• Zulema Herrera Herrera

MEET: Pancho Moore, Art Science And Democracy Guest Artist to Showcase Black Toy Joy Exhibit

Updated: 16 hours ago

By, Zulema Herrera

Unity in Action Magazine will be hosting its first annual Art Science and Democracy Festival from June 18th - 20th, 2021. There will be various art displays, interactive events, and speakers all being either in-person or virtual. Pancho Moore, guest artist of the festival, will feature work from the youth program called Operation Hope Junior which foregrounds Black superheroes through 3-D art with the use of action figures.

Image Courtesy of Pancho Moore

Can you tell me about you and your role in the festival, what you will showcase?

At Operation Hope Junior, I work with young men who are discovering their identity, reflecting on societal issues. I got involved with this program and the Art festival because this year we decided to do something different with the summer program version of Operation Hope. We said we were focusing on Black Toy Joy, it's our own museum exhibit where we were going to take Black action figures and Black comics and just start to showcase African Americans in a positive light because oftentimes we are seen as the villains or the bad guys. We wanted to change the narrative and show that we are great and we have superpowers as well. Also, to allow kids to just be kids, some of them have grown up in different types of backgrounds and never even had an action figure. So it's one of those things to have something you never had and experience something that is new and we are excited to do that with them this summer.

How did you become involved with Operation Hope Junior and the Black Toy Joy Exhibit?

I'm a film major so I do independent film and I moved back to Champaign about six years ago working with one of the middle schools on a film called, "My Life in the Middle." I was working with a lot of the kids, they started to enjoy it and we decided we would do a program that would cater to individuals who were struggling with reading math, social, emotional skills. It was a program we began and I have just continued to help kids. This is our summer portion where we get to do more STEM stuff, forensic, research, robotics, things of that nature. This year we chose to film mini-documentaries and to have our own museum exhibit.

I work during the school year to make sure their academics are on point and that they are staying focused but at the same time helping them choose career paths that are positive for them. So many times the group of kids I work with lead a different lifestyle so my goal is to show them something different so that maybe they take a different path. So I bring in a bunch of guest speakers that look like them that work in different arenas from being a doctor to a lawyer to a trash man to a contractor to an architect to an engineer. I try to show them different things because as a friend of mines once said "if you have never seen it you will never see it." So if you have never seen someone as a lawyer it will be hard to visualize yourself as a lawyer. Even as a teacher, it's hard to see yourself as an African American teacher because we don't have very many.

Image courtesy of Pancho Moore

What should people expect to see at the Black Toy Joy Exhibit?

We will have posters, they built dioramas which is the scenic background behind the action figures. The action figures are already created, they're superheroes that are rare that we had to track down from Black Panther figures to Killmonger, Miles Morales from Into the Spiderverse. So we took any African American superhero we can find and we brought them to the boys and let them decide who they wanted to use, who they wanted to showcase, and take pictures of. Not only did they build the sets that they're going to take photos with, then they are using photography to make posters, so we have posters available for people to see what the final product ends up looking like as well as the hard work they put in to develop them.

For so many of them, it's their first time touching paintbrushes, it's their first time using a utensil where they have to carve something. They doubted their skills at first but I told them it's subjective, it's your visions, so it ended up looking nice and they shocked themselves. So that's the kind of joy that you want to give to these kids, that's why when we say "Black Toy Joy," it's understanding that these action figures can hopefully in some shape, form, or fashion give them a way to think about everyday life.

What advice would you give to young aspiring artists, artists of color, who may be hesitant in their skills/work?

Have faith in yourself and just have fun, it really boils down to you and your vision and what you choose to create. There's no such thing as "it's good" or "not good", it's all your vision, art is subjective. Just keep creating because you'll never know where it can lead and how much you'll learn to love it. I tell them stories all the time about different friends I have that are creators that do this for a living, side hustle, or just do it for fun. It's always understanding that art is always going got be there and you just want to embrace it and create the best way you know how. Do it your own way, create your own style, and just have fun,

Black Toy Joy will be at the Art Science at the Democracy festival, for more information check out our page here.

For more information about the Operation Hope Junior program visit the Unit 4 Champaign School District website: https://www.champaignschools.org/community/operation_hope

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