Who are you and what do you do?
I’m a visual artist. An entrepreneur. A community ally. I do a lot of things, right? So, what brings me pure joy is working in my studio and being an artist. Being able to feel super powerful in my studio and work on things that matter to me. But, also leveraging that power to work in communities as well. I do a lot of community work with young people. So, really helping to empower them and shift them to where they want to be. And I am a daughter, sister, wife, and friend. (Laughs)
What kind of experience have you gained working with community projects?
What I know to be true is that communities know exactly what they need. And it really just takes someone to lend their resources. It doesn’t really take people to come in and have ideas for them. Because the same ideas that I’d have, there are people in the community that had the same aspirations. What I’ve learned most is that I can be a “mic” more than anything. And it’s more so about “how am I lending or sharing what I have for the community to reach an aspiration of their own?”. So, I really see myself as an ally when I talk about working in communities. I’m there to come alongside them and help push their agenda. Not to push my own. I think we need more people like that. I think we need more “quiet” activism. I consider myself an activist, but it’s a very quiet type of activism, which is I think is okay. I think we need all forms. I’m really here to push that spirit of my work and lend a helping hand. But in that hand, I’m also really interested in trauma issues like poverty and workforce development. The community work I do with young people is very much about “how do we engage with them in a meaningful and authentic way?”. But also, “how do we put money in their pocket?”. “How are they able to gain more skills?”. As they’re gaining skills and sharing their creative input and intellectual property, we’ll be paying them for that. So, Those are really big components in the work I do for communities.
How has being a maker and artist helped you as a person?
So, before I started the work I do in communities, I had a totally different artistic practice. It was more so about this idea of making for the sake of making or creating for the sake of creating. But, now I’m really focused on how am I using my art to heal. I’ve been thinking a lot about my artistic practice these days and it’s really rooted in this idea of spirituality. But spiritually in a way that the act of creating is much bigger than me. I think the work that I do in communities has spurred this idea of “why do I create?”, “Who is this for?”. And then that gets me really thinking about how art can do so many things. It can heal. It can create dialogue. So, my artistic practice is rooted in that now. I do think there are times when I want to get in my studio and just make for the sake of making. And I think that’s totally okay as well. I think having a good balance between those two ideas is what keeps me going. But, ultimately, if I had not started doing the work I do in communities, my personal work would not be where it is today.
Are you Memphis native?
Yes. Born and raised. I actually grew up in a really small neighborhood adjacent to the FedEx hub. My street is literally walking distance from it. People would consider it, geographically, South Memphis. So, that’s where I grew up. I went to Overton high school. I did theater there for a couple of years and then I transitioned to visual arts.
“The fact that I put my feet on the ground in the soil, I get a chance to embrace it, if you will. I get a chance to soak it up.” Tweet thisBrittney Bullock
What does it mean for you to embrace your inner Memphis?
Memphis is such a rich place, right? It’s rich in history. It’s rich in stories. The people here are rich. When I think about embracing my inner Memphis I think about gathering all that richness up and embodying it. What does it mean for you to understand and know the legacy of your place? I am a huge proponent of the idea that where you are helps to shape who you are and you’re thinking around certain things. That richness, that rich soil, and that rich soul that i have is because I am here. And although I’m not always seeking out that richness, the fact that I put my feet on the ground in the soil, I get a chance to embrace it, if you will. I get a chance to soak it up. I get a chance to be a part of it. I think Memphis is so ripe, especially now. There’s so many positive things. There are so many fruitful things that are happening right now that you can plug into quite naturally and quite easily. And that’s not the case for other cities. That’s what makes Memphis so beautiful. A lot of people say “If you can make it to Memphis you can make it anywhere”. I appreciate my city. I love my city. When people ask me how I would describe Memphis, I always say it’s “interesting”, “cool”, “challenging”, “daunting”, “inspiring”, “fucked up”, etc. I give all these adjectives because it is. It is all of those things. It’s what makes it special, but it’s what makes us want to do more. We have a lot to do. And knowing that it’s possible and knowing what came before us gives us this ammo to do what we need to do.
Photos taken by Averell Mondie.