After A Year of Chaos, Pioneer Works Residency Promises Artists Some Stability

After A Year of Chaos, Pioneer Works Residency Promises Artists Some Stability
Left: painting by Alvin Armstrong. Right: installation by Azzah Sultan. Courtesy of Pioneer Works.

Artist-run cultural space Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn recently announced its 2021 Visual Arts, Technology, Music, and Narrative Arts residents, a selection of artists whose work spans from paintings that examine the Black American experience, to experimental rap, to a performance project fusing the concepts of technology and witchcraft.

A group of six interdisciplinary jurors – including Derrick Adams, whose work is featured in an installation at the newly renovated Nostrand Avenue LIRR station – selected the 26 finalists from a group of over a thousand applicants, which it received after announcing an open call in September. Over the course of each residency, which varies in length based on department, residents will have access to the resources and studio space required to focus on their work, without the worries or limitations presented by money, space, and time.

“For most emerging artists, making art is just one aspect of their work,” juror and artist Maia Chao told Bklyner over email.

“On top of other jobs to earn money, most artists also have to do their own PR, social media, fundraising (applying for grants and residencies), manage communications, maintain a website, build their network, manage projects and all finances.”

Chao, who completed a Pioneer Works residency herself in Fall 2019, did not have a studio when she first applied.

“Having a free space where I could keep all of my materials, work without interruptions, and host studio visits was a game changer,” Chao said.

Other than studio space, residents also have access to a litany of tools like a 3D printer, risograph, and virtual reality headsets, in addition to the expertise of staff in the tech and printing labs. For CY X, a 2021 Technology resident and a current graduate student at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, these resources present a crucial opportunity for growth and collaboration.

“I’m really hoping that Pioneer Works will not only be an opportunity to help me solidify my artistic identity but will also provide space for mentorship and collaboration outside of the university context,” CY X said.

CY X, whose projects merge video art with sound, performance, and installation, explained that they drew early inspiration for their work from the Pioneer Works community.

“They continuously find ways to push boundaries and conventions and before I started my current graduate program, gave me proof that you can blend worlds of art and technology and create compelling and interesting work.”

The diversity of the 2021’s roster was a conscious decision on the part of the jurors: for Chao, the group represents a heterogeneity of different mediums, subject matter, and intersectional identities. Each, however, presented work that Chao considered to be “distinctive, compelling, deeply considered, and challenging, both conceptually and formally.” The chosen applicants were the ones whose practice, Chao felt, would benefit most from Pioneer Works’ resources and community.

For many of the residents, that work has shifted in light of the pandemic and other pivotal events of the last year.

“2020 really made me reflect on and think about my priorities and how I’d like the work I do to be a part of my life,” CY X. “For me, that looks like thinking more about how to integrate healing practices within my work,” as well as how to “increase collaboration and connectivity, in multiple forms.”

Juror and artist Salome Asega mirrored that notion of using art as a means of healing: for her, it was important “to lift up artists who could bring us out of 2020 and into 2021 with generative pathways to healing, care, curiosity, humor, joy, and justice.”

The 2021 residents’ work touches on a broad array of social, political, and environmental issues: Alvin Armstrong, a Visual Arts resident, “explores the social and political landscape of Black American culture” through paintings of subjects found in archival material as well as Armstrong’s own community and lived experiences, the Pioneer Works website states.

Similarly to CY X, Armstrong’s approach to his practice has been altered by the pandemic, as well as by the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

“The restrictions of the pandemic have intensified the amount of work I’ve been able to create even more,” said Armstrong. “With that said, 2020 has also intensified my commitment to making work rooted in the Black American experience.

“While the war on Black bodies is not new to this country or this year, protests against the injustice of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor took place around the globe. I am and will always be inspired by the resilience and the magic of Black people.”

The full list of 2021 residents:


Alvin Armstrong; Azzah Sultan; Dawn Kim; Kenseth Armstead; and Suneil Sanzgiri.


Austin Sley Julian; Gabrielle Herbst; Holland Andrews; Luke Stewart; Max Jaffe; Nordra; OHYUNG; Tony Cruise; and Zoe Scruggs.


Ariana Faye Allensworth; Caroline Garcia; CY X; Hackett; Ignacio Gatica Rojas; Ingrid Burrington; Jenson Leonard; Kara Güt; Lauren Lee McCarthy; Mindy Seu; Nahee Kim; and Riley Hooker.

The full list of jurors:


Derrick Adams and Maia Chao


Amirtha Kidambi and Naeem Juwan


Rachel Rossin and Salome Asega


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