Tag Archives: Creativity

Artist Feature: Naïmah

I had the good pleasure of meeting Naïmah at a local coffeehouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn a couple weeks ago. A Washington D.C.-based singer-songwriter, Naïmah is currently working on her own EP, writing songs for a handful of other artists, and playing shows in the DC and New York areas. We’re happy to welcome her to the Collective as she discusses her understanding and application of Reflection and Response, the creative process behind her song Wolf and I, and various other topics. We’re looking forward to a lot more dope work from Naïmah in the months and years ahead! Check out the dialogue below.


Support each other. I’ve witnessed too much animosity in the art world, especially jealousy-driven. Everyone has their own gift, their own individual way of looking at something, and at the end of the day, no one can replicate that.

– Naïmah

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

N: I’m from Washington, D.C., and after going to boarding school in Boston, and college at USC in Los Angeles, I’ve made my way back to the District. A bit surprising to some, as I’m emanating those California vibes “for sure”, but it’s nice to be home and planting my roots and growing where I first got started.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

N: Within the harmony of those two actions I find the creative process at its best.  The thing about art as I see it, or at least how I approach my music, is that it is always a response to a reflection on a moment, a person, a feeling, and so on.

Whether I realize something is on my mind or not, songwriting helps me navigate through that process of reflection, and to figure out just how much that subject meant—or means—to me.  Each song is me saying, “This is my response about X. This is how I feel.”

And the incredible part is when that individual reflection and response, my response, captures the way someone else might also feel in their own reflection, or to allow them to see their feelings in a new light.

It’s hard to make this intangible transaction into a tangible explanation, but I hope that all makes sense.

How does ‘Wolf and I’ fit in with that definition? 

N: It doesn’t get more “reflection and response” than in Wolf and I. Well, it does, but prior to writing the song I’d been in a phase of day-dreaming and imagining and writing songs based on these scenes I made up when, after a trip to New York, I was headed back home on the bus, feverishly free-writing in my notes on my iPhone (let me say how restrictive auto-correct and that little screen is) as I attempted to capture how I felt about the events that had just occurred, and all the moments and experiences making up my relationship with this particular person and situation.

Wolf and I is a love song in its most basic interpretation, but I think the fact that it’s really so much more than that below the surface is why people have been able to connect with it. It’s about perception, the way you look at something, the good and the bad all at once.

Wolf is a simile I used to describe someone and something both close and distant, endearing, and in the process of change; and Wolf and I was my reflection, my attempt to articulate, all these thoughts in some kind of compact organization that I could store them in.

Since writing the song, I’ve opened back up to the realization of how important reflection and response is, and how my songs come to life when they are created in this frame of mind.

Photo by Alexandra Howland

Photo by Alexandra Howland

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Artist Feature: Ken Grand-Pierre

Ken Grand-Pierre is a New York-based music photographer whose lens captures images that recall specific moments and feelings. His love of concerts and live music help fuel his work in this epicenter of creativity. Ken’s photography spans shots of shows as well as his unique “Day in the Life” series which captures images of musicians the day leading up to a performance. Ken has been his on grind and has had the opportunity to photograph the music and performance activities of many dope artists. Throughout his piece Ken touches on his diverse influences, the idea of eschewing perfection in the creation of art, ideas of Reflection and Response, and stories of capturing music through images.

Ken Grand-Pierre

Photo by Nicole Mago

Fuck the idea of perfection and resources. Perfectionists are important in our lives but never allow perfection to be the reason you hold back from doing something; make mistakes and learn from them…

– Ken Grand-Pierre

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

KGP: Hello, my name is Ken Grand-Pierre! I’m originally from a small town called Rockland County, which is forty minutes outside of NYC. I am now based in NYC and have been for about six years on and off (more on then off though). Rockland is an area that I always felt I had to get out of, especially from a very small age. There’s good people there but it’s not a place where creativity can thrive, at least not to it’s full potential, so while growing up I’d always see NYC as the epic centre of everything and being able to be here now, being part of it all is still something that’s wild to me.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

KGP: Both of those words are strong to me, especially because I find them to be both cohesive and universal with how humans are in general. I think the smartest people I’ve ever come across are the ones who are constantly reflecting on the experiences and decisions in their lives and responding to those reflections in a willful manner. You can’t get anywhere in life unless you have the will to do things, to take risks with your life in any size and variety, and I believe the most important choices you can make in life come from reflection and response.

Ken Grand-Pierre - The 1975

Ken Grand-Pierre – The 1975

How does your work fit in with that definition?

KGP: The pieces I chose to accompany this interview are photos that just take me back to a moment instantly. When it comes to covering shows I love working with artists I know close to little about just as much as artists I already admire. I also believe that no one should ever limit themselves to just one genre. It blows my mind how many music fans (even fellow photographers) I’ve come across who are so closed-minded. People who say things like ‘Oh Indie music? Gross!’ or ‘I wouldn’t be caught dead at a Rap show!’ things like that make me immensely dumbfounded, especially if you’re a music photographer you should aim to do as many different things as possible. The shot I specifically picked for this question is of Rónán (AKA Ro) from Irish band Delorentos.

Ken Grand-Pierre - Rónán of Delorentos

Ken Grand-Pierre – Rónán of Delorentos

They’re one of my favorite bands and have been for years, and I never thought I’d get the opportunity to see them live. Last year they released a new album and came to NYC to play a show to promote it. I jumped at the chance to do it but I also aimed to spend the day with them for a ‘Day In The Life’ type of photo feature. I had never done one before and I had no idea how to prepare or anything haha but I just went about it naturally and tried my best. This photo was taken right after the show. The band came off stage and I went backstage (well technically downstairs since it was at Mercury Lounge and the green room is a cellar) and Ro was about to grab a towel when I propped up my camera and said ‘Ro! Have a scream!’ and he did hahaha it was absolutely random and the thought occurred in seconds but it’s one of my favorite shots haha. I picked this shot because when I think of reflection/response I think of things that accumulate, as well as things that happen quickly yet seamlessly. My passion for Delorentos brought me to that show and the fact I love what I do allowed me to spend the day with them, so it all kind of comes together in a cause/effect sort of way.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

KGP: I’ve mostly been photographing musicians like always but also doing ‘Day In The Life’ photo features with bands. That’s when I’ll spend a day with a band and photograph the day as it leads up to the show. It’s what I enjoy doing the most and I’m hoping to expand on that. My biggest goals now are to eventually tour with a band and photograph a European music festival. I think when it comes to aspirations those are the two clearest ones I have that’d make me feel complete in some way, shape, or form. I mean people always go on about buying a house or getting good credit but things like that seem so boring to me. You should naturally get good credit and a house in your life so why not aspire for something bigger? For something more? Something I love is when I do something like shoot a festival or an arena show and there’s a moment where I’ll look about and wonder ‘….wow….how the fuck did I get here?’ so I think my ultimate goal is chasing that beautiful feeling.

Ken Grand-Pierre - Glasvegas

Ken Grand-Pierre – Glasvegas

Who or what inspires you?

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Feature: Ellie Cross

the LIFESTYLE is a place for a global dialogue on creativity, Reflection, and Response associated with the arts. This week we are proud to feature Ellie Cross, whose commitment to community arts has led her to opportunities to interact with people around the world. She currently is part of a team that is starting an International School in Mumbai, India where she will become an art teacher after the school opens its doors in August. Check the dialogue below and view some recent work Ellie has been a part of in Mumbai!

That’s why I love community art projects and arts education, because it challenges the myth of the artist as some talented genius-loner making things that regular people can only appreciate.

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

EC: I’m from Seattle, but I’m living in Mumbai, India at the moment. My day job is helping start up a new International School, where I’ll be teaching art once we open up in August. This has fed my brain as I’ve explored the educational landscape here, plus supported and grounded me as I feed my insatiable inner appetite for community art projects.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

EC: Reflection means your brain thoughtfully digesting things, and according to the dictionary, it also means “the throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it.” I believe the most powerful art does both of these. It shines some truth straight into your face by revealing something that’s been in front of you, previously unexamined. I think that’s what James Baldwin meant when he said: “The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers.”

As for response, I think art is response. The way I see it, humans are like little dust bunnies that roll around collecting tiny sparkles of dust, aka inspiration. Sometimes a dust-sparkle punches you in the stomach and you lose your breath with the truth of it. Sometimes it just gets filed away unceremoniously into your fold of pre-accumulated dust and it doesn’t germinate until much later. Sometimes it swirls around the tip of your tongue until something else catalyzes it, and art is born! We might create the art as individuals but it’s always the product of much more than that. Which is helpful to remember as an artist, because it takes the weight off of you a bit. 

How do your current artistic endeavors fit in with that definition?

EC: That’s why I love community art projects and arts education, because it challenges the myth of the artist as some talented genius-loner making things that regular people can only appreciate. I do think some artists deserve disproportionate acknowledgement for putting in the 10,000 hours and challenging some incredible ideas into beautiful music/dance/visual arts, etc. I’m just more interested in awakening/nourishing creativity in kids and people that aren’t being celebrated as artists. I also love using art to change spaces, which I see as reflecting back a different reality. Especially in the murals we’ve been doing in Children’s Home, which was previously a jail and no changes have been made to make it feel like a home for kids. Even though painting the walls seems like a relatively superficial solution to a challenging situation, I think that spending the time and investing the thoughtful creative energy into those walls fundamentally alters the space. Especially when the kids have painted it themselves.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

EC: I’ve been taking a bunch of art classes in the traditional Indian arts. One of my favorites is Madhubani Painting, which is a tribal art form in which anything living gets a double outline. The outside line is the body, and the inside one is the soul. My friend and I wrote a Children’s Book about a kid’s tumultuous relationship with a bean plant, which is based on real life. We’re trying to get it published, so if anyone’s interested I do hope they holler. Also, I’m super excited to do a series of murals called “Blanks” in which certain sections are painted in chalkboard paint, so that passer-by’s can participate in the mural by contributing their chalk art.

Who or what inspires you?

EC: Abdul Sattar Edhi, this 84 year-old Pakistani that has only driven an ambulance in his life because he’s dedicated to helping people. Also, a Ghanaian man named Professor Smiles who believed in art the way religious fanatics believe in God. Caine’s Arcade and all the people that flashmobbed it. Great art blogs, like http://www.thisiscolossal.com/ and kids’ fearless faith that magic is pretty real. And definitely the Christian the Lion video when the lion hugs his long-lost human friends. I always cry with delight at that one.

Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?

EC: When I tell people I’m either an artist or an art teacher, they quickly respond by telling me they “can’t draw.” I don’t know when being an artist got smooshed into the tiny box of fine motor skills and training associated with drawing, but I’m continually saddened by the fear many people face in the pursuit of artistic endeavors. I also think it’s important that visual arts get added to that often cited proverb from Zimbabwe, “If you can talk, you can sing.  If you can walk, you can dance.”  And if you can make any mark on any surface you can draw. Maybe you can’t draw the way you want to or the way you think the world wants you to. However, when you try and draw a horse and it looks unlike any horse anyone’s ever seen before–you’ve got to respect that horse. Because no one else living or dead could have made it. That doesn’t mean you have to like the horse, and you can definitely try again to make one you like more, but please stop hating on your horse and yourself. You’re not a camera and you’re not a photocopier. We have those now. You’re way more interesting than that.

Shout out to…?

EC: All the friendships, particularly the Art or Choke Collective and my amazing India collaborators that have helped make all the public art possible. The absurdly great family, the steady sweetheart, the internet, revolutionaries, manatees, and all the people doing the good work daily to cultivate love, justice, and magic.

Children’s Home mural project (Mumbai, India)

Check out Ellie’s blog for more information on the Children’s Home mural project and more photos documenting the process!

Also check out Ellie’s website to learn about powerful community arts projects she has facilitated in Ghana, Thailand, Malaysia, Tibet, Cambodia, United States, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala!

Reflection and Response.

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