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This Philly artist is using tech to develop her Museum of Black Joy

Now a Black Public Media and MIT program recipient, Andrea Walls launched the digital museum in January 2020 to celebrate Black life through street photography and video collages.

An image from Museum of Black Joy chronicles Black life. (Courtesy photo by Andrea Walls)

A program designed to help Black creative technologists gain work and visibility in the tech industry has tapped a Philadelphia artist and poet for its 2021-2022 cohort.

Black Public Media and Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced last month that they’d picked West Philly native Andrea Walls as a recipient of the MIT & Black Public Media Visiting Artists Program. The program is hosted by MIT Open Documentary Lab (OpenDocLab) and sponsored by MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST).

Walls will develop her Museum of Black Joy, launched in January 2020 to celebrate Black life via street photography, video collages and digital components like its website. The work that Walls creates during her residency will be her first emerging tech production.

Walls said in a statement that she wants to create a piece of work that goes beyond traditional art exhibition venues: “Everybody can’t afford to visit a museum, and everyone doesn’t always feel welcome at them.”

Explore the Museum of Black Joy

Alongside fellow program recipient Toronto-based filmmaker Ngardy Conteh George, who is developing VR film “Wa’Omoni Rising,” Walls began her residency in September and will present her project in April at Black Public Media’s pitch event for 2D film projects, PitchBLACK. At the first PitchBLACK event in 2021, six technologists pitched projects that featured augmented reality, virtual reality and motion capture.

Both Walls and George will receive $7,500, participate in the residency remotely and have weekly OpenDocLab programming and regular production meetings with BPM’s director of emerging media. This year’s cohort received applications from eight countries, including Brazil, France, Kenya and the Netherlands, according to the program.

Last fall, filmmakers Carla LynDale Bishop and Fabiano Mixo were the program’s first recipients. LynDale Bishop researched Mapping Blackness, a digital archive of historically Black communities, and Mixo prototyped Meshmemories, an AR sculpture of African-Brazilian writer, activist and religious leader Beatriz Moreira Costa.

The news of Walls’ appointment comes as homegrown film org BlackStar Film Festival announced the inaugural fellows of its Philadelphia Filmmaker Lab. The filmmakers, who will be working on short films to debut at next summer’s festival, are Bettina Escauriza, Jasmine Lynea, Julian Turner and Xenia Matthews.

Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

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