by The People’s Minister of Information JR
If you are involved in some way with the Black Frisco visual arts scene, either as a fan, artist, media-maker or space owner, chances are that you have run across the twins, Melonie and Melorra Green. They’ve just closed their gallery that was in the Fillmore, right across the street from Yoshi’s, created a radio show that comes on 89.5FM KPOO weekly, and, as a major part of the planning for the successful San Francisco Black Film Festival June 12-15, are basking in the after-glow.
I got a chance to sit down with half of the dynamic duo, Melonie Green, to talk about their history, their work and their future. These sisters are somebody to be on the lookout for. Here is Melonie in her own words …
M.O.I. JR: Where are you from? And how did you and your sister get into visual art?
Melonie: Melorra and I are from Memphis, Tenn. We’ve always loved the arts and moved to San Francisco to attend the Academy of Art University in 2010. Our goal was to make documentary films and other creative visual projects. Working with the SF Black Film Festival kept us close to film and making an impact in the art community.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of your gallery? Why’d you choose to open a gallery?
Melonie: From 2007- 2010, Melorra and I hosted an art movement titled BYOA – Bring Your Own Art – a one night art mash-up for artist empowerment. The goal of BYOA was to create a space where visual and recording artists could perform, learn to speak about their work in a public setting, get feedback on their work and create their own opportunities. It was mostly in the Fillmore community.
We opened Gallery 1307 so that the artists we worked with could have more than one night to showcase their work. It was a hit with the community and we were able to stay in the Fillmore Center’s Pop Up space for a little over two years. Our original ask was three months.
From 2007- 2010, Melorra and I hosted an art movement titled BYOA – Bring Your Own Art – a one night art mash-up for artist empowerment.
M.O.I. JR: What are some of the highs and lows of being a gallery owner in San Francisco?
Melonie: The highs of being a gallery owner are being a provider and keeper of space for artists and visionaries who would not have a platform to showcase their works and express their dreams, witnessing the growth of each artist we work with and seeing our own growth in the process. We knew nothing about running a gallery. We just knew we wanted to make a bigger impact.
The lows of being a gallery owner are felt when hard lessons of being too trusting and/or giving more than our resources could afford. We always want to give more and do as much as possible to support artists. Sometimes the lessons of balance and knowing when to take the “hero’s cape” off can be the most jarring – but are the best for forward motion and next leveling our steps.
M.O.I. JR: What kind of art do you guys do?
Melonie: Melorra and I just stepped into our own creativity about six months ago. Melorra is an amazing illustrator. Her works are like photographs. She hasn’t drawn anything in about 20 years. Her work is very powerful. I, Melonie, create more abstract and cartoony works of art. I love to work with my hands and use upcycled objects, paper, cardboard etc. to create my work.
M.O.I. JR: Where do you see yourself in the art world in the next 10 years?
Melonie: Ten years … I see Melorra and me traveling the globe, creating Cultural Preservation Museums for underrepresented and displaced but powerful communities; I see us going crazy with our personal works of art and continuing to be a vessel and portal for creativity and empowerment; and I see us teaching and consulting with our new business, Born Collaborators, Est. 1977.
Melorra is an amazing illustrator. Her works are like photographs. Her work is very powerful. I, Melonie, create more abstract and cartoony works of art. I love to work with my hands and use upcycled objects, paper, cardboard etc. to create my work.
M.O.I. JR: Who are some of the local visual artists in the Bay that you are excited about?
Melonie: I’m personally excited about what Melorra will create in the next six months to a year!
We are excited about the works of SpacEKraft, Sydney “Sage” Cain, Michael Ross, William Rhodes, Karen and Malik Seneferu, Ain Bailey, Ciara Swan, the artists of Black Diamonds Shining Collective and so many more!
M.O.I. JR: What’s next?
Melonie: Melorra and I are building the conversation around the question: “Can Art Save a Community?” It is the question we are using to spark conversation around how we work together to improve our communities, how art is used as an introductory tool for gentrification, how we all play an integral part in what actually manifests in our neighborhoods – everyone plays a role – how attitudes and personality types play a bigger part than we would like to admit and it’s also an opportunity to give praise to our community warriors who work tirelessly to make positive change in our communities.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell people how you two started your radio show and what it is about? When does it come on?
Melonie: Melorra and I spoke about doing a show on KPOO at the end of 2012 but didn’t really pursue it. We would go to various events throughout the Bay Area and see Terry Collins of KPOO at just about all the same events, shows and festivals.
When an opening came for the Tuesday night 8-10 p.m. slot, Terry contacted us about hosting a show our way, our style. He also wanted us to feature LGBTIAQ content. This was perfect for us. And The Ibeji Lounge was born.
It took us a while to get it the way we wanted – still working on it. We started branding the show as all things art, culture and LGBTIAQ topics to the tunes of world music, classics and lots of amazing independent artists all over the globe.
Our next venture within the show is hosting live, recorded performances in the studio.
Join us Tuesday nights, 8-10 p.m., on KPOO San Francisco 89.5FM.
M.O.I. JR: What does the name of the radio show mean?
The name of the show is The Ibeji Lounge. Ibeji means “twins” in the Yoruba culture. Melorra and I are twins and pride ourselves on providing a comfortable loungy environment for anyone to share their vision, work and dream movements with us. So we merged both to form The Ibeji Lounge.
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and the newly released “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.