The Queen Amie Studio Project Tender at a Distance by Doug Hall, Carole Hay, Amie Krubally and John Roloff
We met Queen Amie Krubally through Stephen Woo, a community organizer employed by The Tenderloin Neighborhood District Corporation. He introduced Queen to us after we had expressed a desire to meet diverse residents he neighborhood, hoping that these encounters would steer us toward a worthwhile project. At the time we were more aware of what we did not want to do than what they did want to do conscious of many ideological, political, aesthetic pitfalls that awaited artists who naively blundered into this complex section of San Francisco.
This is the context which we met Amie Krubally. It was in the common space of the SRO where she lived. During the course of our conversation, Queen mentioned her Gambian past and spoke about the batik studio she had in Africa. When pressed, she modestly brought out albums with pictures from her workshops and examples of the batiks she had produced, extraordinary narratives exploring the myths and histories of her native land. We learned that the tittle Queen had been bestowed on her by the government of Gambia in recognition of her contributions to the art of batik. As impressed as we were by the examples of her work, we were equally engaged perhaps charmed is a better word by the person herself. It was after this first meeting, while walking through the Tenderloin on our way back to our cars, that we turned to one another and simultaneously proclaimed that we had found our project: We would find a studio for Queen and get the materials she needed to begin work again. Additionally, we would see if Queen was interested in teaching batik workshops for residents of the Tenderloin, similar in structure to the ones she had taught in Africa and elsewhere. When presented with our plan, Queen was thrilled. And so our collaboration began. Quickly our team grew by one more with the addition of Carole Hay, an artist living in San Francisco who had worked with Queen when she was in the Peace Corp in the 1970s. They had rediscovered one another by chance shortly before we met Queen. We named our collaboration, Tender at a Distance, a suitable ambiguous phrase that described our relationship to this particular place – a district that held us, just as we held it, at a distance while simultaneously suggesting optimism for what we might ultimately find there.
We owe a special thanks to Lily Sami, the renown clothing designer with production studios in the Tenderloin, who after meeting with Queen, donated the ground floor space in her building for Queens studio.