Courtesy of the Collective NHV

The Collective NHV is a Black-owned organization in the Elm City focused on art and creative expression.

Six years ago, the Collective was founded in New Haven as an arts and photography organization. They work with artists, models, brands and “anything creative in town,” according to creative director and stylist Vijor McCray. The organization specializes in editorial-style photography and is planning to publish another installment of their magazine this summer. But co-founder and photographer, Kasaad Bullock, also emphasized the role the small arts group wants to play in building a creative community for young New Haven residents. 

“As the craft is growing, the purpose of the Collective is growing,” Bullock told the News in an interview. 

Bullock helped create the organization in 2015 when he was a young adult. At the time, he was “relatively new” to photography — he had first picked up a camera just two years prior. 

Now, Bullock said the Collective works together to create photoshoots and build ideas, gaining inspiration from everything from music to other art. He said they start with an idea, then focus on the styling — often purchasing clothes from thrift stores — create the poses and then edit the shots. He added that the group also helps others “develop their ideas” into creative expression. 

“I got adopted into the group and we’ve been really close,” McCray, creative director and stylist, told the News. “Fashion in general has been a big part of Black culture. … When it comes to us [the Collective] creating and trying to get content out there, we focus on whatever we are styling and doing the research with how we want things to look.”

McCray worked with members of the Collective on a photography shoot two years ago, and decided to join the group shortly after. She said it was a “big role” because the four group members “wear a lot of hats,” but said everyone is really helpful and hands-on. 

Bullock also serves as an arts administrator for Black Haven — “a collective of creatives and admins who activate art justice through movement building events, initiatives and programming,” according to their website. It is a project of the Black Infinity Collective — formerly known as CTCORE-Organize Now — and was involved in hosting the Black Haven Film Festival in November 2020 and a recent panel of Black artists across Connecticut last week. 

While the Collective is smaller and more personal, Bullock said he was excited for the growth of the organization and its focus. 

“People don’t realize that their talents are like gold mines. There’s so much artists can do just by creating,” Bullock said. “Especially youth artists in New Haven, they sometimes fall short of their goal because of the circumstances around them.” 

Bullock said he wants to create more initiatives through the Collective for young Elm City residents, such as an after school program. He added that the Collective hopes to open a studio for their art, but specifically wants young Black New Haveners to get more involved. 

Tobi Makinde ’23 expressed similar sentiments in the vision for the Neo Collective — Yale’s first Black arts collective which aims to create art amongst Yale students and New Haven community members.

Makinde said that by collaborating with city organizations, the campus group is able to “widen the scope of what we can do” and create “really great work together.” She added that New Haven organizations have existed for longer periods of time than the Neo Collective, and could teach its members not only about creating art, but also about how to be an effective organization. 

“A lot of the people that we’re going to be collaborating with have more experience in the art world than us, and know what it’s like to build things from the ground up,” Makinde said. “Both organizations [Black Haven and the Collective NHV] are really working to create spaces in Connecticut that haven’t really existed. I think we have a lot to learn from people about what creation means, not only in the artistic sense, but also in the organizational sense.” 

The Collective NHV is releasing a new editorial magazine with a video component titled “Collected Mag” in June.