By Kamille D. Whittaker
A little after 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning, two artists enter TILA Studios to set up shop for the day. Colbie Fray — photographer, videographer and film director — is relatively new to the space, but has her camera at the ready. She’s usually working through the night, but mixes her schedule up often. Whatever moves her. Certified Yoga instructor Toure Akela Ra, busies herself in the room adjacent to the artsy co-working space. She comes in to lend some context to the talk about the last hip hop Paint and Sip event that filled the vast Historic Downtown East Point space. Her creation, still at the front of the room, was an amalgam of WuTang and Special Ed. She lingered to look at it quietly for a moment before heading back into the gallery, queuing up an upbeat mix of tunes that was neither Wu-Tang or Special Ed, in preparation for the yoga class that she guides in the gallery on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The gallery’s walls are bare now, but it hasn’t been for long. The “Cranes, Crowns and Scales” exhibit just wrapped, featuring local artists such as Ariel Dannielle who, in addition to blessing the walls, led an Expressionist Workshop inspired by the work of trailblazing artists Alama Thomas, Joan Mitchell and Elaine de Kooning.
In that session, attendees learned to work with acrylics in an expressive yet technical way through portrait painting, while also becoming familiar with the techniques and styles that can transfer to other mediums such as oil and watercolor.
Monthly, there are art critique sessions for women. Formatted to resemble an MFA curriculum, this program allows artists to present their work and receive invaluable peer critiques. It’s limited to 15 people to keep the sessions small and intimate so that the critique is effective and balanced.
It is everything that Tiffany Latrice, executive director and founder of the space and concept, could have imagined on the other side of a grueling stint at NBCUniversal in New York. She spent her first nine months in Georgia creating a body of work titled “When Fire Gives You Sunshine,” punctuating a three-year spell where she realized she hadn’t created an original piece of artwork. The subtext: If she painted every day for at least six hours a day, could art be what she really wanted? Could it be self-sustaining?
In Atlanta, certainly.
Years before, Latrice’s master’s thesis at Sarah Lawrence College discussed Meta Warrick Fuller’s robust art practice in the 19th Century and how she was able to attain success by leveraging her friendships with other women.
So, Latrice created and shaped the space she needed, combining her passion for art, academic studies, and all things women empowerment.
“While practicing in Atlanta, I noticed that there are barriers to entry for women who are artists, especially women of color.” Latrice, who just began the 2017 Center for Civic Innovation Fellowship, notes that women were creating, but not in very collective way. “So where do we all meet up, and where do we practice, and what do we talk about our work that is very unbiased or sexist, and things like that? I realized that by combining my extensive art practice with my astute business acumen, I could help women in Atlanta become trailblazers in the art world.”
TILA Studios provides women with a safe space to create ambitious art projects, receive professional development and art management services, as well as exhibition opportunities with its on-site gallery. It’s a visual arts incubator, co-working and shared gallery space for emerging female artists in the Metro Atlanta Area.
Who are the women artists in Atlanta? “Sara Santamaria, Yanique Norman, Tracy Murrell, Shanequa Gay, Diamond Bradley, Taylor Bailey, Sierra King and the countless number of other amazing female artist practicing in Atlanta …” Latrice lists. And where are they? Likely “In search of their mother’s gardens” … setting up shop on a Saturday morning like Colbie and Toure for another ordinary day of creating art on their own terms.