Artist Interview with Jo Cosme

Published: December 6, 2023

Categories: Artist Stories | Artists | Fall Campaign | Featured

“Artists are the stewards of imagining new futures.


Our support for artists is powered by fundraising! As part of our effort to raise $200,000 before the end of the year, we are sharing interviews with artists from across Washington State. We ask about their hopes for the future and how we can best support artists. Read more below and make a gift today

This week we spoke with 2022 GAP recipient Jo Cosme. She is a Native Boricua multidisciplinary artist who was displaced from Borikén (colonially known as Puerto Rico) to Seattle after Hurricane María. Her shock over North Americans’ ignorance of Borikén inspired her to create works that provoke reflections on US Imperialism in her Homelands. Cosme holds a BFA from PR’s School of Fine Arts. Her work’s been exhibited in places such as the Museo de las Américas (PR), Bumbershoot (Seattle), Photographic Center Northwest (Seattle), and Dab Art Gallery (LA). She has given talks at Shunpike’s ACES program, Allied Media Conference, and MIT Game Lab. In 2022, she was awarded NWFF’s Collective Power Fund and a GAP from Artist Trust. In 2023, she was awarded Pratt Fine Arts Center’s Bernie Funk Artist Scholarship, the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture’s CityArtist grant, the MAC Fellowship, and 4Culture’s Arc Fellowship. Cosme recently finished MASS MoCA’s A4A Residency, where she started working on her first solo show, Welcome to Paradise: Viva Puerto Rico Libre, set to open March 7th, 2024 at Seattle’s 4Culture Gallery. 

What has Artist Trust’s support meant to you?

The Artist Trust GAP was one of the first financial awards I had ever received in my artistic career. Due to where I grew up, I didn’t have access to or knowledge about these opportunities. Later, in Seattle – I’ve been hustling non-stop while struggling with displacement, which led me to just about give up on my practice. Besides the financial help which helped me catch up on my creative practice, it was also very exciting and inspiring to feel your work seen and recognized by such a well-known artist organization. This type of recognition can be a life-altering opportunity for many of us. 

What are your hopes for the future of artists in Washington State? What would an ideal world look like for artists?

As a Caribbean Native from Borikén, Puerto Rico. My hope for the future in Seattle is that I’d like to see more support towards the Latinx arts as well as towards artists from different countries around the globe. We all are carrying so many different perspectives, stories, and experiences outside of the continental US that should be equally valued and represented. For me, an ideal world for artists would be a place where we can sustain ourselves without having to juggle so many jobs while trying to make time and mental space to also work on our craft and to then not have it recognized as serious work too. I’d love for us to have better access to financial and emotional safety without having to sacrifice so much time and effort that we could be investing in our creative work. 

What is something you’re looking forward to with your work, practice, or community?

Through my creative practice, I work to expose the colonial US policies that continue to oppress and erase Native Boricuas in the archipelago of Borikén (colonially known as Puerto Rico). I contrast the perceptions of Borikén as a Caribbean paradise with the capitalist and neocolonialist realities endured by Native Boricuas over generations. I am currently looking forward to exhibiting my first solo show in Gallery 4Culture which will open on March 7th, 2024. It is important to me for audiences to come out thinking about who they are in relation to what they have just seen. To have North American audiences deeply reflect on what it’s like to be a Native inhabitant in the places they vacation to and/or take land from. What role are they playing concerning neocolonialism and internalized settler mindsets? I aim to provoke conversations on the effects of disaster capitalism and the power dynamics perpetuated when you travel as a continental US-born National to places such as the Caribbean. I also hope this show serves as a call to action against the current colonial policies that continue to oppress us in the US-occupied island Nations and to create deeper bonds with the displaced Latinx and/or displaced Islander communities in Seattle. 

What support do you think artists and artist communities need right now, and in the future? Why is it important to support individual artists right now?

All artists come from a wide variety of backgrounds and intersections. For this reason, I can only speak on behalf of artists facing accessibility issues similar to my own. A lack of support I’ve noticed is for those of us who do not speak English as a first language. Many applications are written in a very bureaucratic version of English which is already intimidating for native English speakers, let alone for us who are speaking it as a second or third language. This isn’t a “get over it” issue as some have told me, it’s a clear accessibility issue. This is a support that could heavily benefit a whole community that is already underrepresented due to xenophobia/ethnocentricity. It’s crucially important for these communities to have access to these supports so we can help broaden our perspectives, knowledge, and understanding through their creative work while helping elevate their voices as artists and as a community.

Why do you think it’s important for people to support Artist Trust as donors?

After surviving Hurricane María in Puerto Rico and suddenly being displaced to Seattle, I didn’t want to be an artist anymore. Last year, however, I gave it one last chance. After getting the Artist Trust recognition, it turned my last hope into relentless determination. Before, I was too busy surviving, battling displacement, and culture shock to think about art anymore. With the support from donors helping organizations like Artist Trust, they can help radically change an artist’s life. Artists are the stewards of imagining new futures, but many of us sacrifice meeting our basic needs to get the message out there. By helping support artists, it is not only helping one artist, but it also inspires others like me to take risks and continue making art. 

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2023Artist StoryFall AppealJo CosmeLetter