Bay Harbor Artists Society was created by its two principal members, Leah Ra’chel and Dwanye Young, following the devastation of Hurricane Michael, a category 5 hurricane, in Northwest Florida in 2018. The collaborative uses documentary film, installation, and sculpture to uncover Black culture and family ties to small town and rural landscapes of the Florida Gulf South. Bay Harbor Artists Society plays on the historical society and the artists guild, paying homage to Black communities living near a paper mill and a chemical plant in Bay Harbor, Florida, a once vibrant hub for Black skilled crafts workers and their families. The Wikipedia article entry for Bay Harbor, Florida consists of one line, “Bay Harbor is a ghost town in Bay County, Florida, United States.”
Leah Ra’chel Gipson
Oak Park, IL
Leah Ra’chel Gipson received the Creative Capital Award in 2024. Leah Ra’chel Gipson is a multidisciplinary artist who facilitates hyperlocal, community projects that engage Black culture and imagines critical “call and response” environments. She explores race and gender through family history, media, and archives using image, sound, textile, and installation. Rooted in mixed traditions of Black feminism and Black church, Gipson asks how communities cultivate conditions for care that are responsive to Black life.
Staring at the Dark
Leah Ra’chel Gipson is a multidisciplinary artist who facilitates hyperlocal, community projects that engage Black culture and imagines critical “call and response” environments.Artist Bio
A graduate of Georgia State University and Berridge Conservatory, Dwayne Young is a Director, Producer, and Cinematographer based in Atlanta, Georgia.Artist Bio
Leah Ra’chel and Dwayne D. Young are the principal members of Bay Harbor Artists Society, a collaboration dedicated to preserving Black culture and family ties to the Gulf South.Artist Bio
Staring at the Dark is a documentary film about Black ancestral and living landscapes. The project will document evening, natural and architectural landscapes through interviews with six Black residents from the east side of Panama City, Florida in the historic area of Bay Harbor, a once thriving Black, working class community. Of the areas severely damaged by Hurricane Michael in 2018, Black neighborhoods were completely transformed, enduring multiple layers of mourning before the storm. Our project will use video, digital projection, sculpture and installation to document the daily lives of these six “memory keepers” living in the almost forgotten Bay Harbor. Bay Harbor Artists Society will produce and film a series of miniature architectural sculptures, made from locally sourced materials, as inquiry and experimentation, based on the stories of the six individuals. Each miniature will be exposed to weather and filmed at dusk at installation sites. Bay Harbor Artists Society will invite community members at multiple stages of the film to imagine each place. Community engagement will involve communal storytelling, family collections of photos and videos, and placemaking workshops for installations. Community collaborations will support the atmosphere for nighttime documentation of video projections of photos and home videos from local collections onto different neighborhood environments. Audiences will view Florida’s ecological, political landscape through a documentary that explores unforgotten places, spirituality and memory, and the effects of time on Black creative labor and reconstruction.
Union City, GA
Dwayne Young received the Creative Capital Award in 2024. Dwayne Young is a director, cinematographer, and producer based in Atlanta, Georgia. He studied film at Berridge Conservatory in Normandy, France in 2015 and received his Bachelor’s degree in Media Entrepreneurship from Georgia State University in 2020. Dwayne has worked on independent and union projects from camera utility to director’s assistant for the past 8 years, including Anne Fletcher’s Dumplin’ on Netflix, Lee Daniels’s Star on Fox, and other projects with LIONS-GATE and Apple TV+. He is the director of the short documentary Nina Lee and director of photography for the documentary series Dans En Noir by Indya Childs and T’Shauna Henry. He was featured as a guest on the film podcast Visual Intonations for his insight as a camera operator and cinematographer.