At The Columbusite, our team is committed to sharing a diverse collection of stories and information on arts and culture in our region. This commitment is not a new one. When The Columbusite was founded in 2018, we began with the same philosophy and mission statement we have today:
We believe that positive and diverse information on local arts and culture should be accessible and encouraged throughout a community.
Nothing has changed. And yet? Everything has changed. Like you, this year our eyes have been further opened to the stark reality that social injustice is still rampant in the world we live in. And, like you, we're determined to be better and to do better every single day.
This article entitled 12 Black Creatives You Should Be Following Online was originally slated for the summer edition of The Current, but we simply couldn't wait to share it here. Why? When you find yourself actively seeking ways to advocate for what's right, and you discover the first foothold forward, you don't wait for the right moment to take a step. You move ahead, immediately, in the right direction. Even if it's on a continued path you've already been trying to navigate, when you find a better way forward, you continue onward without hesitation.
The artists in this article are some of the finest in our community. They are movers and shakers - not only here, but regionally and nationally, and yes - even worldwide. They do not require an introduction, but thankfully we have the honor of introducing some of them to you.
If you're like us and you've found yourself searching for a better way forward in all areas of your life, we'd encourage you to use this article as a starting point. Learn everything you can about the twelve artists below. They're all either from Columbus, Georgia or live and work here currently, so they are your neighbors.
Read about them. Follow them. Listen to their voices in our community. Visit their paintings. View their work. Hear their students speak. Engage with them. Root them on.
And then? Start the process all over again.
Photo by Carrie Beth Wallace.
Natalia Naman Temesgen is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter. She is currently a staff writer on the Netflix original series, Dear White People. Her plays have been produced in New York, Princeton, Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta, and Columbus, GA. Her short films have screened internationally at festivals and her original TV pilot BEA ROSE was a 2019 Launch Pad Top 100 Finalist.
Temesgen holds a BA in English from Princeton University, and a MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU Tisch. Her play LAWNPEOPLE received the American Playwriting Foundation's 2019 "Relentless Award" Honorable Mention. Her play ACE: THE EUGENE BULLARD STORY, an epic bio-play about the first African-American fighter pilot, was produced by the Springer Opera House in 2017.
In addition to writing for television and the stage, Temesgen is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Columbus State University and a columnist for both The Columbusite and American Theatre Magazine.
Connect with Temesgen online:
Instagram: @nataliatemesgen Twitter: @cafeaulazy
Self portrait by Davian Chester.
Artist and illustrator Davian Chester became an overnight sensation when he was recognized across the world for his Juneteenth Google Doodle. Since then, his work has been shared on social media by D. L. Hughley, Romany Malco, Jeff Horste, Anthony Anderson, Yara Shahidi, Tony Baker Comedy, Snoop Dog, Erykah Badu, and Lil Duval. He also received national media attention for his Google Doodle from U.S. News and The Washington Post. Chester lives and works in Columbus, Georgia where he creates black art that continues to be shared around the world.
Connect with Chester online:
Photo by Diamond Gass.
Visual artist and entrepreneur Najee Dorsey is known for embracing his Southern roots in his work by relaying scenes of African American life in the South on canvas. His art has been featured in more than nine museum shows around the nation including the Charles Wright Museum in Detroit, the African American Museum in Dallas, and The Columbus Museum in his hometown of Columbus, Georgia.
As a black artist, Dorsey experienced the challenges most African American artists face: closed doors in the arts community, a lack of representation in art institutions, and the undervaluation of African American art and its creators by dominant society. So in 2010, Dorsey founded Black Art In America™ (BAIA) as a free online media platform for African American artists, collectors, art enthusiasts, and arts professionals.
Ten years later, BAIA has transformed into a behemoth resource of some of the top black art in the world. In addition to sharing news about the industry, BAIA now offers a wide array of services including curatorial work, art consulting, marketing, social media management, content development, appraisals, promotional materials, and remote broadcasting.
Connect with Najee Dorsey:
Instagram @najee.dorsey Twitter: @artbynajee
Follow Black Art in America:
Photo by Sonnet Moore.
Beth Reeves is a performer, teaching artist, and director who lives and works in Columbus, Georgia. A two-time graduate of Columbus State University, with a BSEd and MSEd in Theatre Education, Reeves has worked for Dalton Little Theatre, the Springer Oper House, and as the Artistic Director for Youth Ensemble Theatre. She recently directed Milk Like Sugar at Columbus State University - an experience she shared about with us here.
As a theatre teaching artist, Reeves has worked with Empowered Youth Of Columbus, the Creative Arts Guild, and the Boys and Girls Club. As an actor, her favorite productions that she has performed in include A Raisin in the Sun and Fences at the Springer Opera House.
Connect with Reeves here.
Jonathan S.E. Perkins
Jonathan S.E. Perkins is a spoken word comedian hailing from Columbus, Georgia. Perkins is an alumnus of Georgia Southern University, and is an award winning poet and performer. He represented the city of Atlanta at the National Poetry Slam competition as a member of the 2012 and 2014 Art Amok Poetry Slam Teams, and was also 2012 and 2014 Grand Slam Champion at Art Amok. Perkins was also a member of the 2015 Java Monkey Slam Team (Atlanta), ranking among the top 20 slam teams in the nation that year. Perkins was also a 2018 runner-up in The Missouri Review's Miller Audio Prize for Humor. That same year, Perkins was a recipient of Columbus & The Valley Magazine's "5 under 40" award, recognizing five local leaders who have excelled in their fields.
A teaching artist, Perkins travels the country leading poetry workshops and performing his original work.Jonathan was recognized for his work as an "artivist" as a recipient of a 2013 Spoken Word Gala Community Service Award. Perkins is a published author, and his book entitled A Whole Notha Kinda Missing is available on Amazon.
As an actor, he has graced stages in productions such as the world premiere of ACE: The Eugene Bullard Story, Blues For An Alabama Sky, The Foreigner, and Clybourne Park. He portrays Crispus Attucks in an interactive video display at the African American Military History Museum in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Perkins currently serves as the founder/director of the Fountain City Teen Poetry Slam, an organization that inspires youth to use their creativity as a positive outlet in their daily lives. From his work as a wellness instructor with the Muscogee County Juvenile Drug Court and Aaron Cohn Regional Youth Detention Center, he has also designed an effective and fun-filled curriculum that teaches students life skills through creative writing. Through weekly workshops, poetry slams, national/regional/local performance opportunities, and community service, Perkins says he's "blessed to watch the future take shape one word at a time."
Connect with Perkins:
Website: Fountain City Teen Poetry Slam
Photo courtesy of the artist.
Bridgette Russell is the Director of Marketing and Public Relations at The Columbus Museum. Originally from Chicago, Russell started her career in print journalism before transitioning to marketing and public relations.
"I love talking to people; I love sharing people's stories to help amplify their voices," Russell wrote to our Editor-in-Chief. "Transitioning to marketing and public relations from journalism hasn't changed that. My role at the Museum challenges me to share stories about art and history that catch and hold people's attention, so each program, each exhibition, or object acquired offers a new adventure. "
Navigating a global quarantine has brought new challenges to Russell and the Columbus Museum staff, but she said she's been especially proud of how the Museum has found ways to engage with visitors virtually. Russell's recent projects include the creation and maintenance of The Columbus Museum's Virtual Museum and their Virtual Museum for Kids.
"There are several features I love," said Russell. "One of my favorites is 60 Seconds with the Artist. Our Curator of American Art Jonathan Frederick Walz, Ph.D., personally reached out to dozens of artists with work in our permanent collection to ask for just a few minutes of audio about their work. What we got was this fantastic personal tour where the artist is just talking to you about their piece."
Russell said the new 60 Seconds with the Artist series has opened the Museum's collection for her in a whole new way.
"I have been blown away by the artists' responses, especially Columbus' own Amy Sherald and Jarrett Key, as well as Iranian-American Hadieh Shafie -- all artists of color."
Connect with Russell:
Photo © 2017 Amy Sherald Source
Amy Sherald is an American painter based in Baltimore who became internationally-famous for her Smithsonian portrait of Michelle Obama. Originally from Columbus, Georgia, Sherald studied art at Clark-Atlanta University and was a Spelman College International Artist-in-Residence in Portobelo, Panama. She then graduated with her MFA in Painting from Maryland Institute College of Art, and went on to become the first woman to win the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition grand prize.
Sherald has had solo shows at venues including Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago, Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore, and at the University of North Carolina, Sonja Haynes Stone Center, in Chapel Hill.
Her work can be found in public collections around the world including: Embassy of the United States, Dakar, Senegal; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.; Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; The Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO; and Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, NC.
Sherald is best known for her unique portraits. A master of simplified realism, Sherald stages her subjects in photographs and then paints them - always using grisaille to portray skin tones in her work. This is, according to the artist, is her way of "challenging the concept of color-as-race."
Sherald's painting "What's different about Alice is that she has the most incisive way of telling the truth," 2017, is on display at The Columbus Museum as a part of their permanent collection. In the video below (part of The Columbus Museum's 60 Seconds with the Artist series) Sherald discusses the painting in her own words.
Connect with Amy Sherald:
Photo courtesy of the artist.
John Houzer is a filmmaker and graphic designer from Columbus, Georgia. He attended The Art Institute of Atlanta where he received a degree in Graphic Design. The early years of his career gave him experience designing for small businesses, medical offices, sports radio, and employment agencies.
Since then, Houzer has produced various commercials for local small businesses to include Harley Davidson, Shane’s Rib Shack, Lemongrass Thai & Sushi, and Realtree Outdoors. He’s also done videography for Creative South, one of the largest design conferences in the Southeast.
Houzer is a 2018 recipient of the Ledger-Enquirer’s Reader’s Choice Award for Favorite Videographer, and a 2-time winner (2018 & 2019) of The Local’s Choice Award for Favorite Videographer and Favorite Graphic Designer.
Connect with Houzer:
Instagram: @johnhouzer Website: https://www.johnhouzer.com
Watch Houzer's Film Reel HERE
Michael Stiggers, Jr. is an actor, singer, and Broadway performer from Columbus, Georgia. The son of a pastor and a teacher, Stiggers grew up singing from a young age and has continued performing throughout his life.
Stiggers has performed on stage and on film in numerous locations around the nation. Locally, Stiggers has appeared multiple times on the stage of the Springer Opera House and at Actor's Express in Atlanta. Stiggers made his Broadway debut as an ensemble member in BEAUTIFUL: The Carole King Musical. He is currently awaiting to return to Broadway to continue his role as an ensemble member and swing for Simba in The Lion King. Read more about his journey from Columbus, Georgia to Broadway here.
Connect with Stiggers:
Sammie Saxon is an editorial and fashion photographer based in Columbus, Georgia. Saxon holds a MFA in Photography from the Academy of Art in San Francisco, and currently serves as the chief photographer for Southern Views Magazine.
Saxon's photography has been featured by global brands like Vanity Fair, Victoria's Secret, Netflix, America's Next Top Model, Amazon Fashion Week, Canon USA, and many more.
Connect with Saxon:
Jarrett Key is a MFA candidate at RISD for Painting (2020) whose work integrates movement, song, and painting. Key's work grapples with social justice in America by taking the lost stories and objects from family oral history to discuss the longterm impact of inequality in our nation.
Key achieves this by relying on sculpture, painting, and performance. Key's #Hair Painting #29 is on display at The Columbus Museum. In the video below, watch an excerpt of Key creating the work in front of a live audience at The Columbus Museum in 2018.
Connect with Key:
Photo by Julianna Wells.
Tony Pettis is a Columbus artist with roots spreading from New York City and throughout the Alabama and Georgia area. With a heart for the creative community, Tony has always been open to the idea of celebrating the arts through his work. An artist specializing in prisma-colored portrait sketches with an acrylic finish, Pettis' work focuses on the influence of pop culture.
Pettis' personal style and interest in fashion have always been connected to his Native and African American heritage. He collects pieces that incorporate traditional Native American wear and/or Native American symbolism. This allows him to continue to pay homage to his ancestors - an intentional investment of time and effort that is incredibly important to him.
Pettis is a published illustrator, a two-time CSU All-State Art Symposium District Finalist, and a two-time CSU All-State Art Symposium State Winner. Pettis has since illustrated a book for personal growth, and traveled back to New York for the gallery opening and book release. He helped with the creation of Growing Pains a book for personal growth written by author and close friend Onkar Dhinsa, with illustrations done by Pettis. His is also the Creative Director of Native Co. a clothing house for young rebels with style. He is also a partial founder of Vibe Columbus, a college ministry at North Highland Church.
Pettis' most recent work is a COVID-19 series created to match the tone of America's collective solitude. Pettis believes that art induces the way we truly feel, and so can an experience in return.
Facebook: Tony Pettis