Leading Lady : Lennie Gray Mowris

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 next Leading Lady for March 2017: Lennie Gray Mowris

Lennie poses with one of her letterpress machines, Fly. — Photo credit: Nate Dorn Images

Where do you work and what do you do?
I work for myself through my own design and printmaking studio, lenspeace. Through this space I create letterpress art that is focused on our relationships to ourselves and others, empathy and community building.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
I have always been interested in the art, but they were never supported as a viable path to follow, so I became more involved in science early in life. My aptitude was always between science and humanities, so it makes sense that the arts I fell into are all very machine-based, letterpress printing and photography primarily.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an ethnobotanist and travel through rain forests to discover natural cures for diseases. Instead, I became obsessed with learning about self-care, which led me to study the social systems and environmental systems we rely on for care and how we can innovate them for healthier communities. I enjoy using graphic art and design thinking as means of engaging ideas of healthy lives and relationships.

Lennie Gray Morwis — Social impact design strategist, letterpress & printmaker.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
She’s actually still alive, Angela Davis. I would want to talk about what we can realistically do right now to engage in truly impactful change within our society, and how the threats of today compare to the threats she faced during the original civil rights movement.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My biggest influence has been my partner Kevin. When I met him I was 17 and a bit broken inside. He made me a promise he’s never broken, that he would take care of me and help me grow into the potential he saw within me, as long as I would do the work of personal growth. I said yes, and it was the best decision I ever made. I owe everything I have to his support, and the support of his family. They taught me what it means to love and be loved, and to build community with heart.

How is art a passion for you?
I do it even when it’s hard, it hurts, and I want to give it up… because the moment I break through that space of pain, something amazing always opens up on the other side for me.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
I believe it’s improving, but we have a long way to go before we fully accept women’s leadership and overcome systemic sexism. I experience sexism all too often to believe that we’re truly evolved or embrace women as equals. We aren’t treated equally, and often aren’t taken seriously, but in some ways that makes us more powerful if we can use that awareness and leverage equality and to help leverage what power we do have to elevate others. It gives us an opportunity to bring light to inequality among all marginalized people in the creative workforce.

Lennie is hard at work in lenspeace studio. — Image Credit: Nick Burchell

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
The collaboration, generosity, and community-mindedness. There’s so much support, care, and nurturing of one another as we collectively grow, and it’s inspiring. To have that on a mass-scale in an urban area is beautiful. I feel like I have family in this town everywhere I go.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
A space where those without a voice can find one, those with an open heart can find a home for it, and those who want to work together to create change can find a family of collaborators to do it with.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?