Why we can’t wait for others to tell our stories

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I'm so honored to present today's post by artist, Andrea Pippins. You may have read about Andrea on the blog before and she even designed the Natural Chica logo, but today she is sharing a special post as part of the blog tour for her new adult coloring book, I Love My Hair! I'm so incredibly proud of her for launching this and I'm already finding it relaxing coloring in her intricate designs that celebrate the diversity of hair (you can check out my work in progress at the end)! 

Why we can't wait for others to tell our stories

Guest post by Andrea Pippins

As a little girl drawing and writing stories was, and still is, a favorite pastime. Being an only child it was a way to entertain myself when going outside to play wasn’t at the top of my to-do list. Creating imaginary worlds with characters inspired by people in my life or purely birthed from my mind was something that comforted me and became a necessary exercise for how I would navigate the world. Producing art is what I am here to do and it’s been a blessing to do so. I am also very fortunate to have parents who have always encouraged me to pursue opportunities that would allow me to express my creative dreams.

As I moved through my professional career I learned quickly that this was not always the case for everyone, especially other artists of color. Culturally, pursuing a career in the arts is often looked down upon; especially in minority populations where one might be the first to graduate from college or if the entire family is working hard and making sacrifices to get one through university. School is expensive and requires a lot of support. It is a huge investment that is expected to have a pretty good return. Parents and family members expect that when you leave school you will be able to support yourself and a family of your own. Sadly, a career path in the arts is not seen as such and therefore a lot of talented young people are discouraged to pursue that direction.

And I see the results of this everyday. From classrooms to boardrooms, conferences to art and design workshops, people of color are few and far between. When there aren't enough people of color in the executive meetings offering a different perspective; on the design team choosing a culturally inspired image for a layout; in the production studio pitching ideas; behind the camera saying this shot is a little offensive; on the casting team choosing black models and actors; or in the writing meeting telling stories of how we really experience this or that, our world becomes documented with a very narrow lens.

Without our voices contributing to art and design, communities are excluded from history and their stories are one-sided or recorded inaccurately.

The visual arts are a form of story telling and documentation of everyday life. Visual artists use design, fashion, crafts, photography and technology to interpret our world and how it relates to cultural, political, environmental, and historical contexts. If these experiences are expressed through one lens, stories then become one-dimensional.

How do we fix it? Encourage people of color to consider careers in writing, photography, fashion, art, design, and film/video. Whether it's an art school education or taking a few classes at a community college these are the careers that need to be pursued if we want to see a change in what we see at a museum, on screen, or in magazine pages. If we want to see black-owned production companies, galleries, and exhibitions highlighting people of color or the work from people of color; or books, movies, and shows about our stories then we need to make them. Not only create them but be present to make decisions about them we need to be there to see projects through and to support talent who are trying to share their perspectives.

We can’t expect or wait for others to tell our stories. Others are busy telling their own.

Here is a summary on how to make it happen:

1. Be a part of the creative process. Be in a position to make suggestions and pitch ideas. In order for it to work there needs to be several of us in the room at once.

2. Be the big boss at the top making big decisions. We have a few folks up there, but the fact that we can probably count them all on two hands means there aren't enough. Also, getting to the top means you have to start at the bottom. You have to be okay with being a PA or an intern for a few years until you work your way up.

3. Consider art school. There are not enough of us in art programs and I strongly believe the lack of our voices in the classroom leaves all students at a disadvantage. Without different points-of-view class dialogues become one-sided, and quite honestly, very boring. We can't really solve problems, innovate, or learn anything if we can't have constructive conversations with people from different backgrounds in our college classrooms.

4. Start your own. Working for a big brand is a great way to learn and grow but maybe your path is having your own production studio, publishing company, or casting agency.

5. Be supportive or mentor. If you know a person of color interested in the arts encourage them to go for it. Type up a small list of information to get them started, or introduce them to someone who can help. Or, just be an example. A little goes a long way.

6. Be a maker. Do you draw, photograph, or knit? Write poetry, make movies, or design clothes? It doesn’t matter what it is whatever fuels your creative fire then do it. And you don’t have to make a business out of it or do it full-time.

The mere act of making documents your story and adds to our collective story. Which is just as important as a painting hanging in a museum or a chapter written in a history book.

andrea pippins
Andrea Pippins. Photo: DFinney Photography
 
Mae's coloring in i love my hair book
My "coloring-in-progress" from Andrea's I Love My Hair coloring book!
 
Available for pre-order on Amazon!
I LOVE MY HAIR (on sale November 10, 2015) by designer Andrea Pippins is a fabulous new adult coloring book from Schwartz & Wade Books that celebrates strong, confident women and explores how beautifully diverse, stylish, innovative, and fun all types of hair can be.Featuring bold hairstyles and accessories, from rows of braids, to Mohawks, to sweeping updos, to cascades of ribbons and beads, I LOVE MY HAIR is filled with Andrea Pippins’s delicate pen-and-ink illustrations, ready to color, complete, and embellish. Coloring enthusiasts of all ages will love this empowering and stylish book. ANDREA PIPPINS is an artist, a designer, and an educator with a penchant for cool and a personality as warm as her Brazilian roots. Her work can be seen in magazines and on television as well as on clothing and stationery. Andrea teaches at the Maryland Institute College of Art and curates her fashion, art, and design blog, Fly, a weekly resource to inspire young women to pursue their creative passions. She also produces digital and screen-printed artwork in which she explores color, pattern, and texture while interpreting her personal experiences as an African American woman. Andrea lives in Baltimore. This is her first book. Learn more at andreapippins.com and follow her on Twitter at @andreagpippins.

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