Project For Empty Space Throws A Stylish Fête, The 2024 Badass Art Woman Awards


Last night at the Angel Orensanz Foundation on the Lower East Side, the New York City art community showed up to support the Badass Art Woman Awards. The energy in the room was celebratory and it was conjured forth by Jasmine Wahi and Rebecca Pauline, both co-founders of Project for Empty Space. The femme-led organization is dedicated to the intersection of art and social activism. There was even a hint of energy that was exhilarating too. The theme of the night lent itself to honor intrinsically connected creative duos. A bustling cocktail hour was the first stop of the night before the festivities officially kicked off. During this hour it became clear that the event was set to be filled with stylish attendees, the honorees were styled meticulously in Dior.

The Best Moments At The 2024 Badass Art Woman Awards
Photo Credit: Memry/

Hearing Wahi and Pauline share how they co-created Project for Empty Space was heart-warming–this was the kick-off to the lauded ceremony. They took turns sharing the road to 2024, which began in 2008 when they decided to create an arts organization. They parted ways for a bit but eventually what followed was a series of successful pop-ups. But today, the two program nearly 50,000 square feet across Newark.

The Best Moments At The 2024 Badass Art Woman Awards
Chanel Lopez, Jasmine Wahi

One moment from the evening that evoked laughter was when the artist Derrick Adams introduced his friendship with his former schoolmate Mickalene Thomas, multi-disciplinary artist and co-founder of Pratt Institute’s Pratt>Forward, a free platform for emerging creatives and alumni of the institution. The platform supports them as they navigate the art world. Adams noted how when she was a student at Pratt she was already an entrepreneur. He also shared details about how seriously she took being a resident assistant. He shared: “From then on Mickalene and I have continued our friendship for 30 years.”

The dynamic duo Mickalene Thomas and Pratt>Forward co-founder, artist, and Chair of Fine Arts at Pratt, Jane South shared a singular moment on stage when they received their awards. While on stage, the former spoke about creating the mentorship platform to pour into students and alumni who needed guidance and professional development. “Through our initiative, we’ve built a very vibrant community that supports a lot of emerging artists. And with the support it provides resources and mentorship,” Thomas said. She added that the space is a beacon and Pratt>Forward was created so artists won’t make the mistakes she made business-wise years ago.

The Best Moments At The 2024 Badass Art Woman Awards
Damien Davis, Natalie Kates

Maria Grazia Chiuri, the creative director of women’s haute couture, ready-to-wear, and accessories for Dior received her flowers too. Her creative partner Karishma Swali, the co-founder and artistic director of the non-profit, the Chanakya School of Craft was honored alongside her. Since 1998, Swali has led Chanakya International, an atelier that partners with global luxury houses further ensuring that Indian artisans and their craftmaking lives on through generations to come.

The Chanakya School of Craft co-founded by Swali in 2016 has educated over 1,000 women to date. Programs within the non-profit enhance the professional opportunities for India’s female artisans. These women are offered opportunities to learn over 300 craft techniques, including embroidery, hand weaving, and macrame. The Chanakya School has partnered with Chiuri since 2020. 

“We understood the value of the craft, embroidery. It has been an incredible creative dialogue between us,” Chiuri said. She went on to express that working with the school has been a joyful experience for her, especially on multiple collections. “I am so deeply honored to share this award with my dearest friend, forever mentor, and my forever inspiration Maria Grazia,” Swali shared. Swali also shared that their common ground was found almost immediately after they met: holding space for artisanal legacies through innovation. “Over the years we dreamt and envisioned a world where women can find spaces to express themselves freely and creatively,” she adds.

Aside from the celebratory spirit throughout the evening, there was also a certain level of warmth and familiarity. The closing award was presented to Project for Empty Space’s Inaugural Feminist FUTURES Curatorial Fellow, Alyssa Alexander. She spoke of the work she has been doing–and acknowledged her hopes for continuing to pour into the arts industry with an intersectional lens.

For their next feat, co-founders Wahi and Pauline are aiming to raise funds for a cross-country exhibition tour and digital database: “Body Freedom For Every(body).” Through a Kickstarter campaign, they’re hopeful that they will secure funding to showcase 200 artists’ works within a truck. Celebrating reproductive justice, queer liberation, and the joy of the trans community are core goals of the exhibition. 

With the rights of women and those within the LGBTQIA community being snatched away state by state, this feels timely. Bodily autonomy is of the utmost importance to many–and Project for Empty Space is looking to garner awareness while showcasing art. The announcement of this campaign which was already live further noted the grassroots movement that has allowed the organization to thrive since 2010.

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