Creative Life in the Gateway Arts District
1) What forms of art does each of your family members (spouse and children) do? Is everyone an artist or not?
I am performing artist, writer and creative innovator. I act, rap, sing, write plays and poetry, am a public speaker, storyteller and teaching artist educator. My company is called Princess Best Speaks, specializing in leadership of girls and women through hip-hop theater, public speaking and communication. My husband DJ Monty with The Dope Sound is a creations maker. He is a deejay, a chef, a producer, a poet and an “art of cologne” connoisseur and merchandiser. His company is called The Handsome Gormaund, specializing in the ART of food, music and scents. Our daughter loves to dance, sing and play instruments so far (she is only 2), we do not know if she will be an artist, but she is exposed to it every day.
2) What’s a typical day look like in your household start to finish (whether its auditioning and rehearsing to just making dinner)?
On a very disciplined day (which happens half of the time), I get up at 4:30am to meditate, read and drink tea and set my days intent in motion. It’s part of the creative journey and process to get the artistic flow going early in your body. I drink tea, do affirmations and morning reading and writing to get thoughts out and pattern the day. I eat and by that time, Dad leaves for his day job, our daughter wakes up and after her morning rituals, we begin to dance to get ourselves in good spirits to start the art and just because it feels right. After we have breakfast, I usually work on writing raps or songs right away while the inspiration is high from our dancing and listening to/sorting through instrumentals produced by my husband to use for rehearsals and shows. Much of what we do as an artist family is a full family effort. Part of the day is dedicated to researching and writing material for my upcoming theater production and documentary (SHAME-LESS and Searching for Sisterhood). Another part is spent searching for funders, grants and resources for the work or rehearsing for upcoming shows/w/workshops/speaking enegagements.
Much of my days are spent simply TALKING to people, interacting with people. Much of my work is in communication WITH people, so it’s lots of planned and impromptu interviews and conversations that end up being a part of projects I am working on. So sometimes, I will head out to various organizations I volunteer with or schedule to interview/sit down with girls/women across the Metropolitan area particularly those working on social and cultural change and justice through the arts. Here in the GAD, I have hosted SHAME-LESSevents; a play date and dialogue for girls and women, filmed Princetiquette, an online webisode series and helped plan the Artist Fall Festival at Renaissance Square, and held a host of private lessons, rehearsals and strategic meetings to impact the GAD. I usually have performance workshops at schools, either through my company or with Prince Georges African American Museum Museum-in-a-box program, where I do interactive hip-hop theater workshops in PG County Public Schools or I am writing/gathering material for the upcoming Art Lives Here Commemorative Magazine (coming soon)!) All of this is balanced AND not so-balanced with spending as much time with my daughter and husband, which is #1 on the list because it’s the fuel for everything else. Family life fuels the creativity, I think. Jahzarah Royal aka Jazzy and I dance, read books, practice singing, go outside and enjoy nature from playing on playgrounds to nature discovery walks, to modeling in costumes and taking silly photos or whatever else fun we can get into. There is always family time, where we put all the art down and just have dinner and talk or bond. Some days, evenings are gigs for dad, so we all head out to assist from either setting up equipment or helping host/market event. The end of the day is reading emails and finalizing, doing end of the day writing, rehearsing, researching OR simply chatting on how to move our family forward in our artistry businesses. And sometimes, it’s just none of that, just music, movies and fun, blowing bubbles and drawing with crayons, skipping down the hallway and just appreciating the art of life. Somewhere in between there are diapers, potty training, artist get-togethers, extended family time and a reminder that I need ME time .
3) How have you been able to sustain your career as an artist now having family? What are pros and cons?
We have a system with our family artistry. We made a deal that when we got married, since we both were artists, each of us would trade working FT or PT while the other pursued their artistic efforts and the person working supported the art efforts. So far, we have done that fairly well. I usually do much of my artistry during the day and support my husbands artistry at night or weekends. We help each other out because we have very different strengths on the business side of artistry. So we fall into our roles depending on whether we are the ARTIST or the spouse supporting the artist. The pros are we usually get many opportunities to do what we love and profit from it and the cons are we are often busy with no down time, and babysitters can be a challenge with time crunches finding out about a gig last minute. Luckily, our daughter is a part of our artistry, so we often take her on gigs and perform with her and let her get a front seat to the artist family life. Also, having to take breaks and just have ME time so that I can be refueled. To make the most financially out of our art, we usually plan our very big events or endeavors several weeks apart from each other, so that we can support one another. If I have a big show or event, then everyone in the household supports that, if my husband has a catering gig or deejay event, then we all pitch in for that. It would be way to difficult if we both had things going on at the same time, although we have had a few occasions where we have had to, but we usually try not to do that because as an independent artist, all the support you can get is necessary.
4) How have you benefitted from living in the Arts District? Does any of your artist income come from the Gateway Arts District?
I have benefited in so many ways. From just being in such a great neighborhood of diverse artistic surroundings to actual monetary opportunities through grants from the Art Lives Here campaign, to partnering with PG African American Museum (Museum-In-A-Box program) arts integration, to connecting and becoming great friends with some of the most talented people you would ever want to know in this area. I have had the pleasure of seizing many opportunities in The Gateway Arts District including receiving an ALH grant where I co- produced a play called Too of a Kind with GAD artist Mervin Primeaux-O’Bryant in the first phase of the Art Lives Here Campaign. Simply living in the district breeds creativity as well. I love going to all of the classes and shops (especially Glut, Nisey’s Boutique and Sweet N’ Natural). I love that events are right in my backyard and I am supporting and sustaining the arts here.
5) What things would you like to see in the arts district to support artist families? Anything else?
More collaborations with artists and businesses, a complete artist family housing with artist amenities AND family amenities, an arts night club, more employment opportunities for teaching artists and artist integration specialists, more theater and performing arts events, more cultural exchange events, more kids and family friendly event spaces