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Unveiling the Shadows: Addressing Racism in the Artist Community

Being black in America is hard and literally saying that comes as natural as reciting my name. I could further that by saying being a black woman in America is hard. Being a black, female business owner is hard. However in this entry. I am going to share a very recent experience of being a black artist.

As I previously mentioned understanding that per my skin color alone, things have been and will always be exponetially difficult for me. Not so much for other POC (I know we all have our experiences but I am talking about myself here) but the struggles are similar. Its not fair and it makes my skin crawl and gives me a very upset ache felt in the put of my stomach, the bottom of my heart. There has always been this understanding that regardless how good the quality of my work is - it will still be undersold because I am the creator. Me, with my brown skin, kinky hair.

Once of my studio mates came to visit while I was making sausage, egg and cheese biscut earrings. I like company (sometimes) and she's an elder, so I always appreciate words of wisdom. After introducing herself, she asked if she could sit in and see how I made my works. Of course, I offered a seat and explained my process. She asked about my pricing and after telling her my price points for the basic things she went on to ask, "Why so low?" I am getting to the age where my filter doesn't filter like it used to. I clasped my hands, closed my eyes and said how I actually feel.

"I'm going to be honest with you, so just hear me out."

She gave me a look of affirmation.

"I realize who and what I am. As a black woman, I am judged and critiqued before anyone even has a chance to look at my art. I go into some spaces and I know I am the only person of color selling her wares. I want to make my art, I want to make money so its a constant balancing act. I know I could price my pickles for example, at $20 per pair but I also know they wouldn't sell to most people. I also want everyone to be able to buy my items because I know what its like to not be able to afford things. My customer base are young people. Folks come into my booth and they smile becuase the stuff is fun."

I was not worried about any verbal pushback...again. Im at the age where caring is a fading thing of the past.

She agreed that there has ALWAYS been an issue with racism - clear as day, even as a white woman. After mentioning that being from Cleveland Heights did not really make a difference either, its visable in every space.

Okay, we both agreed. I went on to mention there are places I will not go because I know it wouldn't be profitable and hell, I wouldnt feel safe. Prime example is Medina, OH. Secondary example - Seven Hills, OH. When my tent was ruined by the weather, other vendors laughed while the kids and I picked up my display items, salvaging what wasnt broken. Theres no way in f***k the wind did all of that, when the text next to mine went unscathed - but sure... the wind. Medina... *deep sigh* initial intrigue of My Turquoise Kitten turned sour when they saw our brown faces. The muttering comments made by other vendors and shoppers was absolutely disgusting.

She went to on mention how she and other artists get upset when they feel another artist is undercharging, making it difficult for them. I had to again point out how things work for me. I have to be competitive. There is no way that I price things to undercut anyone else. I just want to pay some bills and provide for my family! I countered her point, again with all the times I have entered art shows and have had a crowd of people and regardless how many sales I had - I do not win awards...hell, not even an honorable mention. Its not becuase my art sucks, thats for damn sure.

Not even a mention *side eye*

When people say that bulls**t that racism doesn't exist. Ask any person of color about their experiences. Just ask them and really listen.

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I've been creating, selling and even working my other job at Lake Affect Studios for about a year now. I LOVE the idea that I have a place apart from home where I can create, in peace... mostly. See,


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