By Dylan Deprey
Milwaukee’s creative community is like an ice block that’s slowly being sculpted. In a city, whose artistic story is somewhat undefined, there is an untapped source of bubbling creative energy just beneath the surface. For some artists, especially black and brown, there are roadblocks—both mental and physical.
Leader’s Igniting Transformation (LIT) is a youth-of-color led non-profit dedicated to engaging value-based issues and electoral organizing, direct action, advocacy for public policy and leadership development.
The program was created in 2017. Its mission was to build youth leadership that expanded opportunities and promoted a fair society.
LIT’s answer for empowering Milwaukee’s creative youth was to bring them all together under one roof, and arm them with knowledge in one “C-Space.”
The monthly meetings were created to aide black and brown creatives from 14 to 35-years-old. From dancers and videographers, to graphic designers and graffiti artists, over the first two months, C-Space has worked to inspire aspiring artists.
“We’re just empowering them and showing them that their voice really matters,” said Corey Fells, LIT cultural organizer. “We’re able to arm them with information.”
Nailah Johnson and Fells are both professional artists and LIT cultural organizers. Fells is a nationally-known photographer, and Johnson is a singer, dancer, choreographer and civic organizer.
The two have worked to bring professional artists from around the Midwest and the States to give their first-hand accounts to young artists just getting their footing in their respective industry.
“The groups are hugely expansive, diverse and eclectic each time,” Fells said. “They’re not super established, they’re just in that weird funk where they’re either defining their story, polishing their craft or simply looking for an outlet to get themselves more established.”
C-Space also aims to help artists in developing a message that reflects their thoughts and criticisms regarding their communities.
“Art can be really cool and dope by itself, but if it really doesn’t speak about culture or community, it doesn’t stick to the audience without a story or some type of drive in it. So, we definitely are able to help out and put the battery pack behind people,” Fells said.
The first two sessions, in December and January, focused on artists branding themselves. Fells said the upcoming Feb. 22 session would get into the execution of branding.
The creative cohorts will brand themselves and design a logo that represents the group.
“The texture and community here is way different than it is in New York. There’s different strategies when it comes to branding yourself as an artist and as a community,” he said.
As March is National Women’s Month, Fells said the March 22 workshop will focus around women navigating the industry. He invited two professionals that have broken ground and been outspoken for female creatives in the industry.
Driely S is a Brazilian photographer that left her homeland for a dream photography gig. She started shooting for Prada and eventually ended up doing Kanye’s “Yeezy” season 1-4. She has outwardly spoken about the pay difference amongst genders in the freelance industry.
DJ King Marie will also join C-Space. The Chicago-based artist is a DJ and model for Nike. She also works as a retail seller and model for RSVP.
“They’ll be on stage at the same time along with two local creatives in the same realm as them,” Fells said. “They’ll talk about the inequalities black and brown women face in the male dominated industry and in the City of Milwaukee. They’ll also talk about the huge defeats woman have made locally and nationwide.”
Along with arming creatives with knowledge and a sense of direction, C-Space is also offering art therapists and breathing coaches. From anxiety to full-on burn out, creatives need to be able to properly cope when their art isn’t a release.
“A lot of times people use art as a way to push themselves through events or situations going on in their lives,” he said. “What happens when art isn’t that anymore? It bottlenecks itself and then become frustrated.”
Fells said any local black and brown creatives are welcome to join a C-Space event at any time.
“We want to bring in all the collective knowledge from all different areas in one central location, and make the artist more well-armed in our city.”
For more information visit: https://www.litmke.org/