Brian Ellison’s UnMASKulinity Project moves forward

Brian Ellison, TIF Recipient from Round 10 has been busy ever since his TIF project, UnMASKulinity, got off the ground! Here’s why:

The UnMASKulinity project was given birth through the help of the Idea Fund in January of 2018. This project is one that is continuous because the work is rooted in healing, so there is not an official completion date. The project poses the questions, “What is masculinity? Why do we view masculinity the way we do in the Black community? Why are Black men not able to experience the full emotional range? How do we unravel and redefine the concept of Black masculinity?”

The resulting film dissected the history of masculinity in the African American Community in hopes of uncovering the answers to these questions. It is often accompanied by a panel discussion at the end of each screening. 


What was crucial about TIF funding for your project and how did TIF funding contribute to the success of your project?

TIF funded the first version of the film UnMASKulinity. TIF funding was crucial because it allowed me to give birth to an idea and make it a reality for people to see. It contributed to the success of my project by providing a platform that would set me up for success, and by providing access to other creatives to help me work through my ideas.

In terms of your art practice, how did the project that you completed for TIF help you to grow as an artist?

This project helped me grow as an artist by pushing me to manifest an idea and make it tangible for people to see and feel. TIF bridged the gap between my excuses for execution and provided an opportunity for me to do the work necessary to bring a vision to life. The greatest impact thus far has been the feedback that is given after viewing the film. People began opening up issues that have been traditionally taboo in black communities, this project is granting space for liberation and allowing people to be free and express in ways that has been traditionally not done. I believe this work is groundbreaking and many will heal as a result of this project.

What other projects have developed from your completing this TIF project?

I created TheBlackManProject which is a continuation of the UnMASKulinity project it provides a platform for videos that touch on different topics such as vulnerability, toxic masculinity, love, etc. It’s also is a platform used to display photography that speaks to the endless possibilities in which what healthy masculinity can and should look like.

If you are still continuing to work on this project, how has it grown or developed since then?

The project is still growing and gaining momentum. It was recently a recipient of two grants that will allow for this work to continue on. The next phase of this project is more interviews in varying major cities, a curriculum is in the process of being created that can implemented into schools and community centers. UnMASKulinity has screened in Houston Museum of African American Culture, Yes Prep Northside and The Hines Center for spirituality and prayer panelist discussions were held after each screening.

Did completing this TIF project bring your work more attention?

Completing this TIF project definitely brought my work more attention and opened up other opportunities for the project. I was able to collaborate with HMAAC, Hines Center of Spirituality, Yes Prep school, Houston Art Alliance, John Kellett Foundation, Project Row Houses/The Black Love Fest HTX, Black Men Smile, and the list continues to grow.

Do you have any words of wisdom for artists who hope to follow in your footsteps?

For hopeful TIF applicants:

Be strategic and insightful in your application, ask questions, get feedback, allow another set of eyes to review your proposal to ensure that there are no errors and your message is conveyed in the way that paints the picture you want to be painted for your project. REJECTION IS OK! If someone denies your idea it’s okay, it comes with the territory and it doesn’t mean your concept is a bad one. DO IT ANYWAY!

For successful TIF recipients:

Utilize your time wisely, utilize the resources the IDEA fund has to offer, take advantage of the platform and think BIG!