Leading Lady : Kemi Bennings

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 final next Leading Lady for March 2017: Kemi Bennings

Kemi Bennings, freelance entrepreneur & life designer

Where do you work and what do you do?

I am a freelance entrepreneur, artistic “world – bridger” and life designer. I have a background in producing shows and cultural event programming, as well as the health and wellness industry. I bring my creativity, knowledge and experience to both worlds in an effort to impact and inspire change. As an artistic “world – bridger”, I combine multimedia, theatrics, music and independent artistry to create innovative productions and cultural events that move, touch and inspire people…
In the health and wellness industry, I am a health educator and life coach.  My primary focus is holistic transformative healing, where I empower clients to do the necessary work to create the lives they desire.  
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 the arts through poetry; I found my way into Atlanta’s artistic vortex in 1995 by way of an invitation to a local poetry reading held at Patti Hut Café on Thursday nights. The place was called Rio Mall; it was once located on the corner of Piedmont and North Avenue. Walking in Patti Hut Café was like going down the proverbial rabbit-hole, because there were a matrix of pathways that led to an experience of the Atlanta vibe in all of its glory and genre. From the West End to Midtown, Decatur to Downtown Atlanta, living rooms were turned into literary safe houses; there were people who had magic in their dream coats, stars in their eyes, a poem freshly penned and flyers in their pockets which led to other dimensions of artistic and live music hot spots – places where like-minded artists and those serious about their craft dwelled. From that moment, my life would change…I began producing shows in 2002 beginning with the premiere Southeast female showcase, Soul Sista’s Juke Joint, and I have been at it and expanding my scope since then.
What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?

I kinda I knew that I would become a nurse as I gravitated to the Red Cross around the age of 13, becoming a youth candy striper at a local hospital.  It was also in my genes – my grandmother was a nurse.  But I was also fascinated with culinary arts, watching all of the Saturday morning cooking shows and practicing in the kitchen.  Aside from being a nurse, I have created the opportunity to flex my gourmet vegan/vegetarian and personal chef skills in the film industry!

photo credit: Sue Ross; Kemi Bennings is shown on set for the 10th Anniversary shoot of A Great Day In Atlanta.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?

There are several women I admire, most of which I’d ask the same questions (did you want to list any of those questions?), but lunch!  Hands down, I’d have to have lunch with Harriet Tubman.  Not only from the perspective of her powerful contribution to African American(s) and American History, but what got her there – in mind, in consciousness. Therefore, I’d focus my conversation on my interest in human symbiotic relationships, in particular the relationship between human, life force (Source), and life purpose, relating it to the role of artists.
I’d sit and listen. I’d ask questions based upon my belief that we are a race of artists; a unique family of independent artists – underground, like the days of the Harriet Tubman, in the trenches working to empower peace, unity, equality and social change.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?

There are many people who have had tremendous influence in my life.  My parents have been two of my greatest influences, as they taught me values, compassion and love for humankind.   But, artists have been a unique influence in my life.  The role we play in society – imagine a world without art or music.  I’m continually inspired by the music we make, the pictures we paint, the poems we pen and the creating of artistic lanes unseen.

photo credit: Maurice Thompson

How is art a passion for you?
I am passionate about art and music being powerful mediums for social change: how we utilize them to inspire, entertain and educate.  I’ve been experimenting with life: this “notion” that we, a diverse and global community of artists, are guided by and have a unique relationship with a higher source.  It is my contention that within that source is where creativity emerges, where artist and spirit meet, where art and art form are born, where we become “alive” and where we have the potential to make great contributions and create change in the world. 

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
When we speak about the equality and representation of women in the creative workforce, what we are really talking about is honoring the value that women bring to society as a whole – the qualities that are innate to us as women, our respective stories, in addition to our unique and diverse perspectives of creativity.
I feel that overall gender inequality is still prevalent.  We saw it recently, when the presiding chair interrupted Sen. Elizabeth Warren while reading Coretta Scott’s letter, and Bernie Sanders (I like Bernie, but the fact is that he is male) was allowed to read the letter.  We must be diligent and courageous in making sure women’s voices are heard and acknowledged (and those voices influence and drive change), and we must come together in a way that we ourselves have not seen in our lifetime.
What excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
What excites me most about the  Atlanta arts/music scene is that just beneath the surface, there is always a melting pot of new artists who are willing to push the envelope.  I’m excited about the artists that live in the south, as well as, the artists that are attracted to Atlanta (The South).  I love the diverse perspectives and how they sometimes become mixed with Southern hospitality and what I feel exists as an undertone for those that dig deeper; the inherent responsibility to build community, create awareness and impact social change.  Also, I appreciate that there still exists a lineage of artists, trailblazers and creatives from the late 80’s, early 90’s that are still here to support the ever-evolving Atlanta arts scene.  
What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
Continue to produce fresh, thought-provoking and innovative programming. Continue identifying, supporting and collaborating with creatives of all genres.
Where can we find you on Social Media?
FB: Kemi Bennings
Twitter: Kemi Bennings
IG: Kemi Bennings

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