MARN was pleased to present “HOOPS”, a solo exhibition by local multidisciplinary artist Nicole Acosta which ran February 4 to April 3, 2023 in the MARN ART + CULTURE HUB. The HOOPS exhibition at MARN coincided with the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s (MCT’s) production by the same name. “HOOPS”, adapted from Acosta’s portrait project by playwright Eliana Pipes with original music by B~Free. The play ran at MCT’s Studio Theatre March 10 to April 2, 2023.

A showcase of Acosta’s ‘HOOPS Portrait Project’, the exhibition featured portraits, visual interviews, and personal anecdotes of over 60 individuals from Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles who have deep and sacred connections to hoop earrings. They are teachers, artists, doulas, creators, healers, healthcare workers, musicians, poets, advocates, mothers, DJs, hair stylists, dancers, and much more.

Hoop earrings are more than a piece of jewelry. Dating back nearly 5,000 years, the earrings have signified visibility, liberation, and a way of claiming space, particularly for Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, and other communities in the global majority.

The HOOPS Project documents and archives the voices and stories of these powerful groups, exhibiting the evolving culture of hoop earrings. These stories mark the intersection of where culture, art, hair, identity, politics, history, power, home, belonging, love, and liberation meet.

“When I began the ‘HOOPS Project’, it had no name, and it had no actual goal, except to share personal stories and to document what hoop earrings mean to so many. During this process, I realized that adorning oneself with hoop earrings is something deeply personal, ritualistic, and revolutionary. And when we wear hoops, we return home to ourselves. We’re reminded that we don’t have to reduce or change who we are in any space we occupy.” – Nicole Acosta
Read more about Acosta and the ‘HOOPS Portrait Project’ here.

Nicole Acosta extends special thanks to exhibition sponsors MiVoz, Kelly McBain, Your Move MKE, SapSap, Shary Tran, Jenny Lee (Perilla Kitchen), Lucky Ginger, and Rodolfo and Martha Acosta.

The Opening Reception (Saturday, February 4, 2022 from 5:30-8PM) featured live music by DJ Quilla, poetry readings by locals Melissa Mursch-Rodriguez and Brit Nicole, and remarks by the exhibiting artist, Nicole Acosta.  

DJ Quilla is a Milwaukee native known for curating diverse dance spaces of empowerment. Her music is influenced by RnB, 80-00s Hip Hop, and Latin music roots.

Melissa Mursch-Rodriguez is a creative whose practice exists between the realms of fibers, writing, & curating. She also runs moody, a bi-monthly zine subscription & platform for queer and/or bipoc creatives. In every thing she does, Melissa continuously hopes to share her identities & vulnerabilities with others in hopes of creating deeper understanding, accessibility, & connection while using art as the vehicle to do so.

Brit Nicole is a spoken word artist, performer, musician, & facilitator based out of Milwaukee, WI. Since 2013, Brit has used her gifts to center reflection, healing, & creativity in all she does. She hosted Lyrical Sanctuary & was nominated for “Best Local Author” by Shepherd Express in ’21 & ’22. Brit published her first book of poetry titled, “Moods, Melanin, and Magic: A Manifesto” in May 2021.

As part of the exhibition programming, MARN presented a  “HOOPS Community Conversation” Wednesday, March 15, 2023 from 5-7PM at the MARN ART + CULTURE HUB. With chairs set up in a circular format (like a hoop earring), a circle of curated community members were invited to contribute to a facilitated conversation moderated by Symphony Swan-Zawadi. These individuals included participants photographed in the HOOPS project, contributors to the HOOPS play at the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, and local art community leaders; Desiree Schocko, Britney “B~Free” Freeman-Farr, Kyndal Johnson, Lexi Brunson, Lashawndra Vernon, Joshua Liston, Maria Gutierrez, Trina Nicole, Katie Avila Loughmiller, Mikal Floyd-Pruitt, and Radaya Ellis. In observation of Women’s History Month, the 50th Anniversary of Hip-hop, and Nicole Acosta’s Hoops Project on display, the discussion centered hoops earrings and how their “stories mark the intersection where culture, art, hair, identity, politics, history, power, home, belonging, love, and liberation meet”. After the moderated portion, the conversation was opened up to the audience members.

MARN invited the public to join us for a “HOOPS Happy Hour” Friday, March 24 from 5-7pm before going across the street to experience the HOOPS live play at the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre for their Artist Appreciation Night. Attendees enjoyed complimentary champagne and the “HOOPS” exhibition during the event. 

In celebration of “HOOPS” and Nicole Acosta, MARN hosted “HOOPS, Celebrating the Future” on Sunday, April 2 from 5-7PM at the MARN ART + CULTURE HUB.