By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]
An area artist, Lindsey Brittain Collins, has dedicated much of her career to examining topics of economic and social issues through art and is now being honored as an “Emerging Leader,” by Arena Stage at their annual gala on May 21.
Brittain Collins will receive the “Emerging Leader Award” at the Mead Center for American Theater, 1101 Sixth Street, S.W. Brittain Collins will be awarded alongside National Public Radio’s Nina Totenberg, who will be presented the “Beth Newburger Schwartz Award,” and legendary actress Katherine Turner will headline the event and host an intimate reception the evening before.
“I’m glad I’m being recognized for the work that I’m doing and I’m super excited that the focus is on the arts. I think at a time where more and more arts are being pulled from schools and programs are losing funding, it’s important to encourage community engagement and encourage exposure to the arts,” Brittain Collins told the AFRO in an exclusive interview. “Arena Stage does a fantastic job doing that, and it’s exciting that all the proceeds from the gala will go back to their community engagement program.”
Brittain Collins looks to the community for inspiration for her work.
I’m a visual artist, primarily a painter, but I also work in sculpture, installation and collage, but generally categorize my work as paintings. And my work is really the intersection- economics and race- are the topics I focus on the most,” she said. “So my background actually academically is in business and in economics, and sociology, so I leverage my academic background in that, to examine economic and social issues through painting. And a big focus in my work since moving back to the D.C. area has been gentrification.”
The D.M.V. native was shocked about the major gentrification in the area.
“I’m originally from this area and then left when I was younger, came back, and just seeing how much things have changed since I was here many years ago to now really sparked an interest and a focus on telling the narratives on the people and the communities that have been displaced as the city has evolved and become more gentrified,” she told the AFRO.
One of the areas Brittain Collins chose to examine was Georgetown, now known as a traditionally, White affluent neighborhood.
“My latest series, it’s called “No Name in the Street,” inspired by James Baldwin’s work, unearthed the lost Black history of Georgetown. Georgetown used to be a predominantly Black neighborhood and nobody knows that. Georgetown does nothing to feature the Black history that was there,” she said. “They’ve done a pretty good job in isolating themselves from the city. They wouldn’t let the metro come there because they wanted to keep certain populations out, and Georgetown has a certain reputation about the type of crowd that is there, and that does not include Blacks and Black history.”
It took some exploring in Georgetown for Brittain Collins to learn more about Georgetown’s Black history.
“I was kind of walking around Georgetown, and I discovered behind some new condo buildings, a slave graveyard and the graveyard is broken into two parts. So there’s like a beautiful part of the graveyard, it’s well kept, that’s where all the White folks are buried, and a part that’s rundown, that the people that live in the condo kind of use as a dog park- but that’s where slaves were buried. And turns out, that area was actually a stop on the Underground Railroad, which is fantastic, but nobody knows about it.”
Unearthing such stories is why Brittain Collins’ work has been so well received and is now being recognized by Arena Stage.
“You’re going into Dean and Deluca or you’re going into this bank, not realizing the rich history that was there. So through my work I try to tell those stories and share that history. And I think people who are excited to learn new things and understand more about the history of the city that they live in- or the capital of our country,” Brittain Collins told the AFRO.
“That’s why this work is important and that’s why I’m so passionate about it. The arts are important because they have the capacity to reach a broader audience.”
The artist, who also serves on the Art & Architectural Review Board for the state of Virginia, said she would continue to be stimulated by the area.
“Being in the space is really inspiring and fuels the research, so while I’m here, I’m going to continue to push that work forward,” she said.
Yet once the artist and scholar moves to New York City to begin her MFA program at Columbia University this fall, she hopes to be inspired by factors in her new community and continue creating.
“I have to make work… It’s something I have to do, and it’s the only way I know how to communicate and express myself.”
For more information on the gala visit arenastage.org/gala. To purchase an individual ticket or table, contact Maria Corso at 202-600-4025 or email [email protected] for corporate sponsorship packages contact Char Manlove-Laws at 202-600-4030 or email [email protected].