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Living in the In-Between: Jasmin Agosto on Curating, Collaborating, and Code-switching

There is no doubt that the experiences we have growing up inform how we see the world and move through space, even beyond our formative years into adulthood.

Jasmin Agosto, a Boston-born, queer Puerto Rican artist and scholar, knows quite a lot about possessing multiple identities and living them fully. Agosto and her family experienced a culture shock of sorts, moving from Boston to West Hartford at a young age. With one parent at the Hartford Seminary and another at Maria Sanchez Elementary School, Agosto and her brother became accustomed to inhabiting multiple spaces. They looked around and saw a community vastly different from that of which they grew up with but found their homes away from home in places like their predominantly Spanish-speaking church.

“In high school, I was fearless.”

Agosto quickly dove into the local scene at a young age. While studying at the Greater Hartford Academy for the Arts, she was hired as a summer creative writing instructor at Milner School, and she found another home in the community of the North End; they took her in and gave her even more youth education and engagement opportunities. She discovered that she had many resources at her disposal: audiences, a space (a benefit of having a parent employee), and raw talent. By the age of 15, she was putting on “collectivist events;” all-ages potluck open mics in Hartford. In her senior year of high school, she attended the first annual Trinity International Hip-Hop Festival and was ignited. As an undergrad at Trinity, she gained even more boots-on-the-ground experience as an event organizer: budgeting, booking artists, promotion, and more. After getting a crash course in nonprofits as the executive assistant at Sankofa Kuumba, Agosto took a temporary step back from Hartford as she entered graduate studies at NYU Gallatin School for Individualized Study. It was here that she discovered curating and organizing are completely different experiences when funded, and you have a team of staff and colleagues collaborating together. However, graduate school was a predominantly white space, and she found herself craving Hartford, her home. it is from these often-binary experiences that she has adopted a unique worldview.

photography: Quiana Grant

An epiphanic moment came through her involvement with Be A Boss, a collaboration of women of color led by Trudi Lebron, exploring the question “how do we want to live our own lives?” Agosto’s answer: Sageseeker Productions. This was a culmination of years of curating, organizing, and community-building, synthesizing with her vision of cooperative economics. Perhaps the most well-known event to come out of this company has been La Sala Femme, an evening of performances featuring Black femmes, womxn of color, non-binary and queer artists of color. Agosto has been intentional over the years to incorporate a spiritual aspect to her events; La Sala Femme emphasizes the significance of rituals that connect with those who are no longer with us. These libations along with the performances specifically celebrate the lives of Black and Brown womxn and queer folks of color, and part of what Agosto wants participants to take away is that these folks’ stories live through us as we live through them.

design: Sageseeker Productions

Agosto discovered her voice, identity and purpose through a myriad of vastly different experiences and continues to do so today. She has developed a wealth of knowledge and skill sets to not just bring to different environments, but also to mentor future artists and creatives. Since graduating from Trinity, Agosto has stayed on as a Hip-Hop Festival community partner through Sageseeker Productions, helping student organizers develop their own identities as producers. Her worldview as a code-switcher has enabled her to occupy multiple spaces. As curator, she sees herself as an amplifier for marginalized voices and aims to use her identities as leverage to not only strengthen connections through collaboration, but also between these creative communities and those of funders and institutions. Having been on both sides — school and church, nonprofits and businesses, community and institutions, and in a way, life and death – Agosto is a medium of sorts, helping to bridge gaps. When asked about the world we’re living in now, the new in-between of gathering in the real world and behind screens, she echoed much of what’s been said: “we’re going to be able to be in physical space but it’s going to take time.”

The 15th Annual Trinity International Hip-Hop Festival takes place this weekend, April 9-11. Read on and register here.

– Dan Deutsch, Marketing & Communications Manager
GHAC

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