With the 2021 U.S. Open in the books—congrats Emma Raducanu and Daniil Medvedev on their respective wins—there’s a part of the celebration that’s still going strong. The USTA’s Be Open platform is the global organization’s ongoing commitment to social change highlighting “progress, positivity, and equality” through several initiatives.
“Be Open was a broader social campaign that was the U.S. Open’s response to everything that was happening in the world last year,” said Nicole Kankam, managing director, marketing for USTA. “When we had the U.S. Open last year, we didn’t have fans and we reimagined the seats that fans couldn’t be in. We had an art installation in the stadium that we called ‘Black Lives to the Front’ with art by Black artists. It was so well received that we wanted to evolve it this year.”
This year’s evolution, known as “Open Canvas,” featured ten artists who were commissioned to create original pieces that celebrated their diverse, underrepresented backgrounds. “We broaden the scope of the project and brought the art to the grounds so fans could experience it up close and personal,” said Kankam, shortly before the women’s single match begun on Saturday. “We’re exposing new perspectives to tennis fans who might not really be exposed to [these artist’s worlds].
For Phoenix based illustrator Stormy Nesbitt, her piece “Cool. Calm. Collected,” exemplifies a “Black woman who owns every room she walks in and has no fear.” Jamaal Lamaaj’s “Make the World Whole Again” taps into his skills as a barber and graphic artist to create a piece he hopes “restores what we hand over to the next generation in mind, body and spirit.” Dominican born and New York based illustrator Islenia Mil’s contribution “Together” is the artist’s vision of “the idea that regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation, we are all still remembered, that we all have a chance to show that we are here and play a crucial part.”
But now everyone can view these artists works. The installation moves to their virtual presentation at here. And that’s not all, the pieces are up for auction with proceeds going to the USTA Foundation and charities selected by the artists.
“The goal of the platform is to bring in new audiences to the sport,” continued Kankam. “We have had a legacy of tennis players like Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King who have that history of activism by being champions on and off the court and we want to continue in that spirit.”
Open Canvas artwork auction is live until September 22