By: Dana Viloria

What happens when social movement artists gather together in a remote forest cared for by Black, Indigenous, and queer folks? Pure magic.

Movement Generation, Climate Justice Alliance, and New Economy Coalition recently closed out our Creative Wildfire 2023-2024 artist cohort with a dreamy Earth Day weekend that included an artists retreat at Shelterwood and a showcase at understory. This was the culmination of 10 months of deep relationship building and collaboration between 7 artists and 7 environmental and economic justice organizations doing impactful work across Turtle Island and the Pacific.

It was such a joy to welcome the artists to California; some were visiting for the first time! What a whirlwind to land in Oakland and be swept off into the lush forested hills of Cazadero to Shelterwood, a Black- and Indigenous-led land project on 900 acres of unceded Kashia and Pomo lands. Our comrades Layel and Julia welcomed us with a ceremonial fire where we introduced ourselves to the land.

Photo of a women with long brown hair wearing checkered blue jeans and petting a large black-and-tan dog while sitting on a rustic deck with other friends in the background.

New Economy Coalition’s Belén Marco, a woman with long brown hair wearing checkered blue jeans, pets a large black-and-tan dog while sitting on a rustic deck with Creative Wildfire artists in the background at Shelterwood.

For two days we were nourished by homecooked meals and lots of storytelling. We hiked to waterfalls and vistas and dipped into the cold waters of the nearby creek. Chamorro artist Roldy Aguero Ablao taught us how to weave bracelets with dried pandanus leaves harvested by Fijian aunties. And we had long, generative talks about art and artists as instrumental to all of our liberation movements. Our time together affirmed the importance of restoring relationships with land to tap into community healing and nourish our spirits as we simultaneously resist the extractive economy and militarism and reimagine and rebuild liberatory futures.

After a rejuvenating time in the forest, we returned to Oakland for our Creative Wildfire showcase at understory. Huge shoutout to understory for hosting us and feeding our bellies and our souls!

Photo of a group of artists and organizers smiling together in front of a wall with colorful wallpaper.

A group of artists and organizers from the Creative Wildfire program smiling together in front of a wall with colorful wallpaper during an artist showcase at understory restaurant in Oakland.

Here we got to see Lily Xie’s dazzling stop-motion animated short focused on Black love, narrated by Boston Ujima’s community; Ashanti Fortson’s visionary zine dreaming of food sovereignty in Buffalo with Food for the Spirit and the Buffalo Food Equity Network; kai lumumba barrow’s spectacular tricycle built from repurposed materials to broadcast an abolitionist pirate radio program to the community with Cooperation New Orleans and Cooperation Gumbo; Adamu Chan’s powerful short film spotlighting the community of Las Deltas in Richmond, CA, made in partnership with Communities for a Better Environment and Richmond residents; Lizzie Suarez’s soulful and strategic poster collab with Climate Justice Alliance, envisioning a Just Transition for Florida; Roldy Aguero Ablao’s gorgeous printed textiles inspired by the Mariana Islands and the work of Micronesia Climate Change Alliance; and Trinidad Escobar’s captivating comic about inclusive disaster strategies, made with the Crip Survival Network and Sins Invalid.

Watch the video to see all of the artists’ brilliant presentations.

We are so grateful to our Creative Wildfire stewards Ebony Gustave, Robin Bean Crane, and Micah Bazant—all alums of our Creative Wildfire cultural strategy program! They have graced us with so much expertise in organizing and holding relationships with artists and cultural workers.

We are forever transformed by the phenomenal artists and humans of this cohort!

Stay tuned in the coming weeks and months as we dive deeper into the beauty and complexities of each of the Creative Wildfire artists’ creations and the life-affirming work of their partner organizations.

Support the ongoing work of building irresistible movements—donate to Creative Wildfire today!