RPGA Studio is a Social Practice non-profit, founded by Yvonne Shortt, that uses art + design + technology + education + activism to address community issues. Communities we focus on include Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The methodology is question-based, and the approach is personal—much of the work starts in a little house in the community where Ms. Shortt raised her children. Many of the projects happen because of someone in the community bringing a problem to the studio and asking for help. Diversity in nationality, income, race, sex, and ability are vital to the success of the organization.
Yvonne Shortt and RPGA Studio have developed frameworks for artists to address the scarcity mindset, be empowered, and come together to present art.
Scarcity mindset - rooted in the othering of self and judgemental comparison to the other. The need for exclusivity over sharing; belief in limits over surplus. Instead of looking inward one looks outward for nourishment. This looking outward may lead to involvement in non-horizontal networks and abusive systems, the belief that change isn't possible, and the movement toward acceptance of destructive ideologies. The ego may also start to drive decision making in disruptive ways including the belief one must get to the top and the disconnection from relational and nurturing infrastructures.
Institutions and collectors have long acted as gatekeepers of art history, culture, and value. Within the Artist as Collector framework, artists are part of the process of deciding what art is remembered. Through a stewardship module formed by a small group, the artist selects the art and becomes its steward. Focused on mutual generosity, this model acknowledges the artist as an art historian, collector, and innovator.
Download the Artist as Collector Framework, here.
Artist Open Call Framework
Through the Artist Open Call, artists self-select to participate in opportunities, rejecting the traditional selection process as hierarchical and driven by a scarcity mindset. Artists meet weekly to build trust and connections through Zoom or in-person conversations. This preparatory exploration then impacts the creative process on-site.
It has been prototyped at A.I.R. Gallery, New York, NY and Ely Center of Contemporary Art, New Haven, CT.
Download the Artist Open Call Framework here.
Material Across Cultures
Material Investigation Community Workshop
In the U.S., cherry blossoms signify the arrival of Spring but in other countries they can signify a passage into death.
Come investigate and explore working with materials such as rope, burlap, linen, flowers, and canvas, while having discussions around what significance they carry across cultures. No art-making experience is required. It is free and everyone is welcome.
Dates: June 9th & 10th 2-5pm
Location: Macdonald Park, 8720 Queens Blvd, Queens NY 11375 (North intersection of Queens Blvd and 70th Ave)
Thank you New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and Council Member Lynn Schulman for the funding.
New Mural on 63rd Drive
Love Yourself and Others
Love Yourself and Others is a mural project to say what we want in our community. It is designed by Yvonne Shortt and the students at PS 206.
This program is made possible by an Innovation Grant awarded by the NYC Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes. For more information, visit http://nyc.gov/stophat
Funding provided by departments of cultural affairs immigrant initiative funded through NYC Councilmember Lynn Schulman
A Net of Resilience
Resilience comes from connections with others. We all trap ourselves in a net of our own fear and shame sometimes. But a safety net we make together with a group of supportive people helps us survive and thrive.
In this collaborative art workshop, we created a net using rope with dancers and community members, had discussions around resilience, and created dance pieces.
Juniper Valley Park
Saturday, May 14th 11am-1pm, 2-4pm
Sunday, May 15th 11am-1pm, 2-4pm
Funding for this program provided through the Mayors Office initiative to end Domestic Violence awarded through Council member Holden and administered through Safe Horizon.
Collaborative Net-making Workshop
Podcast 5 Questions
5 questions is a conversation between artists who are obliterating the scarcity mindset in the art world. Yvonne shortt and Daria Dorosh interview these artists to broaden the reach of these disruptions and keep the ripples of change in motion.
Community Raft Build
RPGA Studio with the community is investigating materials to build water floats such as wood and bamboo. Being near water provides benefits to our mental health including lowering our stress and anxiety and making us feel calm and positive. This project shares the knowledge of raft building for the community to enjoy those benefits with low-cost materials.
More build instructions and material lists will be shared online for any community groups to download and build their own raft.
Thank you New York City Department of Cultural Affairs for the funding.
Topsy Hair Salon
Yvonne Shortt and RPGA Studio are looking at hair as cultural identity, beauty, and beliefs. Hair Salon of Topsy installation is one of the latest projects created based on this idea. Many different hairstyles adorned by Topsies represent diversity, and the images will be fabricated as aluminum discs and installed on the fence of Captain Tilly Park in Jamaica Hills, Queens, New York. Thank you Council Member James Gennaro for the funding.
The School Fence Project created and promoted community involvement, and invited community residents, parents, and students to help design, build, and install art sculptures around school fences in response to community bullying. The fences are a perfect way to get people to come together and because they are often in the hub of a community they are great for an anti-bullying campaign for reinforcing positive community behaviors. In this Anti-Bullying School Fence Project, students get to express their ideas to their community neighbors. Residents become familiar with the issues students present and are more involved in school systems. According to data from Harvard University, those who bully in schools are more likely to become domestic abusers. Thank you Council Member Robert F. Holden for the funding to tackle domestic abuse at the root cause level.
Arts & Science Programs
Thank you Council Members Karen Kozlowitz for the funding for our arts and science programs, including 3D design and printing, stop-motion animation class, and school murals.
Hair Sanctuary, Socrates Sculpture Park (Long Island City, NY) 2021
Yvonne Shortt and RPGA Studio create Sanctuary together with the community. It is a space for discussion and self-reflection. Each Sanctuary includes sculptures created inspired by narratives collected from communities: In the Underground Railroad Education Center’s garden it commemorates all the everyday people who each took part in the Underground Railroad movement; Hair Sanctuary shares Hair stories which touches topics such as race, identity, equality, life, death and the list goes on. Listen to the hair stories here.
If you would like to share your hair story, email a voice recording or a paragraph to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the Afro picks installed around the Hair Sanctuary. It’s inspired by one of the stories: “My hair is the difference between life and death.”
Cinder blocks in our community have long symbolized decay but in this installation they are used to build a sanctuary.
Sanctuary, Underground Railroad Education Center (Albany, NY) 2021