TIE is proud to present the work of TIE Fellows, Willoughby Lucas Hastings and Timothy Manalo, both of whom are post-graduate teaching fellows at the Tufts School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA), where they each completed a MFA degree in 2019. This project is the culmination of the Fellows' ambitious and exemplary research that explores the nexus of land distribution and inheritance, pollution, social justice, and environmental inequality.
This year has been particularly challenging for our Fellows conducting and presenting their field research due to COVID-19. TIE is proud for the commitment and excitement of all of its Fellows who continue to work on their projects with the same amount of enthusiasm. Although some of our Fellows didn’t have the chance to present their work, as was originally planned, TIE would like to acknowledge their efforts and express our appreciation.
In their Fellowship, Tim and Willoughby investigated biased land inheritance and urban planning policies, environmental racism, and disaster capitalism using New Orleans as a case study. They specifically focused on exposing how corporations and their factories are polluting the surrounding waters and land primarily impacting communities of color. At the same time, the project notes the lack of accountability by these companies when climate crimes occur and displace communities of color. Further, Tim and Willoughby’s work notes that, when communities of color are not displaced by (potentially fatal) corporate pollution or environmental disasters, they are left subject to decreasing property values because of their home’s proximity to these industrial plants. The decreased property values inherently prevent communities of color from accessing equity in their home that would otherwise provide them agency. Simultaneously, corporations in some cases inflate health concerns in an effort to buy property from homeowners of color at a lower rate than deserved. In every single one of these instances, communities of color feel the full effects of institutional and corporate power, further disenfranchising them.
TIE’s Environmental Research Fellowship provided Tim and Willoughby the opportunity to work collaboratively, introducing aspects of their separate artistic practices as they investigated the impact of prejudice on land settlement and distribution. Their research was impacted by an interdisciplinary methodology as they considered this topic from a historic, artistic, and environmental perspective. Their project culminated in a comprehensive presentation, the completion of a socially engaged art piece, and video documentation of their time in Louisiana.
Their book and presentation reflect the educational impacts of their trip on their long-term artistic scholarship and social and environmental justice awareness. This book and presentation seek to answer questions they considered frequently throughout their trip such as: why Louisiana seems especially capable of successful protest and social change within the rest of the South; how has the history of enslavement and settler colonialism affected the planning policies and social dynamics of the region; and, how can they visualize their research methodologies and experiences within Louisiana in a legible form? Their main objective was to develop an artist book that contains documentation of events, sites, and conversations with people that directly corresponded to issues of environmental racism, land inheritance inequalities and disaster capitalism affecting communities of color in New Orleans.
Some excerpts of their work:
Experience example from their tour: Experience Three - Whitney Plantation Tour
“We return to the roads from the first day this time to the Whitney Plantation. I think about how a year ago I visited the Whitney for the first time. I am reminded that the motivation for that trip to New Orleans was from a New York Times article, Building the First Slavery Museum in America by David Amsden that Tim shared with me in the summer of 2018. I think about how surreal it is to be together here, now ready for the tour. The guide explains the tour is mostly outside and quickly we know our coats are no match for the thick fall of rain as my toes begin to prune. The rain is a distraction from the guide’s narration and I compare this visit to my last. We get a break from the rain as we enter the (Anti-Yoke) Antioch Baptist Church not original to the property but built-in 1870 by those formerly enslaved in St. James Parish. Inside, pews are lined with life-sized figurative sculptures of children by the artist Woodrow Nash. An informational video introduces us to the mission of the museum and clarifies that the children are representative of those formerly enslaved and interviewed by the Works Progress Administration reflecting their age at the time of emancipation. We leave the church and make our way through a series of memorials. I think about my time at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama and an inscription at Osu Castle, in Accra Ghana. I read through the names engraved into the black glossy granite and notice that as a group we only make our way around a small number of the many pillars. We come to a large metal bell when our guide explains its historical use to mark the length of an enslaved person’s workday and the punishment for not rising to the call of the bell. He tells us that today the museum is trying to rewrite the use of the bell and encourages us to ring it to memorialize those forced into bondage. People before me ring the bell interrupting the sound of the rain and the voice of our guide. Through this interruption, an intervention is heard and more people in our group continue to ring the bell. Making our way further into the property we walk through the former cabins of the enslaved, the blacksmith shop, the outdoor kitchen, up to a pin the enslaved were transported in, and by many large sugar kettles lining the paths when periodically, we hear the bell being rung by visitors in other groups.”
TIE is particularly proud of Willoughby’s and Tim’s work and would like to recognize their devotion and effort that sets an example to follow. It is invigorating to see TIE Fellows producing such high-quality, interdisciplinary research. While Willoughby and Tim didn't get to host their book launch and artist talk at the SMFA due to COVID-19, Willoughby had the chance to talk briefly about the impact of this experience to prospective SMFA MFA candidates on a Zoom call with Performance Faculty / TIE Advisor Danielle Abrams.
We hope Willoughby and Tim will have the chance to eventually present their work at the SMFA in the near future, once the SMFA opens up its doors to the public.