Two local artists have been announced as finalists for the inaugural year of The Current, An Artist Award, a Tacoma Art Museum program.

Kenya Shakoor, photographer, and Darrell McKinney, interdisciplinary artist, were nominated for their artistic excellence and their promise for the future. The Current is an annual, unrestricted award providing financial and institutional support to a black artist living and working in the Tacoma area. The winner will receive an unrestricted gift of $15,000.

Additionally, the current winner has the opportunity to receive various forms of support from TAM. From professional and artistic support to program design, everything would include full support of the museum’s facilities, staff expertise and workforce. This dual investment directly advocates for the winner and multiplies resources for the artist community, providing resources and strengthening networks that facilitate artistic creation for Black artists. The finalist will receive $1,000 in unrestricted funds.

“The Current is an opportunity to honor the ongoing contributions of Black artists in Tacoma by generating recognition, ensuring connectivity and strengthening our region’s creative ecology,” said Victoria Miles, Program Director of The Current.

The finalists were selected by three regional nominators: Jamika Scott, Kemi Adeyemi and Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes. All three are black artists and arts administrators with expertise in the visual arts from across Washington State. Each nominator was asked to nominate a Black Tacoma artist whose work demonstrates excellence in execution.

Meet the finalists

Kenya Shakoor is originally from Tacoma. She started her photography journey using YouTube videos to teach herself the elements of photography. Ever since she got her camera back, she’s used her lens to capture dark subjects imaginatively.

Kenya Shakoor uses her lens to capture dark subjects imaginatively.

“I explore imagination as a liberating practice through my conceptual approach to photography,” Shakoor said. “My practice uses intentionality to explore my needs and desires. Common themes in my work include vulnerability, intimacy and community.

In his nomination, Scott said “Kenya’s photographic and film work captures the black experience and existence in a profound, yet soft and ethereal way. His work is flavorful and compelling and hard to ignore.”

Darrell McKinney is an interdisciplinary artist based in Tacoma. Her practice explores the intersections between design, art and architecture. The work explains how design can be used to explore the complexities of politics, race and social infrastructure through the interconnectedness of history, people and place.

He received a master’s degree in design from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work has been featured in exhibitions at EXPO (Chicago) and internationally at Salone Del Mobile (Milan), Spazio Rossana Orlandi (Milan) and the Venice Architecture Biennale. He has received grants and awards such as the Greg Kucera & Larry Yocom Fellowship Award (2022), A Tale of Today Emerging Artist Fellowship for the Richard H. Driehaus Museum (2019), Hilltop Lasting Legacy Fellowship (2020) and the Prize of the Design Council (2018).

Currently, McKinney’s work spans spatial design, object design, and social practice. He continues to explore the built environment and the objects that inhabit it, exploring issues of varying scale: a community, a building, household items and people.

“McKinney’s multidisciplinary and conceptual practice stands out in the largely 2D and figurative realm of the city,” noted Adeyemi in his artist nomination.

“McKinney has a body of work that I have confidence in and deserves to have his commitments further secured,” said nominator Alley-Barnes.

Meet the current nominators

Jamika Scott is a writer and director from Tacoma.

Kemi Adeyemi is Assistant Professor of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies and Director of the Black Embodiments Studio at the University of Washington, an arts writing incubator and public programming initiative dedicated to constructing a discourse around contemporary black art.

Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes is a multimedia artist, curator, filmmaker, writer and designer from Seattle.

And after

The final jury will take a studio visit with each of the finalists to review some of their work and ultimately select the winner.

An inaugural exhibition for The Current, An Artist Award, will open on April 15, 2023.

“This exhibit will act as an art-filled interactive portal, providing insight into the threads and inspirations that inform the work and values ​​of The Current, an artist awards program,” Miles said. “This exhibition is an incredible opportunity to extend an invitation to show the values, mission and importance of this work. I am very happy to organize this and to share with the public what has come and what has come from The Current.


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