Sabriaya Shipley: Gap Fund Artist Profile
The Village launched the Emergency Gap Fund for Philadelphia’s Black Working Artists in April 2020 to support Philadelphia’s culture bearers, visionaries, connectors and creative entrepreneurs with unrestricted grants of $500 during the pandemic. These profiles showcase a few of the remarkable creators that make Philadelphia the city we are proud to call home.
Sabriaya Shipley lives for the “moment of glimmer — when as an artist, you feel you’re right where you’re supposed to be.”
As a teaching artist, devised theater artist, and poet, her work involves “colliding” genres, artists and community members together to generate magic and connection. After graduating from Temple University in 2018, Sabriaya says, “Philadelphia became a second home and a site of independence for my artistry. It’s very heartwarming as a young artist to be welcomed and be able to contribute to the community.”
Sabriaya serves as program director at North Philly community literary space Treehouse Books. She also leads “Performing Identities,” a program of The Colored Girls Museum and Philadelphia Young Playwrights that invites young Black and Brown women to create and perform plays based on archival research.
“I’m sitting with young Black girls working like they’re Octavia Butler reincarnated,” Sabriaya says of the latter project. “They’ve created a phenomenal futuristic play and captured so much Black girl magic.” The play Sabriaya wrote with her group of young playwrights, “Hairitage: Detangling Our Stories” premiered virtually in May 2020.
The Gap Fund allowed Sabriaya to cover an income gap caused by the cancellation of several freelance jobs and continue to support herself and family networks. It also gave her space to reflect on her own role as a community builder.
“I thought, I don’t know if I should apply, I can struggle through,” she says. “But my friend reminded me that it’s ok to be human, for my community to see I have needs too. This fund has taught me not that to support myself creates a stronger community.”
Community artists, she says, are still showing up every day. “It’s a testament to North Philly that we’re still going strong,” she says. “It’s so easy for Black and Brown spaces to become deactivated and feel like, “what can we do.” The more we put our art and our actions out there, we say, you can still be a part of responding to what’s going on.”
Learn how to support Sabriaya’s work at Treehouse Books here.