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Aïssatou Sidimé-BlantonAïssatou Sidimé-Blanton is past curator and a board member of the San Antonio Ethnic Arts Society, a more than 35-year old arts organization that coordinates public art exhibits and raises funds to underwrite artistic training for youth in San Antonio, Texas. Aïssatou and her husband Stewart Blanton are the inspiration and chief underwriters of the Abaraka Awards, grants that SAEAS provides to African American women artist and arts professionals. She was a Gemini Ink board director from 2010-2014.

As we’re celebrating Black History Month from a literary perspective, Gemini Ink and I thought we’d look at the intersections between the visual and literary in some things I love—painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography—visual arts.

In consultation with some great artist friends, I’m offering this starter list of some of my favorites, in alphabetical order:

  1. Faith Ringgold, New Jersey artist, whose story quilts have spawned at least one celebrated book, Tar Beach, and whose initial support helped launch a children’s museum, Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling.

    Faith Ringgold "9/11 Peace Story Quilt"

    Faith Ringgold “9/11 Peace Story Quilt”

  2. Adrian Piper, a philosophy professor, uses drawings, text, video and performance to challenge audiences to examine themselves and their relationship to the world around them. She was awarded the Golden Lion for best artist of the 2015 Venice Biennale.
  3. Kadir Nelson, children’s book illustrator and author, who’s won multiple Coretta Scott King, Caldecott, and other children’s book awards, for works, such as We are the Ship, Heart and Soul, Mighty Casey and A Day at the Beach.
  4. Glenn Ligon broke onto the art scene with paintings loaded with text from one of my favorite authors, Zora Neale Hurston, as well as Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein, James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison. He also re-interprets Afrocentric coloring books.
  5. Annette Lawrence, a Fort Worth artist who uses numbers, words, and excerpts of writings to create geometric patterns, volume, and space that are both intimately personal and universal.

    Annette Lawrence

    Annette Lawrence, “Installation at UNT on the Square”

  6. Robert Hodge, Houston-based artist who uses Renaissance imagery, Hip Hop and other contemporary artistic references that float through the landscapes of many paintings.
  7. Maren Hassinger, Director of the Rinehart School of Sculpture at Maryland Institute College of Art, uses newspaper in sculptures, installations, and dance costumes that are both a commentary on the news of the day as well as an homage to paper itself.
  8. Nathaniel Donnett (Houston) uses what he calls a Dark Imaginarence, a pan-diasporic artistic approach that reflects the common socio-political and creative practices of Black people worldwide, to examine self and society.
  9. Hank Willis Thomas uses advertising techniques to question socio-economic practices, identity, history and popular culture. In 2015, Thomas cofounded For Freedoms, an artist-run super Pac.
  10. Christopher Blay, a Fort Worth photographer and curator of the Art Corridor Gallery at Tarrant County College Southeast, whose videos employ an alter ego, Frank Artsmarter, to provide biting, visual commentary on the art world.
  11. Michael Ray Charles, University of Houston professor and a former college basketball player in my hometown Lake Charles, LA., came to fame nationwide for crafting the artwork in Spike Lee’s film Bamboozled that draws on historical advertising signage motifs and American minstrel shows/blackface to challenge racial stereotypes.
  12. Ann “Sole Sister” Johnson, Prairie View A&M professor and Houston resident, who gained fame for painting portraits with her feet, refers to herself as an experimental printmaker. She favors leaves, feathers, plastic eyeglass lenses, mirrors—anything but paper. Ann’s Roux Girls collective is shaking up printmaking in Houston with its annual exhibitions.
  13. Vicki Meek, the champion arts advocate, and administrator who built the South Dallas Cultural center into its current artistic glory, often incorporates quotes from historical figures, poets, and herself into artwork that challenge power structures as it relates to equal justice, misogyny, class, and aging.
  14. Deborah Roberts, the Austin painter and Presidential “Point of Light” honoree, attracted attention for her oil paintings of social issues facing African Americans and her laser-sharp political commentary continues in her current monoprints and acrylic works that focus on names and the value we place on names depending on the ethnicity we assign each name.



conference visiting writers 3

2018 Gemini Ink Writers Conference:
Writing the New Century

Gemini Ink, San Antonio’s independent literary arts center, seeks panel proposals for our 2018 Writers Conference on the theme “Writing the New Century,” July 20-22nd at the El Tropicano Hotel on San Antonio’s historic Riverwalk. The event will comprise a full schedule of workshops, readings, panel presentations, networking lunches, and a small press book fair. Featured writers include nationally acclaimed authors: Martín Espada, Norma Cantú, Vijay Seshadri, Veronica Golos, Debra Monroe, and Anel Flores.

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented art. In these tumultuous times of alternate facts and drama-numbing news cycles, authentic and groundbreaking literary voices seem more pivotal than ever. The Gemini Ink 2018 Writers Conference offers an inclusive, dynamic space to dialog and exchange ideas on our digitally-evolving, aesthetically vigorous, and politically explosive new century. We welcome a range of panel topics on the conference theme, from exploring cutting edge genres and new aesthetic moments to considering how the literary arts respond to and shape the personal, social and political questions of our “new” century.

Each panel will last 1 hour and ideally consist of 2-5 panelists offering a range of perspectives on the theme or topic addressed. 

In order to submit your panel proposal, provide the following information in a PDF or Word file that you can upload by following the prompts given below. Upload all panel proposals to our Submittable system by 11:59pm PST, Friday, April 20:

  • Presentation title:
  • Submitted by:
  • List of panelists names:
  • Emails for each of the panelists:
  • A brief description (75-100 words) of your panel.
  • 50-75 word bio of each presenter.
  • *Technical needs
  • Length of presentation:
  • Availability during the following dates:                Sat-Sun, July 21–22 (9-5pm)           

*Note on Technical support:  We have limited space for presentations requiring a laptop/projector and screen set-up. Only request this if it is absolutely essential for your panel. Tabletop mics will be available in the rooms as needed).

Gemini Ink will review and accept panels on a first come, first reviewed basis.

Accepted Panelists will receive:

  • a discounted conference attendance rate ($50 early bird rate through June 15/ $75 after).
  • the option to attend a writing workshop with one of the featured writers for an additional $50.
  • generously reduced hotel rates for presenters and attendees at a nightly rate of $112 at

El Tropicano Riverwalk Hotel, which includes a free buffet breakfast. This special conference rate is available through July 9, 2018.

  • Conference registration also includes a Saturday lunch, evening readings and parties as well as networking opportunities with writers of regional and national distinction.

For questions, please contact Alexandra van de Kamp, Creative Writing Program Director

at: or at (210) 734-9673.

Submit at Submittable

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Dear Friends of Gemini Ink

A huge thank you from everyone at Gemini Ink for your gift to us during Big Give SA 2016.

Aside from the unfortunate technical difficulties, Big Give SA for us was a wonderful day of readings and sharing. We are so thankful that you were there for us when we needed you. (more…)

Members of Gemini Ink—Enjoy our Monthly Billiards Happy Hour at Bombay Bicycle.