My intentionally public-facing art projects consider the dynamics of accessibility for an everyday person. I typically mirror the landscape of our world to the people who both occupy and create it. This praxis entails a ton of effort that includes the continued consideration of the Black and Brown communities to which I am connected. My completed mural projects result from weeks of canvassing an area, indulging in complex encounters with curious and too-busy people, and taking corner historian(s) seriously.
Being out in a community and learning the culture from the people that I am working amongst when creating public art is a unique, necessary form of creative engagement. When people see me canvassing, they approach me as a form of vetting. They are using their own criteria to decide if I should be privy to their local codes. This method promotes consent, seeks participation, and encourages a moral ethic of care from me as the artist. I enthusiastically reciprocate in these social dynamics with a layered interest in learning about how the history of a place impacts its current residents. For my work, specific social interactions and accountability are about honoring a hard-fought agency for the area and differently orienting myself in a field with a history of excluding or misrecognizing certain cultures. The final project(s), then, feels familiar and already in dialogue with or accessible to the place. In this context, though, accessibility looks like its own set of knowledge specific to its location, not an overly broad gesture such as changing museum or gallery hours and fees as is most commonly done.
Public art chose me as one of its practitioners, and my upbringing as a third-generation Philadelphian and perpetual student of my community prepared me to oblige enthusiastically. My parents raised me with a strong sense of what it can mean to be a part of a village, which looked like being familiar and friendly to our neighbors beyond our block, working the voting polls, and being involved in our community association. I was also shaped by my close-knit family’s legacy, spearheaded by my deceased grandfather, Walter R. Livingston Jr., a notable architect from Philadelphia. His work’s byproducts, such as rolls of drafting paper and office supplies, became my main art-making tools growing up. Mundane interactions between my father —who worked as a land surveyor and draftsman— and I involved making my own artworks, doodling on discarded blueprints, and sculpting miniature dioramas from kneaded erasers and paper clips. My precocious interest in creating images combined with localized civic duties is the foundation for my current public-facing art projects, which happen(s) to reflect the Black and Brown communities to which I am connected.
My public art installations are collaborative efforts that reveal my commitment to demonstrating how important public art is to society’s collective well-being. In 2020’s Entanglement, I painted an archival amount of heartwarming and gut-wrenching events from the media that year to convey the sensorium overload feelings. The painting acknowledged just how bound our fates are to one another and how we co-create our political realities. Separately, my portrait of Tyjanae Williams, a queer, androgynous Black girl from North Philly, for The Colored Girls Museum exhibit contributes to developing dialogues around Black girlhood. My goal was to nuance who is considered a Colored Girl in a time when the most common images conjured by the language reflect high-femme, presumed cis, and heteronormative women-identified persons. This manner of reflecting marginalized people’s worlds to the public with the aura of everyday rather than making a spectacle out of our tragedy undermines the commonplace logic that art is exploitative, exclusionary, or must appear abstract. Another collaborative dynamic of my public-facing work concerns the people who help me understand my praxis as an ethical commitment.
I hold a BA in Studio Art from Kutztown University, where I studied large-scale metal fabrication. After graduating, I struggled to find work that could use my training in metal fabrication, and to afford materials, tools, transportation, storage, and workspace, so I paused my focus and interest in sculpture to pick up more accessible art-making materials from my past. Growing up, my Parents enrolled my Sister and I in as many creative programs as they could so that we could discover what we loved to do, from dance, playing an instrument, computer classes, girls’ scouts, and more. After graduating from college I picked back up some of the skills that I learned from the after-school art programs that I attended while at the Creative and Performing arts High School in Philadelphia, and I started a volunteer mural painting project in a playground in North Philly along with a childhood friend. This rekindled what has been an endlessly educational relationship to public art.
Vernoca Michael, the recently retired Executive Director of the West Philly Cultural Alliance, awarded me my first official residency at the Paul Robeson House after witnessing my struggle to find and afford an art studio and my relationship with the community first-hand. What might be considered a typical forward motion in an artist’s career—a residency—was an unexpected and unsolicited gift that placed me in responsible dialogue with historical Black cultural workers. These specifically public-facing spaces have helped me determine my artistic commitments by encouraging me to be aware of who my intended audiences are, learn the history of the spaces we occupy, and develop cognizance of how the past informs the present. Today I have fortunately found myself in a creative relationship with a daring collective of folks whose mutual mission is to ensure that art is continuously present and accessible to laypeople.
Public art has defined collaboration from its base definition to its layered, complex connotation through the sheer range of co-creators it has introduced me to. From scouting locations for inspiration through the multiple steps necessary to bring a piece to fruition, my public-facing art involves other people who exercise tender care for our work. When I begin observing and taking photos, curious adults and children approach me to offer perspective. Outdoor locals act as important historians through the stories of witnessed change they offer. My work relies on care from the community.
In 2017 I founded Creative Repute, LLC, where I work with a deep bench of specialists in graphic design, website development, public art, and brand identity. In 2020 Creative Repute was awarded a silver medal from the global Indigo Awards for exceptional work and has been recognized by the Philadelphia Business Journal.
My work as an artist has been recognized by Rad Girls, an organization that celebrates women’s accomplishments; The Colored Girls Museum, the only institution in the US exclusively dedicated to the history of black girls in America; and Mural Arts Philadelphia, the nation’s largest public art program who honored me and Hank Willis Thomas with a Visionary Artist Award. In 2020 I was ranked amongst Philly Magazine’s list of the 76 most influential people in the city. In 2021 I was nominated for a Pew Fellowship. In 2022 my public artworks were featured in Australia’s Thrill List as attractions to visit Philadelphia, and I received the most votes for the 2022 Best Artist / Painter award in Metro News.
Currently, my main mediums are moving into the virtual world as I explore digitally engaging murals. One reason why I love visual art as a form of expression and communication is because of the limitless materials and the potential to transcend from combinatory play.
My life is an exploration of how to live well, and I’m using this online platform to share some of my artworks and thoughts. Each new post is like a diary entry, documenting my own becoming as a creative, intellectual, and spiritual person. It’s how I connect and build strong relationships with people.
In my spare time, I enjoy eating plant-based meals (I’m vegan), meditating, lounging with my two cats, gardening, listening to good music, traveling, and reading anything my curiosity leads me to. My mission is to produce life-affirming expressions that come from being present and awake to the world.
Creativity is not developed in a vacuum; I will graciously greet professional opportunities that will help me continue to expand my artistic range and reach and opportunities to connect with like-minded folx.