When Art Says What Words Can’t: Spirit Show Recap

Nobody Knows by Vanessa Smith, photo credit Jamé Jackson
Nobody Knows by Vanessa Smith, photo credit Jamé Jackson

The piece was called “Nobody Knows.” I stared at it for two solid and uninterrupted minutes before Jamé even brought the pun in the title to my attention. I wasn’t focused on the woman’s missing nose; instead, I was fixated on the phrase “Nobody Knows,” one that seemed to sum up the current state of my life all too well.

At the beginning of this summer, Michelle Izquierdo invited me to do PR for Spirit, an art show she curated with her close friend and artist Vanessa Smith. I met Michelle earlier this year when she showcased work at See. Speak. Feel. and she seemed like the perfect kind of person to partner with–open with her artistry, but also able to get down to business. It’s not always easy to find those types.

What I didn’t know when Michelle and I started working together back in June was just how much I would need that show on Sept. 12. When I signed on to work Spirit, I added my PR duties to a growing summer to-do list. But, by the time the show rolled around, I was depleted creatively. At my wit’s end. Empty. Lost. Unsure of my next steps on every possible level.

I still am.

Play Me by Vanessa Smith; photo credit Jamé Jackson
Play Me by Vanessa Smith; photo credit Jamé Jackson

But in the hour or so that I got to soak up the art at Spirit, I remembered that even when my inner flame starts to flicker, I am still surrounded by an incredible tribe of creative, vibrant and artistic women. See, this life will ebb and flow. I will rise and I will fall. But, those things never affect this amazing fabric of people I’ve met along the way. Sometimes it is OK to let other people breathe life into you when it feels like you’re fighting for air.

Right now, nobody knows. I have promised myself that I will write through the storm and pen my way past the cyclone, but the truth is nobody will ever know the war I’m waging with myself. Right now. In this moment. As I live and breathe and type these very words. It is a war with fangs and claws and bloody red eyes. It is a war pushing me beyond my comfort zone and rearranging the things I once knew. It is a war that means penning less, planning less and praying more. And on some days, no matter how many promises I make to myself, I can’t dilute the mess into words. So, thank you, Michelle and Vanessa, for saying what words can’t with the work you’ve created.

And, when I say I’m surrounded by an incredible tribe of creative women, I also got to share the day at Spirit with a few of my loves: GG Renee Hill of All The Many Layers, Roconia Price of Ever So Roco and Jamé Jackson of The Blonde Misfit. Here are some of my favorite excerpts from their recaps:

Michelle said she doesn’t know if she wants to paint for a living necessarily, but she knows that she wants a creative career. I talk about creative living a lot here on the blog and with my clients and how this doesn’t necessarily mean you quit your day job and become an artist. It means taking all the different aspects of you and bringing them into everything you do. Creative living is purposely designing your life so you can thrive in environments that inspire you. It’s about actively utilizing who you are, what you believe in and what you’re good at to make a difference in the world. This takes curiosity, self-awareness and of course, courage. –GG, “5 Creative Ideas From the Spirit Art Show

There’s a universal spirit threaded through every element of artistry, whether you wield a paintbrush, push a pen, or strum a ukulele. It looks like you, striding in your purpose. It smells like something all your own: fresh paint, an empty venue, the pages of your newly printed book. It sounds like Michelle telling you that she recalls speaking to you in the bathroom before your performance at See. Speak. Feel., saying she remembers how focused you were in the mirror, saying that she enjoyed your poem. It feels like the lurch in your stomach when you walk into Spirit and smell fresh baked authenticity, served with a side of chilled good vibes. –Roconia, Spirit Art Show: The Recap

Jamé at the Spirit Art Show
Jamé at the Spirit Art Show

In a world where Misfits are always told ‘no’ or artists are not celebrated, it felt good to see artists who proudly walked in their own right and who found a way to monetize on that. Ok, I know some people will probably side eye for saying such, but let me just say that just because we love creating art does NOT mean we don’t still have bills. Hello. –Jamé, TheBlondeMisfit: Recap: ‘Spirit’ & A Reawakened One

Tyece & the ladies of Spirit


Feature: Austin Weatherington of IntellectuCOOL

Austin Weatherington
Austin Weatherington

Editor’s note: Tucked off Kennedy Street in DC is one of my favorite places in the city–Culture Coffee. It’s a tiny gem, easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. It isn’t one of those pretentious and overcrowded coffee shops. Instead it’s a space that serves as a coffee shop, art gallery and performance venue. Yes, yes and yes.

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to link up with Austin Weatherington, co-founder and curator of IntellectuCOOL, at my favorite spot. Finding other people just doing dope things in DC is sometimes a difficult task. It’s not like NYC where the city is buzzing with different events that are well-known and easy to find. So, I appreciated when Austin reached out after seeing “See. Speak. Feel.” posted on Eventbrite. We had the chance to talk about all things writing, creative and even what it meant to reach (or get ready to reach) some milestone birthdays. In this Q&A, Austin discusses his own creative journey, how IntellectuCOOL got started and who his biggest influence is (among other things). Meet Austin.

Name: Austin Jamal- Depree Weatherington

Age: 29

Location: Washington, DC

Tell us more about your creative journey. 

My creative journey, ehh? I assume what I now understand as my creative journey started sometime back in 06’. I was a hooper in college and around that time I knew that dribbling a basketball wasn’t in my post-graduate plans. It’s funny because at that time the creative landscape was much different than it is now. The word “creative” had far less cache attached to it.  Back then, when I thought of art or being a “creative” I thought of neutral color mock-neck sweaters with a matching slouchy beret. I was very naive, perhaps even adversarial to creative labels. I knew I enjoyed words, and at that time I was really getting into Facebook and spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to impress my 123 friends with quasi-clever social observations and mildly humorous “notes” (remember those on Facebook?). So I coupled my  love for the written word, with my lifelong addiction to talking, and majored in communications. In many ways I’m still trying to figure out what to do with that degree. I walked across the stage and into this trap we call an economy, and truthfully I’ve been journeying ever since… writing, procrastinating, writing, blogging, self-preserving, in-and-out of relationships. I think this past year more than any other time I began “creating”- and really bringing concepts to life.

How did IntellectuCOOL get started? How does the brand reflect your creative roots?
So IntellectuCOOL began under the umbrella of The Smugger, which I am still very much a part of. The Smugger is an online minority men’s lifestyle platform, and collective of people. It was 2013 and The Smugger was thinking of ways to galvanize our base and bring to life some of the topics and things that were taking place on the site. I was tired of the going out options here in DC and thought we could present a cool alternative for others who felt the same. I wanted an experience where people could get together, share good energy and good music, yet still have an intellectual appeal. I had the concept half-way down but didn’t have the name. One night while eating yogurt the name came to me, and I sent the email the same night, and the rest has been history. IntellectuCOOL no longer exists under The Smugger umbrella; it stands alone as it’s own business. Moral of the story: eat more yogurt.

In terms of the creative roots question, I believe that IntellectuCOOL is the perfect platform to serve my creativity. I’d like to think that most of my creativity has purpose attached to it, so the brand is versatile enough to engage people with meaningful topics, yet pliable enough to accommodate the spontaneity that stems from artistic expression. In many ways my mind doesn’t always associate serious topics and questions with traditional solutions. In a past life, I was that cool liberal history teacher that never used the book, yet fully engaged and educated his students, changing the way they looked at history forever. My name would be Mr. Radcliffe, don’t ask me why.

IntellectuCOOL is a platform that fosters conversation through creativity. What does that mean and how is it reflected in the work you do?
So we like to think of IntellectuCOOL as more of an experience that folks can benefit from versus a product looking for a market. Our aim is to make conversation cool. It’s a platform where creatives/artists, intellectuals and the ideas that inspire them can be better understood. We focus a lot on concepts, understanding that based off experience and perspective people are going to draw their own conclusions about many of our topics and scenarios. However, the diverse mix of people and perspectives, coupled with the overall great energy and communal vibe, serve as the perfect atmosphere to explore your experiences and views on certain topic.

IntellectuCOOL is a partnership between you and co-founder Vic. How do you all work together? What is it like to advance a vision alongside someone else?
Vic and I work really well together. We both have our strong points but have done a great job of trusting one another to this point and that’s cool. We don’t step on each others toes, yet we get things accomplished. I think a lot of that has to do with both of us having vision. We both see great things for the brand and that fuels our work. We’re at a place where our brand is only going to go as far as our vision can take us. I’m really open to exploring his ideas, as is he of mine.

So this is where it gets a little weird; Vic when you read this, please forgive me. I don’t have any children so IntellectuCOOL is the one thing at this level of maturity I can say I’ve birthed and am now watching develop. I see Vic and I as “Partents” (partners-parents). Needless to say we’re very protective,  and are just now entertaining the idea of playdates. Although we understand it takes a village to raise a child, we are seeing great progress with us being the sole source of guidance. That said, our child is growing, and continues to amaze us daily. I can say that Vic has been an amazing partent who has more than carried his weight. Too much?

IntellectuCOOL recently teamed up with the Mousai House to host The Grey Area, an event exploring life’s undefined spaces through poetry, art, dance and discussion. Looking back on the event, what was your favorite part and what is one thing you would have changed?
Yes. shout out to the cool people over there at Mousai. They were great throughout the process and serve as an awesome space and resource for local artists. Looking back I think the turnout, the energy, and performances were all amazing. The one thing I would’ve changed was the way we set-up the space.

What can we expect from the next IntellectuCOOL event?
Being more interactive. We will have an atmosphere where participants can engage and interact with each other more.

What’s your artistic mantra?
See the end at the beginning. That way you’ll know what to do in the middle.

Who are some of your greatest influences?
Only one–my mother.

What are you currently reading?
A play actually, The Piano Lesson, by August Wilson.

Austin Weatherington is a writer and multi-media communications professional with a true passion for content creation and story development. He’s always, always, always looking to collaborate with people on things. Whenever, whatever, however; as long as its positive. 

IntellectuCOOL on social media | IG and Twitter: @intellectuCOOL | Facebook: IntellectuCOOL

Connect with Austin on IG and Twitter: @A4aus