A new quarterly publication called U Magazine, founded by Ypsilanti resident Christian Usera, aims to spotlight visual art by people of color (POC) and other marginalized groups, with 60% of the magazine dedicated to those demographics.
"We're attempting to shine a light on people of color and other under-represented groups in light of not just what has been going on in the art world in terms of under-representation of POC and marginalized groups but in terms of the racial vitriol that is currently on display in this country," Usera says. "It's tragic and gut-wrenching. I guess part of me wants to make the world a little better off, a little more fair and understanding."
Usera is of Irish and Puerto Rican descent, and says he brings the colors and textures of his Puerto Rican heritage into his own art. He first began to include his heritage in his art at the urging of a professor and mentor he studied under at New York University, Barbadian poet Kamau Brathwaite.
Though Usera's degree was in English, he went on creating visual art, including an independently-published illustrated short story and exhibiting at Marassa 10, an event at NYU celebrating African and Caribbean culture. He also developed his artistic and writing ability while interning at several art galleries.
Usera, who has lived in Ypsilanti since 2015, was laid off from his job in 2020. During his period of unemployment, he explored the idea of re-launching a friend's now-defunct art magazine, I Want You, in which Usera's work had been featured. But the founder, Christian Peterson, urged Usera to start his own publication.
Partly as a reference to his own last name and partly in honor of his friend's magazine, Usera named his new publication U Magazine and began reaching out to artists he admired, seeking to publish their work in his magazine.
The first issue of the magazine was released late in summer 2020, featuring Usera's work and the work of four other artists: Andrew Da Silva of Quebec; Erin Asmussen of Pierre, S.D.; Lika Sharashidze of Tbilisi in the country of Georgia; and Angel Aviles of New York City. The next issue will come out sometime in the next few months, Usera says.
Usera is defining "marginalized groups" fairly broadly. For instance, Sharashidze is not a person of color but is a young woman from the second-poorest nation in Europe, Usera notes.
Each future issue will display three images from each of five artists, and more of each artist's work will be featured on the U Magazine website. The magazine will include a short essay by Usera, biographies of each artist, and links to their work online.
For more information about the magazine, visit https://www.uartmag.com.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of U Magazine.