Thursday nights have become a happy place at The Beautiful Project; a joyful, fulfilling, artistic, truth telling space where Black women writers consort to galvanize our artist selves to come forth, create, and flourish. There are few spaces like it. Together, we have created a space where we feel free to be our whole messy, in process, triumphant selves. The conversations are rich, teeming with epiphanies. Affirmations are thrown around like confetti transforming a Thursday night gathering into a celebration filled with love and sisterhood. What happens between us is nothing short of awe-inspiring. As we continue to grow and bring forth all of the stirrings of our heart and mind, you will find words and reflections from our writing circle here. Our sister, Teni, is first up. We hope you enjoy a small piece of her brilliance as much as we do.
Recently, I have come to terms with two truths: 1) Art is anything I create as a means for expression, healing, and survival. 2) My most crucial art work is becoming me.
I have always been drawn to art and expression. Throughout college, I dabbled in various forms of art. I sang in an African choir. I started a praise dance group with my friend. I performed with the Black Theater Association. Art was the way I made sense of who I was becoming and who I was created to be. Throughout college, my art was resistance to the new environment I found myself struggling to navigate. Time and time again, art liberated me.
After graduating college, I started to work a 9-5 job, and while there were brief moments of creativity, I felt stifled. Even though I lived in Los Angeles, I found so many people creating to entertain but not enough people creating to stay alive. I craved a supportive, nurturing community of creatives, so I started a group for women of color to connect, create and collaborate. As I helped other artists cultivate their work, I struggled with my creative identity. Am I an artist if I am not displaying my work on instagram or twitter? If I have no desire to share my work, is it real? As I dug deeper into my core, I realized I was doing myself a disservice by trying to squeeze myself into a box. During that time, I had to remind myself that as a Black woman in America, my very existence is art. Taking up space at a protest is art. Working in corporate America and surviving (maybe even thriving) is art. There is art sprawled across the pages of my journal. There is art growing gracefully from my head. I AM ART.
So how can we create authentically-from the inside, out? I believe this is a lifelong journey, one that starts with acknowledging and celebrating all of who we are in this moment, then determining how we want to grow. Here are some questions that helped me get started:
Think of two artists that inspire you.
What qualities draw you to them?
What are three adjectives do you hope people use to describe your work?
Finally, as you go through your creative process ask yourself: Is this true? Is this honest? Is this me?
Teni Ayo-Ariyo is a lover of words and humans. She strongly believes there is something in each of us the world needs.