VSCO. This word could mean many things to you. It may represent the app you use to edit photos, or perhaps to share the ones that don’t make it on Instagram. Alternatively, it might remind you of the notorious ‘VSCO girl’ which pervaded the Internet last year. But beyond this surface, the company has constructed a variety of initiatives to promote amateur artists and their work. Beginning with their two-year Artist Initiative in 2014, which funded and promoted over thirty artists, and the Originals project, with a variety of programs to engage amateur creators, the platform has continuously encouraged individuals to develop and share their work. In 2018, the company launched Voices, a program aimed to support “creators who empower marginalized communities (in the US) through art.” Through significant funding and a six-month mentorship, VSCO Voices, with the help of Access Ventures, has supported exceptional artists in sharing untold stories through multimedia projects. I hope to highlight their contributions to the empowerment of marginalized communities.


Alexandra Cuerdo (2019 Grantee)

Alexandra Cuerdo is a Filipino-American writer and director based in New York and LA. Through this grant program, she brought to life her project, Dancing On My Own, a short documentary about Bubble T, the largest queer Asian dance party in New York. The artist incorporates her own coming out experience within this project, calling the film a “hybrid love letter to my mother, my Asian identity, and to the queer community that has made me feel at home.” For her, film has the ability to document the history of “everyday heroes” who are changing the world for the better.



Deun Ivory (2018 Grantee)

Deun Ivory is a photographer based in Chicago who has dedicated herself to empowering and celebrating women of colour. In her Voices Initiative project, the body: a home for love, Ivory explores the narrative of thirteen black women who have experienced sexual abuse in their pasts. As a victim of sexual abuse herself, the artist recognizes the importance of sharing stories in order to understand that we are not alone. She believes that in “unveiling of our narratives, we liberate other people” and ourselves. Her photographs aim to capture the healing processes of her subjects, particularly in overcoming self-blame and guilt. The project has even inspired the artist’s creation of a community-based organization to aid black women in healing from sexual trauma, specifically in healing through joy. Ivory acknowledges that “art is a powerful weapon we use to either empower, document, inspire or challenge the world,” all of which is accomplished by her own work.



Dave Kasnic (2019 Grantee)

Dave Kasnic is a Chicago-based photographer whose work surrounds race, community, and religion, including his Voices-funded project, Alpha & Omega Ministries. This project documents the life and congregation of Pastor Martha Freeman, a positive figure in her often-marginalized community of Garden Homes, Milwaukee. He claims that while he is not an explicit part of this community, “there is a lot to be learned when you’re willing to be a stranger.” Kasnic’s raw and intimate view into the lives of those in Garden Homes gives his audience an emotional connection to his subjects and allows us to gain an appreciation for community strength.



Ash Adams (2018 Grantee)

Ash Adams is a photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska. Her VSCO Voices project, To Become a Person, examines the coming of age in Indigenous rural Alaskan communities. She specifically focused on those communities that are severely affected by climate change and the teenagers living in them. The artist sees a relationship between teenagers and the environment, with the personal lives of teens drastically shifting alongside the environment around them. Adams recognizes the significance of rich cultural traditions and connections to the land to young Indigenous lives, which are in constant conflict with modern impositions of climate change, social media, and lingering trauma from colonization. In capturing the challenges that these adolescents overcome, the artist hopes to illustrate their resilience in adapting to changes within their environments: physical, cultural and personal.



Lauren Vied Allen (2019 Grantee)

Lauren Vied Allen is a Durham, North Carolina-based photographer and visual creative, focusing on culinary traditions and their cultural impact on people. GRITO, her Voices-funded photography and video project, showcases the ballet folkórico dance style performed by immigrant and first-generation Mexican American youth in her home state. She aims to preserve her own Mexican heritage through this project, as well as empower and educate local communities. She especially hopes to showcase the talents and cultural richness that Mexican individuals bring to North Carolina, allowing others to gain a more positive view of the community in light of adverse media portrayals and systemic racism. Allen believes that art can create a concept which others relate to and care about, building a potential for change.

Cucaracha and Viejitos © Lauren V. Allen


With the support of VSCO Voices, these artists, among others, have brought the voices of marginalized communities to light through art. Through their work, we are given the opportunity to connect to those who have experiences similar to our own, and learn from lives that appear different. Artists hold the power to bring to light personal stories and change public perception on social issues through a medium that transcends the barriers of language, culture, and educational status. This program highlights the strength in humanity and invites us to celebrate these diverse communities and the artists that empower them. So check out the talented creatives who have earned a spot in this program, both through their Voices projects as well as their work in other subjects. The support of VSCO and their audience continues to allow individual stories to be heard and offer up-and-coming artists recognition for their contributions to neglected narratives. May this program continue to assist artists to inspire change through creativity.


HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: http://deunivory.co/thedesignstudio

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