A Day In The Life Of An Artist Of Color

Egyptian poet switches artistic mediums to tell the stories of artists of color in Philadelphia.

I am both a journalist and an artist.

a day in the life...jpg

Photography and cinematography have long been my passions and I’ve worked the past several years to refine my talents.

In the beginning, things were far from easy. I had no equipment, no experience, and no clients. I made a lot of mistakes on my way to becoming as skilled as I am– mistakes that may not have been made had I been afforded the same opportunities and resources as my more “privileged” peers.

The life of an artist of color can be challenging as a whole. Not only are some of the issues previously mentioned at play, but there are a plethora of others. Some of them vary depending on the artform.

These issues rarely get attention.

Because of the lack of attention given to artists of color, poet, activist, and UArts graduate Becca Khalil has decided to create a short film titled “A Day In The Life Of An Artist Of Color”.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Khalil and talking about her personal history and this new project.

This interview was definitely an eye opener and I’m proud to say I walked away with a fresh perspective.

The discussion with Khalil began with her talking about what led her down the path of becoming an artist.

“I’ve been writing little things my whole life but my real passion, when I was a kid, I really wanted to be a Cheetah Girl...Like really desperately wanted to be a Cheetah girl so I went to CAPA (Creative And Performing Arts Highschool of Philadelphia) and at some point while I was there, I saw a piece of political theater and it really like changed my mindset about art in general...around my sophomore or junior year... I wasn’t getting cast in anything...there was just like a favoritism that happens at performing arts schools….I found out about this performance poetry group in the city called PYPM (Philly Youth Poetry Movement) and I met a lot of amazing people there. We created a poetry group at my high school...the first time I performed on that stage I was like ‘it's a stage! I get to perform!’ I went up there and it was like the most liberating experience to do lines and perform lines that I wrote myself.”

Khalil also briefly discussed what her art means to her at a very personal level.

“I have a deep artistic need to make my life meaningful in a way that changes the world or moves people, even in little increments, even if it's one person in one room…you can go on stage and share a story that you personally find meaningful and it will change people just to have a different view”

We then moved on to discuss Khalil’s short film.

Khalil explained that the idea for “A Day In the Life Of An Artist of Color” spawned from a poem of the same name she’d written recently. Because the film is still in it’s development stages, Khalil was reluctant to share any major details with me. Despite this, she was willing to share the opening excerpt from the poem.

In this excerpt, she details her feelings about occasionally having to equate what she feels is mediocre white art to art created by people of color–art made by people who have poured their pain and hard work into their endeavors.

The scene is set: Socially anxious socialites networking naturally you - exposed nerve. Deflect their daily extroverted enthusiasm, tell yourself theirs is art too. Their participatory performative personal pity party. A Hollywood hologram of all that is holy for its holes. Their facades a sold out production. Just another collage of half collected histories…”

As an artist of color it’s definitely hard not to be drawn to Khalil’s piece. Though I’ve always understood that access to resources and funding is often times limited when it comes to NBPOC/black artists, I never fathomed that white mediocrity can stand in the way of our success.

Having our hard work smudged by decades of oppression and mistreatment, juxtaposed with the quirky, haphazardly assembled works of more privileged artists can be pretty disheartening.

Our art is a conduit for our trauma, pain, aspirations and hope for our future. Their work is often a fun throw away hobby or experiment.

Hopefully, through Khalil’s work, others will be able to see and understand this hardship.


Article by Rovell Vialva