Articles and Research

Artists who Happen to be Black: Identity and Race within the African-American and Artistic Community.

A survey as part of a presentation and article written by Alice Berry, MA – LPC .

Please answer the questions below if you identify as an artist and as Black or African-American and answer them in the comments below or e-mail them to me at alice@aliceberry.com.

Let me know if you would like to speak in person, on the phone, or communicate by e-mail. I appreciate the time and effort taken to answer these queries, and look forward to your responses. .

I appreciate your participation and I will also be happy to forward the article to you, which is also posted on this website’s blog. AWHTBB

An explanation of the article and research is included below the questions.

 

Questions for Artists Who Happen to be Black:
When did you come to the realization that you wanted to be a working artist, ie. make a living (or try to) with your artistic work?

How did your family respond to your realization? Were they supportive financially and /or/ emotionally?

How did you choose where you went to school? Was it art related?

Did you have many fellow students who were aspiring artists? How many of them or what percentage was black?

How did you first try to make your way professionally? Are you in a field where black artists are rare, or are there a representative number?

Do you ever think you were subject to racist attitudes or actions professionally?

Do you ever think being black was helpful to you professionally?

Has being a creative professional ever affected your personal or intimate relationships?

Have you ever had any mental health issues or suffered from addiction?

Have you ever received counseling for them?

Did your mental health issues have anything to do with or affect your art making in any way?

Do you think you have internalized societal attitudes and ideas about what it’s like to be a black artist in America, or do you feel you “go against the flow”?

Anything else you’d like to add?

Demographic info:

Age:

Gender:

Where you were born/raised:

Medium/Field:

 

 

Abstract:
The Lived Experience of Black American Artists.

Unless someone is lucky enough to be born into an established artistic family, it’s usually difficult for a person who is creative and wants to make a living as an artist or creative professional to do so with support from their families. The associations people have about the lives of creative professionals are often not positive, they fear that making a living in the arts is difficult if not impossible, and the term “starving artists” is assumed to be an accurate description of the creative persons lot in life.
There are all sorts of societal associations about what kind of people artists are, concerns about their mental stability, and their predilection for addiction.

Within the black community, the difficulty of becoming and making a living as an artist is greater to overcome because of assumptions about what is acceptable for black people to do within the arts, at what and where it is possible for them to work, and even what kind of creative endeavor black people do or don’t do.

There are different ways of approaching the making of art while at the same time having the identity of a black person in America. Some choose to make their racial identity a focal point of their art, or engage in art forms that are historically associated with the lives and stories of African-Americans. Others engage their chosen work as artists and leave their racial identity in the background or don’t address it at all within the context of their art-making.

There is also the question of who black artists are making their art for. Approval and acceptance by a white normative culture and its gatekeepers determines a type of art and attitude about art-making that is very different from what black folks paint, sing, write and act for each other.

In writing this paper, acknowledging that the experience of being a black artist in America is anything but monolithic, I would like to gather stories and opinions from a variety of people working in creative fields, asking them to respond to questions and discuss their experience in their formative years, in education, in creating and maintain a professional life, and how their artistic life affects their personal relationships.

 

Summary of Presentation
Black Families, Black Relationships, Black Sexuality Conference
Thursday, October 01, 2015 – Saturday, October 03, 2015

Societal attitudes about the arts and creative professions, (art is fun, not serious, you can’t get paid for art, black folks don’t do that, etc.), particularly among African Americans, go along with societal views of artists as being more prone to instability, addiction and mental illness. Within the black community, the relationship between artists and their audience is often fraught, filled with misunderstanding and unfulfilled expectation.
Tx~Art is a therapeutic and artistic project dependent on the responses and reaction of its participants, melding psychology with perception and social experience. Experiencing the piece may create therapeutic change, causing personal as well as social benefits. Goals of this project http://www.aliceberrypsych.com/explanation-of-txart-piece-and-project/ are to make an effort to change that social paradigm, help artists clarify their worth to themselves and their community, and hopefully create a ripple effect helping society come closer to realizing the important contribution artists make to the world and everyone’s experience of it.