AIGA Eye on Design spoke to Annika Hansteen-Izora about Black Creative Ecosystems, originally a Google Sheets list used to redirect the public donations from the 2020 BLM protests to bail funds and various Black initiatives focusing on the Black women, the Black LGBTQ community, and their various intersections.
After experiencing an overwhelming wave of support for the spreadsheet, Hansteen-Izora tweeted asking if anyone could help turn the home of Creative Ecosystems into something more robust. Partnering with NYC-based studio Athletics, they collaborated over the next 18 months to bring us a “digital garden” and directory of these ecosystems. The design centers on connection, its primary purpose being to connect Black creatives to each other.
While the internet has provided limitless ways to connect us, it also reflects the complex power structures that dominate our offline lives. Hansteen-Izora explains that when “thinking about the architecture of online spaces, and how much Black creative thought has impacted the internet… [the number of] Black online spaces… were very few.” At its inception, the internet was seen as a place to start anew, to rectify the inequalities of our IRL existence, but instead, it sadly grew to reflect those inequalities. Dominated by white men, many of the platforms we use today have been designed to uphold, rather than deconstruct, white supremacy. Hansteen-Izora conceptualized Black Creative Ecosystems as a way to remedy that.
While Pandog (the umbrella group that Cultrface is part of) wouldn’t be eligible for Black Creative Ecosystems’s directory based on its submission criteria, I still class it as an “ecosystem that explores Black art & imagination”. Regardless, I’m glad to see spaces like this for us.