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Recharge your soul with Uncutt Art’s ‘Protect Yo Heart Day’ on IG Live

Every now and then, a respite from the seemingly never-ending mental, physical, emotional hustle is necessary.

Nowadays, with so many hunkered down in adherence to stay-at-home orders, it should become a routine exercise that encourages the recharging and redirecting of energy towards the good through oneself and for the world. 

It might sound like an activity done in solo, but even under today’s circumstances, it doesn’t have to be because of Uncutt Art.

He’s a multi-faceted creative whose positive messages of self-love and acceptance are spray-painted across nearly every major American city and internationally, is hosting a “Protect Yo Heart Day” marathon on April 23 via his Instagram Live.

Starting with a global meditation at 7:23 eastern time, the digital event will include yoga, art, music, panels about nutrition, healing herbs, collective consciousness, and there will be surprise guests, too.

The date was just a number that Uncutt ran by initially, but it was brought to his attention that it corresponds to verse 4:23 in the Bible that sends a similar message:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”


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But for him and his followers, “Protect Yo Heart” is not just a national holiday. It’s an annual starting point to people’s far-reaching journeys of getting to know themselves with time.

It intends to urge a positive resetting of the “inner, higher self,” as Uncutt puts it, and the nurturing of “energy, the heart, the immune system, vital parts, or what makes [people] who they are.” 


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The movement stems from his own experience to transform, heal, and evolve. A little over a decade ago, he started with just one goal, albeit one but brave and ambitious: to “come out” from the dark space in which he had found himself immersed.

His endeavor, though, wasn’t an escape, the kind that is attributed to “fight-or-flight” responses whose consequences of emotional suppression are those with which so many wrestles.

Instead, his was a search for something more — like, self-awareness, tranquility, peace — that was founded by “going deep every day” through questions and answers. Until one day, he freed himself.


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“It was one of my exercises I was doing, and while doing it, a lightbulb hit, and the lightbulb said, “Hey, your energy is inside of this body, in this individual, and this persona you created is not real. It’s made up by you and everybody around you, and everybody around you has been lying to you, not knowing it, and what they said had nothing to do with your energy,” Uncutt recalled.

“It’s like going back home. And we always want to go back home, we always want to go back to ourselves, into a space where we had peace in abundance and in connection with the universe and earth and all that. We want that and still be able to live our beautiful life, so you have to go home first. That’s what I realized.”

Then, he wanted to be one in his own experience of himself, not the product of ideas and concepts and expectations from the external world that he did not create though he might have at first, without knowing better, tended to regurgitate.

A regurgitation of others’ perceptions of themselves, of the world, and of him was no longer towards what he tended. That was on a personal level.

On an artistic level, that was the case, too. 

Like Agnes Martin, an abstract Canadian-born American painter once said, “paint with [your] backs to the world,” Uncutt also subscribes to that notion.


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“Whatever you think the world is, turn your back. And don’t think about it, don’t even look at it, because that’s not part of your creation,” he said, mentioning that he intends not to bring his past into his future, and instead to carry his future in his own artistry of imagining the positives.

“Creating means bringing something new into the world. It doesn’t mean pulling from the world and recreating it. Once people find out that there is more inside of them, they won’t be running around looking for anything. They are going to become something.”


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Looking, even, at his past art, propels reflection for his future art, in that it makes him realize that most of his formative years were based on strains of feeling, and whilst he grows and evolves, he learns from his previous art that which he told himself many times before but didn’t pay attention to creating art without particular thought, but with all the particulars of the ingenuity of heart.

“The best thing to do right now is to go inside and figure out who we are, apart from what we’ve been told that we are, and then you will  see a big difference,” he went on, adding:

“And then you could create from that space with confidence that it comes from a space of love and appreciation, and with the confidence that whatever you create is what you need, and the confidence that what you want is not for money or fame. It changes your whole aspect of why you are and who you are.”

Uncutt’s “Protect Yo Heart” national holiday-type-movement feels like a profound lesson on spirituality, self-agency, and resilience, but it does not tell us anything; much more than that, it shows to us our capacity to seek and find.

Even now, against all uncertainty.


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Analog collage artist Kendrick Daye uses positive reflection as motivation

Kendrick Daye

Kendrick Daye, an analog collage artist and art director based in Harlem, prefers walking sideways to his goals. Straight feels, perchance, too restraining, reliant and, daresay, typical. He, on the other hand, is versatile, independent, and in a recent conversation with a friend, he chose for himself an even more sound descriptor: resilient. 


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my work is in the latest collage focused issue of @projectcalmmagazine 🖤🖤🖤

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Analog collage, the second term (collage) coined by artists Georges Barque and Pablo Picasso,  reemerged in the early twentieth century, though it had been around for hundreds of years before.

It stands for glued productions of originally disassembled forms — namely,  paints, handmade paper, magazines, newspaper clippings, parts of texts, and photographs. But of course, it entails much more than sheerly putting together disparate objects. It, essentially, speaks of modernism and the break from classical artistic conventions.

Daye attributes his tendency to zag when others zig to his horoscope sign, as he is a Cancer and most Cancers apparently like to take the seemingly less clear-cut paths. To hear that perspective from him is somewhat inexplicably refreshing, and even incredibly nuanced.

Maybe it’s because he has about him an air of modesty and as paradoxical as it may sound,  a mature naïveté, or rather an intricate self-awareness, that is lackluster in some other young creatives.

That is, he looks for his inspiration in the world outside of himself, but he knows that to the most complicated of life’s questions, the kind that cannot be precisely verbalized, he should not look anywhere but within himself for answers.

And while those responses can inform his artistic ideas and subsequent projects, he should not, too, expect his fanbase to process his artwork in the same ways that he does. So, when things don’t go as planned, he does not submit to regret; instead, he is filled with appreciation for what has passed and what is to come.

“I am at a point now where I can look at projects on which I didn’t think I did a good job. I am not that kind of artist that gets the chance to muse,” he said. “The way I approach everything now is very methodical. And it has been like that for the past couple of years.”

To be exact, for the past seven years Daye has been living out his dreams — in New York. Originally from Miami, Florida, he always had a wish, most memorably during college at Morehouse in Atlanta, to one day be part of the multifaceted city scene. That milestone was worthy of rejoicing all on its own.

 It’s just that constantly being on the “go-go-go,” as he puts it, doesn’t allow him ample time to reflect on all that he has accomplished so far, and he doesn’t take for granted the moments when he does get to sit and reminisce. Daye remembers two times last year where he got to do so, and what he found whilst doing so was a sense of heightened joy, the kind that is so near to him.

Starting with sketches and cut-out magazine forms, looking retro and futuristic, and music lyrics (like, “he ate my heart,” from Lady Gaga’s song “Monster,” which recently inspired one of his pieces) all at once blasting in his mind, Daye sees his ideas and follows through with them to his own accord.

There’s no one to whom he looks up for approval but himself. It’s all like a magic show, really, except it’s one that doesn’t whisk away the clothing to reveal a  trick, for there’s no need. The only trick is perspective. 


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made this collage for @afropunk’s 2019 “year on queerness” piece. 🖤🖤🖤

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Being black and queer has given him a capacity for understanding his diverse audience. “I think my work speaks to anybody who looks at it,” said Daye, who admits that whenever he is at a show or at a gallery where his work is displayed, he never responds directly to: “So, what is this piece about?” He always flips the question as, for him, art is reflexive and never one-dimensional, never definitive even when the subject matter appears “obvious.”

“[My work] brings me in contact with my community constantly. I am not a very talkative person. I talk in pictures. That’s how I express myself,” says Daye.

“For me, it’s a way to connect with people. And it’s a way to connect with myself. Anything I feel,  I can put it into a picture. And even if I don’t feel better because of it, I know that at least I’ve gotten it out of me. And even if I return to that feeling many times, I know that at least I said what I wanted to say about it. It’s a way for me to know myself, for other people to know me, and for me to know other people.”

To create is not merely something that he is driven towards; it has long become a living-and-breathing necessity. His artworks are fragments of himself and of the headspace and physical environment that he occupies when he makes them.


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#kobe 🖤🖤🖤 for @equalityequation

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They are vivid and tangible memories of every part of his journey, of which he is particularly proud because, though not everything has gone as seamlessly as he would have ideally liked, the serendipitous discovery of a dream, in whatever form, right before your eyes is much more beautiful than living up to an expectation.

“Be ok with whatever your journey is,” says Daye, adding that art for him is the only “place” where he can be himself, and so it’s the only part of him that he is unwilling to compromise, especially if that means maintaining a bold independence and following, always, his gut feeling.

“When you have a goal and you want something so bad, you get so stuck in how it’s [supposed to] look like and you know every detail and everything, and you end up missing out on the goals that have already been achieved,” Daye explained.

“It’s never going to look exactly how you want it to, but sometimes it’s right there in your face.”

Artist ‘Not Your Muse’ is painting on the canvas of life

When she graduated from college with a degree in psychology, the now internationally distinguished painter, whose pseudonym is “Not Your Muse,” had already an inkling that she would prove her doubters wrong. And so, she accomplished much more than she might have even expected.

“Growing up, I wanted to do art, and everyone was telling me that it wasn’t a real job. At some point, I was like, ‘Oh, I am going to show you that it is a real thing,’” she said in a recent interview with Kulture Hub, adding:

“If it’s impossible for them, it’s not impossible for you.”

Today, she is not only a painter, though she primarily considers herself to be, but also an art director, a curator, a small-business owner of an online women’s clothing shop; photography, music, videography are also included among her long list of artistic mediums through which she channels her often ineffable reactions to and conjectures about the world. 

Her works have been displayed, among other galleries and auctions, at Sony Hall, the New York Stock Exchange Trading Floor, Nomo Soho Hotel Gallery, Art Apple NYC, and Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit. 

Most recently, in October 2019, Muse’s work was shown at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The event there, which was curated by DP Entertainment, not only made her feel immensely appreciative, but it also made her reflect on the beginning of her tough journey to the top.

While she says that her greatest success is gathering the bravery to put herself out there, particularly referring to the very first show of her career in New York, she cannot recall any shortcomings.

“I’d say that nothing’s a failure because as long as you’ve tried, you’ve tried. Some people don’t even do that,” she explained.

“I used to have paintings in my house and my friends would just have to convince me to have a show. And, art is a very personal thing, so for you to put it out there for everyone to see is a big step.”

not your muse

Somewhat ironically, though, she does not let her particular perspectives define her artwork for her fans; instead, she wants them to think for themselves about what kind of feelings her pieces evoke in them.

The only power, the kind most integral to a true artist, that she can give to her fans beyond meaning is the love enveloped into her work, one that can encompass an entire physical space.

“When you walk into a room with a dope piece of artwork, it really can take over the whole energy of the room. It’s important to think of what type of energy I am bringing into people’s homes,” she said.


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🌕🌑. #notyourmuse #adidas @duskopoppington

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Having moved from one place to another, sometimes spontaneously, sometimes less so, every two to three years previously, she has found her “feeling” of home in New York City, where the massive creative vibe encourages her to internalize that energy and put it into her art.

“New York is an Island surrounded by water with so many people, so the energy is so high that you could manifest anything here,” she said. “It’s like being in a conductor the whole time.”


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“Transistor” #notyourmuse #art #losangelesart #awake

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Though she usually aims to radiate love and positivity through her art, she also revels in experimentation. Shocking the audience, or surprising them. Invoking in them some sort of inward passion. The expected objective of every artist. But for her, it’s more true because she values artist-spectator engagement. 

Her nameless name suggests that she intends to be a  muse to herself alone, which furthers the empowering idea that women, particularly, should strive to please no one but themselves, to be their own inspirations. From her fanbase, she, too, expects nothing less than assertive self-expression.

That and also the willingness to deprogram. 


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Do what you Love 👁 #notyourmuse 📸 @blastflicksashes #awake #art #hiphop #gold

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So much of what we become, how we construct our lives is based upon the societal “norms” and how we are taught to act and react to certain situations.

Putting those social impositions aside, however, is an exercise that is worthwhile but difficult to achieve, insomuch that even the Muse is uncertain if she has ever fully been able to do that.

Her four-year-old son, she says, is in great part one of her biggest inspirations because of his very natural inquisitiveness and imaginativeness, all of which she wishes he at least sustains into young adulthood.


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“He’s a rockstar, he’s cool, and he likes music and art,” she said.

“I want him to know that he can do anything. I don’t want him to feel limited.” 

For the following generations, she can only think of two big modes of living: close-hearted or open-hearted. Imagining anything other than the latter option seems unfathomable. The very definition, you see, of “alive” is feeling, and, for her, the feeling is art.


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For artist Jessi Jumanji, Black History Month is everyday

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde

If there is any creative nowadays who embodies writer, vanguard, activist Audre Lorde’s message on self-preservation as a means of political warfare, it is artist Jessi Jumanji.

She is a rebel, she is an activist, and, like Lorde, she understands that it’s not our differences that divide us.


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Find your light 💡

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It’s our unwillingness to step into each other’s skin, to listen to the palpable but ineffable stories that we are afraid of sharing, and to understand that we aren’t “who” we are in ourselves alone, but in our interconnectedness to past and present.

For Jumanji, her journey to discovering her sense of space in the world might have been even more complicated than for most people. In part, it is because her identity is extraordinarily multi-faceted.

She is a woman, she is gay, she is black, and it is her blackness that she is especially proud of because it informs every part of herself.

It reminds her, too, as she does her research on African history and spreads her message to her fans worldwide, that she is as much a student as she is a teacher, and that there is a humbling power in that realization.

Jessi Jumanji
“AfroFission” digital collage by @jessijumanji

“A teacher is just a student who learned how to learn. Every day that I learn, I have to learn more about what that means and how to convey it,” she said.

“Most of my artwork is 90 percent research and 10 percent doing things. When I am not studying, I am not creating. Anytime I reach a creative block, it’s because I am not reading and am not immersing myself in learning. And so, I just became a teacher by chance, by way of being a student.” 

To some, being called “black” feels diminishing and disrespectful, for it shouldn’t be that others judge another by anything besides character, integrity, decency.

But for her, acknowledging and delving into the story of her “blackness” is empowering.  To her, her “blackness” is the embodiment of quite literally the universe.

Jessi Jumanji
”Black Madonna & Golden Child” x“Earth, Sun, Moon” by @jessijumanji

It emerges in its utmost purity, sometimes it meets its most awful obstacles, gets back up, stumbles a little more, gets back up again, and thrives as long as it believes not only in itself but in its origins, its history that merged to inspire its wholeness.

“Even black [as a color] is an embodiment of every single color on the spectrum,” said Jumanji.

“Over time, we’ve been conditioned to feel small, but to be black to me means to be always expanding, always growing — because everything grows out of darkness.” 

Everything grows out of darkness, just let yourself take that in; everything grows out of darkness.

A misconception from which she recoils is that “you can’t be black and educated, and also enjoy things that society deems as [more so entertaining than educational].”

As someone who works on current and pop culture, she wants people to understand that the experience of “blackness” covers a wide spectrum and that every part should be celebrated — from the so-called “stereotypical” impoverished beginnings to the “six-figure” success stories.

It’s tougher, reasonably tough, to tell someone else, of a completely different identity,  about one’s experience as a black person than it is to show it to them.

Often that power in showing versus telling makes a notable change, and the subtleties of feelings associated with complicated stories can be extracted through art, always.

“We need to celebrate from nothing to something,” she said.

“Everything that we do is valuable. So, it’s my job to find the positives in the negatives, and make them celebrate it.”

One of the most profound revelations, too, that she has had is that even in a country as big as America, there is a nation of black people in its own essence, and that nation is made up of tribes, tribes that we’ve been conditioned to associate with negativity because they presumed “connotative” of the ghetto.

Here, we call them “gangs” or “squads” and our over-conditioned psyches many a time neglect each tribe’s dances, songs, chants. We neglect that somewhere in Africa, there are yet similar dances, songs, chants.

We neglect that so much of that negatively-perceived identity of “blackness” is rooted in African history, in the many African ancestors who endured slavery and oppression and still came out of it all beautiful and brilliant.

Jumanji finds her deepest inspiration precisely when she channels her ancestors. She feels that when she works on her art, they work through her, too. Her ability to self-preserve helps keep her ancestors’  plights and triumphs alive.

“I like to surround myself with like-minded people. I feel a lot of time by myself, but I am also very intentional about how and with whom I share my space,” she explained.

“The biggest people who guide me are actually the ancestors themselves because so much of my research is rooted in history. When I read and when I learn about the stories of all these different people and what they have done and overcome throughout time, it’s more inspiration than I’ll ever need.”

She has influenced numerous like-minded people in places outside of America and Africa as well, such as the U.K., Australia, South America, and some of her work was published in Denmark’s University of Copenhagen’s gender and research journal.

Still, while it seems like her work ethic just keeps growing, for she is working on a documentary about herself and her ancestry, her biggest advice to creatives feels reassuring and much-needed in today’s world. 

To get the most out of one’s artistry requires the kind of spiritual energy that one cannot receive without rest and reflection.

A deep, insightful reflection on what it means to know “who” one is, and for those hesitant about the magic of their “blackness,” what it means to experience their history for what it is. 

That might just be the secret ingredient to embracing one another’s differences. 

Jessi Jumanji Art
AfroGeology series a digital collage by @jessijumanji

“It’s always good to restore your energy so that you have the energy to put out. So, to any creative, make sure that you are integrating rest and self-care into your process in this way,” she advised.

“Don’t set your goals against what someone else is accomplishing. Move at your own pace. Be diligent and intentional about every move that you make so that you don’t waste energy. And be insightful about everything you do.”


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“Back against the wall, I discovered I was a work of art..” 🖼 -Jessi Jumanji

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To see more of Jumanji’s artworks click here. 

C.A. Johnson’s ‘All the Natalie Portmans’ tells a fantastical truth

Amongst what seems like a relentless array of daunting questions that hover over a young adult, some might wonder: How do I pretend that the enormousness of the world doesn’t intimidate me? What’s my story? Where do I go from here?

But in C.A. Johnson’s most recent play, “All the Natalie Portmans,” that will run through March 29 at the MCC Theater, the question that most persistently finds itself in the main character’s, Keyonna’s mind is, perhaps, much more complex than the foregoing.

It’s an all-encompassing: Am I dreaming too big?

Sixteen-years-old and living on the verge of eviction with her brother Samuel, Am I dreaming too big, to her, feels like the most fitting question considering her circumstances.

“It’s about a teenage girl trying to figure out who she is, sort of in the shadows of Hollywood and all the bright lights,” said C.A. Johnson in a video on Playbill, where she, director Kate Whoriskey, and the cast discuss the show.

All the Natalie Portmans Playbill
Joshua Boone and Kara Young in All the Natalie Portmans | Photo Cred: Daniel J. Vasquez

“And you’re watching this family struggle with day-to-day life and also with the possibility of what comes next,” she went on. “There’s a depth in [Johnson’s] work that you don’t always see,” added Whoriskey.

As the show’s synopsis on Playbill describes her, Keyonna is “too smart, too queer, and too lonely to fit in,” and as much as she wishes for a better tomorrow, dreaming is what gets her there faster, even when she is not there yet.

Yet it persists: Am I dreaming too big? 

To Keyonna, the question might feel even more taunting than just merely daunting, because, at her worst, it seems to diminish her space in the world.

Off Broadway Natalie portmans
Kara Young and Elise Kibler in All the Natalie Portmans | Photo Cred: Daniel J. Vasquez

Yet at her best and at her worst, dreaming is a miraculous serendipity. In it, she finds her hope and her inspiration. In it, she feels closer to the person she wishes to be, and as if answering her own question, she learns that there’s no such thing as “dreaming too big.”

She is not disillusioned when every so often she escapes into fantasies of her own and into her role model Natalie Portman’s many worlds of glitz, glamour, and success. Dreaming for her is just so saving.

natalie portmans photos
Elise Kibler in All the Natalie Portmans | Photo Cred: Daniel J. Vasquez

Johnson, in all of her previous plays, that includes “Thirst,” “The Climb,” “An American Feast,” and “Mother Tongue,” does not withhold from drawing on the sublimities of women’s lived lives whilst grounding them in a sense of reality that’s rendered resonant to the audience.

For “All the Natalie Portmans,” she takes those already high-order elements from her previous plays and employs them in ways that feel — well, frankly — real, rich, raw. Cathartic, really.


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Cathartic in the very terms that writers and philosophers of old had expected from theater and literature, even if they did not fully understand the specifics of what those arts entailed.

Aristotle, for instance, as opposed to those like Plato, believed in the therapeutic element of theater. Theater, he once claimed, should elicit in the viewers’ deep emotional sentiments until those sentiments are purged and the viewers leave the theater feeling uplifted.

Although theatrical plays are for the most part fictional, willing a suspension of disbelief whilst watching them is necessary. In doing so, theater can teach its audience so much about what’s ultimately unspeakable in the ways of humanity and life.

And “All the Natalie Portmans” evokes just that: a sense of catharsis and yet the kind that exceeds any notion of a suspension of disbelief.

Nat portmans
Montego Glover and Kara Young in All the Natalie Portmans | Photo Cred: Daniel J. Vasquez

It doesn’t need a suspension of disbelief. Yes, Keyonna delves into fantastical worlds of her muse, Natalie Portman, but it’s all movingly truthful.

Haven’t there been moments in all of our lives, especially for those of us who are less than privileged, when we’ve dreamed so hard to the point that we’ve fallen so deep into both a kind of heavenly world infused with our dreams and also into a deep and dark pit, where all we’ve felt is envy towards everything we wish for but do not have?

What’s the harm in dreaming “too” big?

Alongside her cast members — which include Elise Kibler, Renika Williams, Joshua Boone, and tony nominee Montego Glover — Kara Young, who plays Keyonna, feels blessed that she gets to step into her shoes every day. 


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“I feel like I am absolutely an extension [of Keyonna]. We deal a lot with the same issues, and there are just so many blurred lines for me in regards to stepping into her shoes and building with her on this journey,” said Young in a phone interview.

“I feel like we are going to be building, all the way until the end.”

And the chemistry of the cast is what facilitates that very building. Young says that everyone on the team is always in the so-called “lab,” where they are constantly looking for new things, digging deeper into the characters.

For Kara, unveiling more and more about Keyonna is like “unlocking [her own] conscience [and Kara’s] at the same time.” 

Johnson and Whoriskey’s intense research on the human condition helps further excavate from within the actors their vision for their characters, and Young says that she is always so fascinated by the detail-oriented, passionate leaders.

Johnson has written the brilliant lines, which the actors are compelled to fill in, and Whoriskey has directed brilliantly all the in-betweens so precisely so that she could get to the “Shakespearean” of each of the play’s scenes.

Young expressed:

“And it’s so weird because sometimes [under Johnson and Whoriskey’s leadership] you feel like you’re in it that you don’t even know you’re in it — and then when it happens, you’re like ‘Oh ok, yeah.’”

When asked, however, why Keyonna necessarily needs to delve into the world of her muse, what is the purpose of it, Young noted a fact doubly important.

Everyone goes through the motions of grief and loss differently and when someone like Keyonna does not have access to therapy, her only way of accessing her world is through her muse, through her imagination, through her dreams.


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Natalie Portman’s worlds are Keyonna’s way of coping with her distress. Within all this excavation of character through actor and vice versa, there lies a beautiful irony, especially for Kara and Keyonna. 

Though it’s so excruciatingly difficult for Keyonna to access her own world, independent from her muse, Kara is intentionally more self-aware of Keyonna, whilst in her shoes, than Keyonna is of herself.

That self-awareness — or more so, general awareness — is what every audience member should take away from the show: how certain marginalized groups in society, to which Keyonna belongs, are always told that their feelings are invalid, or that they shouldn’t feel them in the first place.

“We’re constantly feeling beings, and at the same time a lot of us, brown people, and I can’t generalize, I am not supposed to generalize, but we are often taught that we are not supposed to feel,” said Young.

“The world is constantly bogging us down, kicking us down, making it absolutely impossible to escape, to escape injustice.” 


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The play is about grief, loss, imagination, dreams, media, socialization, family, identity, self-discovery, but it’s more than that… It’s about the kind of depth that cannot merely be read about. It must be experienced. It must be seen. It must be heard.

“Enter [this play’s world] with an open heart. Enter this world, this very real world, for a lot of people, very real reality, with an open heart,” Young said regarding what she hopes the audience takes away. “And lean in.”

Get tix for All the Natalie Portmans here

What’s a gifted non-achiever? The C student redefining education

“Everything you want to be, you already are. You’re simply on the path of discovering it.” – Alicia Keys

Education usually means opportunity. Opportunity usually means professional accessibility. But what do these words mean to low-income children, especially to those who are gifted beyond the realm of the classroom?

We can preach about inclusivity and diversity all we want, but no matter how appealing those terms look on paper, or when said aloud with an air of false dignity, they are still not wholly present in the American education system.

And so tangled, thus, in the midst of the paradox of our preaching, education, and opportunity are not necessarily mutually inclusive.

At least, that’s the case for those same children who attend often overcrowded schools in underfunded districts, where art programs are cut and curriculums are exam-oriented.

However, if one looks just a tad closer into the funding inequities that permeate national school districts, one would realize that it has arguably more to do not only with income but also with race.

No matter how much federal and state litigation has been proposed and implemented over the years, low-income minority students continue to fare worse as viable solutions remain unfounded.

According to the most recent study from Edbuild, a non-profit organization that focuses on school-funding issues, generally non-white school districts receive $23 billion less in funding than white districts, even if they serve the same amount of students.

This affects about 12.8 million students who are part of school districts where 75 percent of the students are non-white.

What’s disconcerting? According to the same report from Edbuild, this kind of gap is present across all high-poverty school districts.

Apparently, white low-income school districts receive much less funding than their wealthier counterparts. Yet they still receive about $1,500 more per student than non-white low-income districts. 

Gifted, in a school setting, is usually synonymous with excellent academic aptitude, but it would be wrong to consider the word merely through a one-dimensional lens. What does gifted mean for those same children, who are also so-called “gifted non-achievers”?

“I grew up in Bushwick, and I lived with my mom. She was a single parent with three kids. I’ve got an older brother and a younger sister. We all were pretty active kids, but school wasn’t particularly our strong suit; we were always good at other things.” -Anthony Ramos

A “gifted non-achiever,” as dubbed by authors Patricia Roach and David Bell in their 1986 article, “Identifying the Gifted: A Multiple Criteria Approach,” refers to the students who, for any given socio-economic reason, do not fall into the usually ideal standard for students. Instead of excelling in academic subjects, they express their talents best through the arts.

But in low-income districts across America, schools are so hard-pressed about boosting their students’ academic performance and their scores on standardized tests that they lack resources for creative extracurricular activities as well as for school-time arts programs.

The Common Core, introduced across the country in 2009, does mention the arts, in terms of critical thinking, innovation, and creativity, yet students find themselves spending more time preparing for tests.

And minority low-income students do so mostly without qualified instructors and with outdated workbooks. So, what kind of win-win offers do these tests provide for them? None.

It’s not surprising, then, to learn that after working towards the Common Core, these “gifted non-achievers” encounter a culture shock when they start college, one that is caused by a lack of cultural exposure and perhaps also by unpreparedness for their next step: entering the creative job market.

“The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.”  – Viola Davis


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That’s when education and opportunity, for them, most evidently begin to lose their promised substance.

Instead of focusing so hard on boasting about “diversity” in schools and on campuses to the point that the word is rendered meaningless, we should take better care of those “gifted non-achievers,” even when their talents do not match the usual standards of the classroom.

What’s the point of promising “diversity,” if these students continuously feel out of place and out of touch? The “gifted non-achievers” need an urgent redefinition of education and opportunity.

“Greatness is not this wonderful, esoteric, elusive, god-like feature that only the special among us will ever taste, it’s something that truly exists in all of us.”  – Will Smith


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They need a sense of practicality and attention. They need to know that it is, essentially not their ability, or inability, to sit still in a classroom and focus on English and Math alone.

But it is their engagement with their inner voices, their production of content, their networking opportunities, their need for reliable mentors, their accessibility to hands-on training. 

Nonetheless, some might object to such a claim and begin to point to the many advantages of this age of technological advancement that in itself has “redefined” education and opportunity. By just a click of a button, some might say, a world of information and opportunity awaits.

That’s perhaps true, but it still offers an impractical perspective on a world that has only become more competitive and more favorable of the very privileged.

Even in schools, digital learning does not necessarily benefit all students. According to a 2018 study from Pew Research, one in five students struggle to do homework because of technological inaccessibility at home.

As much as technology can open doors to an opportunity for those who have 24-hour access to it, it is not so for many minority low-income students. 

Recently, I came across this book, Seeing a Color-Blind Future: The Paradox of Race, written in 1997 by Patricia J. Williams, a well-esteemed American legal scholar.

In it, she claimed:

“The very notion of blindness about color constitutes an ideological confusion at best, and denial at its very worst.”

Although a small excerpt from a text so profoundly important, it speaks to the core of the struggles that those young minority creatives of poor socioeconomic backgrounds face. 

When will education and opportunity for these “gifted non-achievers” become tractable instead of theoretical assets?

As Richard Florida, an American urban studies theorist, wrote in his 2016 CityLab article, “The Racial Divide in the Creative Economy,” in more than a quarter of all metros and in over 70 percent of large metros, 40 percent of white workers hold creative jobs; meanwhile, 40 percent of African-Americans hold creative jobs in only 5.7 percent of all metros in addition to only one large metro.

How could we make another practical change, aside from keeping the young and “gifted non-achievers” informed about job market trends and expectations? Perhaps diversity hiring could be another solution. 

With Incluzion, a new platform tailored for hiring managers and launched by Atlanta company, Spendwith Corp, the prospect of diversity hiring seems to hold a little more promise for the “gifted non-achievers.” But employers should also be careful about over-using the phrase “diversity hiring.”

In hiring the creatives, non-minority employers should evoke a sense of trust towards their hires without imposing their own “artistic vision” on their work.

There cannot be any “standard,” strict artistic vision if a company genuinely wants to appeal to more diverse audiences and if it maintains its support of diversity.

Before employers go on to boast about “diversity” within their companies, they must ensure that there is a fair and unbiased truth to that.

Of course, these young and “gifted non-achievers” could work, say, as freelancers, in the comfort of self-employment and schedule flexibility, but that notion is also impractical, for freelancers’ lifestyles cannot promise consistent stability.

“I’m a survivor, and all this struggle I went through—while it sucked at the time—is really helping me now. It has helped me get to where I am, and it will help me continue to improve and do better. It didn’t always feel like it at times, but I truly believe I am blessed.” -Tiffany Haddish

Even while, according to a 2019 report from Upworks and the Freelancers Union, approximately 57 million Americans are freelancers to date, 64 percent of them worry that costs will continue to pose as barriers to training programs and other resources. 

So, as much as freelancers should, even if occasionally, rely on other employers to produce and share their content, their employers should, in turn, allow their creatives’ vision to flourish.

In the 21st century, one would think that we’ve become more accepting, that we’ve moved far beyond those racial, socioeconomic divides that once were so tangible.

But no, even if perhaps less pronounced, those issues are still very much present, and as long as we continue to ignore them, those young and talented children, who’ve never known privilege, will not reach their successes as fairly and as deservedly as they’d like to.

For the sake of those children, education, and opportunity — without a question —  need to be redefined.

Getty Images’ New Visual GPS Project Aims to Represent What’s Authentic

Getty Images, a pioneer in the visual trend landscape, is onto its next ambitious project: Visual GPS. The report’s multi-faceted approach leverages Getty Images internal search data, insights from the content powerhouse’s visual experts, and the latest market research, delivering a one-of-a-kind guide to finding the right images and videos to connect with consumers around the world.

In a world so inundated with information, and disinformation — political debates and rallies, news cycles, environmental activism, provocative imagery and videos, filtered posts on social media — brands are finding it harder than ever to connect to consumers.

It’s become equally straining to conjure up new strategies that could keep consumers engaged for more than eight seconds before scrolling further down their Instagram feeds. 

visual Gps
Photo Credit: Metamorworks

Brands can’t continue to use the excuse that the market is over-saturated because  competition has arguably always been there, in relative ebbs and flows, but it has always been there.

The only way to beat it today is with a carefully executed strategy coupled with in-depth research on consumers’ visual preferences, complaints, gaps, and behavioral patterns.

Understanding the ins-and-outs of media’s effect on consumers’ expectations and reactions to what they see.

Enter Getty Images’ 25 years of experience in visual insight, its over 375 million assets, and 310,000 contributors, and their project Visual GPS that launched earlier this week. 

Getty Images Visual GPS
Photo Credit: Willie B. Thomas

Getty Images’ Creative Insights team — made up of curators, futurists, archivists, and art directors — is using the one billion annual searches conducted on its two websites, and, to better understand consumer preferences. 

This project was conducted in partnership with YouGov, a market research firm, that has compiled data from over 10,000 consumers across 26 countries and 13 languages. 

The research has revealed that while most consumers care about their own well-being as well as that of their families and the environment, they find that technology has not been easy to navigate when it comes to acting on their beliefs and intentions.


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Information overwhelm has caused a disconnect among consumers. Though visual content is more quickly accessible now, it’s harder to find the kind that’s truly resonant and authentic; that captures not only ideal moments but moments of works-in-progress, of real effort, of difference, and of commonality.

Stereotypical imagery in the wellness, realness, technology and sustainability segments are pervasive and the stigmas associated with them, make room for consequential issues between consumers and visual-media brands.

The four foregoing categories have been identified, by Visual GPS, as the main “Forces” that determine consumers’ preferences and decision-making.

While those “Forces” might vary in intensity over time, depending on location and demographics, each force is mutually inclusive and can cause new “Forces” to emerge as trends change. 

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Photo Credit: Emma Kim

“We live in an increasingly visual world. Having the perfect image, video, or illustration can mean the difference between connecting with your audience or simply being bypassed,” said Ken Mainardis, Senior Vice President of Content at Getty Images.

“It can be difficult to choose visual content that will resonate with your target consumer unless you understand what’s important to your customers and what drives their decision making — this is the problem Visual GPS seeks to solve.”

At an event moderated, on February 25, by Senior Director of Creative Research at Getty Images Dr. Rebecca Swift, experts on realness, wellness, technology, and sustainability explained how every brand can consider those categories in conjunction with their relations to various geographies, demographics, industries, and generations to create and select effective imagery. 

Experts included John Antoniello, creative director at Publicis Sapient, Tatiana Kuzmowycz, creative director at ClassPass, Kate O’Neil, founder of KO Insights, and Tan Copsey, senior director of Projects and Partnerships at Climate Nexus, relatively.

Some of the findings, that Dr. Swift has reiterated to not only be “relevant, but truly actionable,” go against popular opinion when it comes to consumers’ intentions towards the “Forces.”

To dispel the first misconception, she says, sustainability is not a sheerly “young person’s concern.” It is important for people across generations, cultures, and geographies.

Photo Credit: Vm

The gap is not in generational misunderstandings about the urgency of global warming, but it’s in what the Visual GPS has identified as the “consumption conundrum.”

Around half of consumers report that they only purchase products from eco-friendly brands, but while 48 percent of consumers are aware of that urgency, they still prefer convenience. 

That awareness but lack of action towards what’s right suggests that change is completely possible and that brands can manifest it. Instead of, say, creating visuals that reflect only young people’s involvement in environmental efforts, more should represent those seniors who, too, put in just as much effort into ensuring their grandchildren’s future well-being.

And in tailoring attention to the mentioned “convenience approach,” images shouldn’t just be limited to reusable bags and water bottles.

“Our research shows us there is an opportunity for companies and brands to help consumers bridge the gap between their attitudes and their actions,” said Dr. Swift.

Photo Credit: SolStock

“Visual GPS shows us that sustainability is a universal concern across generations, gender, and regions — the potential for positive action is huge but consumers won’t engage if brands are not speaking to these issues in authentic visual terms.”

As important as sustainability, consumers are also invested in brands that keep to the promise of diversity and transparency. According to Dr. Swift,  33 percent of consumers, in the past two years, have boycotted a brand with whose values they didn’t agree.

An additional 34 percent have started purchasing from brands whose values they support. However, inclusivity (such as the kind pertaining to body shape, gender, age, demographics), hasn’t kept up to speed with consumers’ expectations.

Getty Images
Photo Credit: Nick David

Another misconception to dispel is the notion that people care more about physical health than mental health, but in fact, research suggests that both are highly valued; 88 percent of consumers value physical health and 90 percent value mental health.

Rather than associating well-being merely with fitness-related images, brands should create more imagery showing mental self-care.

Dr. Swift also noted that much of the visuals related to well-being almost always depict young people, but statistics show that older generations value “living by one’s principles” to a greater capacity.

Only 46 percent of millennials and 34 percent of Gen Z value wholesome well-being, as compared to 67 percent of Baby Boomers and 53 percent of GenX.

Visual Gps
Photo Credit: Sophie Mayanne

Technology, more than any of the other “Forces,” presents a tense contradiction in the ways that consumers regard it.

Sixty-five percent of Gen Z and 55 percent of millennials think that technology has worsened their ability to maintain relationships, in part because of how much they depend on building connections through social media, while a greater percentage of GenX and Baby Boomers reflect on technology as a “connector.” 

Regardless of that ambivalence, 97 percent of the respondents surveyed for Visual GPS say that technology has helped them feel connected, a statistic that is also promising for brands to consider.

Instead of depicting the downsides of technology, such as an image of a group of teenagers sitting side-by-side and interacting only with their phones, brands can represent technology’s advantages. Additionally, its ability to connect people beyond any physical barriers.

Photo Credit: Talia Herman

Even with such an information-saturated visual market, Visual GPS offers brands ready-made solutions for reaching and maintaining consumers’ interests. All it takes is getting to know what speaks to consumers’ lived lives. 

NYC photographer Sincere Dennis talks self growth on ‘The Accents’

Edmond, a rising photographer in New York, tells his story through other artists.

It was not long ago, given that he recalls it so clearly, that Sincere Dennis, an up-and-coming photographer based in New York, simply wanted to be a part of a creative journey. Music was what finally brought him there. 

Around Sincere were friends who, involved in singing and rapping, found themselves through their own artistic mediums; and he very much wondered how that would feel. 

While he says that he had never been a musician of any sort, music was what helped him discover his passion for photography. As soon as he picked up a camera, he began discovering his voice. 

“I started doing photography because of music,” he said in a recent episode of a video series, “The Accents.”

“Music, it’s just a motivator. It’s what keeps you going.”

Purposely stepping away from the digital world, one that he finds to be “over-saturated,” he bought his camera on eBay. It’s in that way that he prefers to stand out.

“If you want to stand out as a photographer, you need to have something much better and different,” he said.

My work, it doesn’t look like anybody else’s.”


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Edmond, the director of “The Accents” and also a talented photographer based in the city, is himself, like Sincere, no stranger to that often daunting, sometimes impatient, desire to discover his identity.

He hadn’t lived in Hong Kong since he was eleven, but since then, he lived for eight years in Shanghai, six years in Los Angeles, and four years in New York City. Throughout his many relocations, he had met children who, just like him, struggled with their identities.

One of his friends in Shanghai was born and raised in South Africa, though her parents were from Taiwan; another friend was born and raised in Hong Kong, spoke perfect Cantonese, even though he has an Indian background.

While grappling with his own sense of “belonging” and identity, he realized that perhaps other artists experience this exact grappling, too, an inward artistic phenomenon that his series explores.

That is in great part what inspired his series in 2018.


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“[My situation] allows me to understand closely how [other artists] feel and what they have been through when it comes to processing their identity,” he told us.

“Listening to their definition of identity-based on their individual experiences makes the whole project unique.”

He also hopes that this “The Accents” and this notion of a common search of self sways artists away from thinking that their industry is, or should be, necessarily so competitive. 

For him, it’s all about communication and connectivity.


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The way that true artists can grow is when they embrace communication and connectivity; it’s when they are open to genuine collaboration, disregarding any tendency toward competition.

“At its core, [the industry] is really pretty simple,” he said. “Be kind to others and be true to yourself.”

When asked what parts of his identity he wants to explore most, he couldn’t find a single part of himself that could be more important than any other. Instead, he is simply looking forward to all of his transformations, the kind that would encourage his artistry. 

And it’s with his video series that he’d like to inspire that mindset in other artists: endless self-growth yields endless possibility.


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