Artists of Color Collective, an active, student-led community for diverse creatives at Temple University

Alissa Roach and Hannah Pang, co-presidents of the Artists of Color Collective at Temple University, join host Logan Cryer in this 23-minute podcast interview to talk about their recent "Digital Entanglements" exhibition at Tiger Strikes Asteroid, and their upcoming zine (AoCC's second ever publication). You can support the Artists of Color Collective via Instagram DMs (@Artists_of_Color).

Hannah Pang (left) an asian woman with ear length hair, wearing a black shoulder less shirt, and Alissa Roach (right), a Black woman wearing a black turtleneck and large circular glasses.
Hannah Pang (left) and Alissa Roach (right), co-presidents of the Artists of Color Collective (AoCC) at Temple University. Photos courtesy AoCC. Edited for Artblog Radio.

In this 23-minute podcast interview, Logan Cryer speaks with Alissa Roach and Hannah Pang, practicing artists, best friends, and the current co-presidents of the Artists of Color Collective (AoCC).  Founded at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture in 2015– a predominantly white institution– the student-run AoCC is a crucial space for students of color. Alissa and Hannah, members for four years and new leaders of the group, explain how the collective has evolved and become even more inclusive – like opening the collective to all creatives of color, not just visual art students. Roach says, “… in reality, anyone in Philly could join if they wanted to.”

Logan, Roach, and Hannah discuss AoCC’s first ever zine, “Breaking Boundaries,” (available for purchase on their website), their recent exhibition Digital Entanglements (Tiger Strikes Asteroid’s first ever student exhibition), and their current project, a “warmth” themed publication. You can support the upcoming publication by DMing them on Instagram to make a financial contribution – make sure to give them a follow @Artists_of_Color, or follow Alissa Roach @roach0000000 and Hannah Pang @limehotchip directly.

You can listen to Artblog Radio on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Thank you to Kyle McKay for composing Artblog Radio’s original podcast intro and outro!


[00:00:12] Logan Cryer: Hello friends, you are listening to Artblog Radio recorded in Philadelphia. My name is Logan Cryer. And in this episode, you will hear a conversation with myself and the two co-presidents of the Artists of Color Collective, Alissa Roach and Hannah Pang. The Artists of Color Collective is a student-run organization based out of Temple University.

Their mission is to support, showcase, and connect with our communities by combining the minds and works of their diverse members. The collective recently held a show at Tiger Strikes Asteroid Philadelphia titled “Digital Entanglements,” and they are currently working on a new publication. To learn more about it, you can follow their social media, which is linked in the description of this episode.

My conversation with Roach and Hannah begins with a discussion of how the two became friends before they became co-presidents.

The first thing I wanted to know is how do you two, like actually know each other? Like, obviously you go to school together, but you know…

[00:01:20] Alissa Roach: Hannah how do we know each other? (laughing)

[00:01:23] Hannah Pang: (laughs) So we met like, first day of school. I’m from California. Roach is originally from Jamaica. So like we kind of came to Tyler, 2018, as like… whatever, bright eyed, bushy tailed freshmen, but in the first class we had.

[00:01:40] Alissa Roach: And then Hannah followed me home (laughs)

[00:01:44] Hannah Pang: Roach is like, cool! But yeah. So like we,

[00:01:48] Alissa Roach: We’ve been roommates for the past, like… three years, going on now?

[00:01:54] Hannah Pang: Yeah. We’re kind of like a duo. It just like organically happened.

[00:01:59] Logan Cryer: I love that.

[00:02:02] Hannah Pang: Yeah. There’s lots of history. For another, another podcast.

[00:02:06] Logan Cryer: (laughs) Yeah. I mean, “Roommate History 1” is, it’s a novel.

So the, the Artists of Color Collective, I read that it was founded in 2015. So is that something that you both had learned about as freshmen? Or what was your introduction to it?

[00:02:25] Alissa Roach: Well, so as a freshman, I started going to meetings, cause I knew the president at that point, who was Princeton, who was… I think he was a… he was a junior when we were freshmen. And then I was like, “Hannah, you should start coming to these meetings with me.” And we always felt so uncomfortable in them cause we were freshmen and everyone else was like junior, senior, like… Yeah.

[00:02:48] Hannah Pang: And then from there, like, we attended most of like… or a good amount during our freshman year. And then we ended up studying abroad. And then when we came back, I think is really when we like, started being more involved in it. And it not just being something that us being like, “oh, like maybe we should just go to one of the meetings.”

The president who was before us, Mark, got us a little bit more involved and we were getting more excited about what Artists of Color could be?

[00:03:13] Alissa Roach: Yeah. Cause I think as freshmen, it was just a place for everyone to like, commiserate, which was like fine, but we weren’t really like working on projects or doing anything until Mark was the one that was like, “We should make a publication.” And then that just like set everything up.

[00:03:29] Logan Cryer: Yeah, I’m thinking, you know, 2015, I think at that point, like Black Lives Matter protests were really happening in Philly a lot. And I, there are a lot– as someone who was in college at that time– there were a lot of, kind of new conversations about what it means to be a student of color, particularly like in an art and design space.

And it’s something that’s interesting to me. And I, I guess I should ask you to explain a little bit with the collective is for those who are unfamiliar, but something that was interesting to me is that it’s not all just visual artists who are a part of it.

So can you talk a little bit about like what the collective does, and who’s involved, and who would be able to join it in theory?

[00:04:11] Hannah Pang: So just of like, how you could even join what it’s made out of. It’s like all personal, not volunteer, is kind of the wrong word? But it’s not like we have a process of like, you have to submit a portfolio and then we only accept a certain amount of people in the club. I know that there’s other organizations, especially within Temple who do things like that.

So it’s mostly up to you. If you want to join our zoom link is always available on social media and stuff like anyone can really come.

[00:04:39] Alissa Roach: Cause I think it was born in 2015 out of the political sphere around like, being in predominantly white spaces. And I think at that point too, Tyler, like, I mean, it’s still not diverse, but it was worse in 2015. So that sort of made it necessary for there to be an Artist of Color Collective.

But I think now it’s just become, like, anyone can join as in no white people can join. (everyone laughs) And anyone else else can join. Like that’s literally all it is.

We’re also, I dunno if we can say this, but we’re like not getting funding from Temple right now. So we’re like, technically not even a Temple organization.

So in reality, anyone in Philly could join if they wanted to. But I do think people like get deterred from joining, cause we’re like sort of verbally linked with Temple.

[00:05:32] Hannah Pang: Yeah. And the whole, like, do you have to be a visual artist? Like, no, not necessarily. Obviously, like right now, our main focus is working on projects that like, if you have the language and the practice of it, it would feel like you’re contributing more.

But we have plenty of people who are interested this year, who are just… like didn’t have any space to like, be creative or like to meet people who are in creative places. And just have like a community of people to talk to. Make new friends, even, like at the very basis of it, we try to like bring in a sort of like family aspect, that like our freshman year didn’t feel super evident in.

[00:06:10] Alissa Roach: And I think it also like bridges the gap between freshmen and like seniors, or even like MFA people, or even like people outside of Tyler, where we have like a freshmen Poli Sci major, but also like an MFA in ceramics.

[00:06:24] Logan Cryer: That’s really interesting as an organization, that it would be able to like bridge those gaps, between like time, and major… I mean, for 2015, it’s been running for six years…

What do you feel like is the thing that’s allowed for that organization to continue? Because it’s pretty rare that school organizations can actually last, let alone more than one year, but across like, students graduating and coming in.

[00:06:55] Alissa Roach: I’m… honestly like, Yeah. you’re right. (laughs)

[00:06:57] Hannah Pang: Yeah! (laughs)

[00:06:59] Alissa Roach: Like it was born out of necessity at first and now it’s just become a thing of like, like as freshmen, we would joke and be like, “oh, we’re going to be the president when we’re seniors.” But like, now we are like, it was just a thing of like, there’s so many younger people coming in and then they see like what can be done. And they realize that, we could be the ones to do this.

[00:07:21] Hannah Pang: Yeah. Also, I think like, I would give credit at least last year, to Mark. I think he, from like the previous .years, from when we were freshmen- and like us coming to these meetings, we definitely had a different perspective. And like seeing the potential that artists of color could have. And hopefully we give them to people who are in the club now who like when we graduate this year it’ll keep going?

I also think to a certain extent social media presence. I feel like a lot of people joined this year because of the “Digital Entanglements” show, and just like seeing us post like group photos and like what we’re up to, and that sort of thing. People are like curious of how they can like be involved in something like this.

[00:08:01] Logan Cryer: Yeah, I want to talk about the “Digital entanglements” show which was at Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Philly, a couple months ago. Was that the first time that as a collective, you all had staged an exhibition?

[00:08:16] Alissa Roach: That was the first time we’ve done an exhibition offsite, like out of Temple. And it was also Tiger Strikes Asteroids for student exhibition, like ever.

[00:08:27] Logan Cryer: Hmm. Oh wow, I didn’t know that. So how did that come together? I think some of the members work at Tyler? Was there, did they approach you? Did you approach them?

[00:08:40] Alissa Roach: So it was actually my I had a professor, my freshman year named Adam Lovitz, and he reached out to me on Instagram, like March of this year? And was like, “Hey, would you be interested in having a show at TSA sometime in the summer? Like we have an opening for a show” and I was like, “that’s really, really random, but yeah, like, yeah, why not?”

That’s actually how it happened, that it would not have happened without Adam, just like DMing me.

[00:09:13] Logan Cryer: And the thing that, I mean, the show is really great, I think. Conceptually, it was really strong, the work was really strong. And I remember walking through the gallery and I think I said this to you, Roach, cause I was like, “there’s no like info card about who made the artworks, like, I don’t know who the artists were” and you were like, “well, we all made it.” and I was like, “that can’t be…”

So can you explain this? Like, so there were multiple pieces in the show, but the artists collective members made the works together?

[00:09:45] Hannah Pang: Yeah.

[00:09:45] Logan Cryer: I still kind of don’t… How does that happen?!

[00:09:49] Hannah Pang: So we were… and it started with the beginning of like getting this prompt to do a show there. And we had all seen countless, like student work exhibitions. Like everyone has their drawing that they put on the wall with the little like tag next to it. And we were just wanting to. Go in the opposite direction completely.

And so part of the concept of it is like how we interact online and like, what is our digital world made of? And that’s all collective and that’s how we were starting to like, come into the brainstorming of it where like we would give out prompts to everyone and they would all like, do something up for it.

We’d like talk about them. And then it was mostly like, So a lot of it was we’ve built things together, but also, like that’s physical and like imaginative. Yeah. Like so for example, the questions video piece that was like made of all of our collective’s questions that we did through a project together.

[00:10:48] Logan Cryer: Could you describe that piece a little bit for those listening?

[00:10:52] Alissa Roach: So there was a piece in the show that was on a monitor. And it was basically just like text, of a bunch of questions that were cycling through. But the transition between the questions like made it seem like it was sort of like, like each question was like morphing and absorbing, like into each other. But for those questions, we had all the collective members send in like five or six questions and then we all worked together to narrow the list down.

And there was a lot of that. Like, it was like everyone coming together and then everyone also like reducing.

[00:11:28] Logan Cryer: Yeah. Hmm.

[00:11:28] Hannah Pang: And the reducing came from conversations that we were having with one another digitally through zoom. Because we didn’t want to have this hierarchy where it felt like me and Roach were like the last say and that you had to like give something and then we’re like, “this is not going to make it,” or “this is going to make it.”

It was more so like, what are we all interested in? Like, how can we all relate to this question? Or how can we all feel from this concept? Or like this image? And then also physically building it like the, we had a moss sculptural piece made of like moss, and like plastic that was staple gunned to walls, and that was like a communal building. So that we could all come together and sort of like start to piece something together that felt very abstract, but also very like organic.

[00:12:12] Logan Cryer: Yeah, it was really interesting to see– I mean, I, I assume most of the artists are kind of around your age? Like early twenties?– to see people make work that talked about digital realities. Especially like, I think the topic of that, of, you know, “what does digital media do?” is explored by a lot of artists, but for younger artists, they just have a completely different relationship to it than people five years older than them, let alone 10 or 20.

So it was really interesting to see that everyone had such a strong mindfulness about their relationship to technology. I’m curious if that is… In the show, I didn’t get the sense it was a point of anxiety, but I also don’t know if I saw it as a point of celebration? Where was everyone kind of landing in those conversations about how they were feeling about their current positionality in like our super social hypermediated, like world?

[00:13:13] Alissa Roach: That’s a good, that’s a really good point. I think because we started out in April, like we started working on in April and then like through the summer, and the number one thing we would always say is like… from an artists of color collective, you would expect a show that like focuses on pain and like anxiety and things like that.

And we were like, we want to completely switch that narrative. And so at first we were like, we need to focus on joy. And like, not even on nostalgia, like focus on joy and like being present and like a lot of that. And I think in the end result, like, I don’t know if that joy was necessarily super present, but I do like that it’s a bit ambiguous.

[00:13:59] Hannah Pang: Yeah. Sort of like an embrace of the unknown as well. not sure if we need to have the answer to offer to the viewer, what the answer of our experience is yet? Cause you’re right. Like we are in our early twenties and we’re still kind of figuring that part out. It was more so like getting the expression and like the feeling of the odd digital spaces that we find ourselves in.

And the self-reflection. Like the, we do our like as a generation, we are understanding. That there is a lot of toxicity linked with like our obsession with the digital world. Yeah.

[00:14:39] Logan Cryer: And then with “Digital Entanglements,” there was also a zine that was being produced, which, is that still available for purchase on your website?

[00:14:49] Alissa Roach: So the zine was actually prior to “Digital Entanglements” that was um, “Breaking Boundaries,” which was our project like, last winter. So like, I guess this time, last year? That is still available on our website.

[00:15:03] Hannah Pang: it was just more of like a placeholder for a show. So they’re not exactly linked.

[00:15:10] Logan Cryer: Okay. I see. And yeah, it’s interesting you saying it’s a place holder for a show because in the zine it’s like featuring different members and it’s like an artist’s statement, a bio, and then like images of some of their works. I can’t remember off the top of my head, but how many artists are featured in that publication?

[00:15:32] Alissa Roach: That was 11, I think.

[00:15:34] Logan Cryer: Okay. Yeah.

[00:15:36] Alissa Roach: And then the show was… 10 or 11?

[00:15:39] Hannah Pang: Yeah.

[00:15:41] Logan Cryer: I’m really curious about that process of creating that zine, especially as you’re saying, it was kind of like the substitute as a show. I mean, I’m sure that was partly because of COVID and there was certain limitations around like what showing work means? But also I was really interested in the fact that it was so, so much about the people like their work is featured, but it really feels like a profile on everyone.

Did that just feel like an intuitive decision to focus more on individuals, or was that like a conscious choice that you all were making about, how do we want to talk about ourselves and like show who we are?

[00:16:18] Alissa Roach: I think it was definitely Mark’s vision over everything for that whole zine. But I think… so I remember approaching it and us being like, okay, we need some kind of theme. Like what’s the theme going to be? And Mark was always like, “well, the theme is that we’re artists of color.” Like that’s the theme. And so I think that, yeah, that’s why it became super individual, but especially for like what we’re trying to do with our next publication, we want it to feel more like “Digital Entanglements.”

Like we want it to be sort of cohesive and like seamless and collaborative.

[00:16:58] Hannah Pang: Yeah. And with the “Breaking Boundaries” zine, so that past zine, it was sort of this moment where Mark, our old president was like, we need to like announce, and have like a foundation. A lot of people don’t know who Artists of Color are. They don’t understand who they were, and so, that was why we all had to like write our own bios, and they were all like, they weren’t really like edited at all. So whatever people sent in as their bio is what got published.

Which I think is also like, it served as this opportunity for people to like, get published. Like a lot of these people who are in it, are still in university. And so they’ve never had an opportunity to like, say that they’re a part of a publication.

[00:17:37] Logan Cryer: I love that. And I love the consideration of not just like hanging out and like having friends, which is really important, but also like how are we supporting each other professionally?

What are you thinking ahead towards for the future of the collective? I guess you’re kind of towards the end of this semester, but for your final semesters. Cause I think you’re both graduating in the spring. What are some of the goals and visions that you have for the collective?

[00:18:07] Alissa Roach: I think it’s sort of becoming, and we talk about this a lot as like kind of a joke, but it’s becoming like winter publication, summer show, winter publication, summer show. So we’re hoping that next summer they will, there is probably going to be another exhibition type thing, but our focus right now is the publication.

[00:18:28] Hannah Pang: And I think also having that like summer show gives a good, like transition between people who are leading. Yeah, it feels like a lot of the time people who are, are like those who are presidents are usually seniors. So it’s like their last year. And then they leave. So someone else has to take some sort of like leadership position.

[00:18:47] Logan Cryer: And then you’ve mentioned a couple of times there, well, the zine that you want to do, that’s upcoming. I know that’s still in development, but, is there more you can share about what it is that you’re thinking about doing or what people might expect from it?

[00:19:02] Alissa Roach: What we can say is that the theme is “warmth.”

[00:19:06] Logan Cryer: Ooh,

[00:19:07] Alissa Roach: And that’s it (laughs)

[00:19:10] Logan Cryer: Cool. I’m curious about what have been some of the particular difficulties of running this organization, either because of the specific context of being housed within Temple, or just generally in terms of working with a certain demographic of artists who are a certain age and coming from different backgrounds.

And I’m curious about those challenges, because I think talking about like what’s difficult and how you are moving through them, or maybe just kind of saying, we need help with this, and someone maybe will be able to answer that call for help. But what would you all say those may have been?

[00:19:51] Alissa Roach: I think the only challenges, right now and like in the past, have been funding, like literally? Cause I think we all have these like big dreams, and especially like freshmen coming in, like you say, “oh, we can do anything.” And they’re like, “I want to have a fashion show. I want to have like this.” Like, “I want to do like everything in the world.”

And we’re like, we want to give this to you; we don’t have funding from Temple. So, and with the zine, like with the past zine, we had a GoFundMe that made like, actually like two grand in like a day, which was crazy, but… like we’re using money from that still.

[00:20:30] Hannah Pang: Yeah.

[00:20:31] Alissa Roach: from like zine sales. And then from like, like we just keep recycling the same money, but.

[00:20:38] Logan Cryer: And I guess it’s hard to, because your students, you can’t apply to most funding…

[00:20:44] Alissa Roach: Yeah, that’s true.

[00:20:45] Logan Cryer: Hmm. Well, if someone wanted to make a financial contribution to your efforts, is there a way that they can do that?

[00:20:55] Alissa Roach: They could reach out to us on Instagram honestly, and we could figure it out.

[00:21:01] Logan Cryer: What’s your handle?

[00:21:03] Alissa Roach: Oh, our handle is @Artists_of_Color.

Should we drop our personal handles too?

[00:21:12] Logan Cryer: Oh yeah!

[00:21:12] Hannah Pang: Yeah, we can.

[00:21:13] Alissa Roach: Mine is @roach0000000 Hannah’s is @limehotchip (laughs)

[00:21:27] Logan Cryer: Cool. Uh, So. I don’t have more questions about the collective, but I would like to talk a little bit more about you all, as, I think you’re both practicing artists, is that correct? Yeah. I would love to hear more about your individual practices.

[00:21:44] Alissa Roach: Oh gosh.

[00:21:45] Logan Cryer: To close things out. (laughs)

[00:21:48] Alissa Roach: Um, I’m a sculpture major, Hannah’s a graphic design major, so like two opposite ends of the spectrum, I would say.

[00:21:58] Hannah Pang: Yeah. And like, I was going to talk about Artists of Color again, but I guess we, we can move on from that, but I guess in general. Okay. Last thing I’ll say about it, is like… that difference is super evident and also super important because then it feels like everything can be very like diverse and like fulfilled.

But yeah.

[00:22:18] Logan Cryer: Well, is there anything else that you all want to talk about before we close out ?

[00:22:22] Alissa Roach: We’re going to be in a group show at Cherry Street Pier in December, actually. But a whole other, that’s not Artists of Color. That’s just Hannah and I.

[00:22:33] Logan Cryer: It’s just, it’s going to be a group show with just you two?

[00:22:36] Alissa Roach: It’s us and our installation class,
[00:22:41] Logan Cryer: Oh, wow.

[00:22:42] Alissa Roach: Yeah.

[00:22:43] Logan Cryer: Okay. Cool. Thank you for listening to Artblog Radio. Please be sure to listen to our other episodes and to check out for more content on Philadelphia arts and culture.