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: