"These radical artists turn the tables by sending problems of the 'first world'... which they submit to a number of think tanks they founded in the 'third world'..."
-Marina de Vries, Museum Magazine
Ghana ThinkTank is an international collective that “develops the first world” by flipping traditional power dynamics, asking the “third world” to intervene into the lives of the people living in the so-called “developed” world.
We collect problems from communities throughout the USA and Europe, and send them to think tanks we created in “developing” communities. The think tanks – which include a group of bike mechanics in Ghana, a rural radio station in El Salvador, Sudanese refugees seeking asylum in Israel, an artist collective in Iran, and a group of incarcerated girls in the Boston penal system, among others – propose solutions, which are then implemented in the “first world”.
Ghana ThinkTank’s innovative approach to public art reveals blind spots between otherwise disconnected cultures, challenges assumptions about who is “needy,” and turns the idea of expertise on its head by asking people in the “third world” to solve problems of people in the “first world.” This process helps people overcome their own stereotypes while being exposed to the stereotypes that other cultures have about them.
Ghana ThinkTank was founded in 2006 by Christopher Robbins, John Ewing and Matey Odonkor. Maria Del Carmen Montoya joined in 2009. The project began with think tanks in Ghana, Cuba, and El Salvador, and has since expanded to include Mexico, Iran, Serbia, Indonesia, Sudan and Morocco.
About The Team
Ghana ThinkTank’s recent work has been featured in major international exhibitions such as the Venice Biennial of Architecture, the National Museum of Wales, Hong Kong/Shenzhen Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism, and the Global Contemporary at ZKM in Germany, among many others. They spoke at the 2013 Creative Time Summit in Stockholm, and were awarded a Creative Capital Grant in Emerging Fields for a project along the US/Mexico border. In 2010, Ghana ThinkTank was shortlisted for the Frieze Foundation Cartier Award.
THE CORE ARTISTS/ORGANIZERS
Christopher Robbins works on the uneasy cusp of public art and international development, creating sculptural interventions in the daily lives of strangers. He uses heavy material demands and a carefully twisted work-process to craft awkwardly intimate social collaborations.
He has lived and worked in West Africa, the Fiji Islands, former Yugoslavia, London, and Tokyo, fusing participatory public art with a broad variety of international organizations. During this time, he lived in a town that had been bombed by US led NATO forces at the end of the Balkan wars, and built his own home out of mud and sticks while serving as a Peace Corps Worker in Benin, West Africa.
John Ewing is a digital media artist specializing in participatory installations with an emphasis on social activism and cross-cultural exchange. He spent two years in El Salvador working for a human rights group, using the arts as a tool for community organizing. He has lived and worked in Nicaragua and Cuba, and was the director of an arts program for incarcerated teenage girls in the US from 2003-2008.
He lives in Boston where he has implemented several large scale temporary artworks and was cited by Americans for the Arts for creating one of the most important public art projects of the year.
MARIA DEL CARMEN MONTOYA
Maria del Carmen Montoya works in participatory art, performance and new media. She is interested in the communal process of making meaning. As an artist she attempts to catalyze this natural social phenomena with situations that explore the potential of human-scale intervention in the presumed inevitability of everyday life.
She has lived and worked throughout Latin America, where she served as the sole interpreter for an assembly of rural farmers in San Salvador, an advocate for battered women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and an English teacher for a women's craft cooperative in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.
GHANA THINKTANK PARTNERS
OAKLAND AVENUE ARTIST COALITION
Oakland Avenue Artist Coalition is a grassroots community organization whose mission is to serve as a catalyst for the transformation of Oakland Avenue into the North End’s art corridor. OAAC strives to engage and encourage neighborhood youth in positive self-expression through the arts and uplift and heal the community infrastructure of the North End neighborhood through artistic place making while building an art economy that sustains artists.
CENTRAL DETROIT CHRISTIAN CDC
Central Detroit Christian CDC is non-profit partner in the American Riad project, focusing on the rigorous requirements of equitable development. They are a nonprofit, faith-based organization committed to empowering people and creating positive opportunities for the Detroit community. Through education, employment, and economic development, they help residents create safe, affordable housing and bring amenities back that have long been forgotten.
is an artist who fuses sculpture and photography, and has been indispensable in the university collaborations that support the American Riad Project.
THE THINK TANKS
Ghana ThinkTank is an international effort that requires support of many kinds, including donors, presenters, the think tanks, and temporary teams assembled for each project.
We would like to thank our generous sponsors and supporters:
Boston CyberArts, our fiscal sponsor
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
SUNY Purchase College
smARTpower, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the Bronx Museum of the Arts
Queens Museum of Art
Black Rock Arts Foundation
New York State Council on the Arts
NYS/UUP Joint Labor-Management Committees
Eugene and Emily Grant
SUNY Research Foundation Network of Excellence in Arts and the Humanities