Black Girl Alchemy: Young Black girls express themselves through art

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — In 2018, the Southside Community Center in Ithaca won a grant from the NoVo foundation. This grant was used to fund ‘Black Girl Alchemy’, a series of programs, projects, and events fostering Black girl empowerment.

On Jun. 5, Dr. Nia Nunn and artist Annemarie Zwack hosted a public art talk at the Community Arts of Elmira to discuss the details of this project. As a part of their ‘Elmira Infinite Canvas’ program, the arts center hosted this talk to help spread this wonderful artwork.

They also partnered with Elmira’s HOPE Alliance, the YWCA Elmira and the Twin Tiers, and the local YWCA’s Diversity Council.

Dr. Nia Nunn (left) and Annemarie Zwack (right) at the Community Arts of Elmira

Dr. Nunn, Associate Professor of Education and Psychology at Ithaca College and Board of Directors President of Southside Community Center, described the project as “more of a philosophy”.

“[It is] a way of thinking and being,” said Dr. Nunn. “A group of Black women came together and decided that it was critical that we honor the specificity of black girlhood unapologetically. So, what we’ve created is an opportunity for Black girls and Black women to define ourselves.”

These girls are expressing themselves through art.

Black Girl Alchemy Mosaic Mural: Courtesy of

The ‘Black Girl Alchemy Mosaic Mural’ is a handmade self portraiture of a group of ‘Black Girl Alchemists,’ who have collaborated to design, create, and install a piece of public art on the Southside Community Center’s exterior wall. The mural faces the intersection of Plain Street and Cleveland Avenue in Ithaca.

“We protect ourselves by honoring ourselves and one another,” said Dr. Nunn. “A lot of this work involves self expression, self discovery, and really having a sense of collective pride.”

Annemarie Zwack, an artist and collaborative public art facilitator, echoed Dr. Nunn’s sentiments.

“I think the roots are in self reflection,” said Zwack. “Literally looking in the mirror, but also having conversations. That is where the work is stemming from. How do I want to be seen? How do I want to make a mark on the public space?”

Dr. Nunn thinks coming to terms with who they are is crucial for Black girls.

“Far more lethal than any white supremacy or patriarchy or any of that is self hatred,” said Dr. Nunn.

To find out more information on this project, you can visit Zwack’s website.

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