Thanks to the continued support of those who’ve contributed… I did it!
A little over a year I ago I attended a meeting a with National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Maryland. Marguerite Woods, a kindred spirit and participant of I Am More Than My Hair, invited me to join her for the Baltimore Chapter Meeting.
It was shocking to learn about the lack of accessibility in the arts and how blind and low vision audiences aren’t considered. I left the meeting feeling inspired enough to make it mandatory that any venue, gallery, or museum that requests my work, must agree that it will be made accessible for audiences with low vision and hearing.
I wanted to find a way to make my visual art accessible in new formats, that would open the experience of the art to people often barred from it.
The first museum to give me the OK for an accessible exhibition was Sandy Spring Museum in Sandy Spring Maryland. My exhibition takes place March 19 – May 28, 2021.
Here’s what I came up with:
Each photograph will be accompanied by a lithophane replica of the portrait. This image shows the lithophane print in production as I type. A lithophane is a three-dimensional image that can be explored by touch. When a light is placed beneath, it creates a unique visual experience.
Braille embossing will accompany written descriptions. Audio description of the images will be provided for visitors who have low vision. Interpreters in ASL (American Sign Language) will facilitate my artist talk. The screening of my film, I Am More Than My Hair, will include closed captioning and audio description for both hearing and vision accessibility. I also organized the panel discussion Making Art Accessible (date TBD).
Given the pandemic, there will also be a virtual component as well as the opportunity to experience it in-person during the Museum’s open hours. The reception and film screening (TBA) will take place online. When you RSVP you will receive updates on the scheduled events.
As an artist and entrepreneur, I’ve find myself questioning whether or not to pursue certain endeavors. When I first made the decision to leave corporate America in pursuit of my entrepreneurial path, reality kicked in when I first experienced hard times. When the lifestyle I was living based, pretty much based on a consistent paycheck, dissipated.
In the beginning I often had to remind myself why I left and what was most important. My children.
Although entrepreneurial and life challenges has periods of difficulty, I wouldn’t give up the freedom of peace of mind and time spend with my husband and children for anything.
As I continue my journey as a first time filmmaker, I admit that it hasn’t been easy. Not that I’m expecting it to be but I can’t help but notice and feel the challenge of being a woman of color breaking into a new industry, which has been pointed out to me multiple times on multiple levels.
I’ve tried my best not to let the lack of support for my fundraiser and opportunities that seem to not be a “right fit” (yes I’ve been told that), get to me. At times it’s hard. And during these times I’ve thought to myself…
I GIVE UP!
Then it hit me…
I thought about my mom yesterday. She was 25, married with 3 children (2, 4 & 6) and had an aneurysm on the right side of her brain. The aneurysm caused her to have a stroke and left her paralyzed on the left side of her body. She told me she went through periods of “Why me?”, anger and bitterness about her diagnosis. But all I remember about my mom is that paralysis on the left side of her body was never an excuse for her to NOT do anything.
She drove by herself, cooked for her family, went to and from work on the busy streets of Manhattan, NY, and was so determined to keep going, despite her stroke. My mom set the tone for me when it comes to determination.
If she never made an excuse, how can I?
In no way am I comparing my moms illness to the frustration I feel about my art. Instead I am drawing a comparison to the level of difficulty she experienced and what I feel personally about my art.
I have no excuse and giving up is not an option.
Despite the negative comments I’ve received from various women (yes women) about I Am More Than My Hair, there is an entire community of girls and women involved in my project, that are not only counting on me but sincerely believe in the mission of my work. Of OUR work. And if I give up, we lose.
Today gave a speaking engagement and presented my work to young ladies of Albion College (Albion, MI) Women’s and Gender Studies. The positives responses and questions during the discussion about embracing who are are and learning to love ourselves just as we are, was another confirmation that I am on the right path.
In the end, my lesson learned is what will be must be. What is for me shall be. What I am born to create, has no option but to be created. I’m allowing life to takes it’s course. Thank you for taking the time to read.
Last week I attended Montgomery County’s 15th Annual County Executive Awards for Excellence for the Arts & Humanities (#ExecAwards2016). This event recognizes the individual artist, art organizations and art projects awarded grants for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
It includes the grant I was awarded to cover production cost of I Am More Than My Hair. Seeing my name on the screen at the ceremony, as an individual artist grantee award recipient, was confirmation that I’m headed in the right direction.
In that moment, I felt an immense amount of gratification as I thought back to all of the hard work and time I’ve invested, and continue to invest, into my art. Not only has it opened a new door and path for me but also also proven that passion and dedication makes dreams come true.
It was the fall of 1999. I was in my 4th semester in college and unsure of the direction of my career, but knew for sure I DID NOT want to work for a company for the rest of my life. I just couldn’t stand being told what to do.
If there was one thing in particular I knew about myself is that I was innately creative and had the character traits of an entrepreneur since I was a child. When I was young my grandfather used to bring me with him as he went canvasing around our neighborhood in Corona, Queens, NY.
He was selling countertop NASA water filtration systems, the first of it’s kind to be introduced to home owners. Buyers could connect the hose to their kitchen sink and get clean filtered water.
Despite the actions of my neighbors (nice or not so nice) my grandfather kept going. He never allowed a no to stop him. I didn’t know, at the time, that my grandfather was instilling qualities within me of a future business owner.
I just wanted to give you some background. Let’s fast forward to college…
I always loved to draw and doodled often (more like everyday in every class). Taking a drawing class while in college was my release through all the intense studying.
My art professor was so impressed with my art that he suggested I take photography as an art elective. I’m not quite sure how he made the connection but he was convinced I would do really well.
In the fall of 2001 I immersed myself in photography. I enjoyed being behind the camera and capturing what captivated me. I was intrigued by the process of film and print development and amazed at my new found creativity.
I was in love…
While close to graduation I made a nice niche for myself and connected with a few magazines that were interested in hiring me for future editorial shoots and peaked the interest of several media companies that contacted me to inquire about commission work. I actively participated in exhibitions, artist groups and everything revolved around creative networking.
Then reality hit…
I was really good at what I did and heard it often. I often heard, “I love your work”, yet the appreciation of it didn’t lead to many sales. And I quickly learned that although I truly appreciated the compliments, it wasn’t providing me with an income.
At a certain point, the constant compliments, without sales, brought me to a bitter place with my photography. And when I was hired for work, the constraints of what people wanted, really wasn’t something I enjoyed.
I fell out of love with the love of my life…
But how could I? I thought I was in love?
I took a break for some time, put my camera down, and switched from Government contracting (which I was doing while being a photographer) to contracting with media companies. I tried Photo Editing for a change.
Although I made a great income I quickly realized I DID NOT want to be behind a desk all day. Unfortunately I didn’t want to do commission work that was unfulfilling for me either.
It took a few years, and various business ventures (while working I did Network Marketing and was also in the process of buying a franchise), for me to discover my passion. Through my journey I learned business skills that not only prepared me for my future endeavors but also helped me to redefine my ‘Why‘.
I rediscovered my passion…
See, when I fell in love with photography I was free to create what was beautiful and rewarding for ME, without the worries of being dependent on making an income from it.
In order for me to get back to that feeling, I needed my freedom back…
Instead of depending on my art to make me money, I depend on my art to give me freedom. Freedom of expression. Freedom of release. And the freedom to dive into my innate creativity without restriction.
Pelican cleaning it’s feathers at the pier in Oceanside, CA.
Instead, I choose to use my talent to work on personal works such as Feminine Transitions, I Am More Than My Hair and the countless of other ideas in my head. I am still hired as a photographer (by folks I know personally or by referral). But this time around I’m performing the work that represents my style most. And I still own a construction company 🙂
One thing I have learned…
I love being happy and I love to make money. As women we sometimes have a difficult time saying that. But without it we can’t survive…unfortunately. Reading the the harsh statistics about women and money in a dear Sister’s book, Whatever Works (chapter Money and the Elephant in the Room), not only scared the hell out of me but also bought me to new awareness.
So make your money, enjoy your freedom and do what you love.
If you missed my interview on MMC TV with Carolyn Bruna, host of It’s A Woman’s World, you can now view it on my YouTube page. This was my first television interview. I appreciate Carolyn for allowing me the opportunity. Don’t forget to give me your feedback. Thanks for viewing!