On Friday April 26th, 2019, the Seattle Art Museum hosted Kitchen Sessions, a forum and showcase highlighting black femmes and non-binary artists. The event began with performances in poetry, music, and interpretive expression, to conclude with a discussion between performers and a diverse audience of community members. In celebration of “Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer,” SAM partnered with poet and educator Imani Sims and The Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas for an evening that explores themes of the exhibition. Among the performing artists were Nikiya Dunmore, DA Qween, Adra Boo, former Seattle Central student Blu the Baqi, and current student Chanarah Caupain.
This event was curated, hosted, and catered by people of color. Imani Sims, member of the poetry community in Seattle selected artists that they believed to be fit to best represent arts related to the Like a Hammer exhibition. Food and drink were catered by “That Brown Girl Cooks!,” a company run by mother Kristi Brown and her son, featuring food like salmon patties and roasted vegetables and drinks like “Church Punch,” all distributed free of charge once admitted into the event.
The showcase was held in the interim area between the Jeffrey Gibson exhibition and the gallery entrance. Imani Sims was the first to speak, welcoming the audience to an evening of shared experience, expression, and “soul reaching.” The event was curated to be a showcase where people of color are given the opportunity to safely express themselves, free of limitation or judgement. Imani Sims encouraged those watching to express themselves too, commanding the crowd to participate in a call and response of hooting and hollering, clapping and snapping, to warm up the space.
Chanarah Caupain, current student at Seattle Central, was among the performers for the evening. Formerly performing under the name ZELLi, Caupain performed a set of original vocals and composition, as well as an independently choreographed dance routine. Chanarah Caupain has been performing for several years in Seattle under ZELLi, and only recently under the name that matches her birth certificate. According to Caupain, this is a “reflection of (her) blackness being more fully incorporated into the art form.” The music Caupain makes is self described as “BOP,” or “black-pop,” a sensation she hopes to coin and participate in with this new rebranding. “We need more spaces like this, the Seattle Art Museum and beyond. I never thought, as a black woman, that I would be able to play on a stage like this and I want that to change. If more spaces like this open their doors to us, everyone is going to win.” Caupain believes this inclusive attitude is the driving force behind the concept that is “BOP,” the idea that all artists need a place to perform, and that only through consistent representation of black artists will this equity be fathomable.
This event was put on by the Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas, a local organization dedicated to uplifting black community members since 1999. The event, held from 7-9:30, also came with admission to view the Jeffrey Gibson exhibition: Like a Hammer. These events and more can be found in the link below, as well as resources to support the local art and poetry community affiliated with this Kitchen Sessions event.