AN INDEPENDENT CURATOR, CONSULTANT, AND AUTHOR & AN ARTIST, EDUCATOR, AND ARTS ADMINISTRATOR - TWO extremely MULTIFACETED HUMANS
Heather Bhandari: Hi Natalia-
We are so excited that you're the Season 2 Guest Host of The Remix Podcast! Thank you for agreeing to do it on top of an already jam-packed schedule. Which brings me to my first question for you...
It seems like most of the women I know and love are leading lives where one title is grossly inadequate. You are an artist, an educator (at CUNY), an arts administrator (assistant director of the Elizabeth Foundation), and a kick-ass mom. And now you're doing the podcast with us. Am I leaving anything out? When someone asks you what you do, does your head explode? How do you answer? And how do you see it all working together?
Natalia Nakazawa: Hi Heather!
I feel like I’m holding a mirror to you when answering this question! I think it’s actually 100% logical to exist as a multidimensional being by pursuing various avenues for expression both personally and professionally. I’ve never been able to squeeze all of my questions into one simple box or career track because I’m just too curious and have serious FOMO.
Building community is one of the main platforms that I work on, which consistently pushes me to work across disciplines. Without strong relationships, the artwork, teaching, and administration means very little. Being a mom has also transformed the way I view time and space. Since the actual minutes I have to complete tasks are limited and/or made slightly more challenging with a toddler (hehe), it’s made me realize that willpower and motivation factor way more strongly into why I do things these days. It’s made every “yes” more powerful and made me more decisive about what I want to take on.
I see all of these pieces working around a common thread of creative curiosity and the desire to empower voices around me.
HB: I hear you! I supposed if we didn’t have that curiosity there would be way more time in the day. Let's talk about community! How do you build it, foster it, grow it? I know you started a group for artists who are also arts administrator. Do tell!
NN: Community is one of these big, abstract ideas, that basically boils down to who you have relationships with. In my day-to-day existence, nothing gets done without multiple people shaping that reality. I think it is one of those things that is particularly relevant to artists because of how we are mostly viewed as atomized individuals without collective practices. But, the reality is that many of us work in tandem with organizations, families, students, artist assistants, friends, curators, producers, shippers, etc. To recognize this fact is to deconstruct the narrative of the individual genius and to rebuild a story of achievement through coordination with others.
The way that Admin came into being was exactly through this chafing between expectations and reality. How are we supposed to be radical, intersectional arts workers and artists without safe space to be multidimensional beings with lots of questions and need for healing? I joined in with others—including David Borgonjon who initiated the group effort—to reframe some of our biggest concerns into workshop form and allow other people sandwiched between multiple creative identities to come together and support one another. It now lives under the organizational umbrella of the CUE Arts Foundation and we offer four workshops per year around topics such as collaboration, labor, organizing, and self-care. You can find out more here: admin.network
HB: It’s such an important and inspirational group. I love that you mentioned self care! It’s so important since we’re all in overdrive so often. What’s one thing you do to recharge?
NN: Self-care is the elusive, yet imperative act of acknowledging that you are way more than just a brain in a jar. We all need to pause for some much needed mind/body healing time. For me, that takes many forms and is tiered from longer chunks of time to quick little exercises. Time spent on the train is actually an opportunity for me to listen to music, close my eyes, or write reflections. When walking through the streets, I play games with myself, imagining what the world would look like without the concept of one point perspective or if I lived in a built environment made for giants. These are everyday ways of releasing tension and seeking ways to reward playfulness and creativity. Then there are longer self-care projects—such as trips out of town or spa days—which are extra special but also very rare!
HB: Brain in a jar! I love that image. And I love those games you play with yourself. I sometimes pretend I’m a tourist, seeing everything with fresh eyes.
Speaking of tourists and getting away, where is your favorite place outside of NYC and has it influenced your art making?
NN: Outside of NYC, Mexico City and Oaxaca have been enormously influential. If you don't know what that's about, go find out!!
HB: We will!! And we should also find out how we can see more of your work! Where?
NN: Of course! If you're in the NY area, I am an artist-in-residence at the Children's Museum of Manhattan through May of 2019 as part of their exhibition focusing on engaging kids and families with contemporary art practices. I am also included in an exhibition at the Arlington Arts Center, just outside of D.C., called “Over, Under, Forward, Back,” which opens on February 9 and will be on view through March 31, 2019. I'll be at the AAC on Saturday, March 16 from 1 - 3 pm for an artist talk and workshop.