Profile Spotlight: Allison Yasukawa

We recently sat down with Allison Yasukawa, whose show Land Grab runs through July 4th at The Chicken Box on 1 W North Avenue. Allison is a multidisciplinary visual artist and educator. She teaches in the Foundation department at MICA, and is a co-founder of the Baltimore-based alternative art space, Lease Agreement.

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The opening of Land Grab was attended by an ice-cream truck selling cones topped with chocolate cockroaches (still delicious!)

What is your name?

Allison Yasukawa

 How old are you?

35

Which neighborhood do you live in and which neighborhood do you work in?

I live in Waverly, and I work in the Bolton Hill/Station North Area at MICA.

Describe your art or organization.

I have an interdisciplinary practice that primarily includes sculpture, performance, sound, video, and drawing. Often, the content that I’m concerned with is based in some way on social interactions, particularly those in which imbalances of power are the assumed norm. I play up these imbalances and identify them through the work in an effort to draw attention to the flimsy nature of social divisions.

What are you currently working on?

Right now, I have a solo exhibition up at the Station North Chicken box titled Land Grab. The work in this showfocuses on three distinct but interrelated contexts—tourism, the service industry, and the American Dream—and on different ways that people lay claim to a position of status within these contexts. Much of this work includes pieces that I commissioned from other people to bring ideas of labor and subjectivity into the exhibition in a very real way.

What social justice cause(s) are you particularly drawn to, and why?

I am especially invested in immigrant and refugee resettlement and empowerment. These populations face many challenges in the U.S. Not only have they have left their home countries, family members, and support networks, but they are negotiating a new cultural environment, frequently in a new language, and often with few resources at their disposal.

Who or what inspires you?

I’m really inspired by 
the people that I come into contact with through my practice. Because if the interactive component of my work, I often find myself having out-of-the-ordinary encounters with people. As I said, for the work in Land Grab, there were a lot of individuals that had a hand—directly or indirectly—in the making of the work. Making the initial approach, talking through an idea with someone I am interested in working with, and then serving as a witness to her/his own creative act is a really thrilling experience that energizes my practice.

What’s the best part about being an artist or running an arts organization in Baltimore?


I moved to Baltimore in 2012, so it’s still a very new place for me. It’s always exciting to get to know a place by making work in it, so I think that the newness of my experience here is my favorite part right now.

I also co-run an alternative exhibition space here with my husband, Adam Farcus, called Lease Agreement. This is something that the two of us have wanted to do for a while now, and being in Baltimore has given us the opportunity to make it happen. It’s been great to engage with the art community here and also stay in active contact with makers outside of Baltimore.

Who would you like to collaborate on a project with?

Dimitri Reeves—he’s the guy who does the Michael Jackson impersonation street performances. Outstanding.

What’s one social justice organization that people need to know about, and why?
 

One of the organizations I’ve been most active in so far here is the Refugee Youth Project (RYP). RYP is an organization that works with refugee resettlement in the Baltimore area. They do amazing and creative work, and they are always looking for more people to become involved.

I’m also constantly impressed by the work of the Druid Heights Community Development Association. They are located in the Druid Heights neighborhood, and are involved in many important community-based initiatives.

To learn more about Allison visit allisonyasukawa.com.

Photo by Adam Farcus

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