Madyson Frame (a.k.a. Bizzie R) isn’t just an artist, photographer, educator, or curator; rather, she is all of those at once, and more. In addition to creating her own work, her passion is for creating safe spaces for others to shine – primarily BIPOC artists – and collaborate with one another.
Her drive to create safe spaces and access to the arts comes from growing up in Windsor and Hartford, and experiencing the respective wealth of resources, or lack thereof, for young artists and learners like herself. In a trend that is not remotely unique to the capital region, many suburban schools have more resources, resulting in being able to provide more access to the arts. A number of these students then have the necessary tools they need to follow their creative passion in college, if not as a career. In Hartford (and many cities like it), public schools have varied access to the arts while many private schools give students more opportunities to pursue their creative interests. This resource gap is “clear as day” to Bizzie, as a lot of students don’t know about initiatives like Hartford Public Library’s YouMedia center, which offers free, year-round programming for young creatives interested in everything from video game design to filmmaking.
“Bringing attention to Black and Brown artists is so important, especially in CT. There’s such a big opportunity gap…I’ve had to experience it myself.”
As a child, she remembers the countless hours she and her friends would spend at the local recreation center after school. Many kids in her school lived within walking distance of this incredible community resource and played basketball, pool, and other games. As soon as her family moved to Hartford, the gap became apparent; a lot of kids go straight home after school. As the former Development Specialist with Compass Youth Collaborative, she again saw first-hand the needs of students across the city: they need the arts. She would bring a camera into a class of 25 kids who would immediately descend upon it with unbridled curiosity. A lot of her students’ first language wasn’t English. Others didn’t know how to read, yet what united them was their excitement over her camera, and the creative potential of being both behind and in front of the lens.
If it’s not clear already, Bizzie believes in access to the arts. “There’s a societal thing about ‘if you’re not good at science and math, you’re not going anywhere’.” If students have more access to things that they had already been passionate about since grade school, they might have the portfolio and experience they need to pursue their interests in college.
In December 2019, Bizzie created The Photobooth, an event adapted from previous collaborations. A personal highlight of what would become a series of almost monthly events would be an 80s-90s hip-hop themed Photobooth for Black History Month in 2020. She hired three photographers out of pocket and had them bring their own set design according to the theme. For example, one designer brought milk crates and planks of wood decked with graffiti to emulate “boogie-down Bronx.” Bizzie wants The Photobooth to be like walking into a living museum; watching art being made in real time. Of course, the events sound cool on the aesthetic level, and one could stop there and have a great time. However, The Photobooth was intentionally created as a safe space for artists and models to collaborate. In the first way, the photographers are already paid; guests pay only $10 in admission whereas they might need to pay a single photographer at least $200 per hour. While that is a fair wage, the event levels the playing field for models and other creatives who might not have the time nor the money for a standalone photoshoot. The event provides a safer space to make this exchange not only in terms of COVID-19, but also for models to feel safe with photographers who Bizzie has vetted beforehand, rather than seeking them out on their own. Because the event focuses on photography, networking, and vibing, everyone walks out with so much more than photos; there are new connections made, and each event is a catalyst for art.
The Photobooth isn’t just an event or brand for Bizzie – it’s her business. As of publishing this article, Bizzie R. has recently transitioned to being a full-time artist, after serving as the Executive Assistant for Working Families Party Councilman Josh Michtom since the beginning of last year. Bizzie has gotten some practice reciting her elevator pitch, which she succinctly recounted: The Photobooth is an “art curation company whose premise is to bring opportunities and resources to BIPOC artists.” Not only that, but it also holds space and provides connections. She’s seen immediate outcomes; models and photographers meet at her event and go on to collaborate again afterwards – these are lasting connections. She wants to build The Photobooth into a brick-and-mortar similar to The Y…but for creatives. She already has a floor plan with multiple floors, including a community space with a kitchen, photography studios, dance studios and more; all of it heavily geared towards Black and Brown artists.
You can see more of Bizzie’s work and what she’s up to next at thephotoboothinc.com.
— Dan Deutsch, Marketing and Communications Manager