Transparency has come to mean much more than being able to see through an object. In the 21st century, when people hear or use the term, they’re often thinking about transparency within a social context. Behaviorally, transparency implies honesty, communication and accountability. However, following an interview with 29-year-old Greensboro resident Jordan Robinson, it became clear that there is an extended definition of the word.
Robinson is a creative professional and the founder of the socially-conscious design company, JTR Presents. Though the company was formed just a few years ago in 2016, Robinson, who earned his Master of Arts Administration from The Savannah College of Art and Design. He graduated college and hit the ground running with no finish line in sight. In speaking with him about how to define JTR Presents, he initially summed up the company with six words: Communication, Understanding, Discovery, Activism, Visibility and Elevation. When repeating those words back to him, he revised his list. Reflecting upon his response, he said he wanted to replace ‘communication’ with ‘collaboration,’ as he believes “communication is the umbrella” to all the other descriptors he previously gave.
Communication is important to Robinson and, in part, the inspiration for his most recent project, Transparency, informally known as The Transparency Project. However, Jordan’s initial inspiration, he said, were ‘red flags’ and introspection. He went on to elaborate on how he viewed legislation like the infamous “Bathroom Bills” that included restricting individuals to using public restrooms that correlated with their assigned sex, not their gender, as “red flags.” Such legislation seemed to target people who were either not cisgender or were members of the LGBTQ+ community. He continued to say and express concern regarding the previous presidential administration that placed a ban on openly transgender military participation. Former President Donald Trump tweeted on July 26, 2017, “And I think I’m doing a lot of people a favor by coming out and just saying it. As you know, it’s been a very complicated issue for the military. It’s been a very confusing issue for the military. And I think I’m doing the military a great favor.”
Robinson also has plenty to say and the arts activism of The Transparency Project is the vehicle he’s using to say it. As for the introspection, Robinson said numerous factors contributed to the birth of The Transparency Project and passionately stated, “I felt like now is the time,” and added a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King paraphrase, “because injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.”
The Transparency Project is Jordan Robinson’s attempt to use art and design to elevate the voices of transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming (mostly visual) artists. For creatives who work in mediums beyond visual arts and those dealing with adversity and disparities that make contributing difficult, Robinson’s JTR Presents website offers the option of contributing autobiographical written and spoken/recorded stories. In the meantime, the project features the work of artists, primarily in the form of paintings, drawings and photography. Currently, The Transparency Project is a web-based exhibition accessible to anyone with access to the Internet. In just a matter of a few clicks, site visitors can have the pleasure of discovering the talent and multifacetedness of artists who are more than just their gender — or lack thereof; artists like Terry Hanney (he/him) and Eric Edward Schell (she/her).
As folx are inspired by different muses and have different creative processes, the reasons artists participate in The Transparency Project are just as varied. For Eric Schell, a New Yorker, photographer and founder of Pride Portraits (a National LGBTQIA+ visibility campaign), it was all about paying homage to Monica Roberts — a Black trans woman who assisted her on her journey of gender identity acceptance. Roberts was also an award-winning blogger (TransGriot) who passed away suddenly in 2020. During a brief conversation with Schell, she explained how she had given Robinson a picture she had taken of Roberts a few years back. In reflecting upon how much posthumous press her death and accomplishments received, Schell lamented, “That’s really nice and wonderful, but I think they really missed the mark on not employing her while she was alive.” She went on to say, “She was part of my campaign, Pride Portraits — I’m happy that Monica’s included in the [Transparency] project, that means a lot.”
On the local front is mix media artist and painter, Terry Hanney. For over 50 years now, this arts activist has worked independently and collaboratively on a multitude of local and national projects. Those numerous projects include local murals, the Utah Children’s Art Inquiry Project, Key West’s Fantasy Fest and huge political artistic installations in Seattle. With all that, many Charlottians may not know his name even though they have probably seen his work around town. Hanney’s vibrant brushstrokes grace everything from Adirondack chairs to the walls of area businesses.Unable to be reached for comment, a personal statement from Hanney on the Transparency Project’s website gives further insight on how Hanney came to call Charlotte, N.C. home and was moved to participate in the Transparency Project.
Thanks to the Transparency Project, Hanney, Schell and many other artists have the opportunity to showcase their artistics trans-ability in a manner that can inspire all. Their art undoubtedly makes our world more colorful, more beautiful and our future more promising.
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