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Art is a Gateway for Healing

My artwork comes from a place of pure emotion; I communicate my experience with unintentional brush strokes, sometimes I use my hands, sometimes it gets messy. I love to use recycled materials and whatever else I find to create. The resources always come to me. I never have to look far to find them. Art provides a space for me to be free without any criticism or competition. I try not to judge but appreciate my work. I’m truly at peace with what it is.

I am a member of the RAW Natural Born Artist organization and my journey to find work with purpose has been featured in Fast Company magazine. In 2019 I served as a Board Member for the Hayward Arts Council & Art Curator of the John O’Lague Galleria. Currently, I teach entrepreneurship at Mt. Eden High School in Hayward and I own a consulting business through which I inspire women of color entrepreneurs to pursue their creative passions and manifest their dreams.

When did you begin painting and how did you get started? What did you want to become when you were a child?

Vanita: In 2016 while leading a successful career in banking I experienced corporate burnout and subsequently fell into a state of depression. I relocated from my home in Oakland, California to Chico, an artsy college town located 3 hours north of the Bay Area to find rest and recover. During my leave, I felt an overwhelming urge to express myself creatively so I started experimenting with acrylic paints on canvas. In the absence of rules, competition, or boundaries I connected with my desire to be uninhibited and free. Art became my gateway for healing; it gave me the space I needed to channel and process emotions as a form of self-care.

I’ve always had a passion for using my personal experiences to uplift and inspire others. Growing up I wanted to be a teacher and becoming an artist opened a new pathway for me to achieve my dreams. I currently teach entrepreneurship and I use my journey to inspire others to pursue their creative passions and manifest their dreams.

You say your artwork comes from a place of pure emotion. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Vanita: As an impressionist painter, my artwork tends to evoke deep levels of emotion. When I’m feeling out of control or afraid rather than internalizing feelings of uncertainty, I allow my emotions to pour out onto the canvas. Creativity is my refuge and this causes beauty, joy, and hope to visually surface. I literally experience a shift in consciousness when I express myself through my work.

What is the process from start to final artwork, do you envision it from the beginning or is it a different process? 

Vanita: I love to use recycled materials and whatever else I find to create. Previously, I worked in an industry with strict policies and procedures so art became a safe place where I could be impulsive and make mistakes. As an emerging artist, I was most comfortable approaching my work without a plan, however, as I continue to grow I’m more often inspired by visions of what I can create. The inspiration for my most recent project came to me while I was watching a documentary on the life of Angela Davis. This prompted me to research the women of the black power movement which led to print images of these women and they became my subject. The process of each work of art is different, my goal is to do what I feel and allow the journey to unfold.

Do you ever experience creative blocks? And if yes, how do you overcome it?

Vanita: I experienced a creative block this year after going into preterm labor during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our beautiful baby girl was born 7 weeks early and spent 31 days in the NICU. The experience was physically and emotionally exhausting, and I found myself at a loss in terms of having a desire to create. Once I’d taken the time I needed to recover I eventually found my way back to my canvas. In June 2020 I decided to do a freestyle art session on Instagram Live for The National Arts Drive, organized by @RAWartists to bring awareness and financial support to local creatives. This, along with a book written by Amie McNee called “For the Procrastinator” helped me break through the block and rediscover the joy of creating and sharing my work.

What is your most recent piece of art that you have enjoyed working on the most?

Vanita: I recently began a new visual arts project entitled “Pussy Power”: The Women of the Black Power Movement, focusing on the impact and influence of revolutionary black women in America. I grew up in Oakland, CA which is (as former black panther party chairwoman Eliane Brown once said) the birthplace of the revolution in the United States. The term “pussy power” was infamously coined by social activist Eldridge Cleaver during his 1968 presidential campaign, when he urged women to withhold sex from men who refused to vote in support of the Peace and Freedom Party. The term itself is provocative and it gives me pleasure to use and reclaim this language for the purpose of empowering the feminine.

This project has given me the opportunity to learn from the strength and tenacity of women such as Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, Elaine Brown and Kathleen Cleaver who used their voices to fight for racial and social justice.

How might someone feel differently about the world after looking at your artworks?

Vanita: I think (and I hope) people will feel inspired to explore the forbidden or become more willing to venture into the unknown.

You are also teaching entrepreneurship and have a consulting business through which you help women of color to pursue their dreams. What are some experiences you’ve had helping others if you’d like to share?  

Vanita: Women of color account for more than half of all women-owned businesses. African-American female entrepreneurs have the highest growth rate for small business ownership in the United States, and are the only group of women to have higher rates of business ownership than their ethnic male peers. The COVID-19 situation has forced many professionals to seek out new opportunities due to changes in the job market and economy. As a result, Entrepreneurship is trending and I’ve had the privilege of sharing my knowledge and expertise to help women of color start and launch their businesses to create financial growth.

Do you see art serving a purpose beyond art?

Vanita: Art is a gateway for healing. Becoming an artist enabled me to focus on true self-discovery and provided space to live life without boundaries or restrictions, to really experience what it means to be free. The Artist Vanita is less concerned about the approval or opinions of others and she lives life according to her own standards and desires. This is a true example of how art serves a greater purpose.

What is the best way to reach people that are interested in your art?

Vanita: I’m on all social media platforms @vanitaleetatum and my website is www.vanitaleetatum.com . I can also be found via the @TrapxArt creative directory https://www.trapxart.com/vanitaleetatum

Are there any upcoming shows or workshops we should know about (or canceled due to the Covid-19 situation)?

Vanita: I’m a member of the Hayward Arts Council (HAC) whose mission is to promote Hayward, CA as a cultural center and to make the arts easily accessible to all members of the community. We currently operate six community galleries and host various exhibitions throughout the year. COVID-19 has impacted our ability to host these highly anticipated events, and as a result, we began hosting our events virtually. For the last 3 years, HAC has worked with Hayward Unified School District in the implementation of the Visual and Performing Arts Plan. The goal is that all HUSD schools will have arts education classes by 2022.

The Hayward Arts Now is a collaboration of community members, Hayward Arts Council and HUSD to strengthen and build resources to continue growing the VAPA plan. On October 21st from 5-7pm we will host a virtual event to continue the conversation about the importance of arts education with teachers, students, families, and community members. I will have the opportunity to appear as a guest speaker, present my creative process and share more about my journey as an artist and discuss other projects I am working on. Learn more by visiting www.haywardartscouncil.com

I currently have an online exhibition entitled  “The Beatles Showed Up For Me” which is a four-part series of mixed media artworks originally painted with acrylics on canvas.

What is next for you?

Vanita: I’m actively working with Berkeley Community Media TV to executive produce my own show which will inspire and educate creatives on how to turn their passions into a business. I love being on television and this opportunity is aligned with my purpose of sharing my journey and my expertise to help others manifest their dreams.

To learn more about Vanita and her art, please check:

Instagram

Twitter

Website

Thank you!

 

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