry the delicate notes of the flute into my bedroom to soothe me to sleep.

My mom always made time for her practice, no matter how much time she dedicated herself to others. Freedom could be also heard in the gentle clink and slide of knitting needles that created blankets and scarves that warmed our bodies and souls, in the soft, enthralled crinkle of turning page after page through the imagined world of a book, and the excited recount of every new leaf in the garden that provided nourishment beyond food. These spaces of freedom- of soft, quiet, small moments of freedom, where stress boils off like a simmering dish on the stove- are easy to miss if you aren’t trained to listen.

Poem

Listen to Vessna read her poem, "Freedom isn’t always played at one volume"
Freedom isn’t always played at one volume,
Or struck with profound realizations and dramatic events. 

Freedom isn't always played at one volume,
or declared in big moments, 
or struck with profound realizations, 
                              and dramatic events.
Freedom isn't always loud. 

It can,
has,
and will be when it needs to.

But it is in the small,
                                    quiet
                                            moments
where freedom,
most loudly, 
                 sings.

Behind the Scenes with Vessna

Radical Women Engaged in Equity

This series of portraits reflects the stories of Assata Shakur, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard and Dolores Huerta, illuminating the long held historical struggles of Black and Brown people — for liberation, land, and labor — that each of these women have dedicated their lives to moving towards equity. Learn more here.

Assata Olugbala Shakur: Freedom fighter, author, and revolutionary.
LaDonna Brave Bull Allard: Activist, historian and genealogist.
Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta: Labor leader, organizer, and orator.