Leading Lady : SHANEQUA GAY

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: Shanequa Gay

Shanequa Gay — Atlanta based painter, artivist, designer, and poet in residence with the Creatives Project. Image: Ode to Dantavious Chatham / 36 x 48 / Oil, Flashe and Acrylic / Wood Panel / 2016

Where do you work and what do you do?
I am currently an artist in residence through the Creatives Project. My studio is at The Goat Farm Building 8 Studio UMR – 6 (please stop by). I am a magician and or a painter and or a poet and or a designer and or an artivist.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
I have had an interest in the arts all of my life. I was a creative being at an early age, as a kid on into teenagerdom I drew, danced, played the violin and the like. I have been a working professional artist (with on and off moments) for the past 12 years.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a Pediatrician and an Artist. Which sort of balanced out, I am a Mother and an artist therefore I play the role of a Pediatrician (albeit unlicensed), I have played the role never the less.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
Maya. I would have lunch with Maya on the shores of the Cote d’ivoire. We would talk about how her life story marries so beautifully and unfortunately with mine. I would ask her a million questions about her life’s journey. How did she smile and dance and speak her way out of her pain and deliver so many others along with her? I would sit at her knee eating pineapples and strawberries (because they are my favorite) and ask for her wisdom. She would pull the coil of my hair and say, “Nah, girl listen…” assuring me the Creator has giving me everything that I need. And I would say, “but Maya how do I give birth to nations through my work, too?” I would have lunch with Maya Angelou of course.

(Diptych image)
Dual Citizen / 48 x 48 / Mixed Media / Wood Panel / 2016

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My Mothers. My birth Mother has hands down been the most impactful person in my life, I love her so. However, I would be amiss if I did not speak of the many women who have loved, chastised, supported, blessed, looked out, and prayed for me on this path of mine. There is a gathering of wise, knowledgeable, no nonsense women that are always accessible to me. I am so grateful.

How is art a passion for you?
I live, I breathe, I am my art. It is like a relationship when it is good it is wonderful. We talk all the time, meet up at specific times, talk about our past and plans for our future, make love through the medium, we break up, give each other some breathing room for a day or some years and then hop back to it like we never missed a beat. Me and my art… we are in love.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
It is still lacking and that gets old. The fact that race and gender are still on the table of things we need to talk about equalizing is just an antiquated conversation. How can we claim to be a progressive nation when we still operate in 18th century ideals? Make room. Make room for women and diversity, and this does not mean one standing in place for the other. How long will we be content with museums and creative institutions passing around the same canon of the “great white hope” of male artists when there are ridiculously dope females and ethnic groups that can add flavor and spice to the white rice? How long are we going to be content with only eating white rice with a male only sign ingrained on our napkins, plates, and forks?

What If the Ancestors? / 18 x 24 / Oil, Flashe and Acrylic / Wood Panel / 2016 (An elder dragging a hybrid is depicted) 

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
Atlanta is vibrant! Atlanta is the capital for cultural change. The civil rights movement and OutKast come from this place, does it get any better? I should say not. The Atlanta art community is creating new movements, its own dialogue. Mayor Kasim Reed is “making room” with the 1/10 penny sales tax to fund arts programming; thriving organizations, galleries, and magazines have continued to blossom and rally support for Atlanta artists, the film and production industry is thriving giving the opportunity for the music, theater, and visual arts worlds to collide to create innovative hybrid art forms. I am very excited about the arts in the ATL, something fresh is brewing I intend to be apart of it.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
Through “street mythologies,” video installations, performance and the like, I want to tell the stories of marginalized people here in Atlanta and abroad. I hope to spark a conversation with my work, to create a shift in how we think about humanity, who we assign and unassign humanity to, to question why people need to feel validated by an other, a lesser than. Why does it make people feel good to have another group under them if they are truly secure? This tradition, a sort of ritual of sacrificing people to prisons and systemic poverty because of ethnicity. I want to uproot and shine light on what separates us in order to mend, heal, and make room.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?
site — http://www.shanequagay.com/

Insta — https://www.instagram.com/shanequagay/

twitter — https://twitter.com/shanequagay