Weaving Dreams into Reality
Shenequa Brooks; a Maker, an Art-Preneur, a Weaver of Dreams.
Art-preneur is a new word to me that fits Shenequa perfectly. I can even see how to apply that word to my own artistic career. For Shenequa, being an art-preneur is basically fulfilling her love and passion for Art on a day-to-day basis, as well as teaching others the craft while making a living doing it. A maker is what she does, and a weaver is how she does it.
Shenequa’s journey as an artist might be considered traditional. She describes the age-old tale of being a talented youth who was always drawn to Art. Then, an insightful teacher spotted her talent at a young age and guided her to pursue it. “I see something in you,” is what the teacher said, and that sight paved the way for Shenequa to do precisely what she has wanted as an artist, which is to weave her dreams into reality.
Having gone to one of the top art high schools in Miami, FL, the New World School of Performing Arts, she was ready for a career in the arts by her sophomore year. She had a portfolio, a website, a credited resume, and an established name as a burgeoning artist. But as fellow artists know, it takes a lot of hard work and is not often glamorous as it looks. She describes her high school years as working from 4 am -11pm with little time to play and party. However, this hard work in high school paid off and secured her a scholarship to one of the country’s most highly acclaimed art institutes, The Kansas City Art Institute. There she received her
undergrad and got to work alongside her mentor, Nick Cave. Nick, also an alum of KC Art Institute, is known for his elaborate sound suits that are worn and make sounds when moving.
Shenequa knew of his work, admired his work, and was determined to get into the Textures Program because of his career. “I only applied to one school because of one artist, and I got in”, describes Shenequa. “To work alongside my mentor, Nick, all the while building rapport and a relationship with him has been incredible. It’s been worth every penny that I’ve invested thus far”.
Now, as colleagues, her conversations with Nick are more on equal ground, more about business, and the word Shenequa describes signifying her process of creating, ‘making.’ “Today, my conversation with Nick goes something like, How are you, and what are you creating? Not a lot of people can say they work with their idols.”
In a nutshell, her takeaway from her mentor now confrere, Nick Cave, was “to keep showing the work in whatever capacity. Put it out in the world and have the world see your authentic self through your Art, and don’t worry about what other people are doing.”
Make is her word. She used it constantly in the interview and like the descriptive word: art-preneur, ‘maker’ makes sense. She uses her hands when creating textiles; the fabrics flow, and textures weave in and out of expression and stories. So for Shenequa, “to make is innate. It is my home base, it’s a warm and safe thing to do.”
What is Shenequa Brooks working on now?
Currently, she is working on two projects simultaneously. “This has been the longest I’ve ever worked on two bodies of work, so it’s been very uncomfortable and exciting in many ways,” explains Shenequa. One project is called Meh Famalay. It is a journey through the Caribbean around her family. She was born in St. Thomas, B.V.I and raised in Miami by her mom’s side, who is from St. Kitts and Nevis. Her father’s side is from St. Thomas. This project will travel through the Caribbean and parts of the US in image-based tapestries that open into conversations. She hopes to reunite her family, spark connection and celebrate Black joy. “My goal is to create a traveling installation and bring these two worlds together. I basically take images that either I’ve taken or sourced through archives of family members and display them in a space that sparks connection through the image and memories,” explains Shenequa.
Her other project is a mini capsule of sculptural pieces of her crown, which signifies her hair. Shenequa describes this as something completely different and new that she is dabbling in. “I like to work on two things simultaneously because it piques my interest. It’s very hard for me to stay focused all the time.”
Outside of making, she teaches Art in Chicago with two non-profits: Chicago Arts Partnership and Education and Changing Worlds. She also teaches at 3 different schools:
An afterschool programming K-3rd, a sewing program afterschool program for 6-8th
Grade and an in-residence program at another urban school.
Shifting according to the season, work, and travel schedule, Shenequa spends much time in her residency studio space in Chicago. A sacred space that provides a place to meditate, make and cultivate her day-to-day practice. Often listening to music from her culture: Afro Beats, Caribbean Soca, and Reggae, to Shenequa, this music sets up the space to make.
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We conducted the interview virtually while she was in the middle of an intense schedule of exhibits and networking at the infamous Art Basel in Miami, an international art fair staged annually in Basel, Switzerland; Miami Beach; Hong Kong, and Paris. Art Basel works with the city’s local institutions to help grow and develop art programs and showcase the best in the contemporary art world. This was Shenequas’s first time participating at Art Basel, and she felt it was full circle being back in the city where it all started. “My time in Art Basel was great, lots to do and overwhelming with transportation from place to the next.”
Exhibiting her work at Mason Afrikin in a group exhibition titled The Beautyful Ones Are (Not Yet) Born. The Beautyful Ones Are (Not Yet) Born has a line struck through the “Not Yet” in its title to highlight the ones who are indeed born and the genuineness and power of these creatives and innovators. Though often unrecognized, the “Beautyful Ones” are present — here and now and are influencing what is next. The artists assembled in this exhibition have defied the disadvantages of otherness and are making art history.
Shenequa Brooks, a multidisciplinary artist that uses weaving and textiles to share spiritual stories about her life and culture while connecting the dots for others to find their own.
Local Hotels & Restaurants
While Art Basel in Miami check out these hot spots in Miami Beach.
For a taste of Miami curated by a trendsetting magazine of the same name, head to Time Out Market near Lincoln Road. It’s only a couple blocks from the convention center and promises more than 20 vendors under the same roof to tempt everyone in your party.
A Peruvian stunner set inside the 1111 Building at the western end of Lincoln Road,
Stay at the famous 5 star hotel: The Ritz Carlton South Beach
Weaving Dreams into Reality with Shenequa Brooks
Multi-Blond Loose Onions
107.5" (L) X 28.5" (W), woven with cotton and synthetic-hair.Read More
30.5" (L) X 106.5" (W), woven cotton and synthetic-hair, 2012.Read More
101" (L) X 51" (W), woven with various fibers, adorned with hair accessories, and framed with a custom metal bobby pin, 2019.Read More
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