Jessi Queen Invites Us into Her World of Chalk

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 2018 : Jessi Queen

Where do you work and what do you do?
I am very lucky to get to use both sides of my brain on a daily basis. I am a UX designer and a street chalk artist. During the week I work at Sapient Razorfish in Atlanta and spend time creating complex web and app experiences for large clients such as AT&T, Delta, Bridgestone and more. After work and every weekend I live and breathe chalk. Literally breathing chalk dust… I create large chalk pastel murals on the sidewalks and streets in Atlanta and around the world. This is not your average child drawing. I use specialized street chalk pastels and rhender large, 12ft or more, lifelike portraits. I travel almost every weekend with my family creating art. I co-founded the Georgia Chalk Artists Guild to help encourage and support events all over the southeast. We have over 20 local members as well as out of state/country members.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
Art has always been my north. My mother and grandmother are very talented and have always encouraged me to express my creativity. My oldest sister is an illustrator and was always keeping a sketchbook with her when I was growing up. I looked up to her and when I moved to Savannah, GA at age 10 I was inspired by the city and arts culture there. I attended Savannah Arts Academy and later enrolled at SCAD at the Atlanta campus. I have been in Atlanta ever since and I love this city! In 2007 I participated in and placed in the high school category for the SCAD street arts festival. From that moment on I was hooked. I worked hard to become a professional chalk artist and am now hired to draw at local events and lead workshops at schools and businesses.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
I firmly believe that we create our own paths and I have been building on mine for a long time. With that said, I have a timeline of my life that I made in 6th grade. In it I stated that I was going to be a dentist and would have a son and a daughter. It also said I would win in the olympics in a cycling race… I still love biking and am a member of the Atlanta Bike Coalition but never made it into any professional races. I am now an artist/designer and have a husband, infant son and two sweet dachshunds. I love my life so far and would not trade it for anything.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
I had an opportunity at a chalk festival recently and was chosen to draw an influential figure from the 1940s. Of course I was led right to Hedy Lamarr. She is an actress and known as “the most beautiful woman in the world.” But in the 1940s, in an attempt to help the war effort, she invented what would become the precursor to many wireless technologies we use today, including Bluetooth, GPS, cellphone networks and more. I love that she was both a talented artist and an influential figure in the tech world.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My biggest influence has been my chalk family. I call them “chalk family” because at every festival I travel to, there are the same people who do the circuit. I have met artists from all over including Italy and Germany. We all learn from one another and explore different techniques. I have met so many people from different backgrounds and am inspired by every one of them. It is fun learning what the Italians do versus Mexican artists etc. They are all the world’s best artists and I aspire to become better because of them.

How is art a passion for you?
I believe everyone is talented but some are more inclined than others to strive towards a goal. Art is my north star and I hope to continue to grow my talent. Without that purpose I would be lost.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
Equality is still a challenge. Those who do not believe it are blind. Being a woman there is an expected way to dress, act and express yourself. The differences are subtle, but they are there. In the office environment you have to really make your voice heard. Mansplaining is a thing and guys who do the same amount of work either have a higher title or get paid more. Some clients do not respond well to a woman’s voice and only listen when a male is present. Chalk art is public and many other females have experienced the same issues. Being on the street, just walking or spending a day drawing; you will get cat called, phone numbers asked, and people will linger and stare. I hope that one day art and design will be appreciated for what it is, no matter the gender of the creator.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
The people. There is a growing community of artists and street artists. Our Pop Up chalk festivals have influenced many individuals. Chalk art is a medium that is so easy to get into and people of all ages can participate. It is so awesome to have a grandpa chalking next to a 3 year old, both enjoying the creation process. People see my work and say “Oh I cannot even draw a stick figure”. This phrase makes me so sad because they haven’t tried. I think that anyone can do chalk art and create in this way. I reply “It just takes practice.” and encourage them to join in.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
It is my dream to have a festival in which everyone can just come up and draw, adding to the bigger image. In a way that is a metaphor for life. We are all in a way contributing to the bigger picture. Chalk art is ephemeral and is meant to be shared in the moment. I want to educate the community and encourage future artists by getting on their level and simply drawing on the sidewalk.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?
My personal website- www.jessiqueen.com.

Instagram- jessiqueenart

Twitter- jessithequeen

Facebook- jessiqueenart

You can join in the chalking and find events through our organization www.gachalkartists.org and facebook.com/gachalkartists