The word legacy comes from a Latin word legatus, translated as ‘ambassador, deputy.’ In the late 14th century, an old French word legacie was used to describe a body of people sent on a specific mission. In 1931, a group of 9 Italian immigrants came together on their own mission to build a space of creative refuge at a time and place in our history where immigrants were barred from major artistic, academic, and scientific institutions. Their legacy is Da Vinci Art Alliance.
Between the beginning of World War II and 1996 there was little activity at Da Vinci Art Alliance. In 1997 artist, community organizer and artist Kathryn Pannepacker breathed new life into the organization by taking up residency in the building, renovating the gallery space, and establishing a web presence for the institution. Under her leadership Da Vinci Art Alliance was reborn.
At Da Vinci Art Alliance Kathryn’s legacy is one of a catalyst. Her mission-driven work sparked the revitalization of an organization, a movement. Kathryn’s work is rooted in the ideas of “art-for-all” and “peace-for-all”. She celebrates diversity and brings people together through her projects. When Da Vinci Art Alliance was looking to name the tracks in our Fellowship program, Kathryn’s history and values seemed like a perfect fit. Our “Fellowship program provides equitable opportunities for local creators by opening up our space to perspectives and artists who may not have access to many resources. The program boasts under-represented voices, innovative ideas, and artistic explorations.” In looking to honor two other community leaders who shared the same values as Kathryn and the goals of our Fellowship program, we thought that both Linda Lee Alter and Michelle Angela Ortiz would be a seamless fit.
Michelle, who was born just blocks away from our building, has spent the last 20 years capturing lost legacies, sharing personal narratives, and unearthing silenced voices through her internationally recognized public artworks and community arts practices. Lee, who has previously shown work at DVAA, has spent much of her career devoted to helping other artists. Whatever the medium, Lee’s artwork (and her spirit) conveys the essential message – “that we are all members of the human family, and all deserving of kindness and respect.”
When one starts to think about legacy, you begin to take stock of your possessions, accomplishments, fears, hopes, and dreams. You look at what you learned and who you learned it from. You begin to see patterns in how your story was told and who was listening. In taking stock of the careers of these three women, we see them demonstrate impeccable leadership, community investment, support for the most vulnerable, and a commitment to building community through art. Da Vinci Art Alliance is proud to share this mission with these three leaders and honor them through the Da Vinci Fellowship Program.