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Thanks to the continued support of those who’ve contributed… I did it!
A little over a year I ago I attended a meeting a with National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Maryland. Marguerite Woods, a kindred spirit and participant of I Am More Than My Hair, invited me to join her for the Baltimore Chapter Meeting.
It was shocking to learn about the lack of accessibility in the arts and how blind and low vision audiences aren’t considered. I left the meeting feeling inspired enough to make it mandatory that any venue, gallery, or museum that requests my work, must agree that it will be made accessible for audiences with low vision and hearing.
I wanted to find a way to make my visual art accessible in new formats, that would open the experience of the art to people often barred from it.
The first museum to give me the OK for an accessible exhibition was Sandy Spring Museum in Sandy Spring Maryland. My exhibition takes place March 19 – May 28, 2021.
Here’s what I came up with:
Each photograph will be accompanied by a lithophane replica of the portrait. This image shows the lithophane print in production as I type. A lithophane is a three-dimensional image that can be explored by touch. When a light is placed beneath, it creates a unique visual experience.
Braille embossing will accompany written descriptions. Audio description of the images will be provided for visitors who have low vision. Interpreters in ASL (American Sign Language) will facilitate my artist talk. The screening of my film, I Am More Than My Hair, will include closed captioning and audio description for both hearing and vision accessibility. I also organized the panel discussion Making Art Accessible (date TBD).
Given the pandemic, there will also be a virtual component as well as the opportunity to experience it in-person during the Museum’s open hours. The reception and film screening (TBA) will take place online. When you RSVP you will receive updates on the scheduled events.
I’m sure you’re wondering… Maybe?
Reading the first 4 words in this title is unsettling for me, and although I wish it were different, unfortunately it’s true.
On July 17, in the wee hours of the morning, a group of individuals did a drive-by shooting on my home.
I woke up to the sound of bullets shattering through the walls, the sight of sparks as it ricocheted throughout the room and the smell of gunpowder as the bullets exploded. I swore I was dreaming.
Not in Montgomery County, Maryland… or so I thought.
My husband and I are hard workers, both entrepreneurs, and have never been involved in any form of criminal activity and fought our asses off for the past 12 years to maintain our home (renovating it little by little all by ourselves).
So the question we were left with was…
Who in the hell would drive-by and shoot up a family’s home and for what reason?!?
Since then I’ve felt different emotions, anger being most prevalent. Although I’ve been frustrated and had moments of fear, tears and prayers, I’ve had to do my best to shake off the worry and prepare myself spiritually, mentally, emotionally and most definitely physically.
Thankfully, I planned a trip to California months before and was able to clear my head, take in the beautiful sights and get a change of scene for a few days.
During my visit, I had the opportunity to film Mary Marshall, founder of Bald Mannequin Project and International Alopecia Day Facebook group, as well as a drummer, dancer, and diver among so many other wonderful qualities.
We connected two years ago about my project (I Am More Than My Hair) and I told her I would film her during my next visit to San Diego. At that time, I wasn’t sure when it would happen but the time finally came in July 2017.
During the interview with Mary, she mentioned a moment in her life that she literally had to “fake it to make it”. In her example, she was referring to her concerns while facing alopecia (hair loss). She went on and on with so many powerful statements about her experience and how she conquered her emotions.
Mary didn’t know of the shooting incident.
There I was… in Beautiful San Diego… still worried about what happened back home.
I choose not to tell Mary because I didn’t want to spoil the mood. She also didn’t know that her comments during my interview with her, empowered me and gave me strength.
When I returned to my hotel, I reached out to several of my spiritual communities, rehearsed certain Psalms and chanted for peace of mind.
I needed to get my sanity back.
After returning home, I connected with a priestess in an indigenous spiritual community I am a part of , and spoke with her about the incident. She made a comment that helped to put things into perspective. Her response was…
“Haven’t you wanted to move for a while now?“… her question gave me goosebumps. I replied, “Yes, but…”. She responded, “So why are you still here?”
She then went into a discussion about how the Universe, although sometimes harsh, forces movement. Especially if we’ve made it known to the Universe that we’re ready for a particular type of movement in our lives.
In that conversation I had an AHA moment…
No matter how difficult the circumstance, there is a reason for everything and there’s always a bright side.
I’ve wanted to leave Maryland the first day I step foot here from Queens, New York back in the 90’s. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned to love and appreciate where I am but always felt there was something more, something better, a place I truly feel connected and can call home for my family and I.
In 2014 I traveled to San Diego for the first time and feel in love. In my soul, I knew that California was the place for me and my family. I just haven’t figured out exactly where (the city). Though San Diego is beautiful, I know it’s not the place for us. The biggest reason being the lack of diversity.
And today, as I type this blog, I open my email and see the subject “The Universe’s Plan for You” by Madisyn Taylor, one of my favorite writers. A section of the article reads…
“Nothing happens without a purpose. Whether we attract success or repel it depends on our willingness to stay open to a wide range of possibilities and to embrace concepts like synchronicity.” ~Madisyn Taylor
I must be honest with you and myself and accept the fact that this situation changed my life. At first, knowing that I was just a few feet away from a bullet, left me in fear of my life. Given that my children didn’t sleep sound for a few weeks because of the constant nightmares, broke my heart.
Afterwards, considering those “few feet” saved our lives, I gained a different perspective and felt grateful.
In that moment of gratitude, The Farmer’s Luck came to mind (a wise tale I’ve read to my children since they were all very young). My afterthought was, although situations may sometimes look like bad luck, it could actually be good luck for a future time.
And in that I also learned, time passes and we often find ourselves “busy”. In our “buziness” we may have missed an opportunity to connect with a friend/family who may need our listening ear or support though a rough time or challenge.
I truly appreciated the small handful of people who were genuinely concerned and kept in touch to make sure my family and I were OK.
And to those who who knew my previous hurdles and considered this event to be another setback, my response is… Maybe… Maybe not. It could be a blessing in disguise.
As for now, I have some serious work to do in figuring out my next move and having faith and trust in the process.
I took a break to gather my thoughts but I won’t allow an obviously unhappy and miserable person to make me unhappy and miserable. That goes for family, friend or foe.
I’m excited to finish the filming and photo shoots for I Am More Than My Hair and finally now in the post-production phase. I’ll continue to keep you posted. Until then, please continue to support my fundraising efforts by sharing and contributing via my Fiscal Sponsor, Docs In Progress – https://docsinprogress.nationbuilder.com/hair
In the meantime, enjoy this short clip of my interview with Mary during my visit to California. May the solar eclipse bring positive energy to you and our world.
I can’t believe that the end of my 30 day campaign is almost near. Anyone who has ever launched a crowdfunding campaign, or a fundraiser in general, knows that you don’t get much sleep. You spend much of your time networking, doing outreach, organizing speaking opportunities, following -up, marketing, follow-up, follow-up and still follow-up.
After all, it’s worth it in the end.
Reaching my fundraising goal is my target of course. However, the connections made and awareness raised, about female hairloss, has been a truly rewarding experience.
To help recharge my energy, it definitely helps when I venture out and meet various women for filming and photoshoots. It’s also refreshing that each participant’s meeting place is usually located someplace differently each time.
Spontaneity is a beautiful thing!
Here’s a short video I captured, with my cell phone, during a brunch with Sisters with Alopecia Group (SWAG) at Bus Boys and Poets. Aren’t they gorgeous!
Please continue to help spread the word for continued support and contributions.
I’ll make it easy for you. Feel free to copy and past the post below:
Twitter: Help artist @AlysciaCPhoto produce her documentary #film & #book #IamMoreThanMyHair redefines female baldness- https://igg.me/at/MoreThanMyHair
Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, etc: Let’s support female artist, Alyscia Cunningham, and help raise funding in order to produce her documentary film & coffee table book #IamMoreThanMyHair. Through her project she is capturing the personal stories of girls and women who’ve experienced hairloss and redefines the beauty of female baldness. Donate via Indiegogo – https://igg.me/at/MoreThanMyHair
To everyone who has contributed by making a donation and/or sharing my fundraiser… Thank you!
On another note…
Freelance Journalist Christina Portilla, owner of Roam Free Writes, wrote an article about my project. I wanted to share my interview with you. See it at http://www.roamfreewrites.com/single-post/2017/04/03/Community-Call-Redefining-the-beauty-of-female-baldness
Much thanks to Christian for her interest women’s issues and passion to spread awareness about of female hairloss!
This week I received news that I wasn’t expecting. Ms. Yvonne Johnson, a participant in my first book, Feminine Transitions, passed away. On the same day, I received an email for a link to a blog post about the passing of Debbie Osarere, a participant in my upcoming book, I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me.
The culprit? Cancer.
For privacy purposes I won’t get into the details of their diagnosis, but I will say Cancer is an epidemic and it is taking the lives of too many of our loved ones.
We Can Stop the Cancer Epidemic, by educating ourselves, our families and knowing what to avoid. Although it’s hard to completely avoid all chemicals such as chem trails sprayed in the air by our government and pesticides in our foods, we can reduce our rate of cancer diagnosis by eating healthy (try growing your own food), exercising daily and doing your best to have a piece of mind (no stress).
I’m not a doctor, neither is this a diagnosis. Just like everyone else I’m fed up of the epidemic taking the lives of family and friends.
I ask to please keep Ms. Yvonne Johnson and Debbie Osarere’s family, any of your loved ones that have passed or holding on for dear life and those that are alive and well, in your thoughts and prayers. May these two beautiful souls continue to rest in peace.
~Be well… Alyscia
It was the fall of 1999. I was in my 4th semester in college and unsure of the direction of my career, but knew for sure I DID NOT want to work for a company for the rest of my life. I just couldn’t stand being told what to do.
If there was one thing in particular I knew about myself is that I was innately creative and had the character traits of an entrepreneur since I was a child. When I was young my grandfather used to bring me with him as he went canvasing around our neighborhood in Corona, Queens, NY.
He was selling countertop NASA water filtration systems, the first of it’s kind to be introduced to home owners. Buyers could connect the hose to their kitchen sink and get clean filtered water.
Despite the actions of my neighbors (nice or not so nice) my grandfather kept going. He never allowed a no to stop him. I didn’t know, at the time, that my grandfather was instilling qualities within me of a future business owner.
I just wanted to give you some background. Let’s fast forward to college…
I always loved to draw and doodled often (more like everyday in every class). Taking a drawing class while in college was my release through all the intense studying.
My art professor was so impressed with my art that he suggested I take photography as an art elective. I’m not quite sure how he made the connection but he was convinced I would do really well.
In the fall of 2001 I immersed myself in photography. I enjoyed being behind the camera and capturing what captivated me. I was intrigued by the process of film and print development and amazed at my new found creativity.
I was in love…
While close to graduation I made a nice niche for myself and connected with a few magazines that were interested in hiring me for future editorial shoots and peaked the interest of several media companies that contacted me to inquire about commission work. I actively participated in exhibitions, artist groups and everything revolved around creative networking.
Then reality hit…
I was really good at what I did and heard it often. I often heard, “I love your work”, yet the appreciation of it didn’t lead to many sales. And I quickly learned that although I truly appreciated the compliments, it wasn’t providing me with an income.
At a certain point, the constant compliments, without sales, brought me to a bitter place with my photography. And when I was hired for work, the constraints of what people wanted, really wasn’t something I enjoyed.
I fell out of love with the love of my life…
But how could I? I thought I was in love?
I took a break for some time, put my camera down, and switched from Government contracting (which I was doing while being a photographer) to contracting with media companies. I tried Photo Editing for a change.
Although I made a great income I quickly realized I DID NOT want to be behind a desk all day. Unfortunately I didn’t want to do commission work that was unfulfilling for me either.
It took a few years, and various business ventures (while working I did Network Marketing and was also in the process of buying a franchise), for me to discover my passion. Through my journey I learned business skills that not only prepared me for my future endeavors but also helped me to redefine my ‘Why‘.
I rediscovered my passion…
See, when I fell in love with photography I was free to create what was beautiful and rewarding for ME, without the worries of being dependent on making an income from it.
In order for me to get back to that feeling, I needed my freedom back…
Instead of depending on my art to make me money, I depend on my art to give me freedom. Freedom of expression. Freedom of release. And the freedom to dive into my innate creativity without restriction.
Instead, I choose to use my talent to work on personal works such as Feminine Transitions, I Am More Than My Hair and the countless of other ideas in my head. I am still hired as a photographer (by folks I know personally or by referral). But this time around I’m performing the work that represents my style most. And I still own a construction company 🙂
One thing I have learned…
I love being happy and I love to make money. As women we sometimes have a difficult time saying that. But without it we can’t survive…unfortunately. Reading the the harsh statistics about women and money in a dear Sister’s book, Whatever Works (chapter Money and the Elephant in the Room), not only scared the hell out of me but also bought me to new awareness.
So make your money, enjoy your freedom and do what you love.
I’m in love again…
I’ve been busy at work…literally. My Home Improvement business has grown significantly since the start of 2016. Due to the growth I haven’t been able to dedicate as much time on my art and writing as usual. Given that the past few years has been most challenging I won’t complain and most definitely grateful for the blessing.
I am still working on my project I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me (photo book and documentary. If can know a girl or women who has either lost their hair due to medical conditions or has cut their hair in support of a loved one please let me know. I am still looking for 20 participants.
Thankfully I was awarded the 2016 Docs In Progress Fellowship, which allows me the focus and support in order to produce my first film. I’m so excited about this! Now I only have to catch up with everyone (and everything) but no worries, I’ll get there.On that note, I’m seeking another intern. If you have someone in mind please send me your referral.
Also, this semester I started Screenwriting class and couldn’t be more pleased. Writing is a release and through it I’ve learned that I’m actually pretty good at it (Yes I’m patting myself on the back:). I wrote three scripts and will take a shot at shooting it, unless it picked up by a film studio. That will be later on once I’ve completed my project however.
I just wanted to reach out, say hello and let you know what I was up to since I haven’t written in a while. And if you’re free for any of my upcoming events simply RSVP and I will add you to the list.
Last thing… I found an article about my work on SoulPancake. How cool is that! I love SoulPancake and their message of delivering news that matters.
Until next time…
This sweet baby was just 7 weeks when I took her picture. She is now 5 years old. This was the only picture I was able to take with her looking into the camera. Her mama was behind her ducking down and holding her up while she was wobbling and looking around.
I love the purity of babies. That’s before they are affected by the craziness of the world. Beautiful she is and I hope she will always be reminded.
Visit Feminine Transitions Facebook page for more inspirational memes.