Featured photo: April Parker in downtown Greensboro. (photo by Irving Allen)
On Monday, Sept. 27, Elsewhere Museum announced that their longtime collaborator and former Creative Catalyst Fellow, April Parker, was stepping into a new role as managing director.
“I wanted to be in a decision-making role,” Parker told TCB. “Elsewhere has always been a political home. It’s one of the few historically-white organizations that didn’t immediately shut down when asked to be anti-racist.”
While Parker’s relationship with Elsewhere has spanned more than a decade, much of her artistic work has been most apparent in the last year. Since the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Parker has used art through Elsewhere to highlight Black identity, intersection and power. One of her most captivating series has been the Unveiling Monuments series in which Parker posed on top of a plinth that used to hold the statue of a Confederate soldier in the Greenhill Cemetery. Parker also orchestrated the Mourning Drive, a funerary procession that wound through downtown Greensboro to the burial marker of the five people murdered during the 1979 Greensboro Massacre. Parker was also one of the primary organizers who pushed for the recognition of Juneteenth as a citywide holiday in Greensboro and helped to create a Black artist retreat at Elsewhere in the last year. Her work, in its essence, has always been about storytelling and using art and activism to uplift the afflicted.
“Elsewhere’s vision is ‘with people and things, we build collaborative future,'” Parker says. “There are Black people in the future. I want to see what happens when an organization truly values and centers Blackness, both for reaching its potential, but for modeling for other organizations what is possible.
“I am an architect of Black spaces,” Parker continues. “I always have been and with this leadership position I can explore, orchestrate, and evolve as an artist and utilize the Elsewhere’s institutional power and influence both nationally and internationally, and leverage that to change Greensboro.”
In addition to the Mourning Drive and the Unveiling Monuments series, Parker has worked closely with the Magnolia House, a historic site in Greensboro that is one of the last remaining Green Book sites in the state. For her, preserving Black spaces like Magnolia House is an important part of an artist’s work, especially as the city undergoes rapid change and gentrification.
“We’re seeing rapid changes in downtown,” she says. “As a community organizer, and now art administrator, I have a heightened awareness of gentrification and redevelopment of our city. This is another frontline for me. Working and living and owning property downtown, I am invested in the advancement of the city and our peoples — Black, queer, immigrant.”
Moving forward, Parker says she hopes to continue creating spaces by and for Black artists. In the end, she envisions her role as one that sustains and lends itself to the advancement of BIPOC creatives in the city.
“I want to see more Black art administrators,” she says. “I may be the first Black director, but I will not be the last.”
To learn more about Elsewhere and April Parker’s new role there, visit elsewheremuseum.org. To reach April, send her an email at [email protected]