Visual and performance artist igniting intersections between ecosystem consciousness and public culture

Ahní Rocheleau (a distant descendant maternal relative of Kateri Catherine Annenontak, Wendat (Huron) First Nation, born 1648/49, that is too remote in time for Rocheleau to claim any form of indigeneity) works in site-specific public art, installation art, performance art and ritual, object sculpture, painting, drawing, and exhibition curation at the intersection of human/ecosystem relationships, climate change, community transformation, and racism. Rocheleau’s artwork and curatorial projects derive from an interest in how cultural memory directs society, while suppressing our human connection to earth and imaginative responses to the mainstream narrative.

Ahní Rocheleau currently teaches studio arts at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, including Public Space Design and Public Art. She earned her Masters in Fine Arts in Sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and a BA in Art at California State University, Sacramento. She worked in the Education Department of the RISD Museum for many years, studied Political Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; engineering at Sacramento City College, was union certified in bridge welding, taught sculpture at the University of Connecticut, and 3D-design and drawing at RISD and Providence College.

Rocheleau was awarded a Santa Fe Art Institute “Equal Justice” Artist Residency; an Andy Warhol Fulcrum Grant on behalf of Confluence Collective, which she founded; was awarded two Rhode Island State Council on the Arts grants; four International Convergence Festival commissions, one for the 1995 International Sculpture Conference; a City of Bogota, Colombia Site-Specific Public Commission; a DeWitt-Wallace Reader’s Digest Foundation Fellowship Award; a Walter Hopps (Director, Menil Collection) Recognition of Merit Award; and artist fellowship residencies at the UCross Foundation in Wyoming, and the Edna St. Vincent Millay Colony for the Arts in New York. She has exhibited her work from Boston, New York City, Santa Fe, and California; to Canada, Germany, Barcelona, and the Canary Islands.

She initiated and conducted an environmental justice collaborative project “El Río Desde Adentro/una colaboracion binacional” (The River Within; a binational collaboration) in Medellin and Providence; and “Retorno/Return” in partnership with the Paul Bardwell Gallery and artists she drew into collaboration from Medellin, Colombia.

She occasionally appears as “One-of-Many,” in an experimental walking art performance roaming along rivers and streets, spirit-like in a frosty white cloud of bobbling tumbleweeds -that omen of drought from the Dust Bowl Era, and now extreme climate drought. She is inviting the world to do the same, donning branches and grasses to elevate climate emergency consciousness.

Trained in Al Gore’s “Climate Reality” program, she also served as the NM State Coordinator for the 2014 Great March for Climate Action. She was responsible for the well-being of marchers as they traversed New Mexico on their way from Los Angeles to Washington DC. She evaluated hundreds of miles New Mexico roads from Zuni to Colorado in search of safe-to-walk byways; established 29-camps (on tribal lands, in fields, lots, churches and schools); worked with twelve Native American pueblo tribal administrations, the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service; four city councils; organized speaker rallies on climate in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos, and organized cultural interactive performances. Extending climate work into Northern New Mexico, Rocheleau for many years worked with the Chaco Coalition alongside Diné (Navajo) and Pueblo activists to protect greater Chaco Canyon from encroaching hydraulic fracturing.

Rocheleau organized and curated two biennial Art Against Racism exhibitions, a multi-site exhibition in Providence, Rhode Island featuring the work of dozens of local artists and faculty. Rocheleau’s highly publicized, public art installation “A True History of Rhode Island”, exhibited and revealed anew to the Rhode Island public the leading role of Rhode Island’s seafaring industry as the largest transporter of enslaved peoples from the West Coast of Africa to the United States in the ‘Triangle Trade.’ Funds from the slave trade, often termed “Ivory Coast loot” went to the founding of Brown University. As a result of Rocheleau’s Art Against Racism multi-sited exhibitions, she was invited by the Committee’s chair to attend Brown University’s public hearings for the “Brown University Report of the Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice,” which addressed the University’s historical relationship to slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. The Steering Committee’s hearings were attended by interested parties from around the world, including from South Africa’s poet/writer Mongane Wally Serote.

Ahní served as assistant director of the Langston Hughes Center for the Arts; as the founding director of the Rhode Island Foundation Art Gallery where she curated dozens of exhibitions reflecting social justice themes relevant to the Foundation’s mission. She founded Spaces For Peace, a public space design nonprofit unfurling a world centered on creative nonviolent philosophies and methodologies, global communication technologies, and art. In conjunction with Spaces For Peace, she established an internship program the “Spaces For Peace Design Lab” for Met High School students in Providence. She is certified in Level I & II Kingian Nonviolence Education, Leadership, Organization, and Mobilization with American Civil Rights leader Dr. Bernard LaFayette, Jr., and for many years she served on the Board of Directors of the New Mexico SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference, historically founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the vehicle for his American civil rights campaigns)., IG @ahnirocheleau

See exhibitions, awards, and speaking engagements.

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