Spring Campaign Feature – Jaleesa Johnston

Published: June 23, 2021

Categories: Featured | Spring Campaign

We spoke with multidisciplinary artist and 2020 Fellowship recipient Jaleesa Johnston as part of our 2021 Spring Fundraising campaign. Jaleesa spoke with us about holding space for heavy feelings, how best to support artists during this time and in the future, and how she’s changed this past year.

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On the resilience of artists and what has inspired her:
I have come to understand growth, active learning, and fluidity as integral components of what it means to build resiliency. Exercising this resiliency is understanding and honoring what each moment calls for as a path through challenging situations. I have found that this responsiveness is oftentimes uncomfortable and carries a lot of fear and uncertainty and that embodying resiliency means holding space for these heavy feelings while employing courage and discernment through difficult moments.

In all honesty, it is the work that came before me that inspires me. Knowing what my parents have been through, what my grandparents have been through, and their parents have been through… I can be who I am because of their work, and in turn, I have an opportunity to add to this legacy for the next person. This interconnected web through time and space brings me immense hope.

How she’s different from a year ago:
I am certainly more generous with myself than I have ever been in my life and it is an evolving daily practice. The past year has been difficult for everyone, and I have lost and recovered myself many times in the turmoil of it. Each time I return to myself, my generosity for who I am and who I have been expands because I do not have to answer to anyone but myself. This has been a heavy and freeing lesson for me.

What support artists and artist communities need:
I would love to see an increase in unrestricted financial and resource support for artists. Supporting artists, and particularly BIPOC artists, to take care of themselves holistically is so incredibly crucial to the foundation of the arts. Increasing accessibility to this support is equally important.