Elizabeth Méndez Berry leads the Nathan Cummings Foundation’s investments in the arts and media. Prior to joining Nathan Cummings, she worked at the Ford Foundation, focusing on its journalism portfolio, and then at the Surdna Foundation, where she led the Artists Engaging in Social Change portfolio. Before working in philanthropy, Elizabeth was an award-winning journalist and cultural critic whose work appeared in Vibe, the Village Voice and the Washington Post; her work was twice featured in Da Capo’s Best Music Writing anthology. In Jay-Z’s book “Decoded,” he cites one of her essays as inspiring a line on the song “P.S.A.” from The Black Album. The country’s first ever city council hearing on street harassment was held in New York City after Queens council member Julissa Ferreras read Elizabeth’s Spanish-language op-ed in El Diario on the topic. Her work has been included on syllabi at colleges around the country, and she has lectured at Princeton, Duke University, Texas A&M, Jackson State and Hunter College. She has been an adjunct professor of music journalism at New York University and is a recipient of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellowship in Cultural Journalism from the New Journalism Foundation in Cartagena. Raised in Canada with roots in Colombia, Méndez Berry serves on the board of A Long Walk Home, a Chicago-based arts organization working with teenage girls of color to end violence against girls and women, as well as Hedgebrook, which supports women writers. Elizabeth holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto and a master’s in journalism from Columbia University.
Brendan Wattenberg is the managing editor of Aperture magazine. Formerly the director of exhibitions at The Walther Collection, he has contributed essays and interviews to Another Africa, Contemporary And, Objektiv, and Aperture’s PhotoBook Review, and is the editor of the photobooks François-Xavier Gbré: The Past is a Foreign Country and Samuel Fosso: The Spectacle of the Body. Wattenberg holds a BA in English from Haverford College and an MA in Africana Studies from New York University. He has served on the jury for the Addis Foto Fest in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2016), the Changjiang International Photography and Video Art Biennale in Chongqing, China (2017), and Photo Is:rael, Tel Aviv (2017).Brendan Wattenberg is the managing editor of Aperture magazine. Formerly the director of exhibitions at The Walther Collection, he has contributed essays and interviews to Another Africa, Contemporary And, Objektiv, and Aperture’s PhotoBook Review, and is the editor of the photobooks François-Xavier Gbré: The Past is a Foreign Country and Samuel Fosso: The Spectacle of the Body. Wattenberg holds a BA in English from Haverford College and an MA in Africana Studies from New York University. He has served on the jury for the Addis Foto Fest in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2016), the Changjiang International Photography and Video Art Biennale in Chongqing, China (2017), and Photo Is:rael, Tel Aviv (2017).
Shani Jamila is a visual artist, cultural organizer and a Managing Director at the Urban Justice Center. Her travels to nearly fifty countries deeply inform her photography, collage and performance practice. She has exhibited, lectured and performed at institutions including Harvard University, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Smack Mellon Gallery, SCOPE Art Fair, Corridor Gallery, City College of New York, New Museum, Phillips Collection, NYU, Princeton and the Brooklyn Museum. Named “One of the 35 Most Remarkable Women in the World” by ESSENCE Magazine, her image and quote are featured in “A Choice to Change the World,” a permanent exhibition at her alma mater Spelman College.
Photo credit: Larry Lowe
Larry Ossei-Mensah is a Ghanaian-American independent curator and cultural critic who has documented contemporary art happenings for various publications including NeueJournal, Uptown and Whitewall Magazine. His writings have profiled some of the most dynamic visual artists working today—Derrick Adams, Mickalene Thomas, Kehinde Wiley, Lorna Simpson and street artist JR. As a curator, Ossei-Mensah uses contemporary art and culture as a vehicle to redefine how we see ourselves and the world around us. He has organized exhibitions at commercial and nonprofit galleries throughout New York City featuring a roster of critically acclaimed artists including Firelei Baez, ruby amanze, Hugo McCloud, Brendan Fernandes, and Carlos Aires, Genevieve Gaignard to name a few.
Ossei-Mensah is also the Co-Founder of ARTNOIR, a global collective of culturalists who design multimodal experiences aimed to engage this generation’s dynamic and diverse creative class. ARTNOIR serves as a tangible extension of Ossei-Mensah’s curatorial vision of “bridging gaps." ARTNOIR has organized a number of programs with artists, authors and organizations such as Wangechi Mutu, Yaa Gyasi, Hank Willis Thomas, Knopf, Random House, NY Times, Harvard, NYU, Tumblr, Black Lives Matter to name a few.
Ossei-Mensah recently served as 2017 Critic-in Residence at ART OMI in addition to serving as Co-Chair on Russell Simmons’ RUSH Artist Advisory Board and MoMA Friends's of Education Board. This Fall Ossei-Mensah will serves as a juror for ArtPrize 2017 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and the Orisha Prize 2017 in Paris, France.
Photo credit: Andrew Boyle
Advocate, Attorney, Scholar
Robyn C. Spencer
Exhibition Curator: Shani Jamila
Dir of HRP at UJC, Artist, Activist
Artist, activist and cultural organizer
UJC Safe Re-Entry Advocate
Founder, Just Leadership USA
Exhibition Curator: Marisa Morán Jahn
Artist, Activist, UJC Designer
Actress; UJC Social Worker
Opening Remarks: Doug Lasdon
UJC Founder & Exec. Dir
As one of the nation’s leading legal service providers to over 19,000 of New York City’s most vulnerable residents each year, the Urban Justice Center (UJC) believes that art plays a critical role in re-sensitizing us to overlooked or complex issues — as well as moving us to act. By curating and commissioning original works by diverse artists, UJC invites new ways to reflect upon its work, forge new connections, foster innovation, and to move the public to take action on issues critical to its mission.