Raised in the Southern and South Western parts of the Twin-Cities, Felicia Sherrod's upbringing was pretty normal for an inner city youth growing up in the 1990s. The term latchkey kid was synonymous with children and youth then because parents worked long hours and we saw less fathers around which meant that mothers took on most responsibilities in the household and children found themselves at Parks and Recreation Centers taking up sports and other activities during out of school time. These centers provided children with opportunities to see and do things that they would otherwise not be exposed to.
"A lot of the kids that I grew up around, their parents were workaholics, alcoholics, poor, dealing with domestic violence, drug addicted or emotionally unavailable. There was something about us kids during that time. My friends were White, Black, Latino, Asian, Native American, etc. but we all were suffering. I think that we were lonely and neglected. That's why back then, the color of our skin didn't matter. We just wanted people to bond with. I'm grateful for that because it has shaped my perspective on race and diversity as well as community and economics. I love people, all people, and I want us to love and embrace each other."
BQ-Where did you grow up?
FS- I say, all over the Twin-Cities but mostly South Minneapolis and Richfield. I graduated from Washburn Senior high in 2003.
BQ- You attended art school after, right?
FS-Yes. But after I spent 2 years at the U of M... I was so lost there. I took two years off of school and then enrolled in the Advertising program at The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago. I transferred and finished at The Art Institutes International Minnesota in 2012.
BQ-Do you remember your first time creating?
BQ-No. I wish that I could say that I was some child prodigy. Like I came out of the womb doing paint brush strokes in the air, but no, as a kid, arts and crafts were introduced to me by a "Rec. Plus Leader" at Sibley Park in South Minneapolis. I lived right across the street from that park and spent most of my out of school time there until it was time to sleep. I remember taking dance lessons, going horse back riding, camping, hiking, swimming, learning to play tennis, ice skating, sledding, running around in the summer barefoot with friends at the playground, but what stuck with me most was the day that a leader brought in a box of paints and said 'We're going to paint today' and from there this women and others brought in beads and other crafty materials that we would use to make cool things. My interests were immediately sparked and the passion began. After that I remember asking for crafty stuff for holidays and birthdays. I was maybe 8 years old.
BQ- So you loved it right away?
BQ-Okay, say more about your upbringing. How did that effect your creative bone?
FS-I was neglected and abandoned and then raised in a dysfunction. I now understand that because I was dealing with physical and emotional neglect and abandonment, arts and crafts were my outlets. Working with colors and controlling how things looked. That was self expression, or escapism, however you want to look at it.
BQ-Wow, that's amazing
FS-But I figured that out only a few years ago. At the time, I was just withdrawn. That was the label that I got. Weird and withdrawn. Do you know how many weird and withdrawn F'n artists in the making there are in the world right now? A lot. That's why I do what I do now. I want to help nurture and foster talent.
BQ-So do you believe that artists are created and not born? Like their circumstances, finances, and other factors breed creativity?
FS-Yes! Exactly! I could have been anything. I chose art, well, really I chose creativity. I market, advertise, recruit and strategize all day in my first full-time job. I work for American Indian OIC. Shout out to my family over there!
BQ-So you create all day, essentially.
FS-Yes. Its exhausting, mentally, because I create in my sleep, but emotionally, I need this life. I'm about that creative life. hahaha
BQ-Hahahahahaha me too!
FS-I started Art Piece Soul a couple of years ago. I was trying to find art again.
BQ-What do you mean?
FS-For years, I didn't paint, I would do things here and there but i was so focused on working to pay bills and live like a true American, from pay check to pay check, making enough money to pay bills , waste money and then end up depressed about the state of the country and the culture. hahahahaha I was dying. hahaha
BQ-Hahahahahaha You pretty much summed up the American way. hahaha
FS-I was so unhappy. I couldn't stand my job, my boss, colleagues, the system that I worked in. The racism, the foolishness. It was tragic. so I quit. I said, F that, I'm out of here. God has a plan for me and if he doesn't, this must be the devil speaking but I'll figure it out. I just didn't believe that I was meant to be in that type of situation. I didn't come this far in life to be depressed and stuck. I asked myself what I wanted to do. My answer was art.
BQ-So you really quit, just like that?
FS-Yes, I don't belong in a cage, I'm an Earth sign, I should be roaming this Earth, doing my best to serve and preserve it. Hey, when you know you know.
BQ-So now, the gallery?
FS-Yes, the gallery and the non-profit work will continue. When I say I work, I work.
The gallery, Its a small start to what I hope will one day be a huge 3000 sq ft art gallery that has art from all people around the U.S. particularly serving as a place where people of color, Native, and urban artists who are a lot of times left out of mainstream artist circles or featured as one of or the only can display and have their art seen by art enthusiasts and buyers of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds.. The State of Minnesota has some amazing artists but galleries and art spaces seem exclusive and even segregated. Fine Art to me is art that is created with precision and technique but when we see it in museums and galleries, the artists featured are typically European/European American who can afford fancy materials. I decided to open a gallery because of my love for art, and my love for and belief in diversity and inclusion. Not to mention, I'm still a defiant butthead who believes that I can do whatever I put my mind to, even if it goes to sh** in the end. So here I go.
BQ-Why did you choose Saint Paul for your space?
FS-Because Saint Paul has been my home town for 11 years and will be forever, unless something in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles speaks to my soul. I love this place because I matured in this city. Its the oldest (First) city in the State but has never had an art gallery owned and operated by someone who looks like me. That's insane. I choose Selby Avenue for historical purposes and because I want to be an inspiration for people. Its not about how you start, but about how you finish. Put your mind to it and do it. That's it.
BQ-The old Rondo..
FS-Black businesses were booming before highway 94 was constructed, So when I heard about Community Land Trust and their idea to give small minority owned businesses an opportunity to open and operate in this historic area, I was sold. I'm not rich, not even close, but when passion is combined with opportunity, greatness can happen. Now I get to bring 15-20 artists together to show this community just what art is. Art is beauty. Art is expression, Art is colorful, Art is full of culture, Art tells stories, Art unites people, Art is life, hashtag Art Piece Soul!
BQ-So do you have an official opening date?
FS-Yes. Late summer. That's all that I will say for now. haha
BQ-Makes sense. I look forward to it.
FS-Me too, Brigit. The artists do too!
Interviewer, Writer and Editor, Brigit Quam
for Art Piece Soul Gallery Blog