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Rising Stars: Meet Kendra Danielle

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kendra Danielle.

Hi Kendra, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
After completing my Peace Corps service in the Dominican Republic in 2017, I relocated to Baltimore City. Baltimore became my home for the next 3 years.

I fell in love with the grit and the grind of the city, but what attracted me the most was the passion, love, and pride of Black folks had for their city. I met a plethora of folks fighting to make Baltimore a healthier, safer, & more liberated place to live. From healers to activists, to community organizers, to artists, and more.

Baltimore City is nicknamed “Charm City” and there is definitely something alluring about the soul of the city. The city expanded me, shaped my way of existence, and encouraged me to explore my natural talents. I renamed myself arkansawblk because in my travels no one could ever 1. Tell me where Arkansas was on the map, 2. Folks didn’t know how to pronounce the name of the state, and 3. They were shocked that Black people could be from such a place after they learned where it was located.

My artist name is spelled phonetically and despite Arkansas’ complicated history, I took the name because my artwork and writing are inspired and center on the culture, resiliency, and traditions of Black (blk) people.

By the fall season of 2017, I was moved to create mixed media collages that expressed messages of love, resistance, and ancestry. One day, I found myself in Michaels Art Supply store purchasing acrylic paint and canvases, something I had never done before. As a result, I painted pink, purple, and blue weeping willow tree that turned out better than I expected. Fearful of rejection, but more curious about folks’ reactions I posted it on Instagram, and people loved it! I never looked back.

In 2018, four pieces of my original artwork were selected to be featured in the Black Women in Power Exhibit at the Baltimore Arena Players (the oldest operating African American community theatre in the U.S). Between 2018-2020, I featured nine mixed media collages in rotation at New Secret’s Tea Shop.

In February 2021, my piece “Power Pose” was featured in the Art as Resistance exhibit at the Hearne Fine Art Gallery in Little Rock, AR, and from 2017 to 2022, I have created more than 20 custom masterpieces nationally & internationally.

This is only the beginning.

This is my honest journey of being a self-taught mixed media artist. I’ve had successes and I’ve had my share of failures, but I choose to resist & rest instead of quitting. In addition to creating art, I write essays about Black Liberation stories and curate healing experiences for underestimated communities through nature exploration meetups and holistic wellness gatherings.

My inspiration stems from the great Alice Walker, the ancestor Audre Lorde, and the warrior Assata Shakur, and together we can create a more just, revolutionary world that treats people and the earth as the living creatures they are.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Many of my struggles with art have been due to self-doubt and false beliefs about “Who can be an artist.” In 2018, a dear friend told me about the book The Artist Way by Julia Cameron. This book challenged me in many ways and one of those ways was standing firmly in calling myself an artist.

Since I was self-taught, I had a lot of doubts about my abilities. Also, being in Baltimore City where my full-time job required me to work closely with the Maryland Institute College of Art, I was constantly comparing myself to the students who were enrolled at the institution. I remember feelings of harsh self-criticism and self-judgment.

I also had a lot of doubt about whether I was “good” at art, despite the fact that folks were purchasing my pieces and encouraging me to continue. Self-doubt hampered my confidence and has been a major challenge as I continue to grow as an artist.

However, what I learned from reading The Artist Way and doing my own research on artists of the African diaspora is that art is simply a creation. Creation that comes from the imagination into the physical, 3D reality. Art is meant to create discourse.

Art is meant to be a reflection of society and there is no one way of doing it. Once, I understood that art is an expression of freedom, I began to shed the layers of self-doubt and leaned more into allowing the art to pour from me and create itself.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
My life has always been very eclectic and I consider myself a person with a mixed bag of experiences. Currently, I work as a full-time urban farmer, apiary manager, and farm animal specialist. Each day I get to take care of goats, cows, chickens, bees, and plants. Every day is completely different and that is what I probably enjoy the most.

I approach life as an eternal student, eager to grow and unafraid to fail. It is extremely rewarding to show young people and adults how urban land can be used to provide a local source of food and a peaceful retreat from city life. I’ve been working in the agriculture world for 2 years and receive much joy from getting to intimately work with nature and people.

Previously, I worked as a nature-based educator, soccer coach, community organizer, and teen life coach for high school students. Due to my training in restorative practices, trauma-informed care, and DEI, my professional and artistic work reflect my critical awareness of the changes I believe are required to create a more inclusive and sensitive society to both humans and the environment we call home.

I’m known for being earnest, hardworking, and a dream chaser. With all my experiences and future learning opportunities, it is my dream to one day steward a cooperative community healing center and creates liberatory spaces for QBIPOC. I want to co-steward a farm where we can provide food for ourselves and our neighbors.

I want to teach the future and present generations how to be in a mutually beneficial relationship with the land. I dream of making herbal remedies that uplift and bring people’s spirits true holistic wellness. My professional and creative work fuel each other in order for me to get closer to actualizing my dreams.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
The biggest lesson I learned from the COVID-19 Crisis was how not to take time for granted. Time in the USA context is very linear and can almost feel constricting, especially with all the deadlines imposed on us from work and the deadlines of “where we are supposed to be” due to what societal norms tell us.

However, when the United States went on lockdown some folks were almost forced to interact with time in a different way, including myself. Having the privileges of being able to lock down in my home and feel safe and have access to water and food and have access to safe people around me, I began to realize how much time I was wasting on fulfilling other people’s dreams and how little time I was investing in making sure that I was healthy, happy, and whole.

I realized how much I valued time spent with people who loved me and realized how much time I was committing to unhealthy situations whether that was non-reciprocal relationships, overconsuming occupations, or even trusting other people’s imagination about how society should function.

I realized that although I am only an individual, I exist within a neighborhood, within a community, within an ecosystem, within a global world and that I had the power to impact change. Ultimately, by taking care of myself I could better help take care of others.

As a result, in 2020, I began hosting bi-monthly Lunar Circles for QBIPOC which functioned as a peaceful haven.

Through vulnerability and community agreements, as a group, we were able to pour into one another, encourage each other to pursue our goals, and feel restored while doing it.

Pricing:

  • E-book $11
  • Lunar Circles $Donation-Based.
  • Original Art Varies in pricing

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Brittany Pree, Qubilah Huddleston, Beverly Hendrix, Jeffrey Titus, and Patrice Donaghue

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