Announcing our digital residency with TILA

Stefanie Thomas — October 16, 2020

Recently, we updated our homepage to highlight a beautiful piece done in watercolor by our inaugural Digital Resident, Vessna Scheff—a multi-disciplinary artist based in Philadelphia, PA. The featured piece captures the likeness of heroic Lakota historian and human rights activist, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, best known for her courage in leading protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The story of LaDonna mirrors the climate of our time and the increasing need for acts centered in compassion and care—something we think about deeply amidst the complexities faced by our portfolio companies that operate in the Care sector. My own thoughts on America’s notion of care, reflected in the dynamics of our existing healthcare system and the state of the workers who make it go, have been provoked by what I’ve learned from investing in it (and why IAF’s financing of the digital home care training company, CareAcademy, is even more significant).

But the work of impact investing extends beyond financing companies that look to solve for economic injustices or to dismantle market norms that place women of color (and particularly Black women) at the base of the income pyramid. It is about a growing belief that the encouragement of radical systems will ultimately drive the emergence of more equitable ones and that to do that effectively is to do so with a deep sense of care. In this moment, I am inspired to advocate for a heightened collective consciousness that returns us to basic practices of decency and compassion—in many ways, we must radicalize “Our Notion of Care” and how it applies to our systems, ourselves, and each other.

Therefore, on behalf of the IAF team, I am excited to announce the launch of our Digital Residency, in collaboration with Atlanta-based fine artists organization, TILA Studios, with Vessna as our first artist.

We're reimagining Our Notion of Care through these digital residencies and the lens of Black women because their ability to practice self-care remains directly impacted by social, political, cultural and economic inequities. To interrogate these systemic inequities with proper nuance and to open up conversation around the possibilities, the artists will dictate the form: storytelling, performance, or visual showcase.

We're inviting Black women artists to displace Our Notion of Care with more radical ideas — to expand its implications on those unseen and to cultivate a sense of agency for Black women in the arts who have historically utilized rest as a form of radical self-care and resistance to commodification.

We look forward to commissioning Vessna to lead us through an exploration of radicalized care and for the exclusive debut of her original illustrations that will be featured here.

Stay tuned for more information about the residency and its progress!

“I can’t thank you enough for this opportunity and this connection. In both professional and personal development throughout the entire process. In addition to all of the support from both TILA Studios and Impact America Fund.” —Vessna

About the Digital Residency

The Digital Residency offers a virtual playground, a blank canvas, for emerging Black female artists to interrogate themes around equity and produce digital illustrations that will live on Impact America Fund’s homepage in quarterly cycles. The mission is to expose, connect, and elevate voices that have often been overlooked and undervalued.

About TILA Studios

TILA Studios, an organization based in Atlanta, GA that serves Black Women artists nationwide and works to empower them as they build thriving careers within fine arts.

About Vessna Scheff

Vessna Scheff is a mutli-disciplinary artist based in Philadelphia, PA.

“Through my art, I reclaim who I am, what I have to say, and how I want to say it. Art has always been my space of freedom. I was quiet growing up but learned that I could be much louder through singing. Singing allowed me to step into my voice - my power - and to encourage others to live boldly, challenge structures, and create experiences that challenge our fears, craft our freedom and nurture our empowerment.”

“Through the delicate and bold power of water, I paint emotive abstract and portrait pieces which depict the power of people and nature. We are all bodies of water and together, we create waves of change.”

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