By Michael Solender
Annabel Manning believes creating art has the power to provide voice to the voiceless and make visible those unseen.
A self-described social practice artist, much of Manning’s work is done outside of formal studio space, in the field and with those on the margins of society. Manning creates her work using many mediums including photography, printmaking, painting, video and interactive installations.
One notable project finds Manning in collaboration on art and poetry programs with Latino and other inmates in Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s jail system through the Jail Arts Initiative with the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. The program encourages inmates to represent themselves to the public and develop a better understanding for how they view themselves in their own community. She is also involved in ongoing art projects with undocumented Latino youth and their families in addressing immigration policies surrounding DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.) This work was recently shown at Levine Museum of the New South.
“There aren’t any rules or regulations dominating how you make art and what you can and cannot do in the process,” Manning said. “I want to give the groups I work with an opportunity to highlight their situation. Making art is very special. I believe the process provides a safe context in which participants, myself included, can reflect on their lives and develop ways to improve them.”
Manning notes her motivation for involvement with social justice issues stems in part from her background as an artist born and raised in Mexico. She has an extensive history of projects where her craft is used to cultivate artistic skills, provide a platform for creative expression and improve the lives in African-American and Latino communities.
A life-long student and educator, Manning recently earned her M.F.A. at Duke University. One of her goals as a recipient of ASC’s Creative Renewal Fellowship is to travel to Europe to conduct research and participate in symposia, workshops, and other art-related experiences.
She currently serves in a contract position as Community Arts Program Manager for Community School of the Arts and recently co-developed an art and literacy program for Latino (Montclaire South) and African-American (Grier Heights) preschoolers and their families.
“Giving visibility to those whose situations are not always recognized or seen by others provides presence and dignity,” she said.
They’re qualities each of us deserve to have.