Meet the 2023-2024 Creative Wildfire Artists
In May 2023, Creative Wildfire launched a national open call seeking artists to collaborate with 7 frontline climate and economic justice organizations. We received nearly 400 applications. In partnership with the organizations, we selected the following 7 artists for the 2023-2024 cohort. During a 10-month program, these artists will collaboratively create art with the frontline groups and receive political education, mentorship, funding, and support. Stay tuned to see the artwork in April 2024.
Adamu Chan is a filmmaker, writer, and community organizer from the Bay Area who was incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison during one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the country. He produced numerous short films while incarcerated, using his vantage point and experience as an incarcerated person as a lens to focus the viewer’s gaze on issues related to social justice.
In 2021, he was a recipient of the Docs in Action Film Fund through Working Films, and was tapped to produce and direct his film What These Walls Won’t Hold, which won Best Documentary Mid-Length at the 2023 San Francisco international Film Festival. In 2022, Adamu directed a documentary short for the doc-series Bridge Builders, partnering with ITVS/Independent Lens, about a community member working at the intersections of immigration, incarceration, and gender justice. He is also a 2022 Stanford University Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity Mellon Arts Fellow and a 2023 Rockwood Institute Documentary Leaders Fellow. Adamu draws inspiration and energy from the voices of those directly impacted and seeks to empower them to reshape the narratives that have been created about them through film.
Organizational partner: Richmond Our Power Coalition is a coalition of local community organizations in Richmond, CA. They are fighting to keep the community in their homes, make sure there is clean healthy air, water, food, transportation, and different ways to have meaningful work and co-governance that’s inclusive of the most marginalized of our communities.
Ashanti Fortson is an award-winning cartoonist, illustrator, textile artist, editor, and educator with a deep interest in difficult emotions, quiet moments, and the rifts and connections between human beings. Their work explores transience and reflection through a tenderhearted lens, and their love for color is a thread that runs through everything they make. A good comic essay will always brighten their day. Ashanti lives in Baltimore with their spouse, their cat Miss Cheese, and at least three pet rats at all times. They’re the spider-saving sort.
Ashanti’s short comic Leaf Lace won the 2021 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Comic, and was nominated in the categories of Outstanding Artist and Outstanding Online Comic. Ashanti also won a Prism Award as part of the Heartwood: Non-binary Tales of Sylvan Fantasy anthology. Their work has been featured in Mañana: Latinx Comics From the 25th Century (Power & Magic Press), Wonderful Women of History (DC Comics), Bitch Magazine, NPR, and many other publications. Ashanti can usually be found working on a variety of projects–– including their solo graphic novel, Cress & Petra (HarperCollins, 2025).
Organizational partner: Food for the Spirit is an organization in New York State whose mission is to use the arts and creative facilitation to support racial healing, ecological justice, and equitable food systems. They encourage dialogue around racism in the food system; facilitating the creation of place-based networks, coalitions, and collaborative projects; and supporting storytelling to shift public narrative and understanding.
kai lumumba barrow
kai barrow (b. 1959, Chicago) is a visual and performance artist based in New Orleans. Barrow is interested in the praxis of radical imagination. Together with her four muses: Absurdity, Sarcasm, Myth and Merriment, she experiments with abolition as an artistic vernacular. Her sprawling paintings, environmental installations, found object assemblages, and social practice performances are created in traditional and non-traditional spaces to transgress ideological, geographic, and carceral borders. The work performs queer, Black feminist theory as an aesthetic genre.
Barrow is a member of the Antenna Collective and a founding member of Gallery of the Streets, a national network of artists, activists, and scholars who work at the nexus of art, political education, social change and community engagement. She has received residencies, fellowships, and awards from Prospect New Orleans, Project Row Houses; the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center; the Joan Mitchell Center; A Studio in the Woods; Alternate Roots; the Kindle Project, and The Weavers Project.
A social-movement organizer for over forty years, barrow has worked with numerous grassroots organizations including SLAM!, FIERCE!, Critical Resistance, UBUNTU, and Southerners on New Ground. She is currently the Program Director with The Weavers Project, which provides fellowships and residencies for Black Feminist artists.
Organizational partner: Cooperation New Orleans develops worker-owned cooperatives and the structures to support them, with a focus on poor, working class Black, Indigenous, and immigrant communities. They strengthen the cooperative infrastructure/ecosystem in New Orleans by offering political education, practicing language justice, sharing skills and resources, and developing a community loan fund.
Lily Xie (she/her) is a Chinese-American artist and educator whose socially-engaged work explores desire, memory, and self-actualization for communities. In collaboration with local residents and grassroots organizers, she facilitates creative projects with a focus on public space, housing, and racial justice. The work they create together often takes the form of animation, print media, and public art.
Lily is currently an Artist-in-Residence for the City of Boston. Previously, she was a member of the inaugural cohort of Radical Imagination for Racial Justice, a program from Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the City of Boston. For her work in collaboration with artists and community members, Lily has been awarded grants from New England Foundation for the Arts, The Boston Foundation, the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture Transformative Public Art, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Transmedia Storytelling Initiative. Lily’s work has been displayed at the Boston Center for the Arts, Pao Arts Center, Weisner Gallery, and Unbound Visual Arts.
Organizational partner: Boston Ujima Project Is a democratic, member-run organization building cooperative economic infrastructure in Boston, with a mission to return wealth to working-class communities of color.
Lizzie Suarez is an arts and cultural worker from Miami using the practice of illustration to paint and meditate on liberation, kinship, and the dignity inherent in all people. Since 2019, Lizzie has used art as a tool for community organizing and popular education. As a member of queer artist collective Fempower, she created illustrations and design for a digital fundraising campaign which raised thousands for Black Mamas Day Bail Out and led workshops on the relationship between art and liberation. In 2021, she collaborated with abolitionist organizer and educator Mariame Kaba for the release of 16 Axioms of Abolitionist Organizing, a zine based on Kaba’s NYT best-seller “We Do This Til We Free Us”. Since 2022, Lizzie has collaborated with Food Culture Collective on creative material to support their storytelling work on food sovereignty, and Union of Southern Service Workers to create posters that illustrate the mission and demands for justice and dignity on the job. Lizzie is currently the Communications Manager at the Miami Workers Center, working to amplify the stories of working-class women of color who are organizing for power as tenants, workers, mothers, and immigrants.
Organizational partner: The Farmworker Association of Florida is a grassroots, community-based, farmworker membership organization that builds power among farmworker and rural low-income communities, to respond to and gain control over the social, political, economic, workplace, health, and environmental justice issues that impact their lives.
Roldy Aguero Ablao
Roldy Aguero Ablao is a queer child of Guahan (Guam), with ancestors from the Mariana Islands, Philippines and Korea. They are an interdisciplinary artist and experimenter, using photography, sculpture, fashion and performance as ways of understanding and creating culture, place and belonging. They love cats, thrift shopping and social justice.
Organizational partner: Micronesia Climate Justice Alliance is a grassroots network of individuals and organizations dedicated to creating community-centered solutions to climate change. They focus on a wide spectrum of issues such as transitioning to locally-produced renewable energy sources, promoting food sovereignty, tackling the consumption and waste crisis, and advocating for an equitable, just society throughout Micronesia.
Trinidad is the poet and illustrator of Arrive In My Hands, an Ignatz nominated collection of erotic lesbian poetry-comics published by Black Josei Press in 2022. Trinidad graduated from San Francisco State University’s Poetry program and went on to study poetry and creative writing at the Jack Kerouac School for Disembodied Poetics in Colorado. She earned her MFA in Comics from California College of the Arts.
Trinidad’s poetry-comics have been featured in literary journals like Shenandoah and The Brooklyn Review. Her funnies are regularly featured in The New Yorker. Her journalism comics have been published in The Nib, NPR, and The Washington Post. Her YA graphic novel Of Sea And Venom will be published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (Books For Young Readers). Tryst is forthcoming from Gantala Press in the Philippines. New comics essays, mini comics, and interviews are forthcoming in collections from Abrams, Fantagraphics, and more.
Trinidad lives with ADHD and major depressive disorder from FASD. She aims to communicate to the public about invisible disorders like her own. She worked for eight years as an aide to adults with developmental disabilities. Her life in the disabled community shapes her perception of the world.
Organizational partner: Crip Survival Network is a disability- and language justice-centered initiative which unites participating organizations to strengthen and uplift each other as we face various natural and unnatural disasters affecting the lives of marginalized, BIPOC and queer/trans/non-binary disabled people in the communities we serve. It is a project of Sins Invalid with key leadership by The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies.