Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.
For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions.
We are proud to introduce the first Leading Lady of March 2017:
Nominated by Jennifer O’Shea AND Victoria Allen
Where do you work and what do you do?
I am an emerging artist and Founder, Executive Director of TILA Studios, a visual arts incubator for emerging female artists in Atlanta. I founded TILA in September 2016 after enrolling in the C4 Ignite Program. I realized that by combining my extensive art practice with my astute business acumen, I could help women in Atlanta become trailblazers in the art world. While practicing in Atlanta, I noticed that there are barriers to entry glass for women who are artists, especially women of color. Experiencing those barriers myself, I created TILA Studios to provide women with a safe space to create ambitious art projects, receive professional development and art management services, as well as exhibition opportunities with our on-site gallery.
When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
I became interested in an art career when I realized that I had not created an original piece of work in 3 years and felt completely drained and unmotivated. It was 2013 and I was living and working in New York City at one the most influential media companies, NBCUniversal. You could say I had everyone’s dream job working at 30 Rock, running into Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, Brian Williams and the SNL cast members, but I was completely exhausted and spent most of my time underground on subway trains. When I decided to quite my job and pursue art full time, I felt like I was finally doing something for myself. As I was driving for 2 days in my uhaul from New York to Powder Springs, GA, I knew I had to make it work. I spent the first 9 months of my time in Georgia painting. I created a body of work titled “When Fire Gives You Sunshine.” I wanted to know if I painted everyday for at least 6 hours a day could art be what I really wanted? I realized yes. I also realized that Atlanta was great for a young minority artist and entrepreneur. Moving to Atlanta has rewarded me in so many ways. I am excited to be living in Metro Atlanta and to be doing the work I am doing for women and the community.
What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
I fell in love with art when I was 8 years old. I decided to enter an art competition in 1st grade. It was a regional competition and the first place winner would receive a bank bond of 500 dollars. I entered the competition and won. From then on, I knew I always wanted to be an artist. My grandfather is a well-known abstract artist in the south east region and has even had the opportunity to paint Ray Charles and other famous jazz musicians and influencers. Growing up, my mother had his art work all around our house. My grandmother was a seamstress and my great-grandmother was chef. Everyone in my family was great at creating with their hands. It was inevitable for me to be in a line of work where I did the same thing. I chose a paintbrush instead, and haven’t looked back since. Now I am using my talents and skills to give women the opportunity to do so as well.
If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
I would have lunch with Meta Warrick Fuller a sculptor from Philadelphia that practiced in the 19th Century. I discovered Meta Warrick Fuller’s work while studying Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College. I was enrolled in the masters program and during a meeting with my thesis adviser, I was saying that I wanted to find someone that looked like me and interested in the things that I was interested in in the 1900s. She told me, “Well you got your work cut out for you.” I didn’t know what that meant but I soon found out that there was very little literature written about African- American women practicing art in the 19th century. After digging deeper and visiting the Library of Congress in D.C., I realized there was a whole segment of history and art history that had been overlooked. My thesis discussed Meta Warrick Fuller’s robust art practice and how she was able to attain success by leveraging her female friendships. I would talk to Meta about the importance of female friendships and why sisterhood is necessary for our survival.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My mother. My mother, Dr. Jacqueline Cothran is the most brilliant, resilient women in the world. She is beautiful, wise, and just an ethereal human being. She raised 3 children as a single mother, drove two hours while I was in high school to get her PhD, worked more than 3 jobs at a time to be where is she is today. Not to mention put my siblings and I in the best private institutions and colleges. So when people tell me my business or my art will not make money or be successful, I think of my mother and I hear her saying “For every “No,” there’s a “Yes” waiting for you around the corner.
How is art a passion for you?
Art is more than a passion. It is my way of communicating to the world when I no longer have the words. By leveraging art as a way to facilitate change or discuss something that is uncomfortable is one of the most timeless and greatest forms of activism. I want to use my voice and art to create dialogue and unite people from diverse backgrounds. By using something that I am completely invested in to give back and shape the community is the best way for me to share my passion with the world.
What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
I believe that there are a lot of women of all backgrounds working in the creative workforce but they are not getting written about. This is why I think this blog is so important because it highlights the dynamic women art influencers. As I grow and build my business, I speak with local gallery owners (mostly male) and surprisingly some female owners that ask, “Where are the women painters in Atlanta” and I respond “Well let me tell you!” Do you know of Sara Santamaria, Yanique Norman, Tracy Murrell, Shanequa Gay, Diamond Bradley, Taylor Bailey, Sierra King and the countless number of other amazing female artist practicing in Atlanta. I am very well aware of my female contemporaries practicing locally and nationwide, but I realize that there are few institutions that do so as well. I hope to shed light on not just women in the creative workforce in the administration capacity, but also women artist practicing in the area.
What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
The opportunity! The countless opportunities! Anything is possible in Atlanta. There is so much diversity, excitement, and artists working in the city that Atlanta is quickly growing to be one of the best places for artists to practice and for art organizations to be established. I don’t think I could have started TILA Studios anywhere but Atlanta. It is so easy to pick up the phone and talk to someone at C4, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, or the MOCA GA. This is a place where people don’t just say that want to create and or build a dynamic art scene, THEY DO IT! I am excited to join in and be a part of the movement.
What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
I want emerging female artists to look to TILA as their safe space and home for their careers. I want them to know that I see them, that I want them to succeed within their artistic practice and that I am willing to go on the journey with them. Too often we steer young women from taking creative jobs because of “risks” established by society’s expectations of us. I want women to know that an art career is possible and feasible. For the world, I want them to know that Women Artists are Here. Women Artists Have Been Here. Women Artists are staying and plan to shift the art world so it can be more inclusive.
Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?