Conflict Rouses Providence Arts Community: Artist Nafis M. White Calls Upon Volunteers to Keep Doors of Central Contempo

Kendall DeBoer, Boston Art Review, March 16, 2023
What is hidden and what is visible? What do we allow to be legible?
—artist statement from Nafis M. White
I visited Central Contemporary Arts (CCA) with the intention to write a review of “Nafis M. White: Freedom Is My Favorite Position,” a solo exhibition that opened February 4. I still will; I could wax poetic about the charged materials and atmospheric energy they radiate throughout the space. Unfortunately, circumstances surrounding the exhibition and its home institution have been in flux. The artist and CCA have taken to their respective social media accounts over the course of the past several days—the former to air grievances and rally a grassroots volunteer staff, the latter to issue statements in response. Writing about this friction seems necessary, if not urgent, as the exhibition officially closes on Saturday, March 18, 2023.
CCA opened seemingly out of nowhere in 2021 with a mission of “building artistic innovation, local power, and public access” and “cultivat[ing] expansive thinking and creative expression for a more joyous and equitable future.” Situated in Pearl Street Lofts’ complex in Providence’s West End neighborhood, the organization also offers studios to artists in residence. White’s exhibition at the space appears, at the surface, to be a natural fit—White is a pillar of the Providence community who has been active in the local arts scene for years, receiving her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2015 followed by an MFA from the same school in 2018. She is particularly well-known and well-respected in the overlapping circles of queer and Black artists in the area.
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