Richmond Art Center
Richmond Art Center

Meet Nisa Sanders, Our New Studio Coordinator!

Nisa is a Texas native who recently relocated to the Bay Area. Raised in a very artistic household, she is the daughter of a Jazz musician turned videographer and an Assistant Young Artist Director at a nonprofit that provides studio art programming to the San Antonio community. Nisa has a BA in Film and Media Arts from American University in Washington D.C.

After working as a Digital Media Coordinator at a Texas, nature, science and culture museum and a manager at a pop-up exhibition in San Francisco, she knew she wanted to pursue a career in the arts that involved serving the community. In her free time, Nisa enjoys oil painting, drawing and watching films.


Q. What do you find most inspiring about working in studio art?

When you know you have a tiny part in making someone feel good it is extremely gratifying. Working in Studio Art is a privilege, being surrounded by so much creative energy, seeing people’s artistic process evolve and so many different types of art being made all the time. Then the cherry on top is having the ability to get your hands dirty as well by taking a class or workshop!

Q. Tell us about your personal art practice? What artists and styles inspire you?

My mom is a teaching and practicing artist, so I had a blessed childhood filled with learning various art techniques and exploring mediums from her as well as from many other artists in the San Antonio community. In high school, I was introduced to oil painting by participating in a teen intensive program started by my mom and local artist, Rainey Rodriguez, and after struggling and I almost giving up I found my groove and I eventually fell in love with oil painting. I moved back to Texas after going to college in DC and picked up oil painting again by taking weekly classes with Rainy. I am inspired by vintage black glamour, social justice and inclusive feminism. I tend to make a lot of mood/inspiration boards before starting any artistic project no matter the medium I am working with at the time. Currently, I am working on a series of oil paintings and illustrations based off old Jet magazine covers.

Q. What do you like to do when you’re not at the Art Center?

A. Working on my art, reading a good book, exploring the Bay Area and watching a movie or tv show!

Q. What’s on your bucket list?

A. To start an artistic business with my mom, learn how to make neon signs and travel to as many places as possible.

Q. If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?

A. This is a very hard question to answer because there are too many artists I would like to meet. If I had to choose I think it would be RuPaul because he uses his entire body and personality as his canvas and also uses his platform to give back, promote artistic expression and self-love.

Thanks, Nisa!

Meet Anna Speaker, Our New Studio Director!

A native of the Central Coast, Anna has lived all around the Bay Area since attending Sonoma State University for her BA in Art History. In that time, she has worked for several nonprofit arts organizations in the areas of exhibition, fundraising, operations and education programming, and completed a Museum Studies graduate program at John F. Kennedy University in Berkeley.

A serial dabbler in many art media including ceramics, bronze foundry, steel sculpture and printmaking, her most recent works combine mixed water-based media, sculpture and found objects. Anna is excited to add more skills to her toolkit through taking classes at the RAC!


Q. What do you find most inspiring about working in studio art?

A. The best part about this job is seeing students learn and build their skills, and then seeing the amazing work they create with those skills. I am continually inspired by their creativity, ingenuity and passion. Don’t be surprised to see me pop my head into the classroom – it’s the best part of my day!

Q. Tell us about your personal art practice? What artists and styles inspire you?

A. I’ve worked with a lot of different media, depending on what I have access to at the time. I was wholly devoted to sculpture in college, but since then, until starting here at the RAC, I haven’t had access to the equipment and studio space to do it. Because of this, I shifted towards working on 2-D surfaces, which are a lot easier to manage on the kitchen table. I credit Stella Zhang, an artist I used to work with at another organization, for introducing me to the idea of using cheap, hardware-store materials in fine art. Now I buy the extra-large tubs of spackle. I’m most inspired by the weather-worn surfaces I see in the old parts of cities, and the surprising forms of biology under the microscope. My most jaw-dropping moment was seeing Jay De Feo’s “The Rose” at the SFMOMA.

Q. What do you like to do when you’re not at the Art Center?

A. We just bought a fixer-upper house in Vallejo, so most of my time outside of the RAC is devoted to that project. Plumbing for Dummies is my bedtime reading. We do also try to make a little time each week to explore somewhere we haven’t been in the Bay Area. We’re new to the East Bay, so the list is long!

Q. What’s on your bucket list?

A. One of these days, I am going to properly learn to play my bass guitar.

Q. If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?

A. I learned the hard way that you should never meet your heroes, but I’d take that risk for David Bowie.

Thanks, Anna!

The Art of Living Black: An Interview with Lorraine Bonner

Lorraine Bonner was born and raised on the East Coast. She moved to California in 1970, and began working in clay in the early 90’s. Her work began in response to trauma, but soon evolved to embrace the larger political and spiritual themes of dominationism and the mutually reflective processes of the political and personal. She lives in Oakland and is a mother and a grandmother.

What do you find most inspiring about making art? Tell us about your current projects.

The most inspiring thing I find about art is how much I learn from the clay. It’s as if whatever experience or question has started the imaging and creating process, the clay has a way of illuminating (at least for me) a continuous unfolding of understanding, from the cellular to the cosmic, but most importantly, from the personal to the political.

I have been working for some time on a series entitled, “Multi-hued Humanity and the Redemption of Black,” in which I use clay of many colors to represent humanity and our many colors. I want anyone who looks at these works to be able to find their own skin color somewhere in the sculpture, and to enable us all to recognize the way that limiting our definition of ourselves to the two boxes “black” and “white” makes our thinking small.


At the same time, it is important to remember that the archetypes “Black” and “White” are equally powerful and essential to a full spiritual existence. Heartless, anti-human  political and economic power, defining itself as “White” has subordinated “Black,” and my current work is an attempt to bring this imbalance into view and create an opening in which black and white have larger meanings.

How did you become involved with The Art of Living Black? How does your work represent and uphold the tradition of this exhibition?

I became involved in The Art of Living Black many years ago, when I still had trouble thinking of myself as an artist. The support and encouragement, the feeling of family, the inspiration of other artists, all enabled me to develop greater confidence in myself and my art. I hope I am able to pass some of that inspiration and encouragement on to other artists.

What was your path to becoming an artist? Please share some of your favorite work.

I was dealing with personal trauma, therapy wasn’t working, and a friend gave me a bag of clay. My favorite work is a series called “Exploring the Perpetrator” in which I look at the impact of betrayal of trust, which is how I define “perpetration.”

Studying the Perpetrator

Who are your inspirations?

My main inspirations are the people who were the Civil Rights Movement. When I feel afraid, I think of them.

What do you like to do when you’re not making art?

When I’m not doing art I like to garden, read, or hang out with my kids and grandkids.

What’s on your bucket list?

I don’t really think I have a bucket list, at least at the moment, other than doing more art and writing.

If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?

James Baldwin. His mind and courage and skill with language blow me away.

Thank you, Lorraine.

You can see more of Lorraine’s work on her website:

Lorraine’s Open Studio takes place this coming weekend, March 4-5, from 11am – 5pm @ 6725 Mokelumne Avenue in Oakland. Her work is currently showing at E14 Gallery, located at 472 9th Street in Oakland.

The Art of Living Black: An Interview with KaliMa AmiLak

KaliMa AmiLak is an Oakland-based Photographer, aspiring Performing Artist and Model. A native from Brooklyn, New York, KaliMa has transplanted to California to expand the discovery of herself and her artistry. She currently runs a Photography studio at American Steel Studios with a focus on portraiture, fashion, commercial and editorial work.

What do you find most inspiring about making art? Tell us about your current projects.

What I find most inspiring about making art is the creation of it all. The process alone is invigorating because the possibilities are endless. It’s like fire — once the spark has happened the fire goes wild. Your ideas grow because of your excitement. A current project I’m working on now is an event called #PHOTOBOMB, a networking event for photographers and  models exchanging experiences, information, and taking photos revolving around a theme. I’m also in the process of revamping my current baby, Evoke the Goddess, which is a photography series and platform for womyn to celebrate their self expression and a means of visibility, empowerment, spiritual and cultural movement.

How did you become involved with The Art of Living Black? How does your work represent and uphold the tradition of this exhibition?

I became involved with The Art of Living Black with the inspiration of Nye Lyn Tho’s first time appearance last year and with the help of Stephen Bruce, who is

Motherly Prayer

also a part of the exhibition and someone who I consider a mentor as well. I believe that my work represents and upholds the tradition of this exhibition through documenting the experience of being Black, and ways in which we can show how to maintain our pride and self love even though we struggle with it all the time. As a Black womyn who mostly photographs Black womyn, I think it’s important, especially at this time right now to deliver a message to womyn that there is light in who you are, to be empowered and that the power you hold is beyond measurable. I speak to myself about this as well.  

What was your path to becoming an artist? Please share some of your favorite work.

It first started when I was in Brooklyn College and I wanted to take summer classes to make my graduation time quicker and I thought, ‘why not photography?’ So I took film photography summer courses, and that was it. I fell in DEEP love with photography. I once said to myself, “this looks like it was taken in a magazine!” That drove me to do more photos, and to make my ideas come to life. I took digital photography the next year after that in college, and that led me to get my first DSLR for christmas. I think my favorite work came from eight years ago when I made a series called, A Day In My Shoes, where I took random grungy shots in Brooklyn with my Converses, and my recent project in which I’m going to revamp called, Evoke The Goddess, where I have taken photos of Black womyn dressed in African/Cultural cloth and other props of their desire and I capture them in their Godliness.


Who are your inspirations?

Great question. Black womyn inspire me because their strength is remarkable. The ways where they make their pain into something beautiful is inspiring alone, even if it isn’t art and it’s just living your life. It’s their growth overall. My parents because they’ve worked HARD to get where my family are now. Migrating to another country to make ends meet for your family at a young age is no easy task. But they did it, and all I wanna do is repay them for everything. Anyone who strives to work hard to do what it is that they love, putting their utmost time, energy and passion in their creation or career, is an inspiration to me.

What do you like to do when you’re not making art?

I’m very much of a chill person, so you would probably catch me watching a movie or on my laptop blasting music, lagging around like a cat in the house, reading, or spending the day outside. But I like making art so I might paint too.

What’s on your bucket list?

An Ode to Kali

Oh my. I’ve honestly just started my bucket list! A few things on my bucket list is to meet YeYe Luisa Teish, or at least spend like a week with her, to travel back to Africa, Louisiana, Peru, Japan, Hawaii (the list goes on!), to have some land in my country [Dominica], to buy my first home, to have a solo exhibition tour and to honestly just live my life the way I see fit, whatever that may be — fearing less and trusting more.

If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?

Michael Jackson. Hands down. This is the man whom I have revolved my life around ever since I can walk and talk [my family would tell you lol!]. Despite everything, he was genuinely beautiful. He is one of the epitomes of a legend who is still unstoppable, and divinely creative.

Thank you, KaliMa.

For links and more info on KaliMa’s work and TAOLB shows:

Instagram: @laydeekayephoto

Oasis Gallery
American Steel Studios
1960 Mandela Parkway
Oakland, CA

Saturday Feb, 18th 3pm – 6pm
Sunday Feb, 19th 1pm – 4pm
Monday by appointment only

Featured Artists : KalLma AmiLak, Zoe Boston, Nye Lyn Tho, Winter Williams

Oasis Gallery
American Steel Studios
1960 Mandela Parkway
Oakland, CA

Satellite Art Tour
Feb. 25th & 26th 11am – 5pm
Mar. 1st Artist / VIP reception 6pm – 8:30pm
Mar. 3rd Art Murmur First Friday 6pm – 9pm
Mar. 4th & 5th Studio Tour 11am – 5pm

The Art of Living Black: An Interview with Raymond L. Haywood

Raymond L. Haywood. Photo by 2016 award winning artist Gene Dominique.

Raymond L. Haywood has been painting and drawing since middle school. His art praxis is derived from years as an accomplished carpenter, illustrator and textile designer. Mixed media art is his passion. Influenced in his formative years as an artist living and working at the Vulcan Foundry Studios in Oakland, the time there literally forged his unique studio practice and his community involvement. He continues a community-based approach to working in the arts. His current studio is located at the American Steel Studios in West Oakland. Raymond is a seminal member of The Art of Living Black, the only juried African American showing and open studios hosted by the Richmond Art Center. He recently created “N/Visible Atelier” which is having its inaugural showing at Warehouse 416 in 2016.

What do you find most inspiring about making art? Tell us about your current projects.

What inspires me as an artist are other forms of art in relation to my paintings and silkscreen prints. My praxis of painting and being creative heals my soul and makes me happy. My work is about beauty and reflection, capturing moments in time that are fleeting and ethereal.

Current bodies of work: I am working on two bodies of paintings currently, the first is entitled “Ethereal Travels” and with these I am exploring abstract expressionistic landscapes inspired by specific locales I have visited.

The second body of paintings is entitled “ The Sea of Tranquility”. These paintings are influenced by my graffiti and ink drawings that become hand cut stencils. The four bodies of work in this


series are named after the intersections of the tranquillitatis: Nectaris, Crisium, Fecunditatis and Serenitatis.

How did you become involved with the Art of Living Black? How does your work represent and uphold the tradition of this exhibition?

Rae Louise Hayward and Jan Heart Schuyers were friends and mentors of mine. I initially met Rae in an African American Art salon called “The Colors of Black,” hosted by Professor Marie Johnson Calloway in 1987 or so. Jan Schuyers was the first African American female director of the Pro Arts Organization in Oakland. I learned a lot from her and the Pro Arts folks.

Rae approached me in 1996 to show in the first TAOLB and I have been showing ever since. I think I am one of a handful of artists who have been in consecutive shows for the past 21 years. Rae convinced me that the more we share our crafts and the gift of creating art the more effect it has on society.

Representing all the tenets of TAOLB is actually my story. When I graduated from the University of California at San Diego with a Bachelor’s degree in painting, I moved back from San Diego to Richmond. I lived on 29th Street, a stone’s throw from the Richmond Art Center. I was working in my garage and discovered the Art Center when a reporter from the Contra Costa times interviewed me. I received my Master of arts with a painting emphasis in 2003 from San Francisco State University in part from the mentorship of past director Rachel Osajima and Rae Louise Hayward’s influences. I was a silkscreen teacher at the RAC from 2010 – 2013.

The Art of Living Black is a showcase of all levels of artists from the African Diaspora. From artists just starting out  who have never shown to professional artists like myself. We get to share the opportunity to show in a professional venue, peer review, community building and mentorship. I participate every year to continue to grow and honor the traditions and inspiration of artists Rae Louise Hayward and Jan Heart Schuyers. It’s my job to recruit new participants and mentor those who have never shown before.   


What was your path to becoming an artist? Please share some of your favorite work.

I initially planned to be an oceanographer and do my graduate studies at Scripps Institute in San Diego California. I discovered painting, drawing and sculpture as an undergrad elective. I had awesome professors like Eleanor Antin, Faith Ringgold and Italo Scanga.

Who are your inspirations?

Artistically my inspirations range from authors such as Walter Mosley and Zora Neal Hurston. Painters that have influenced me are Sargent Johnson and Faith Ringgold. I am also very affected by films like The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover by Peter Greenway and Moonlight by Barry Jenkins.

What do you like to do when you’re not making art?

I love swimming, biking and walking with my wife, Monica Haywood. I also like reading science fiction and biographies of famous artists and writers.

What’s on your bucket list?

I would love to visit Brazil and learn how to drive race cars.

If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?

If it were a male artist it would be Kerry James Marshall an African American painter.   If it were a female artist/ author I would love to have a conversation with Octavia Butler, science fiction.

Why do you paint versus other mediums?

I am fascinated with the variety of the painter’s palette, the magic of making images from liquids and the fun of painting.

Thank you, Raymond.

You can see Raymond’s work and that of the other artists participating in the 21st Annual Art of Living Black here at the Richmond Art Center through March 2. For more info on Raymond’s work, other upcoming shows and social media:

American Steel Studios
1965 Mandela Parkway, Oakland CA

TAOLB Satellite Show Venue
Feb 25th & 26th  11:00 – 5:00 pm
March 1  Artist/VIP Reception 6 – 8 pm
March 3rd Oakland Art Murmur First Fridays 6-9
March 4th & 5th Open Studios 11 – 5

Warehouse 416
TAOLB satellite show, curated by Damon Powell Ph.d 
416-26th Street, Oakland CA
Open Studio Dates
Feb 25th & 26th 11 – 5
Feb 3rd – Feb 26th


Get to Know Us: An Interview with Ed Lay

Many of you might know Ed Lay as one of our longtime metals instructors and as a dedicated and talented working artist. Ed was born in the Philippines, and raised (mostly) in New York. He has worked primarily in the academic tech world and has a lifelong interest in education.  For 30 years, he wrote programming languages for kids and teachers at UC Berkeley’s School of Education. Now he teaches metalsmithing, jewelry fabrication and enameling at the Richmond Art Center, and we are proud to have him as a core member of the teaching artist team. You can see Ed’s work currently on exhibit as part of our Teacher Is Artist: Studio/AIC Faculty Show, which features select pieces from our teaching artists who inspire so many through our Studio and Art in the Community programs.

What do you find most inspiring about working with metals? Tell us about your current projects.

I was initially attracted to the inherent contradiction in the properties of metal: seemingly rigid and unyielding in the finished product, yet malleable and

Hand of the Maker

plastic when engaged with the right tools and techniques.  What has kept me engaged in metals is the huge number of possible ways to work the metal.  It became clear that there would always be something else to learn.

I am currently working on a piece for the Halstead Design Challenge, a Project Runway like competition where we are all given the same kit of materials and a theme from which we will produce a brooch.  I am also playing with origami style transformations applied to sheet metal. Finally, an ongoing interest of mine is to produce specialized tools for the metals studio.

How did you become involved with the Richmond Art Center?

Lily Vase

I fell into it by accident.  After years of taking my daughter to art classes at RAC and dropping her off, I thought I might take a class myself.  The metal studio is next to the kids studio.  One class led to another to becoming a studio monitor to teaching.

What was your path to becoming an artist? Please share some of your favorite work. 

Princess PEZ. This is a working PEZ dispenser as well as being a whimsical work of art!

I’ve always made things and I’ve taken art classes whenever possible. It seems less a path to becoming an artist and more a matter of waiting for life circumstances to allow for the time to be one. Some of my favorite work includes the Gates to the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian, Art Nouveau jewelry and the 3D printed sculpture of Bathsheba Grossman.

Who are your inspirations?

Rene Lalique, one of the premier Art Nouveau jewelers. Hugh Power, my mentor.  He taught advanced jewelry fabrication at the Richmond Art Center for 43 years.   He didn’t just teach us how to make things, but how to think.  I try to practice that every day I’m at RAC.

What do you like to do when you’re not taking art?

I read. A lot.  Mostly fiction and graphic novels.  Non-fiction has become too surreal.

What’s on your bucket list?

Not much.  I try to be a live in the moment type of guy.

If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?

Guff Cuff, inspired by the art of Dr. Seuss.

A few years ago, Metal Arts Guild of the Bay Area used this same question as the theme of a show.  We were asked to choose an artists and produce work inspired by that artist.  I chose Dr. Seuss.

The Art of Living Black: An Interview with Orlonda Uffre

Orlonda is an Oakland resident, originally from New York, of African Caribbean heritage, with a definite bi coastal state of mind. She has 4 siblings, and hundreds of first and second cousins, in the Caribbean. She was once called a Renaissance woman because of all the career and personal lifestyles she has experienced and occupied. Orlonda likes to start things, and is one of the original participants in the founding of The Women’s Interart Center in NY, and the first Art Director for Brava! For Women in the Arts, in San Francisco. Most recently, she has been functioning as Exhibition Coordinator, for The Art of Living Black at the Richmond Art Center.

Throughout all those transitions, she has always been a visual artist/painter, and photographer – and for the better part of the last decade, an educator as well.

What do you find most inspiring about making art? Tell us about your current projects.

I must confess, I have no choice when it comes to making art – I’ve done it all my life, with or without inspiration. I guess the euphoria that envelopes me when I get lost in the actual process, is most compelling. I am freed. Although I have to admit, much of what I create has purpose, and is addressing an idea or a reality, like the cultural narratives which define the African Diasporas. Some narratives can’t be contained by literal translation, and so I seek to explore them in abstraction – like the space that spirit inhabits in Nkisi or Ifa. The paradox of purpose within freedom.

My most recent projects have been driven by current events, and the recycling of history – like the resurgence of regressive isms, racism, sexism, classism, etc. Although I would prefer to be a free agent and artist, as opposed to reactive, I do feel compelled at times to include art that addresses ideas and realities that some of us face. “Along the Divide” is a painting which emerged as a reaction to police brutality and racial profiling. And to maintain a sense of sanity and dignity in the light of these demoralising times, I painted “Spirit”, which references the resilience and core dignity of African belief systems, and the idea of character as central to African ethics.

Gaslight, Orlonda Uffre, 2016

How did you become involved with The Art of Living Black? How does your work represent and uphold the tradition of this exhibition? 

I was told about The Art of Living Black by a former gallery owner, Corinne Innis, in 1999. She had the Chi Gallery in Oakland, and created a circle of artists, that are still inspired by her dedication to art making. Then I met Rae Louise Hayward, whose soft spoken beauty and spirit, welcomed me in.

The tradition of this yearly exhibit is to welcome new and seasoned artist, from the African Diaspora, to feel a sense of inclusion, and experience a community of creative exploration.

What was your path to becoming an artist? Please share some of your favorite work.

Having been born an artist, my sister and father negotiated with my mother, to allow me to go to the High School of Art & Design. I took several admissions tests, and was accepted.This was a definite shift in my life path from Brooklyn to Manhattan – from urban working class/barely making it, to witnessing wealth and privilege on display, every day as I went to school.

So many artworks have inspired me – the political statement of Winslow Homer’s “The Gulf Stream” depicting a black man in a rudderless fishing boat, struggling against the waves of the sea, encircled by sharks. Hale Woodruff, whose art spanned historic as well as abstract subject matter, and painted the Amistad Mutiny. Lois Mailou Jones, of the Harlem Renaissance, Wilfredo Lam, “The Jungle”, Marcel DuChamp, “Nude descending a Staircase, No.2”.

Who are your inspirations?

Gandhi, Malcolm X, Nina Simone, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin.

What do you like to do when you’re not making art?

Hike, wander through natural environments, go to the ocean, eat Indian or Ethiopian food – sushi too.

What’s on your bucket list?

Travel  – anywhere that’s safe for women to travel, in warmer climes.

If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?

Wow, I’ll have to get back to you on this one – I’m sure I could narrow it down to one artist.

Actually, I would prefer a round table and open conversation between the brilliant minds of the past, and the conscious doers of today. Maybe 30 or so, multigenerational, multicultural women.

I could try to moderate…LOL.

Thank you, Orlonda.

The 21st Annual Art of Living Black is currently on exhibition in our Main and West Galleries through March 2. Please join us for an informative Artists Talk on February 2 beginning at noon, followed by our Opening Reception at 3pm.

The Art of Living Black: An Interview with Nyé Lyn Tho

Photo by Andrew Rodriguez

Nye’ Lyn Tho is a West Oakland resident of 9 years, hailing from Philadelphia, PA. She was born and raised in New York with her 10 siblings and currently resides with her partner, Ahmunet Jessica Jordon. She currently runs a Photography & Graphic Design studio operating out of American Steel Studios with a focus on portraits, commercial/ad work and branding.

What do you find most inspiring about photography? Tell us about your current projects.

I’m in love with the psychological and soulful vulnerabilities of Photography. The moments that one can’t usually pick up on because they happen so fast. I can shoot a room of people and literally read the room when I review the shot. For instance, I can tell this one individual is in love with the woman he is talking to by how lost he is in her eyes. How his body is leaning toward her with his chest, his heart, reaching for her. While on the completely opposite side of the room some lady is dying to get out of a conversation. In one photo I discovered that a groom in a wedding I shot had a deep dislike for his father. Something he confirmed months later. So many things can be read in body language, facial expressions, and general energy that aren’t readily available in real-time observations because they can happen in an instant.

Even with studio portraits there is a certain psychological playful manipulation. I love digging for the genuine moments. For instance if a woman’s face lights up when she starts talking about her son, I may dig for her to tell me something funny he did. One of my favorite shots of this guy came from me poking fun at his adoration of his girlfriend as he had mentioned her 3 times in the span of 5 minutes. He did a sheepish shift in stance with a huge grin on his face while briefly looking away from the camera. I love the dance between myself, the camera, and the subject. The moments where I capture someone’s true self, the un-guarded self, their soul. It really makes me understand why people of certain cultures do not want their photo taken. It truly is the capturing of one’s soul. Having someone be spiritually nude for me is an honor and I take the way I handle it very seriously.

How did you become involved with The Art of Living Black? How does your work represent and uphold the tradition of this exhibition?

One of my mentors, Stephen Bruce, introduced me to The Art of Living Black. Before this my art was limited to the Graphic Design/Commercial Photography world so it was a very new and intimidating world that I harassed him with way too many questions about. He basically told me to quit bugging out and make something…anything…and just put it on the wall. Haha!

I Tried to Smudge It Away, 2016

Natural Heir is very much the art of living black, as it is a visual pun of the state of having natural hair within the black community. It relates to natural hair and the political ties that the black community has in regards to embracing it. There is a lot of controversy in regards to embracing our coils, “kinks,” and rough texture. When we do, it is often considered unprofessional in the workplace, people think reaching in to touch it is okay, it is considered unkempt. We are expected to straighten it to fit European standards of beauty. I named one piece Melba Tolliver, for a woman who worked for ABC and refused to cover up her afro in order to look more “professional” to cover the White House wedding of President Richard Nixon’s daughter.

So far, I have photographed 12 subjects, studied their personality, observed their crowns, and matched them to relating plant life that historically represent African and African American culture. For instance, I replaced one subject’s hair with cotton, another with collard greens, one figure has a head of sage while another, a calla lilly.

What was your path to becoming an artist? Please share some of your favorite work.

Salassie, 2016

My mother used to draw these portraits in pencil and it always looked like magic the way she took a blank sheet of paper and sketched family members faces onto it. She may as well have pulled a quarter out of thin air. Anyway, I tried to draw like her and became really obsessive about nailing it. Then I got into construction because I wanted to be a “builder” and then someone convinced me to combine the two so I went to college for Architecture and after interning at an Architectural firm and realizing that’s not what I wanted to do at all, I discovered Graphic Design. I moved to California, went to the Academy of Art for as long as I could afford it, and then obtained my first Graphic Design job where I stayed for 7 years living in Photoshop and Illustrator while teaching myself Photography. I wanted to do it all. I still do. Except now I do it all at once. Natural Heir is a combination of all of the artistic skill sets that I’ve been obsessing with for the past 7 years.

Who are your inspirations?

I’m inspired by doers. Folks who do whatever drives them all day everyday. Folks who do it so often that they have mastered whatever it is that their doing. Folks who bare their entire soul within their creation. I’m also intrigued by folks who have discovered a non-conventional way of creating. Artists who create otherworldly art, fantasies, magic, the surreal. I love artists who can tell a million stories with one single image, song, scene. Gordon Parks, Ava Duvernay, Annie Liebovitz, Kara Walker, Solange, Frida, Shepard Fairey, Whitney Houston, Tim Burton, Shonda Rhimes, Michael Jackson, Justin Bua, Basquiat, Rodrigo Coral, Rog Walker, Bryant Terry, Stephen Bruce, Syd the Kid.

They Call It Kinky, 2016

What do you like to do when you’re not taking pictures?

I like eating. Haha! Really, just sitting with my partner, off and on staring at her, while watching an epic move with great cinematography and stuffing my face. I’m a Taurus. I also like getting to know people…not what people are telling my about themselves but by observing them, reading their body, listening to not what they say but how they say it…what my subconscious tells me about them. Usually this happens one on one and not very often as I really like spending time alone. I’m a Scorpio Moon.

What’s on your bucket list?

  • Live in the woods near water.
  • Own a home/property.
  • Raise a family.
  • Marry my partner.
  • Capturing (or maybe just witness) the Northern Lights.
  • To eat at a restaurant that has a top chef (like in the worlds top 10).
  • To capture Barack and Michelle Obama.
  • Movie Cinematography.
  • Grow my own food.
  • Master an instrument (drums, violin, or bass).

If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?

Man! I had an older cousin, Dee Dee, who died in a car accident when I was a kid. She was magical and whenever she would visit she would show me all of these things she created….clothing, jewelry, things that lit up, sketches. I was a shy kid so I would just become dumbfounded sit back and observe her, thinking “she feels just like me!”. I never felt so close to someone but her spirit felt so similar to mine. I never really talked to her. I would love to talk to her and look at all of the things that came out of her mind and ask her questions about them. She was brilliant.

Thank you for your time, Nyé Lyn.

To see Nyé Lyn’s work, and the work of the other artists on exhibition for The Art of Living Black, please visit our galleries starting Tuesday, January 10. The exhibition, along with our other Winter shows, continues through March 4, Tuesdays through Saturdays. Our galleries are always free to the public. Please visit our Exhibition Events for links to events associated with our galleries, including receptions and artists talks.

For more information about Nyé Lyn’s work:

Meet an Instructor: Joyce Shon

About the interviews: The Richmond Art Center is fortunate and proud to work with a diverse and growing number of artists and teachers who work with our students at the Art Center as well as in our local communities. We want to share some of these wonderful people with you, to inspire your own artistic path, take a class, or learn more. See all of our interviews here.

JShonBioPic2In this interview, meet Joyce Shon, a long-time Richmond Art Center instructor who’s teaching our upcoming Handprinted Textile Workshop and  Material(s) World (which teaches basic screenprinting techniques). You can register for both of these classes now (see links above).

Joyce Shon is a Berkeley-born artist with a particular fondness for screen printing. She would probably rather sketch her bio than try to write it. She attended UC Berkeley and worked in construction for many years, supplementing her income and retaining her sanity with her artwork. Her unofficial job title for herself is Semi-professional Dilettante, constantly trying new techniques and attempting to integrate them into her artwork. Joyce loves not only creating art but also adding to her collection of the work of local artists.

Q. What do you find most inspiring about teaching art?

A. It might be easier to answer what is not inspiring about teaching art. In particular, I am always amazed at the way ideas multiply exponentially in a class. So much creative inspiration! Although most of my personal work is done in a solitary setting, the energy and inspiration I get from students and other teachers is simply phenomenal. And I love to solve problems, so when a student asks, for example, “Can I print with patinas? Can I print on glass? Can I print an image of the moon on green cheese?”… I’m instantly trying to figure out how to do it. Those sort of challenges really jazz me and expand my repertoire as both a teacher and an artist.

Q. How did you become involved with the Richmond Art Center?

In 1998, I was recovering from nearly two years of treatment for cancer. I spent a lot of that time in “solitary confinement,” and being able to draw and journal saved my sanity and possibly my life. I really wanted an arts community and found the Richmond Art Center through the recommendation of Patti Kjontaas, who was teaching there at the time. My goal was to learn enough basic ceramics skills to move on to meshing it with screen printing. Curtis Jones was teaching a screen printing class, and I took that because I love learning other artists’ tips and techniques and approaches. When he left to teach at the University of Oklahoma, he suggested that I take over his classes. I was hesitant (scared!) but agreed to teach one class. I loved it! But I still love being a student, too.

Q. What was your path to becoming an artist? Please share some of your favorite work (captions below).

A. Wow…my path is now 67 years long, and very meandering. My family was very hands-on. We did these very un-suburban things in suburban California. Making our own soap in a big kettle outdoors, pouring concrete for patios, building stairs and retaining walls, canning our own food, picking berries for jam, digging clams, sewing our clothes—we were always Doing Something. And I was one of those children who was constantly drawing on everything, always making something: Ballpoint pen tattoos on my friends, costumes for the family cats, papier-mâché dragons and castles for my little sister’s Barbie dolls, little mud figures that I would bury to be discovered in future eras as Items of great Archaeological Interest. I sketched while babysitting, which led to my first commission work: watercolors of toy soldiers for a little boy’s room.

Then my father gave me a screen printing kit for my 12th birthday. He had an ulterior motive—labels for his homemade beer. I really got into it, though: labels, posters, cards, yearbook covers. I attended the University of California in the ’60s (!) with a mind to transfer to CCAC but got waylaid by politics and ended up in Vancouver, Canada with a community of conscientious objectors.  

Eventually I returned to the Bay Area and worked in construction, did custom sewing and screen printing and raised a daughter. Regardless of the direction I was headed at any point in my life, there was always an element of art. I remember washing new towels once and being intrigued by the lint in the dryer. It was so beautiful and soft, I decided to felt it into wall hangings. Meanwhile, at my day job, I was operating heavy equipment, turning the Berkeley Landfill into Cesar Chavez Park. Large scale sculpting! I could go on and on and on, but you’ve probably got the drift by now. No particular favorite work—after all, I am a semi-professional dilettante. But I am sorta more jazzed by fiber than paper. May my path continue to meander.

Q. Who are your inspirations?

A. That’s a tough question, because inspirations are everywhere. But what comes to mind first is all the hours I’ve spent in museums looking at marvelous magical works by unnamed artists from cultures all over the world. Masks from anywhere, cloth of bark or fibers, painted or printed, kachinas, carvings, ritual objects of known and unknown purpose. Our human history is full of everyday people recording their visions in marvelous ways.

Q. What do you like to do when you’re not at the Art Center?

A. Well, twenty years ago, I might have been racing camels or fueling up a backhoe. But these days you are more likely to find me working on a costume for an event past, present, future (or none of the above), baking cookies, reading anything in print, attacking weeds or packing my suitcase —the sketchbook and camera go in first.

Q. What’s on your bucket list?

A. I always thought it would be very cool to learn to fly a helicopter. And I am terrified of heights.

Q. If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?

A. Unfair question! How ever to make a single choice? Any of the unnamed women who made those carvings, textiles, baskets, adornments that I have gazed at, enraptured, in countless museums. Maybe Susie Silook, a woman of Yupik, Inupiak and Irish descent. Her work, which combines traditional carving technique with a modern message, just takes my breath away and makes me feel my heart sending my blood to my brain. And she doesn’t live so very far away—can you get me an introduction?

Thank you, Joyce!

Be sure to check out Joyce’s class and workshop and register early before they fill up!

Images, from left to right:

1st row: screenprinted cats plates (set of 4), handmade bog coat, “Chat Noir” print, “Curios” print
2nd row: felt cuff, handmade journal,“Nostrum” print (from The Alphabet According to Kate series), screenprinted poppy pod plate
3rd row: ceramic sculpture—piece from “The Right to Bear Arms”,“Look Up Sam” mixed media piece—screen print on salvaged materials, “Tools” print, “Kilter” print

Meet an Instructor: Dawn Gonzales

About the interviews: The Richmond Art Center is fortunate and proud to work with a diverse and growing number of artists and teachers who work with our students at the Art Center as well as in our local communities. We want to share some of these wonderful people with you, to inspire your own artistic path, take a class, or learn more. See all of our interviews here.

drg_studioIn this interview, meet Dawn Gonzales, who’s teaching our upcoming Story Book Cigar Box Diorama Class in March (and you can still register for it here online).

Dawn Gonzales is a Richmond based artist specializing in surface design, illustration and mixed media. She received her BFA from the University of Arizona. After many years working in Marketing and Design for apparel companies including Gap Inc and lucy Activewear, she’s returned to her passion for art and good ol’ fashioned analog sketching. She is a collector of “stuff” and delights in re-purposing gently loved items into treasured new art objects.  These days she loves the work of late collage artist Rex Ray, hand drawn typography, duct tape and pom-poms. A lover of all animals, she also enjoys creating custom embroidered pet portraits for friends and family.

Q. What do you find most inspiring about teaching art?

I believe that art saves lives. Not only visual art, but music, theatre, and performance. When I was a child in elementary school, our art teacher, Mrs. Spearo, would wheel her “art cart” full of glue sticks and tempera paint into the classroom on Wednesdays and all the kids would start clapping. We went crazy! That’s how much we loved it! So, it’s very concerning to me that the first programs cut from school curriculae is usually art. It makes me very sad. After a dry spell of many years, I am recapturing that joy I once had in making art as a child, and I want to share it with others. I want to help others, especially adults, find their joy in “creating” and when I see people get excited about it, being compelled to make art… well, that inspires me!

Q. How did you become involved with the Richmond Art Center?

I have lived in Richmond Annex for over 10 years and always knew about the center. But since I spent the last two decades deeply entrenched in corporate America, I felt that I never “had time” to explore, visit or learn more about RAC’S offerings. When I started freelancing two years ago, my friend suggested that I try teaching at the center. I had led creative workshops in my previous life, but teaching in a formal capacity really wasn’t on my radar at the time. The more I thought about it and the more I created my own art, the more the idea appealed to me. So in 2015, I pitched some class ideas to Erin and here I am! My introduction to teaching at RAC was my Pom-Pom booth at Skeletonfest 2015. What a blast! (Click on the images below to enlarge.)

Q. What was your path to becoming an artist? 

I have always been artistic. As a child, my sister and I would busy ourselves for hours just drawing, and making things with any materials that we could find. I remember I even made a pair of high heeled shoes out of cardboard once. Eventually, I studied art in college and received my BFA from the University of Arizona. After school, I moved to San Francisco to “become an artist” and promptly took a job in retail, of course. But that led to many other creative opportunities for me, career wise. I discovered the world of Visual Merchandising and environmental design which is a genre that encompasses all sorts of mediums, especially if you are working on a shoestring budget! It was a very hands on job, and I found myself splattering paint, hammering nails and chopping up astroturf to make my ideas come alive.  It was innovative work for a retail environment, and, even though I was not drawing or sketching,  it kept my creative juices flowing and I learned a lot technology wise. So, I guess you could say that I took the long way around!

Q. Who are your inspirations?

Of course, I am inspired by the late David Bowie who was a true artist in every aspect and showed us all that being different is okay. That being unique is, in fact, quite special. I admire people who are true to themselves, kind, and hard workers. I’m really inspired by the talent, work ethic and attitude of illustrator, Lisa Congdon. She’s worked very heard to pursue her heart’s desire and she’s a very nice person. She also didn’t hit her prime until her 30’s. I’m also really inspired by other “late bloomers” like David Sedaris and Julia Child who didn’t begin their careers until mid-life. And who can forget Grandma Moses, an embroiderer whose arthritis inspired her to take up painting at age 78 because it was “easier for her hands.” Grandma Moses is my spirit animal! Ha ha.

Q. What do you like to do when you’re not at the Art Center?

I’m either working on pattern designs for clients, art journaling, building up my own accessory design business, or doing something fitness oriented. I also spend a lot of time at home with our 12 year old Bulldog, Cookie. She is the light of my life.

Q. What’s on your bucket list?

I  have never been to Europe! I would definitely love to go one day. I would also like to run a marathon. I did a half marathon a few years ago, and it felt great. I love challenging myself. If I won the lottery, I would build my own English Bulldog sanctuary and care for all the wayward pups.

Q. If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?

I would love to meet painter, Martha Rich. She’s wacky. I think she would be a fun friend. I love her talent and her incredible sense of humor.

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Richmond Art Center
2540 Barrett Avenue
Richmond, CA 94804-1600


Gallery Hours: Wed-Sat 10am-4pm

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