Jessica Lynne

Making art criticism an accessible dialogue – a tool through which we question, celebrate, and talk back to the global world of contemporary art.
Photo Credit: John Edmonds

Jessica Lynne is an art critic, writer, and co-founder and editor of ARTS.BLACK, a journal of art criticism from Black perspectives. She is a board member of Black Art Futures Fund and The Organization of Women Writers of Africa.

As part of our 2018 AFROPUNK weekend experience, we partnered with Jessica to curate a tour of independent art galleries in Brooklyn and lead a discussion on Black art and the importance of independant, contemporary art spaces in our community.

The following post is part of a Q&A series with the artists, chefs, curators, and business owners we partnered with to celebrate the cultural force that is Brooklyn.
Left: Jessica Lynne and Taylor Renee at ArtPrize 2015 Photo credit: Ash Arder
Tell us something about you and /or ARTS.BLACK we wouldn't know from reading your bio.
People might not know that I'm from the South; born and raised in coastal Virginia. I've lived in New York since I was 17 when I moved here for school, so this city is especially important to me but my soul is deeply Southern.
When and how did you first discover your passion for art?
I've always loved old family photos...I count these moments as some of my first interactions with art.
I've always loved old family photos. I was the kid who poured over grandma's photo bin and asked questions about all of the images of the stylish Black people on the wall's of my family members' homes. In many ways, I count these moments as some of my first interactions with art. However, if we are speaking in more institutional terms, it wasn't until I was in college when I really developed a way of thinking about museums and other types of art organizations and felt an urge to try and make sense of it all through writing.
What do you love most about living and working in Brooklyn? As Brooklyn has changed in recent years, how has that impacted your industry?
When I first moved to Brooklyn, I lived in Flatbush and often found myself in conversation with older Black women, many of whom moved to Brooklyn from various countries in the Caribbean, about finding home in a new city. I spent many a night enraptured in conversation with my dear friend, poet, and Bed-Stuy resident, Najee Omar, about Brooklyn's rich artistic legacy and the ways in which we might contribute to that. I got my professional starts at organizations like The Brooklyn Bodega and at 651 ARTS. Brooklyn has sharpened me, always invited challenge and introspection. It really is a city unlike any other—they don't call it the planet of Brooklyn for nothing! And I think as we've watched the borough change under waves of development and displacement, certain artists and certain institutions have suffered as a result. It's disheartening, but I also want to acknowledge that I see real commitments on the part of many different people and organizations to ensure that Brooklyn's radical history is not buried and that it remains possible to build a life here. Cultural work can and should live alongside other modes of political work/resistance.
"Cultural work can and should live alongside other modes of political work/resistance."
Jessica Lynne, Taylor Renee Aldridge, Jessica Bell Brown, and Kimberly Drew for Elle Photo credit: Martin Mulder
Why did you decide to start your own thing? What has been the most rewarding part?
ARTS.BLACK started in 2014 after I met my brilliant friend Taylor Renee Aldridge We met through a mutual friend (Hi Victoria!) and immediately began to swap stories about working in the arts and visioning together. In our discussions, we realized that for all of the art world conversations about equity, we weren't really seeing critics implicated in those dialogues. At the same time, we were in conversation with so many young, brilliant, Black writers and we wanted to figure out how to make space for the voices of our friends. ARTS.BLACK was born from this impulse and urge. In the fours years of operation, I've been most excited about the opportunities Taylor and I have had to meet and collaborate with so many people from so many different (art) communities. That part never gets old. I've met many of my dearest friends through this work.
What are you most looking forward to sharing with our group during the AFROPUNK weekend experience?
I'm really looking forward to being in dialogue with everyone! I think collective experiences around and about art are generative and I'm less interested in offering "expertise" and more interested in the questions that we'll all get to ask while spending time in these three galleries!

Learn more about Jessica on her website and connect on Instagram and Twitter.

More in this series
Brooklyn Highlights: a Q&A series with the amazing artists, writers, chefs, designers, and business owners we've partnered with to celebrate the cultural force that is Brooklyn.