“This will be a deeply personal art exhibit,” said Eboné M. Lockett, one of eight vetted artists to be an inaugural tenant at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation’s new artist studios.
“Actually,” she corrects herself, “I shouldn’t even say ‘exhibit,’ because it’s really an interactive art campaign. Our 17-year-old daughter, Kai, has sickle cell disease, and we lost a son to sickle cell when he was 11.”
Her campaign will honor – and include – her daughter, honor her son’s memory and raise awareness locally, nationally and globally about an illness she said is “often invisible.”
The exhibit/campaign, called Through Jaundiced Eyes, will, Lockett said, “amplify the stories of individuals impacted by this condition.” (Yellow eyes are a sign of sickle cell disease, a painful vascular condition that impacts people of color. Pain during a sickle cell crisis can occur anywhere in the body and can last for a few hours, a few days or longer.)
Helping establish a new community
Lockett’s studio will afford her access to workspace, tools and a community of creatives with whom she can share.
McColl Center tenants have access to communal labs for printmaking, 3-D printing and laser cutting, digital media, ceramics, woodworking and sculpture fabrication.
In addition to Lockett, seven creatives are establishing themselves in these new studios:
- Wil Bosbyshell
- Micah Cash
- Christopher Holston
- Malik Norman (In partnership with an anonymous donor)
- Kristen Rowell
- Samantha Rosado
- Nill Smith
“Being with other makers and creators will be like coming home and finding your tribe,” Lockett said. “The beauty of it is going to be forging relationships with other artists.”
A space of one’s own
Lockett’s space is made possible through a partnership between the McColl Center and Charlotte Is Creative’s HUG (Helpful Unfettered Gift) micro-grant program.
“Finding new, easy-to-deploy methods of supporting working creatives is exactly why we established our HUG program,” said Tim Miner, co-founder of Charlotte Is Creative. “Through their new studios, McColl Center has addressed the immediate need for affordable workspace for creatives … and established a communal atmosphere where creatives can share knowledge … as well as physical resources.”
Through this partnership, Lockett, an educator, activist and spoken word artist, gets unfettered access to her studio for four months. McColl Center and Charlotte Is Creative cover all fees during her tenure.
“Having a studio space is critical to an artist, and access to equipment can be a game-changer,” said Jonell Logan, McColl Center’s creative director. Lockett agrees: “The generous benefit of having the tools – like a 3-D printer – at our disposal is what will allow us to make this initiative a reality in four months.”
Lockett, a previous HUG recipient and founder of Harvesting Humanity, is a woman of many talents and interests, and she doesn’t shy away from taking on a lot. She believes the McColl Center is the ideal place for her to bring a big idea to life.
A student, an artist and a fighter
Kai has been homeschooled since sixth grade because of her sickle cell disease. (“She was missing so many days because of dialysis and blood transfusions.”) Prior to that, she was a straight-A student at Waddell Language Academy, where she was in the Japanese immersion program. She’s also a visual artist.
Lockett’s four months at the McColl will culminate in an art exhibition and event. “It will be an interactive experience that’s all about advocacy, awareness and action,” she said.
An insidious (and misunderstood) disease
Raising awareness will help the public understand an often-misunderstood disease. “Kai said one of the things about this condition that’s so heartbreaking is that she’s always having to explain what it is,” Lockett said.
“When you say ‘leukemia,’ people get it, but when you say sickle cell, people not only don’t get it, but they don’t understand how much it impacts your life and the lives of everyone around you.”
The most effective treatment for sickle cell pain is a bone marrow transplant. “But unfortunately, because it is a Black and Brown disease, the [bone marrow] registry is not amply supplied with Black and Brown donors,” Lockett said. “We’ll work with one of our partners, Project Life Movement, on trying to diversify the registry.”
Sickle cell disease is a painful condition. Monthly blood transfusions help alleviate pain – and help keep patients from having to take opioids, which can be highly addictive if taken over a long period. Lockett said: “We were so afraid, given the attention the opioid crisis was getting, that Kai would be stigmatized – lots of medical professionals view sickle cell patients as drug seekers – or that she would become addicted to painkillers.
In the two years Kai has been doing monthly transfusions, she hasn’t had to take any Oxycodone.
Bringing Kai’s pain — and story — to life
Through Jaundiced Eyes, the multidisciplinary project, will include:
- Imagery. “I want people to know who these individuals are and what a day in the life of a sickle-cell person looks like,” Lockett said.
- Documentary short. “We want people to have a holistic understanding that this isn’t just a medical issue or an African-American issue,” Lockett said. “It’s really about how we show up for one another in this world.”
- Storytelling. “Since my genre is writing and spoken word, I will work on crafting the story.”
- Action. “Awareness is good, but we want people to actively do something,” Lockett said. “Our partners will help with that – we’ll have the oneblood.org bus, and we’ll be asking people to sign up for the bone marrow registry. It’s easy – it’s just a simple cheek swab.”
And all of this will happen by September – in time for National Sickle Cell Awareness Month.
“The McColl is more than just an art studio or an arts center,” Lockett said. “It is really about that integrated experience and how art helps us get through life. Art can be a social innovator; it can be so much more than just ‘art.’”
“Oftentimes people think of art as just a tool of pleasure,” she continued. “But art allows us to feel, to empathize and to act. I’m looking forward to the action that comes out of what we create.”
Follow the action.
McColl Center on Instagram: @mccollcenter
Harvesting Humanity on Twitter: @HarvestHumanity
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