Jessica Mehta

Announcing Forecast’s Change Lab Research Fellow focusing on Indigenous Visibility in Public Art: Jessica Mehta

Supporting the efforts around dismantling harmful systems is built into the way we work, and we are acting to address collective trauma and reckon with systemic racism and inequities in the public art field. Our new Change Lab Research Fellowships aim to produce new research and policy suggestions to advance justice, health and human dignity in the field of public art in the United States. We are thrilled to announce Jessica Mehta as our next Change Lab Research Fellow, who will focus on Indigenous Visibility in Public Art.

A multi-award-winning Aniyunwiya interdisciplinary author and artist, Jessica is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation born and raised in the colonized land of what is today called Oregon. Space, place, and ancestry inform much of her work.

“​​Jessica’s extensive experience demonstrates the depth of research and knowledge necessary to understand and reframe the pervasive unequal systems in this country, as well as how arts and culture can help shape more livable, equitable spaces and encourage a sense of belonging,” says Jen Krava, Forecast’s Director of Programming and New Initiatives. “As a leader in the public art field, we are committed to changing the unequal structures in place. We were inspired by Jessica’s work and approach, and we look forward to together forming policy recommendations that will disrupt the status quo.”

We are excited to see Jessica begin this role, and look forward to together developing a national public art policy platform rooted in justice, health and human dignity for Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.

About Jessica Mehta

Jessica Mehta is an Aniyunwiya (citizen of the Cherokee Nation), Two-Spirit, full-time working artist, writer, and researcher who recently completed their PhD. Jessica has sustained herself as a writer and artist for over a decade thanks to their founding of the writing services company MehtaFor in 2012 and the support of countless fellowships, residencies, grants, and awards for their creative works over the years; most recently, Jessica was a 2021 GLEAN: Portland artist and created a series of works titled “Strong FoundNations” that brings attention to the history of the “Indian boarding schools” (of which her father survived). As a Native artist, they know first-hand the depths and intricacies of systemic racism within the world of “western art,” particularly in settler-based spaces like major art galleries and museums. Through this Research Fellowship, Jessica will undertake a qualitative assessment of the current state of “Native art” via recorded interviews with fellow Native and Indigenous artists.

“Information is at the root of public art policy reform. My hope is that, through interviews paired with supporting research from Forecast resources, my findings and paper will prove useful for helping to enact real change. I know that my fellow Native artists have stories to tell that can be the driving force behind change—after all, our stories … have always been one of our most powerful tools.

—Jessica Mehta

Visit A Virtual Tour of Jessica Mehta’s ’emBODY poetry’ Exhibition. ’emBODY poetry’ explores an experimental form of poetry on unorthodox canvases, with original work by Jessica Mehta presented in virtual reality. Experience poetry as it merges with technology, revealing itself on those who inhabit bodies who are traditionally under-represented and hyper-sexualized in much of mainstream western society.

Jessica Mehta began her work as the Indigenous Visibility Research Fellow on January 1, 2022.

A text graphic reads: "Forecast's second Change Lab Research Fellow will focus on Indigenous Visibility in Public Art" and "The Change Lab is innovating to disrupt the status quo through public art and creative community engagement"

Change Lab Background

The time is long overdue to reckon with systemic racism and inequities in our country’s public art policies, practices, and collections and address our collective trauma. We know from four decades as a leader in the public art field that cultural appropriation, art-washing, public art deserts, unethical community engagement practices, and systemic funding and policy barriers keep BIPOC artists and communities from fair, just and equitable representation in our country’s public art.

We also know that there are currently over 700 public art programs in the United States that have policies and funding to continue creating public art. Many of these programs and policies were instituted in the 1960’s and 70’s, and are tied to infrastructure projects and budgets. This system emphasizes permanent, object based projects, discounting public artworks that are temporary, ephemeral, and performance based.

We launched the Change Lab to place a critical eye on public art policies, funding, and processes across the country to understand their connection to and ability to challenge the most pressing issues of our time – racism as a public health crisis, Indigenous visibility, rural isolation, welcoming and belonging, collective trauma, and more.

We’ll engage Research Fellows to catalyze new thinking, test new approaches, and creatively disrupt the status quo to advance justice in the field of public art. Change Lab National Research Fellows will go deep into an area of critical importance, and utilize the findings to collectively develop a national public art policy platform that is rooted in justice, health and human dignity for Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.

Our goal is to collaborate with communities to create new ways of working within the field of public art and allied fields through cross-sector partnerships, on the ground research, and deep community engagement to address inequities in all facets of public art. Through the Change Lab, we will utilize Research Fellow reports to act as a model of change for public art programs, policies, and processes.

a graphic of three colorful arrows includes the words "disrupt the status quo"

About the Fellowship

The Change Lab National Research Fellowships aim to produce new research, data, reporting, and suggestions to advance justice, health, and human dignity in the field of public art in the United States. Each Fellowship is based around a specific research topic, and is open to graduate students, recent college graduates, doctoral and post-doctoral researchers, artists, and public art professionals.] Fellowships are 6-month long, funded positions. A $5,000 stipend will be made to each Fellow in two payments – once upon contract and once upon final delivery of and acceptance of your report. Fellows will be thought partners informing Forecast’s work conducting research and providing recommendations that will inform public art policies and practices in the United States and Native Nations that share the same geography. Fellows will work from their home base and can be located anywhere. A working knowledge of public art and some experience with research in the designated topic area will be important. Research Fellows will have access to Forecast staff and our published resources.

The application for our second Research Fellowship is open now. This Fellowship is focused on Indigenous Visibility in Public Art. Applications were due on October 28, 2021.

Fellows will be required to:

Commit to 200 hours over a 6 month period from their home base conducting in-depth research, analysis, and synthesis, and making suggestions on public art policies, programs, and practices as related to the research topic.

Research can take many forms, including interviews, focus groups, listening sessions, and formal surveys, to name a few.

Attend regular virtual meetings with the Director of Programming [and other members of the organization as needed].

Complete administrative tasks relating to the selected research topic.

Submit a print-ready report on research findings and recommendations 6 months after contract initiation [an example will be provided].

Agree that research will be published, fully accredited by Forecast.

Share research and findings to a wide audience of constituents.