Leading Lady – Ibi Owolabi

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 Our First Leading Lady for March 2019: Ibi Owolabi

Headshot of Ibi Where do you work and what do you do?
I am a freelance director here in Atlanta. I work on several film projects and on plays in town at wonderful theaters like 7Stages in Little 5 and the Alliance in Midtown.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
I’ve loved the arts my entire life, before it because an option as a career, it was just my imagination and lots and lots of books, giving me lots of different lives and adventures. I’ve been formally directing since I was about eighteen, so eight years.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?

I used to think I would be a pediatrician, because I love kids and I’m Nigerian, so medicine is kind of the default. Unfortunately, I was introduced to chemistry in high school and medicine and I parted ways. I did find theatre in high school, however, and the love has stayed strong.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
Octavia Butler. I’d love to talk sci fi and incorporating POC into the genre with a woman who founded so much of it. Octavia existed in an timeline with even less women of color in the genre and flourished despite it. A glimpse into her wildly creative mind would be great.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
However cliche, my mom. I can’t even quantify how much her strength and intelligence shaped me. Watching her step through adversity, seeing her build and own her own business for almost twenty years made the idea of being self made second nature to me. Her pride in being black and an immigrant infused me with the same pride and love for who I am, even when my career forces me to look inward and take some personal hits. I am so grateful for her.

How is art a passion for you?
I am a firm believer that there is no life without art. There is no history, no foundation without art. And there within lies my passion. Art is life changing and vital to who I am and what I want to leave behind. More than leave behind, but what I want to build and Forster the growth of. There is no limit to what can sprout from a creative mind. And that is a thrilling thing.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
With everything that has happened in the last couple of years, surrounding pay inequality, the MeToo movement, and the choking over saturation of arts by white men, I have to say this: hire women. Just women. Until we figure all of this out. It may sound radical, but I believe to offset the waves of toxicity and stale ideas making major companies circle the drain, hire women and pay them what they are truly worth. And I do not think anyone should call themselves any kind of ally if they are not completely transparent with what they are being paid, even if they are not completely sure the women they work with are being paid less. I do not think anyone should feel comfortable working in a space that is not 50% women, and the work to progress an artistic space does not stop once a white woman is hired. I’ve enjoyed much of my professional work, and I can say with complete confidence that women enhance every creative experience I’ve had, and deserve to be in every room.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
The most exciting thing about Atlanta’s art is the huge shift that is happening right now. I love how many new companies and new works are churning through the city, and how much of it I get to do.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
My passion is new plays, and I hope that Atlanta will continue to gain national attention for the new work we are putting out. I hope through our work, more will be produced and Atlanta will thrive as a city that puts on amazing new and classic plays.

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

Instagram – @yungdirector