Creatives Rebuild New York

In the summer of 2022, Fortune received the Artist Employment Program (AEP) grant from Creatives Rebuild New York (CRNY), which brings on board three teaching artists to work with the organization. (Read the press release here). In July 2022, Laura Cerón Melo, Russell Craig, and Jenny Polak joined Fortune as part of the Creative Arts program and will be in service to the whole organization for the next two years. Building upon each one’s unique skillset and experience, the three artists will work on a wide range of projects, always with the intent of developing and expanding people’s artistic, professional, and personal capabilities and talents, as well as building organizational capacity.

Meet the Artists

Laura Cerón Melo is a queer designer from Colombia living in Brooklyn, NY whose professional practice sits at the intersection of design, art, and activism + advocacy. 

Laura has worked in-house and independently as a graphic/visual designer and communications strategist in the non-profit sector (social services, arts), the publishing industry, and the startup arena (materials science + informatics, online retail), and continues to do contract work in those fields. She also feels deeply passionate about risograph printing.

In general, Laura is interested in the capacity of art and design to understand, reimagine and create new systems, and its power to communicate social imperatives, challenge the status quo, and foster individual and collective healing. She is committed to the common good, to acting and designing responsibly and sustainably, aiming to minimize harm, alleviate suffering, and make life easier and happier

Russell Craig is a self-taught Philadelphia-based artist. Craig is the co-founder of Right of Return, USA, the first national fellowship dedicated to supporting formerly incarcerated artists. Craig’s work is a part of the Brooklyn Museum’s permanent collection and has been featured in institutional exhibitions including Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration at MoMA PS1; an installation at the Philadelphia African American Museum; Truth to Power as part of the 2016 Democratic National Convention; State Goods: Art in the Era of Mass Incarceration, a collaboration with the Center for Justice at Columbia University; and Blood, Sweat, and Tears, his first solo exhibition, at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. He has been a featured speaker on panels focused on the criminal justice system, and was recently a guest speaker at the 10th Annual Student Engagement Lecture Series at Manhattan College, organized by the Black Student Union and Student Engagement. Craig’s work has also been featured in group exhibitions at Martos Gallery, Aperture Gallery, and Malin Gallery. Dark Reflections at Malin Gallery is Craig’s first solo exhibition in New York City.

Jenny Polak makes site and community responsive art that reframes immigrant-citizen relations, amplifying demands for social justice. Originally from England, her art draws on her background in architecture and includes public and socially engaged projects such as architectural installations, drawings and useful commemorative objects. Jenny's family history of migration drives her to examine detention centers, racial profiling, and strategies for surviving hostile authorities. Her fictional firm Design For The Alien Within creates hypothetical hiding and dwelling places, symbolic lookout and counter-surveillance structures.

Jenny's art, collaborations and site-specific projects have been exhibited widely and awarded support by NYFA, the Graham Foundation for the Advanced Study of Visual Art and Franklin Furnace, among others. She has held artist residencies including with the National Park Service, Newark Museum, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. While she was Artist-in-Residence at Northwestern University, Jenny conceived the long-term project Mobile Speakers’ Podium for Citizens and Non-Citizens, currently appearing in locations around Chicago, to highlight and promote community and artist activism against mass incarceration and the for-profit prison industry.

Watch Laura, Jamie, Jenny, and Russell talk about how they use their art and life to manifest their aspiration for a more just world, and how their work at and with Fortune adds to their advocacy and activism.