Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous week ahead. I’m locked away in the studio for most of this month working on a few projects and building a new portfolio of work, some of which I hope to exhibit later this year. I look forward to updating you soon. Have a great day all!
Once again, it’s a delight to befriend another hugely ambitious, motivational and multi talented artist. My latest featured artist goes by the name of Tiffany (Unscripted) from New York state. Tiffany is definitely setting an example in what it means to be artistic. She agreed to share some of her aspirations and highlight drivers that contribute to her inspirational creativity.
You’re a writer, filmmaker, photographer, designer and poet to name some of your interests and skills. If forced to describe yourself under one of these disciplines what would you choose?
Oh, no! I couldn’t choose. My love and passion is equal for each. [laughing] In retrospect, I can say each skill has evolved from another. I started writing poetry in my teens. I would spend hours under a massive tree in Thornden Park, composing several poems. When I reached my twenties I started writing short stories and nonfiction. My creative outlet expanded to include media and design. I started doing photography and film out of necessity. I needed a photographer for a few projects. They were either too expensive or unreliable. I purchased my first camera, a Canon Rebel XT from a pawn shop, to shoot my first concert. It was Tech N9ne Hostile Takeover Tour 2012, at Celebrity Theater. From that project, my love grew for capturing moments. My first film project was an impromptu recording of my friend’s music video on my Samsung galaxy SIII. Currently, my focus is photography. My goal is to enhance my skills, to include high-fashion and editorial. I’m really excited because it’s for an online magazine I’m launching January 1, 2016. It’s called Occhi Magazine. I’m creating a fashion lookbook for it.
Where do you find your inspiration?
People, places, and things. Tomorrow is never promised. So, I live in the moment. This has expanded my view of the world. My analysis of the what, why, and how has broadened. I can look at anything and see art. This translates into creating something. It can be either graphic design or a haiku. Many of us fail to see the beauty in the world. It’s no fault of our own. We are constantly besieged with news of death, destruction, and sorrow. My outlet has always been art. Whenever I experience stress I create something; writing, designing, filming, or photographing helps me to relax.
Are there any particular artist you’re most proud to have worked with?
Yes, my friends. [laughing] I value their friendship, as well as their experience. We often share creative ideas. For instance, one of my friends has created a Star Wars, inspired music video. It turned out exceptionally well! It was shot in Yuma, Arizona. I’m located in Upstate, NY and couldn’t make the filming. I kept telling him how I wished I could have been there to capture the experience in a documentary!
Are they any particular artists you would like to work with?
This is where I’m supposed to name someone famous or highly-celebrated. But I’ve always been a champion for the underdog. My interest is mainly other independents, who strive to create exceptional work. It can be someone relatively unknown; someone who is still learning a new skill. Creativity is fueled by passion. Passion can be infectious, enlightening, and a catalyst for your own desire to create a beautiful piece.
Can you tell me more about your magazine and media company?
It all began with Mia Bella Occhi™. Mia Bella Occhi™ is an affordable online fashion boutique offering curated finds of unique sunglasses, clear lens eyewear, and fashion accessories, such as hats, scarves, and jewelry. It’s for fashionistas and fashionistos, who value a mixture of trendy, sophistication, style, and comfort. I wanted “everyday” people to know style is not what you wear. It is who you are. The magazine spawned from this idea. I thought I should create a visual display of what people can wear. I don’t use professional models. Instead, I ask people who never modeled to showcase the fashions. I want the boutique and magazine to be organic and accessible to everyone, no matter their economic status. This is the main reason why I added Frugal But Fashionable and Reclaim Recycle Restyle. Frugal But Fashionable proves you can still look great using thrifty buys. Reclaim Recycle Restyle showcases designers who craft handmade fashions, such as jewelry, clothing, and other upcycled creations. The designers and their creations will be featured in the magazine and lookbook.
Creatives tend to think outside the box but is it easy to fuse your disciplines into an entity that is recognised or appreciated by the general public? Do people easily see relationships between visual arts, fashion and other creative professions?
Yes. Art is subjective. Personally, I do not create for the public. I create things I’m passionate about. I recently held an online art exhibition on my Instagram page. It was titled ‘Completely Unexpected.” Abstract art was created using a mathematical algorithm, and then blended with computer-generated, paint brushstrokes. It was well received. Most exciting was the nods received from art museums. That was absolutely thrilling! I’m planning my next exhibition for spring 2016. Stay tuned! I will use my new Nikon D7200 camera for this piece. I can’t wait to shoot with it!
What are the highs and lows of running an independent boutique, magazine and film production company?
I don’t see highs and lows. I see peaks and valleys – much healthier perspective, indeed! [laughing] All challenges are good. That’s how one learns. People see the effort you put into your work. I prefer being recognized for my work. For me, it’s more meaningful. People see the drive and passion. Being recognized for only your accomplishments is like saying you only rate when you receive a reward. I believe a person should be rewarded for effort alone. Perhaps, this is why I find it challenging to sell my art. I do it solely for passion, not recognition. Funny. I recently read a debate over what makes a photographer an amateur or profession. Many argued being paid for the photo session makes you a professional. I beg to differ. I shot high-profile, music concerts as press and media. I wasn’t paid for the work. I did it because it was my passion to do so, and I wanted to prove it’s not the equipment, it’s the user that defines professionalism. That was the first concert previously mentioned.
The world is an open door of opportunities for someone with the right mind-set. As a creative professional in a very competitive environment what encouraging words would you share with young, inspired and multi skilled people reading this article?
Two words: Do you. As long as you remember art is subjective, you can create anything you imagine. People will either like or dislike your creations. Expect it. Just don’t let it prevent you for creating the most wonderful piece, yet, to be discovered – YOU!
Further info on Tiffany please visit
As my exhibition comes to an end I’ve been taking time to check out a number of exhibitions and events currently available to see. Two very interesting exhibitions are at New York’s Schomburg Centre in Harlem.
The centre celebrates the 75th anniversary of our renowned American Negro Theatre (ANT). Known to the locals as “The Harlem Library Little Theatre,” the ANT was founded in 1940 as a community space for thespians to work in productions that illustrated the diversity of black life. This exhibition is taken entirely from the Schomburg Collections and highlights the ANT’s stage productions from 1940 through 1949 with photographs, posters, playbills, and news clippings. Images include scenes from successful plays such as Anna Lucasta, studio workshops, and radio broadcasts featuring prominent talent like Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier and Lofton Mitchell, whose careers began at the ANT.
The second show is Unveiling Visions: The Alchemy of the Black Imagination Curated by artist John Jennings and Reynaldo Anderson,this exhibition includes artifacts from the Schomburg collections that are connected to Afrofuturism, black speculative imagination and Diasporan cultural production. Offering a fresh perspective on the power of speculative imagination and the struggle for various freedoms of expression in popular culture, Unveiling Visions showcases illustrations and other graphics that highlight those popularly found in science fiction, magical realism and fantasy.
Both shows run until December 31st so if you’re in the city please visit. The exhibition galleries are open Monday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. For further info please visit http://www.nypl.org/events/exhibitions
Once again, I’m delighted to be a participant in the Peace Projects traveling exhibition. Proceeds from the Call for Artists and the Traveling Exhibit will fund initial costs for the Peace Centre in Africa, help bring skills training to the Peace Centre in the Philippines, and provide critical aid to Syrian refugees.
The show has three segments; a mosaic of art featuring all Peace Project artists, a further 120 artworks displayed as 12″ x 12″ panels and a themed show entitled “Gaza Rises’ featuring the work of ten artists from Gaza.
The exhibit will be unveiled at the 5th Affair of the Arts event at 9300 Culver Blvd. in Downtown Culver City on September 19th & 20th. The show will then tour including a stop at the Landmark Arts Building, New York City on October 15.
I’m happy to be supporting the Peace Project as it continues to be behind worthwhile causes. The Peace Project has help educate dozens of children in Sierra Leone, distributed 10,000 pairs of crutches to amputees & war victims in Sierra Leone and designed a Peace Museum for Sierra Leone in conjunction with the United Nations.
The Peace Project is currently working to bring skills training to the Peace Centre in the Philippines and designing a Peace Centre that will be built in Sierra Leone adjacent to the Slaughter House, one of the most infamous sites of violence during the recent civil war. Sierra Leone’s Peace Centre will be operated in collaboration with trusted partners from Community Association for Psychosocial Services.
For further information on the Peace Project please visit http://www.thepeaceproject.com
As you may know, I’m currently preparing for another show at Chelsea’s Amsterdam Whitney gallery. I’m particularly looking forward to the possibility of supporting the work of CAMBA by donating 10% of sales from my work. I’ve been a supporter of the charity for a couple of years now and would like to see this organisation achieve its objectives to help many of New Yorkers who are facing a variety of hardships.
Joanne Oplustil, President & CEO, CAMBA / CAMBA Housing Ventures was kind enough to provide answers to some questions I posed to her regarding the agency, it’s mission and future.
Q- Can you provide a summary of the organisations origins and it’s vision?
CAMBA was founded in 1977 as a merchant association in Flatbush to reduce crime and beautify the community. CAMBA’s leadership quickly recognized that commercial revitalization was impossible without creating paths to opportunity for residents, particularly the burgeoning population of immigrants and refugees. CAMBA grew in direct response to community needs, and today we reach 45,000 New Yorkers annually with 160 programs delivered from 70 locations throughout the five boroughs.
- Provides for Basic Needs: This year, CAMBA provided shelter to more than 4,500 people, permanent supportive housing for more than 1,110 individuals and families with special needs, and 45,000 pantry bags to hungry Brooklynites.
- Develops Human Capital: Annually, 9,000 youth attend CAMBA educational and enrichment programs, and 2,000 adults engage in job training, English or adult literacy classes.
- Prevents Harm: CAMBA’s services are designed to help families and individuals avoid an array of societal ills, from preventable hospitalizations, to family violence, to eviction or deportation. Last year, we prevented more than 3,186 families from being evicted.
- Remediates: CAMBA helps stabilize New Yorkers with drug addiction or mental illness, reconnect youth who have left school, and settle refugees who have suffered trauma in their home countries.
What sets us apart from peer organizations is CAMBA’s holistic approach to transforming lives. We know that children succeed only as part of families and communities, so we invest in parenting, education, job training and health in addition to providing safe, sustainable and affordable housing. CAMBA provides essential services to improve client outcomes and help residents attain self-sufficiency. By providing holistic support to help individuals and families gain stability, we fortify the neighborhoods we serve, having community-level and City-wide impact and driving local economic growth.
Q- According to published figures, you’ve helped over 45,000 people in the city. In which areas and issues have you been most effective and why?
We help 45,000 New Yorkers every year! Each of our programs has distinct outcomes we are trying to achieve, but we have an excellent track record of accomplishing what we set out to do. I am particularly proud of our development of more than 1,500 units of permanent affordable housing, in just the first 10 years of developing housing.
We view affordable housing as a platform for individual and family stability and economic success, as well as a cornerstone for community revitalization. Through dedication to design excellence through contextual buildings, attractive façades and durable finishes, CAMBA Housing Ventures’ buildings demonstrate that affordable and supportive housing is a community asset and provides dignity for tenants. Our dedication to design excellence and proactive property management oversight have shifted expectations about what affordable housing looks like, removing the stigma associated with affordable housing and elevating design standards. CAMBA’s developments bring over a half-billion dollars in public/private investment into some of New York City’s most impoverished neighborhoods, bringing much–needed affordable housing, jobs and social services.
CAMBA provides permanent housing and onsite support services to more than 1,100 formerly homeless families and adults, including those struggling with mental illness or HIV/AIDS, at 18 residences throughout New York City. Through financial literacy, healthcare, access to employment, education/job training, independent living skills, and support groups, we help people who have been in and out of hospitals, jail and homeless shelters become stable and make meaningful contributions to their communities.
Q- Growing on the last 35 years of successfully helping communities, where do you see the organisation in the next 30 years?
CAMBA has been growing and responding to change for 38 years. And I believe that’s what we will continue to do – expanding our role in community based health care, creating and preserving safe and affordable housing for New Yorkers in needs, and helping the next generation of young people break the cycle of poverty and gain the skills they need to succeed in education, careers and families. We will continue lift up communities where the needs are more dire by taking a holistic approach to individuals, families and neighborhoods. And I hope I am around to see it!
For further information on CAMBA please visit http://www.camba.org
I’m looking forward to another exciting period working on exhibitions and broader community related projects. Moreover, I’m both happy and privileged to be working with some talented, dedicated and inspiring people. One of the things I’m looking forward to is another exhibition at the Amsterdam Whitney Gallery in Manhattan’s Chelsea district which is always buzzing with some truly amazing art exhibitions and talks. This year I will be donating 10% of any artwork sold to CAMBA, a non-profit agency that connects people with opportunities to enhance their quality of life.
CAMBA offers more than 150 integrated services and programs in economic development, education and youth development, family support, health, housing and legal services. CAMBA Housing Ventures builds sustainable and affordable apartments for low-income New Yorkers.
CAMBA serves more than 45,000 individuals and families, including 9,000 youth, each year. They help people with low incomes; those moving from welfare to work; people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or transitioning out of homelessness; individuals living with or at risk of HIV/AIDS; immigrants and refugees; children and young adults; entrepreneurs and other groups working to become self-sufficient. The majority of CAMBA’s clients live, work and/or attend school in Brooklyn.
Further details to come!
Wishing you all a great weekend!