This Collective of Artists Is Working to Diversify Arts Communities

Megan Embrey
·4 min read
Photo credit: Crafting the Future
Photo credit: Crafting the Future

From House Beautiful

When Corey Pemberton and Annie Evelyn met in 2015, neither could likely have anticipated the partnership that was to follow. Pemberton is a painter and glassblower based in Los Angeles and Evelyn is a furniture maker based in Bakersville, North Carolina. Together they are the founders and leaders of Crafting the Future (CTF), a collective of artists who work to provide students with equitable opportunities in the arts.

Pemberton is the Director of CTF, which was formally established in 2019, while Evelyn is Deputy Director. Together they have harnessed their collective powers to foster rapid growth within their organization.

The motivating force behind founding CTF was in the nexus between Pemberton’s and Evelyn’s grievances in the arts world, and the lack of diversity they saw every day.

"The frustration was with this feeling of hopelessness that we had to effect any sort of change in terms of diversity in our field," Pemberton tells House Beautiful. "We were feeling we wanted to do something but...didn't know how to on an individual level.”

For Evelyn, the lack of representation during her time in school and then later on in her arts communities was consistently troubling. "I was just struggling with the idea of being a selfish artist when there was so much work to be done in the world," she recalls. "I was kind of thinking, 'should I just stop being an artist and start doing social justice work?”

Instead, she decide to take another path, working to solve the problems in her field from the inside out through CTF, where she and Pemberton use their identities and careers as artists as a foundation for their social justice work.

They initially established CTF with the intention of sending students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to arts camps. In addition, they hoped to be able to help connect them with internships and apprenticeships, while providing additional support they may need along the way. Through regular donations from their collective of members, as well as contributions from their partners, CTF was able to send two students to art camps last year, something that has been immensely rewarding for the founding members. As Pemberton told House Beautiful, “[It’s rewarding] when you hear back from the youth arts organization that the student that you sent to Penland has a new spark and a newfound love for being in the studio, and they can’t get them out of the studio.”

Photo credit: Crafting the Future
Photo credit: Crafting the Future

Indeed, the success CTF has found has far exceeded the expectations of both Pemberton and Evelyn. Having found themselves so far ahead of schedule, Evelyn is particularly excited about adding pre-college to their plans to CTF's programming—since it was an important part of her own path to becoming a creative professional. “I went to pre-college at Rhode Island School of Design when I was in high school and it had the biggest impact on my career," she recalls. "I learned everything there. So one of my five-year goals was adding pre-college programming and we are going to do that next year.”

While last year CTF sent two students to camps, next year they will be able to send 34 students. To Pemberton, the massive growth seems to have been timed with the rise in awareness and accountability for racial justice in the U.S. and around the world. As he told House Beautiful, “They’re waking up to the social injustice that we see on a daily basis in our country, and see our organization is providing them with some small way to affect change…the organization looks very different now than what we imagined and it’s really exciting to see it grow every day.”

Photo credit: Crafting the Future
Photo credit: Crafting the Future

With organizational growth can also come added pressure to maintain the initial wave of success – something for which Pemberton and Evelyn have planned. To maintain their level of fundraising and, therefore, ability to create opportunities for students, CTF is encouraging people to form fundraising groups. The idea behind this is that the groups will help build a consistent and firm foundation of people around the country who are committed to organizing semi-annual fundraising events, something that for some may be easier rather than contributing a monthly donation.

But perhaps their main plan of action to keep people’s attention is to consistently remind their audience of why they’re doing this in the first place: CTF exists to encourage diversity in the arts and to provide opportunities for students who may otherwise not have these experiences, but it is also a reminder that this is not the only part of our world that needs changing. The arts encompass a very broad spectrum, but radical change is needed on even more foundational levels. As Pemberton says, “This change isn’t going to happen overnight, but hopefully I believe that a lot of people, at least in my immediate sphere, are making significant and lasting changes in the way they live their lives.”

To learn more about Crafting the Future and make a donation, visit the organization's website here.

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