Looking Forward: Creatives of Color

Happy Friday, arts, ink!

This week for Looking Forward we are learning about a student organization on campus: Creatives of Color! Tiffany Harris, president of the organization, shared with me a little more about what they’ve been up to, how she views the arts on campus right now, and how students can get involved. 

Creatives of Color is a relatively new group on campus, starting in 2018 with the hopes of creating a space where people of color could come together to perform and meet other creatives on campus, regardless of their experience level. Collaboration is at the center of many of their programs, for instance, they have a yearly showcase where artists of different mediums – dancers, filmmakers, musicians, etc – are paired together and create something to perform. Artists who participate have complete creative control – something Tiffany emphasized as one of her favorite parts of Creatives of Color. 

“It’s usually people that I have never met before across campus but it’s like a cool experience because you’re all, you know, black creatives creating something together and just really having the freedom to do whatever you want. You’re not being told by me as the president or by someone else in our E board what to do, you just have the freedom to kind of create whatever you want to. So I think that is what makes creatives of color so interesting.”

Of course, this semester they haven’t been able to perform for large crowds as they usually do, but that hasn’t stopped them from finding creative ways to spread the arts. Earlier this term, they streamed their “Creative Expo” from the basement of one of their board members. They limited those around to only the artists and essential filming crew, all of whom wore masks and maintained their distance, but they were able to stream the event on Twitch. They’re also currently working on their annual collaboration with EnspiRED, another student organization that focuses on fashion and modeling. 

Tiffany also stressed the importance of the types of conversations Creatives of Color hopes to help grow on campus:

“I think for the future just bridging those gaps between orgs [of different racial makeups] and like, obviously Creatives of Color is going to be people of color, you know, that’s in the name. But I think that I really want to make everyone feel comfortable, even white people in our spaces. I want them to want to come to our events and feel like they can participate because they can. I think a lot of people get afraid you know, ‘this is the black space, I don’t want to come into that space,’ but I really want to open that up to more people, so that, you know, we can have more conversations with other orgs, we can partner with more people instead of just blackboards, and we can have conversations about race and not, you know, not be weird and we can have conversations about systemic racism and difficulties in the arts for black people specifically that a lot of people don’t really focus on. So like for example, black women in our industry being over-sexualized and black men maybe if they deviate from the typical version of, you know, rap and hip hop, then they’re seeing as not authentic. So that sort of thing is just like, what Creatives of Color does is we have a really good dialogue, and I hope that we partner up with more organizations like Maximize and other organizations that aren’t necessarily geared towards people of color so that they can understand our experiences. “

Having these types of open conversations, although they can be daunting or scary for some, is so necessary if we are going to move forward to a better world where we can understand and support each other’s experiences. Creatives of Color is doing amazing work here, and I cannot wait to see what types of creative programming they come up with for the Winter semester. 

If you’re interested in joining Creatives of Color or participating in one of their events, be sure to follow them on Instagram @coc_umich. They often have a Google Form in their bio where you can sign up as a performer for future events or workshops, and they post about upcoming programs as well. If you have further questions or ideas for future events, you can also email Tiffany at tnha@umich.edu. They have virtual events every few weeks or so, so definitely keep an eye out for future programming!

That’s all for me this week! I hope you have a fun weekend – stay safe!



Art Against All Odds

Art is a privilege. So many people around the world have had to, or still do, hide their art. But art is special. It’s different. It’s a part of us. And we won’t give it up.

Some people are lucky; making and sharing art is easy for them. It comes in the form of little doodles at the top of a loose-leaf piece of paper during a long lecture. It shows up when you tap your foot to the beat of a song you just can’t get out of your head. It’s even there when you’re cleaning and, mid-sweep; find yourself in the middle of a beautiful twirl as if you’re a ballerina.

For some people, though, art isn’t as easy. Art takes more time, is more difficult to do, more effort to create. Someone might have told these people that art just isn’t for them, that they should do something else with their time. They may have even believed those skeptics. But, that doesn’t mean they stopped doing it.

Today I’d like to highlight three artists who I recently became aware of who, against all odds, have created, or continue to create, something beautiful. These people are Mariusz Kędzierski, John Bramblitt, and Paul Smith.

At only 23-years-old, Mariusz Kędzierski is the youngest of my selected artists. He was born without hands, but that hasn’t stopped him from showing the world his artistic talent. Kędzierski started drawing when he was just 16 and hasn’t stopped since. He uses his arms to draw incredibly realistic pictures and portraits that take him hours to finish, but look as if they could be photographs by the time he is done. Mariusz Kędzierski is a self-taught artist who never ceases to amaze me. His work is truly something we’re lucky to see.


John Bramblitt overcomes a different challenge every time he goes to the easel. Bramblitt was born with vision, but lost his sight fully in 2001 after a series of epileptic seizures. For a lot of people, that would have been the end of their artistic careers, but for Bramblitt, his loss of sight was actually the beginning. Bramblitt has developed a few techniques to help him paint, but the most important is his use of raised lines on a canvas, which help him to navigate his paintings. He then uses either Brailed paint tubes or different textured oil paints to create full and vibrant paintings that seem to reflect the colors our emotions would show rather than our eyes. John Bramblitt is an incredibly inspiring man and artist. His work is an honor to see.

And last, but not least, is Paul Smith, the typewriter artist. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn about Paul Smith until after his death, which happened almost 10 years ago when he was 85; but that doesn’t mean I am unable to appreciate the beautiful art he made in this world. Smith was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when he was a baby, which caused him to take more time to learn various tasks and fine motor skills. However, Smith figured out how to make art even with his difficulties. He adopted a typewriter as his paintbrush when he was just 11-years-old and continued to “paint” until he couldn’t anymore due to old age. Smith used symbol keys on the top row of his typewriter’s keyboard. He worked in black-and-white until colored typewriters were invented, taking weeks, even months, to create his pictures. His art is impressive from afar, but even more so when viewed up close so the symbols are seen. While Paul Smith may not still be living, his art surpasses his life and continues to inspire. We are privileged to have the chance to see it.

Of course, these are not the only artists worth mentioning, but they are the artists I have chosen to highlight. All of these people did not see their disabilities as endings, but as opportunities to create beauty. Humans are amazing creatures, and they helped to prove that. These incredible people remind me, and I hope you, too, that art is inside us all, just waiting to come out. All we have to do is find our way, and we can all be artists.