Sasha Phyars-Burgess: Untitled and Yet to Be Determined, 41.8949° N, 87.7654° W (Austin)
Omar looking at screen, Sankofa, Austin, Chicago, 2019

Join READI Chicago and Heartland Alliance at Filter Photo on May 3 from 6-9 p.m. for the culminating exhibition of Sasha Phyars-Burgess, the 2018/2019 Diane Dammeyer Fellowship recipient.

The exhibition will open with a non-narrative documentary of the making of a film by READI Chicago participants, followed by a panel discussion featuring Austin community activist Zerlina Smith and Heartland Housing Chief Operating Officer Rob Breymaier, moderated by Sasha. The event will conclude with a performance by DJ “Looney Givenchy,” also a READI Chicago participant.

Throughout her fellowship, Sasha has spent time working with a group of participants from the Austin/West Garfield Park READI Chicago community to write, act in, shoot, and partially produce a short narrative film based on their own experiences. That film will debut in the coming months, so stay connected for more information.

“I realized there was a strength in them being able to tell their own stories through fictionalization loosely based on themselves,” Sasha said. “It was a way for them to talk about things that they deal with on a day-to-day basis.”

Sasha stressed that her role in the film is simply that of facilitator—the credit and responsibility lie fully with the participants. At the beginning of the project, the participants quickly fell into and owned their various roles—director, actor, writer, etc.—with Sasha providing increasingly limited technical support as they became more adept with the film equipment.

“I hope people take away the fact that this is a group of intelligent, creative, curious, hard-working people who are interested in making things for themselves and something that speaks on their community and their life,” Sasha said. “These are people who want the opportunity to create things and it’s a shame that they live in communities that are so disinvested that they can only do so through a program like READI Chicago. It’s a crime to let so much talent go to waste.”

The Diane Dammeyer Fellowship in Photographic Arts and Social Issues creates a space for a socially engaged artist to produce a compelling and dynamic body of work highlighting human rights and social issues. Sasha describes her photography practice as inclusive and focused on using photography education as community empowerment, while this exhibition explores the impact of disinvestment through redlining on the Austin community.