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  • 2021-2022 Artists

    Each month, two (2) Artists are highlighted.

    Their pictures and bios are displayed in the Main Hallway, outside of the office. 

     

    February: 

    Aesha Ash: Dancer

      

    Aesha Ash is a ballerina and teacher. She was born in Rochester, NY. From the age of five she took jazz and tap lessons. At 13 years of age, past the time when most girls begin ballet lessons, Ash was accepted into what is recognized as one of the most prominent classical ballet schools in the world and the official ballet school of the New York City Ballet, the School of American Ballet (SAB).  At age 18, Ash became a corps member of City Ballet in New York City.

     

    In 1996, at the beginning of her professional career, Ash was the only African American woman member of the City Ballet, and for most of the next seven-and-a-half years that she was with the company she remained so. Ash created The Swan Dreams Project.  The project is Ash’s vehicle to try to “change the hearts and minds of the ballet audience” and to introduce the world of classical ballet to inner city youth. Ash especially wants to inspire young women of color to believe in their own strength and beauty, and to show the world that beauty and grace are not defined by race or socio-economic status.

     

    In August 2020, it was announced that she would be the first African American full-time faculty member at the New York City School of American Ballet.

    https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/ash-aesha-1977/

     

    Amanda Gorman: Poet 

     

    Amanda Gorman is a poet and activist known for works that address Black identity, feminism, marginalization, and climate change. She gained international fame when she read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the 2021 inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden.

     

    Gorman and her siblings, including her twin sister, Gabrielle, were raised by a single mother, who was a middle-school teacher. The sisters both had difficulties with speech. Amanda had an auditory-processing disorder that made it hard for her to pronounce the letter r. By her own account, she sought out poetry as an inexpensive means of expressing herself.

     

    Inspired by Pakistani activist and future Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, Gorman became a youth delegate for the United Nations in 2013. The following year, she was named the inaugural Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate. In that capacity, she worked with the County of Los Angeles Commission on Human Relations to develop youth programs. She self-published her first collection of poetry, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, in 2015. Amanda enrolled at Harvard University in 2016.

     

    In 2021 Gorman became one of only a handful of poets, including Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, to recite a poem at a U.S. presidential inauguration. She immediately captivated the audience with her poise and her stirring message. By the time Gorman uttered her last, satisfying line, she was a celebrity, lauded throughout the world for meeting the moment. In the following weeks, she became the first poet to perform at the Super Bowl (her poem, “Chorus of the Captains,” honors an educator, a nurse, and a veteran). She also signed a modeling contract and published a special edition of her inaugural poem. Later in 2021, Gorman cohosted the Met Gala, the annual benefit for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, with actor Timothée Chalamet, singer Billie Eilish, and tennis player Naomi Osaka. In addition, she debuted a children’s book, Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, and published a collection of poetry, Call Us What We Carry (formerly titled The Hill We Climb, and Other Poems). 

    https://www.britannica.com/biography/Amanda-Gorman

     

    January:

    Nandi Bushell: Musician

       

    Nandi Bushell is a 10-year-old musician. In addition to her drumming skills, she also plays bass and keyboard. Nandi is of British and South African descent.  She is best known for performing covers of popular rock songs which have drawn the attention of several musicians including Questlove, Lenny Kravitz and Dave Grohl. 

    Nandi’s father brought home a toy drum set for her when she was five. He said she instantly kept a beat going with perfect timing. On August 26, 2021, Dave Grohl and Nandi met in person for the first time in Los Angeles, at The Forum, surprising fans by performing with the Foo Fighters, Nandi was on the drums when they played "Everlong" to close out the evening in front of an audience of some 20,000 people. 

    Nandi is very proud of her South African heritage and visits with her family often. She has been seen on social media wearing traditional Zulu beads and African print T-shirts. Even some of her drums have African beads and fabric on them. Nandi’s mother says that she always enjoys the traditional Zulu dishes when they visit. Especially her grandmother’s cooking.  

     

    Andrea Pitter: Fashion Designer

       

    Andrea Pitter is a New York based Jamaican American fashion designer and the founder of Pantora Bridal, which she opened in 2009. As a bridal designer, Andrea is known for inclusive design that focuses on Black women and those traditionally excluded from the wedding industry. In 2021, she joined the wedding planning company, The Knot, as a mentor for wedding professionals from underrepresented backgrounds. 

    Andrea studied at the High School of Fashion Industries and is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. In 2021, Andrea won the second season of the American reality television series Making the Cut.  

     

    December:

    Elisha "EJ" Williams: Actor

       

    Elisha "EJ" Williams was born in the small town of Dunn, North Carolina. His father is basketball legend, Harold "Lefty" Williams, member of the world-renowned Harlem Dreams and his mother, Shyneefa Williams, is an author and entrepreneur.

    Williams, affectionately known as EJ, started acting at the age of 8 when he told his parents that he wanted to pursue acting after earning the lead spot in a school production. After two years of trying to convince his parents, they finally relented and allowed him and his two other siblings to start their journey.

    He has since co-starred in Nickelodeon's Henry Danger and Danger Force. He is also the voice of Bingo, the lead character in Disney Jr.'s hit animated series "Puppy Dog Pals." When EJ isn't acting, he enjoys spending quality time with his family. He likes to read, sing, participate in competitive sports, as well as use coding and programing apps. His favorite subject in school is science.

    https://abc.com/shows/the-wonder-years/cast/elisha-williams

     

    Aelita Andre: Painter

        

    Aelita Andre is an Australian abstract artist known for her Surrealist painting style and her young age. She began to paint when aged nine months, and her work was displayed publicly in a group exhibition shortly after she turned two. Her first solo exhibition opened in New York City in June 2011, when she was four years old. Andre paints with acrylics and often adds three-dimensional objects, including bark, twigs, and feathers, to the canvases.

     

    November:

    Yinka Ilori: Graphic Artist

       

    Yinka Ilori is an East London based designer. He holds a BA degree in furniture and product design from London Metropolitan University and has since specialized in up-cycling vintage furniture inspired by traditional Nigerian parables and African fabrics that he grew up with as a child. His work is characterized by bold use of color.

    “I’ve also grown up watching my mother and grandmother style themselves. How confident and bold they were with color combinations. It’s beautiful.”

     

    Indigenous Enterprise: Dance Troupe

      

    Though the members of Indigenous Enterprise are Navajo, their dances reflect various tribes, including the Blackfeet Nation, Ponca Tribe and Omaha Tribe. "A lot of these dances, now in present time, are borrowed—especially as powwows became more popular," says men's prairie chicken dancer Ty LodgePole. "It's more than okay for another tribe to be dancing it because a powwow is meant to be a social gathering to uplift everybody's spirits."

     "World of Dance" producers discovered Indigenous Enterprise via Instagram after seeing a collaboration they'd done with The Black Eyed Peas' Taboo, whose grandmother is a member of the Shoshone Tribe. They invited the troupe to audition for the show, where they mixed tradition and pop culture by performing powwow dances to Drake.

    "I want people to see that we're still alive and we're passing on our culture," says Kenneth Shirley, founder of the Indigenous Enterprise. Shirley works with his fellow dancers to dispel stereotypes through educational performances at schools, festivals and events as far away as Australia. "Oftentimes we're seen in the media and Hollywood with this picture of 'cowboys and Indians'—those old movies where they paint us looking like savages with Clint Eastwood."

    "When we come out performing and dancing, it lets people know we're real Native Americans and we have real cultures. All the dances we're doing are from way, way before Christopher Columbus came to America."

    Watch their performance on World of Dance here.

     

    Taken from: https://www.dancemagazine.com/ndigenous-enterprise-world-of-dance-2646147866.html?rebelltitem=2#rebelltitem2

     

     

    October: 

    Sean Bankhead: Choreographer

          

    Music has always been the blood that pumps in dancer and choreographer Sean Bankhead’s veins and through his heart. He has always been inspired by great musicians from Michael Jackson to Sade to Missy Elliott, TLC, and Maxwell to name a few. 

    Born in Philadelphia, his first memories of his love for dance came from performing with the praise and worship dance team at his aunt and uncle’s church when he was 9 years old. 

    Singing in church, playing three instruments (piano, saxophone and drums) and being able to read music gave him a different ear for developing his dance abilities. “Because I could read music, I could create rhythms and percussion with my feet and hear different musicality in the music that really influenced my dance style,” he said. 

    When Mr. Bankhead turned 17, his family moved to Atlanta in hopes of fast-tracking his dance career. His big breakthrough was dancing with Beyonce  to "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" on The Tyra Banks Show. Most recently, he choreographed Cardi B’s dances for the “Up” music video. Mr. Bankhead's first dance video uploaded to YouTube in 2006 has over 1.5 million views.  

    He has performed on the Grammys,  Soul Train Awards, American Idol, MTV, BET, BET Awards, and at The Apollo Theatre.  

    The inspiration for almost all of his moves comes from the tightly choreographed music videos of the late 1980s and the ’90s. His influences include Paula Abdul, Janet Jackson, Aaliyah and Missy Elliott. Mr. Bankhead said he admires certain pop stars who were able to stand out and stamp themselves on the culture because of their sharp choreography and creativity. He lives by the famous Martha Graham quote, "Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion!

    Next, Mr. Bankhead hopes to start his own dance facility in Atlanta, with a multipurpose rehearsal facility, professional staging area and center where dancers can rehearse for tours and award shows. 

     

    Lourdes Villagomez: Painter

          

    Mexico is so full of color; it’s beautiful to me,” artist Lourdes Villagómez says. The inspiration she takes from her home country is clear by her use of a multicolored palette.   

    She was born in Mexico City. Her interest in art began at age 10 when she took her first painting class. She later studied graphic design in college in Mexico City.  

    Villagómez works primarily in acrylic paint. Her images style is unique, full of different lines, drawings, geometric forms and colors. She has done various paintings and murals about Mexican culture. Her work is full of Mexican history and traditions. 

    Her fresh, symbolic and colorful style has been used with such brands as Crayola, Facebook, Hershey’s Levi’s, Netflix and PayPal.  

    “I LOVE TO EXPRESS MYSELF THROUGH PAINT AND COLOR. IT’S LIKE TRANSLATING MY EMOTIONS INTO MY OWN SPECIAL LANGUAGE.” 

     

     

    September:

    Julia Bottoms: Painter

        

     

    Abdullah Qandeel: Muralist