Call to Artists Now Open…

Artists are invited to submit complete applications for the NOW•FRIENDS; Artist Residency, Kenya programApplications will be reviewed on a competitive basis. One artist will be selected as the recipient. We encourage entering early judges will have opportunity to see work through out the entry submission period. Read more under RESIDENCY.

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…and the NOW•FRIENDS ; Artist Residency, Kenya recipient is…

Congratulation!  The NOW•FRIENDS ; Artist Residency, Kenya recipient goes to Theda Sandiford. 


Theda Sandiford, is a self-taught mixed media artist based in Jersey City, NJ. Though art is engrained in her psyche, Theda’s first creative endeavors were in the music business as a digital marketing executive. After years of ground breaking digital branding work for musicians, she began exploring her own artistry by transforming found and meticulously collected materials into mixed media works, photographing her process and then digitally manipulating these images to extend the narrative as part of her personal mythology. Fragmented identity juxtaposed with the existence of infinite possibilities is a recurring theme in her work. Her work Selfie-Joy was licensed to BET’s Being Mary Jane in 2017. Theda has shown extensively in Jersey City, Brooklyn and Los Angeles.

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House of Friends ; Kibera Arts District

Jamey Ponte of House of Friends Kenya is helping the organization develop its newest artistic project. The Kibera Arts Districts (KAD), located in the Kibera Slum Settlement of the Nairobi Area of Kenya, will build off of “a revolution of creative expression that has burst in the past few years in Kenya,” as Ponte puts it. Though it will contain micro galleries and studios, the purpose of KAD goes far beyond opening creative spaces. The mission of the district is to allow artists to become activists, thinkers, and groundbreakers. Artists will be making their own decisions and learn from their mistakes without the interference of corporations or NGOs that might restrict or rob the artists of their freedom of expression.
Ponte recognizes and appreciates that there are already a number of art efforts in Kibera, but none have gained the professional, national, or international respect that Ponte anticipates KAD to have. Although a gallery /studio known as Maasai Mbili is a real gem and partner in the community worth noting. It is not government or even NGO funding that will make the district a success, but instead the synergy created by the artists who are given freedom to express, create, build, and sustain their community on their own terms. Outside funds will certainly play a part in the district’s development, but Ponte emphasizes that KAD wants to avoid a culture of handouts; that is to say, when “charitable” efforts are superficial and unhelpful, they only slow down community growth. Ponte strongly believes that if the locals of Kibera do not seize the opportunity for development, the area will be taken away from them by tycoons whose motives are not at all community-centric. According to Ponte, “the real purpose [of the district] is to keep the artist and residence from being displaced and [to find] a way they can own what they are doing and not being lied to by fake NGO programs that said they would help the past 60 years.”
Ponte expects local businesses to pop up among the art studios once the district has grown. This may include food spots, jewelry and fashion design, libraries, spoken word joints, and East African film theaters. Ultimately, it is the community that will decide the shape of the district, not House of Friends. The rent control in the intended area of development will give an extra advantage to these small businesses. Ponte shares House of Friends does not have control over where exactly KAD will develop, but he guesses it will be in what is called “the entry of Kibera,” the safest corner of the area.
Though the project has already been launched, it will not be publicly advertised until as late as next year. Ponte estimated that it will be three years until the district has fully blossomed, at which time “saying Kibera Arts District will be a common phrase not only to Kibera locals but to art lovers across the globe.” Ponte hopes that KAD will spread and promote an understanding of the artist’s role in a community. And if wealthy corporations try to hijack the program? “We will find a new place to go just as artist[s] have for hundreds if not thousands of years.”
More information on House of Friends can be found at
Be sure to investigate the NOW Friends artist residency if you are curious about Kenya’s art culture.

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Update…NOW•FRIENDS ; Artist Residency, Kenya

We want to thank all of the incredible artists who submitted to NOW•FRIENDS ; Artist Residency, Kenya. The quality of work was outstanding. The level of skill and vision of ever submission has been overwhelming. We hope to announce our selection for the 2020 Residency by weeks end.

Again thank you and good luck to everyone. – NOW•FRIENDS Team

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Introducing the NOW Masters Project

The NOW Masters Project is an invitational series in which artists are chosen to have professionally curated exhibitions in one of the incredible art venues that have been generously provided to NOW. It is offered to artists with a strong Vitae whose art displays museum-level quality. Artists are selected for their high level of craftsmanship, vision, and professionalism. The artist will be awarded a month-long exhibition that is professionally curated, assembled, and promoted. The artist is invited to be present during installation and for a reception during their time in Portland. Our hope is that the artist will use their time to personally invite top gallerists, dealers, critics, curators and collectors to the show.

The art world has been strongly criticized for not seeking out artists beyond their professional circles to promote and fund. The time is NOW to raise up underrepresented voices; here at NOW Open Studio we are taking up to challenge to present master-level artists to the art world at large.


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NOW•FRIENDS ; Artist Residency, Kenya

NOW open studio in partnership with House of Friends, Kenya presents an artist residency opportunity in Nairobi, Kenya; Africa starting in 2020.

This collaborated venture “NOW•FRIENDS ; Artist Residency, Kenya”  will give artists the opportunity to immerse themselves in real communities and obtain authentic experiences. During the 2 week residency artists are encouraged to step out of what they would typically consider their “work”. We want you to step back and take a look at how you perceive making art. While in Residency artists can take the opportunity to work with community members to work on a collaborative project; such as an artist book, or visit other artists working in Kenya to better understand a new perspective. Artist are encouraged to work with materials sourced in their surroundings to expanded their ideas of media. We hope at the completion of the residency artists will walk away with meeting new friends and a new project. This can be a single work made in a collaboration or a small series of works influenced by their time in Kenya.

For more information see;   Residency



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NOW welcomes Jamey Ponte of House of Friends

Art has the power to shape communities, generate hope, and create lasting emotional bonds. Some artists, however, feel that they may never attain these revolutionary moments through their art, but Jamey Ponte is here to convince us otherwise. House of Friends was founded by Ponte in 2003 and is an initiative born from the Child Wellness Fund where artists help community growth through art. In an interview this year in Portland, OR, Ponte gave a brief history of how he first came to Kenya–out of a series of random happenstances which miraculously landed him and his partner on a safari–and then explained how he came to enjoy Kenyan culture to its fullest. Open, friendly, humorous, and well-traveled, Ponte intrigued our audience with anecdotes that made travelling long distances seem worth it for the unforgettable memories. Memories, of course, are not the main reason to apply for the NOW•FRIENDS artist residency; the impact one’s art projects have on the Kenyan residency communities will last for generations. Imagine helping the maternal line of a family write their own book, Ponte suggested, which could be passed down from generation to generation. Imagine not creating for a community, but with a community, to help them tell their story in their own words. Ponte emphasized that the most important skills to take with you to Kenya are not artistic, but networking-oriented. Be flexible, be open, and bring a compassionate heart along with your paints and canvas. The biggest goal of NOW•FRIENDS is to create projects based on the community’s needs and desires, not the artist’s. If there was one thing I took away from Jamey Ponte’s talk that afternoon, it was that this experience will prove to you how effective art can be in this changing, frightening, seemingly unforgiving world, and that the world won’t stay so frightening if artists like you act up.
If you’re perusing the NOW•FRIENDS artist residency, keep in mind the passionate tales Ponte has to offer from past trips, the people you could meet who you would never contact otherwise, and these words of advice from Ponte himself which I could not fit into the above paragraph:
Don’t buy into the system.
Never do something just to be recognized.
Your grassroots projects do matter, because change never starts at the top, it starts with artists like you.

–Sophia Valdez

learn more:                                                                                      Follow House of Friends, Kenya on Facebook

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NOW partnering with House of Friends!

We are so elated to announce NOW will be partnering with House of Friends starting in June 2019. We will be collaborating on presenting an Artist Residency opportunity in Kenya, Africa starting in 2020. This newest venture “NOW-FRIENDS” will give artists the opportunity to immerse themselves in real communities and obtain authentic experiences.
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Notre-Dame–Restoration and Awareness

On April 15th 2019, two thirds of the roof and the spire of the Notre-Dame cathedral caught fire. 850-year-old wood was engulfed in flame and crumbled around the roof’s Gothic arches. All tourists and attendants were successfully evacuated. Although two police officers and a firefighter were injured, no one was killed.

The stunning center rose window within the cathedral was kept intact. All of the artworks, sacraments, and statues have been saved or had been moved to different locations before the fire. The raging flames were likely started by an accident.

Mere hours after the fire began, two French millionaires, Francois Henri Pinault and Bernard Arnault, each pledged over $100 million for the restoration of the cathedral. Several other donors from across Europe have also pledged huge amount of euros, causing some backlash and raising the question–Where were these donations during the Syrian crisis? Why haven’t these funds been directed towards other destroyed monuments in poverty-stricken countries?

As disheartening as it is to see charitable efforts turn political and hypocritical, there actually was some good that came from Notre-Dame’s publicity. After tweets began circulating about the destruction of several black churches in Louisiana, celebrities and activists started rallying for donations to be directed towards the smaller community rather than the already well-funded cathedral. The GoFundMe page for the repairs soon skyrocketed from below $50,000 to $1 million.

There were also some small miracles that occurred within the rush to salvage Notre-Dame’s treasures. The chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade, who had previously comforted and assisted the survivors of the 2015 Paris terrorist attack, rushed into the burning building to save two holy relics from the wreckage. The three hives each containing 60,000 bees living inside the cathedral’s roof miraculously survived the collapse. The bees were planted there in 2013 as part of a biodiversity project and have become an integral part of inner Paris’s urban ecosystem.

Amid the panic, worry, and confusion over the burning of Notre-Dame, a few things are certain. The damage is not so bad that it cannot be repaired, and with the millions of dollars of donations, the gorgeous cathedral is in good hands. This is not the first time Notre-Dame has suffered damage, and being the resilient structure she is, she’ll be able to hold up for years to come. Notre-Dame may not be exactly the same once the repairs are complete, but she is just another example of  how national heritage evolves with its people. Lastly, there is hope that the overwhelming support for the repairs of Notre-Dame will send ripples of change and awareness for other heritage sites and unique artworks that must be guarded, restored, and internationally loved.

Happy Easter –Sophia Valdez

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Sophia ARTS Around

The Map is Not the Territory 

Portland Art Museum – Portland, OR

Only moments after walking through the familiar doors of the Portland Art Museum I was immersed in a sea of lights and flickering shadows. Huge projections danced on sheets of fabric that hung across one of the museums’s tall-ceiling rooms. I watched, my neck craning up, up, up to find the source of the silhouettes of people that walked across the walls. I wondered if these blurry forms were taken from camera footage, perhaps from somewhere near the entrance. I moved around and waved my arms, but I could not see my shape in the ghostly images. Now that I reflect upon it, it’s funny that I was so eager to be under surveillance just so I could be a part of the exhibit.

A far smaller screen soon caught my eye from the corner of the large space. I entered a theater with a low ceiling and saw that the far wall had a projection of scenery from the Pacific Northwest with words that were small and difficult to read scrolling across the film. A male voice narrated a story in a native tongue, and I assumed the scrolling words were the translation. While the few other visitors in the room left in confusion and boredom, I noticed that if you blocked the projection of the scenery, the scrolling translation became clear and easy to read.

My eyes adjusted painfully as we entered the next room–a wide, open space with plenty of lighting. To my right, a collage of rock slates covered the wall, some formed into the shape of what I interpreted as a stegosaurus’s spine. Upon closer inspection of the wall piece, I realized that it was actually a collage of fish skins sewn together. The faded, tanned colors of the scales looked so similar to the other rock sculptures that they blended together into the same dry material. The whole thing looked like an archaeological exhibition.

Adjacent to the fish skins and slates was a collection of fruit-like sculptures made from recycled bits of garbage. Though their dun colors blended with the previous artwork, there was something dirty and unsettling about them. The fish wall had turned death and decay into an optical illusion, it had turned something discarded into something fascinating. I admit that the garbage fruit did no catch my attention in such a way. Tall, vibrant murals of gardens and jungles followed the mud and plastic, giving me calm release from the gritty colors that nagged my eyes.

The murals were followed by a series of sculptures that I can only describe as mud turtles. They did not have all the definable features of the animal, but their general shape evoked a sense of hard-shelled creatures emerging from a deep slumber, thick with sludge and soil. Their placement in the exhibition was pleasing as they seemed to be coming right out of the cheerfully painted gardens. The turtles headed towards a series of woven rods with what seemed to be human hair coming out of the top of each one. At a distance, they resembled strange wheat or thin cobs of corn, another trick on the eyes. Tall wooden staffs carved into points at the end followed the rods, and I thought about how humans modify nature to fit their own means, a theme I noticed was recurring.

At the center of the hall was a sculpture I had already seen on the Museum website–smooth rocks that resembled pebbles but were larger than my head hanging in mid air, suspended by invisible wire and completely still, even with the breeze of visitors bustling by. They looked as if they could fall at any moment, as if time had paused while a God cast them onto the earth. As simple as they stones were, I could have stared at this piece for endless minutes. The title made me smile, Moving Mountains.

As I mentioned earlier, much of the exhibit reminded me of archaeology and anthropology. Trays of white clay, shattered and vaguely organized into bins and shapes, resembled bones that had fallen and cracked during an excavation. More colorful murals depicted apothecaries and scenes of biological study. A series of portraits that I thought belonged to the artists turned out to be an ethnographic photography project on decolonizing race and gender. A fishing net full of clothing, fabric, and plastic objects looked like a scoop out of modern consumerism. The piece that touched me the most, however, was a circle of chairs with a rainbow of blankets and hand-made shoes all facing inward. I imagined the fictional people that may belong to those shoes, the diverse family that could be united under a shower of color and patterns. The map is not the territory, I thought of the exhibition’s title. Surely this was the most social representation of that, besides the photography.

The last sculpture I looked at was a dimly glowing monolith. Indistinguishable shapes coming from within the object created curious shadows on its inner walls. I noted in my journal that it resembled “an almost snuffed candle.” It also reminded my of a dying lighthouse, a match on its last flame, or something to lead humanity to the end of the line, past all of the broken fossils and polluted rivers, into somewhere with more light.

The artists were Annette Bellamy, Fernanda D’Agostino, Jenny Irene Miller, Mary Ann Peters, Ryan Pierce, Robert Rhee, Henry Tsang, and Charlene Vickers. The exhibition is open until May 5, 2019.  – Sophia Valdez


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