Sip & Write at Capitol Cider House on Sept. 17


Sip on cider and write! In this fun creative writing workshop, we will “write the city” as we celebrate the sights, sounds, tastes and textures of Washington, D.C. You will learn techniques for writing a city as a character as you explore your own experiences in the nation’s capital. You will walk away with three new pieces of writing and some new writing buddies.

Your ticket also includes one pour of cider! Doors open at 6pm. Limited seating available. Full food and drink menus will also be available for purchase.

Date: Tuesday, September 17, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Location: Capitol Cider House, 3930 Georgia Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC 20011
Cost: $25
Register here.


Interview with Arts Territory Exchange

In this interview for the Arts Territory Exchange blog, I discuss art, climate change and my curatorial process for Black Coffee & Vinyl Presents: Ice Culture. Check it out!

Ice Culture : Interview with Willona Sloan
July 22, 2019


Willona Sloan, curator & managing editor for Black Coffee & Vinyl Presents: Ice Culture. Interview with Gudrun Filipska. 

Firstly, I really enjoyed the ICE CULTURE project and the publication. Have you always had an interest in the polar regions? What instigated the project?

Thank you so much! I have not always had an interest in the polar regions, and my interest in the topic came about only a few years ago. I live in Washington, DC, which does have snow and cold winters, but every year I become extremely upset by cold weather. It wasn’t until I did an artist residency in the Canadian Rockies at the Banff Centre for the Arts that I became remotely interested in the topic. I went in 2013, and then did a second residency there in 2014. That second time, I decided to take a day trip to the Athabasca Glacier, which is part of the Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rockies.

That trip blew my mind, because I had never been interested in glaciers before and I became mildly obsessed with them afterwards. I visited Iceland, and did some traveling around, and again I visited a glacier. After that, I was officially hooked on the idea of doing some sort of art project related to climate change, and specifically how it affects glaciers.

For the past couple of years, I had been sort of trying to figure out how to make the project work as an idea, but when I landed on the theme of “culture,” it started to make sense for me and I got really excited. The project wasn’t about climate change science, but rather people and culture. People are connected to places, and their cultures are informed by these places.

It started as a question: What would happen to the people and places connected to ice if the ice were to melt?

I really wanted to expand the discussion of climate change as a data-driven conversation or a political conversation. It’s also a personal narrative. I felt that offering narratives that are both informative and creative could be a good way to engage people in these serious environmental issues that affect all of us, regardless of where we live.

Ultimately, I plan to tackle three additional themes with the project, Black Coffee & Vinyl Presents. The next one will be the theme of “city.”

Read the full interview here.

Sip & Write at Capitol Cider House


Come drink and write. It’s the right thing to do! Join me for a fun workshop in July!

In this fun creative writing workshop, we will explore the theme of journeys — from transformative travels to personal journeys. You will walk away with three new pieces of writing and some new writing buddies. Writers of all levels and genres are welcome.

Your ticket also includes one pour of cider!

Limited seating. Full food and drink menus will also be available for purchase.

Date: Wed, July 24, 2019, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Register Here
Cost: $25
Location: Capitol Cider House, 3930 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20011

2019 Artist Grant

I am honored to be a recipient of a 2019 Artist Fellowship in the category of Humanities from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

Also for 2019, I have a big new project coming up this year! Black Coffee & Vinyl Presents: Ice Culture is a multimedia project that will feature art, music and literature by artists working and living in Greenland, Norway, Iceland, Canada, United States and more. The project will be released in January. Stay tuned for more details!

March Writing Workshops


Image Credit: Beaumont Newhall Self-Portrait by Beaumont Newhall

The January workshops at the National Portrait Gallery have been rescheduled. Check out the new dates and register at the link.

Strike a Prose: Writing Self-Portraits
Date: Thursday, March 14, 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM or Friday, March 15, 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Location: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 800 G Street, NW, Washington, DC
Cost: Free

In this writing workshop inspired by Eye to I: Self-Portraits from 1900 to Today, we will create writing that reflects on how we see ourselves and how we obscure how others see us. The workshop will incorporate reading, discussion, and creative writing prompts.

Strike a Prose: Finding Footing in a Shifting Landscape
Date: Thursday, March 21, 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM or Friday, March 22, 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Location: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 800 G Street, NW, Washington, DC
Cost: Free

In this creative writing workshop, we will view Eye to I: Self-Portraits from 1900 to Today and develop new writing that explores the complicated ways that we construct our identities in an ever-changing social landscape. The workshop will include reading, discussion, and guided writing prompts that ask tough questions and allow for self-exploration.

Strike a Prose: Close Look at Eye to I
Date: Thursday, March 28, 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM or Friday, March 29, 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Location: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 800 G Street, NW, Washington, DC
Cost: Free

In this writing workshop, we will practice writing about visual art, using a critical perspective. We will view Eye to I: Self-Portraits from 1900 to Today in order to discuss curatorial themes and analyze particular works of art. This workshop is perfect for writers interested in writing about visual art critically or developing their ability to use visual art to inspire their creative writing.

New Exhibit Shows Jewelry Is Power

A New African Art Museum Exhibit Shows How Jewelry Is Power For Senegalese Women

Published in DCist on 10/23/18

Butterfly necklace

Butterfly necklace pendant on view in “Good as Gold” (Photo courtesy of the National Museum of African Art)

For the 20th century Senegalese women who wore gold jewelry from Wolof and Tukulor goldsmiths, it wasn’t just about donning beautiful works of art. The pieces also expressed culture, political affiliation, and economic status.

Good as Gold: Fashioning Senegalese Women, the new exhibition opening Wednesday at the National Museum of African Art, is the first major exhibition of Senegalese gold jewelry that focuses on the history of Senegal’s gold, and the complex ways that Senegalese women have used jewelry and fashion to present themselves.

“While most of the objects in the exhibition were made by men, the designs, styles, and names of such works are by women,” said guest curator Amanda Maples in a statement. “Good as Gold reveals the ways in which Senegalese women have historically used jewelry as a means of fashioning a cosmopolitan identity of power and prestige.”

Read the full article.

Art Review: Nordic Art Exhibition

New Phillips Collection Exhibit Proves Nordic Art Isn’t Just Snowy Landscapes

In the video installation Arctic Hysteria, now on view at the Phillips Collection, Pia Arke, a Danish artist from Greenland, crawls naked across the floor, sniffing and pawing at the black-and-white photograph underneath her. She slithers across mountains and icebergs, the landscape of her Greenlandic hometown, Nuugaarsuk, with her arms outstretched.

She begins to tear the photograph beneath her; first with curiosity, then with fervent excitement. The strips curl onto themselves until they resemble long blocks of ice piled up around her.

“The title of the work refers to Greenland’s colonialist past and the phenomenon of pibloktoq, later known as ‘arctic hysteria,’ the supposedly irrational behavior by Inhuit (Greenlandic Inuit) women first reported by the American explorer Robert E. Peary in 1892,” exhibition wall text for Arctic Hysteria states. “It was compared to Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer’s diagnosis of female hysteria and most commonly ascribed to the lack of sun and long arctic nights but may also have been confused with shamanistic rituals of the Inhuit people.”

Arke’s video is one of the works challenging perceptions of Nordic culture in the new Phillips Collection exhibition Nordic Impressions: Art from Åland, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Featuring video, photography, painting, print, and mixed-media sculpture from 53 artists, the survey exhibition covers 200 years of Nordic art.

Read the full article at DCist

Shoplifter_Nervelings I-V

image: Nervelings I-V by Shoplifter


Creative Writing Workshops – November

Join us for a series of upcoming workshops at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The workshops are hosted in partnership with the exhibition Black Out: Silhouettes Then and Now.


Image credit: Maibaum / Kristi Malakoff

The exhibition Black Out: Silhouettes Then and Now explores this relatively unstudied art form by examining its rich historical roots and considering its forceful contemporary presence. The show features works from the Portrait Gallery’s extensive collection of silhouettes, such as those by Auguste Edouart, who captured the likenesses of such notable figures as John Quincy Adams and Lydia Maria Child, and at the same time, the exhibition reveals how contemporary artists are reimagining silhouettes in bold and unforgettable ways. Continue reading

Writing Workshops – April & May


Image Credit: Twisted Tropes by Titus Kaphar Oil on canvas with antique frame 2016 Eileen and Richard Ekstract, © Titus Kaphar. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

I am excited about the next round of workshops that I will be leading at the National Portrait Gallery. The workshops are hosted in connection with the “UnSeen: Our Past in a New Light, Ken Gonzales-Day and Titus Kaphar” exhibition, which highlights the work of two leading contemporary artists who grapple with the under-representation and the misrepresentation of minorities in portraiture and American history.

Continue reading

No Pressure: Bieber, Blackness & The Cult of Perfection

Right now I admit I’m thinking about Bieber (again) and male Blackness in America even though he’s Canadian (and that other thing, white). I’m thinking about the cult of perfection and whiteness and the creation of products in America like toothpaste or lightening cream or pop stars. I am thinking about the fragility of celebrity and the toll that it plays on the real human psyche.

I get into loops. With singers or TV shows or types of liquor. There’s always some phase that I am in that I play on repeat. Right now that is Bieber.

By my twenties, punk was my medium and the lens I used to construct the world around me, but if I heard a well-constructed pop song I was almost amazed at the sheer beauty of such a sweet pleasurable thing. I don’t have a car (so I rarely listen to the radio). Which is to say, I don’t know what’s hot. I’m also forty-one. So, I never got into Justin Bieber during his first few albums. I did watch Never Say Never to see if my teen self would have been a fan the way I was for New Kids on the Block. And, yes, I decided, I think so.

Bieber was king. The darling of the world. American girls cried, screamed, and clawed at him. He went on Ellen (repeatedly) to the delight of her middle-aged mom fans. Tour after tour after tour took him around the world. He was packaged into wrapping paper, singing toothbrushes, backpacks.

Read the full essay at The Rumpus.