On Friday night, among the smooth rhythms of 90s R&B, the vibrant LED lights reflecting from the stage and the nostalgic smell of soul food, Black creatives packed the basement of the new William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center for the 2nd annual Creatives of Color Showcase. Creatives of Color, an organization started last year by LSA senior Drew Metcalf through OptiMize’s Social Innovation Challenge, connects Black creatives across the University of Michigan’s campus. It provides a space for Black artists to connect and produce art specific to their experiences and their culture.
The showcase featured artists from a variety of artistic mediums, who created projects or presentations after being randomly put into groups. Among these creatives were rappers, dancers, poets, filmmakers, actors, musicians, singers, visual artists and more. During each act or presentation, audience members clapped, laughed and embraced their fellow creatives, displaying the joy in Black ingenuity and finally having a space to revel in it.
This year’s showcase proved to be extra-special because it was the inaugural event, after the ribbon-cutting, for the new Trotter Center. President Drew Metcalf talked about the importance of the showcase being the new Trotter’s kick-off event.
“We’re the first big event in here and that’s groundbreaking, it feels special. Definitely a lot better than our previous locations, we have official staging now,” Metcalf said. “I’m just excited about the progress we’ve made. We got to have events here all day. We were painting upstairs and we got to curate the art gallery. Having access to that kind of stuff in such in a new building, as a new org, feels really encouraging and positive.”
The showcase’s placement in the new Trotter center reflects the goal Metcalf set out to accomplish a year ago: to create an imaginative environment for Black artists to share their work and gather in the name of originality and ingenuity. The center lends itself to collaboration and acts as a unified space for Black creatives to explore their artistry. Committee Head of Performative Art, Kandis Terry, spoke about her decision to join the Executive Board of Creatives of Color.
“A lot of times I’m usually the only person of color, the only Black person, let alone Black woman in the spaces that I’m in and when (Drew) said he had this idea for collaboration for all artists on campus, it was a chance for me to help other people get comfortable in their art,” Terry said. “Art doesn’t have to be something that’s so serious, it should be a form of expression and mental wellness. People who are so good at it are good at it because it’s something that they have to do. It’s an impulse…. This space is very open, it doesn’t feel limited, there’s no cap on it. There’s space for everyone to be a creative person of color.”
Treasurer Clarence Womack also talked about the significance of creating opportunities for Black creatives on campus and why he joined the trailblazing organization.
“I joined Creatives of Color to support my friends and their decisions to support people in the Black community. There weren’t a lot of opportunities for artist of color to collaborate (or) understand other people’s talent,” Womack said. “I joined Creatives of Color to be able to give people that opportunity, to support others in their community who might (have been) doing like-minded things. This second annual showcase means that Creatives of Color is something that is not going to go away anytime soon. This is something that’s going to affect the next artists and generations to come (of) Black creatives at the University of Michigan.”
Just two years in, Creatives of Color has staked its claim as a force to be reckoned with. It’s second annual showcase proved this with a nearly full house in the new Trotter center multipurpose room. The kinship present within the room was an ode to the connectivity of Blackness and the synergy felt within artistic freedom. The nascent organization has proved to be a cherished space for all who choose to inhabit it. The only question that remains is where is Creatives of Color will go next, a question that Drew Metcalf wondered himself.
“As far as the future, it’s hard to see it because it started as an idea so I didn’t even see it being here when I first started. If it can get here, I have no idea where it can go next. I’m super excited and I want this to be an annual thing,” Metcalf said. “I want us to be adventurous in (doing) new things. I’m hoping the next E-board is willing to push those boundaries of what we can accomplish. I’m just excited for what it could be because I have no idea.”
Although the organization’s burgeoning future may be unknown, it’s safe to say that Creatives of Color will always hold a special place in the University’s history books, forever basking in the glory of being the opening event in the new William Monroe Trotter Center, and continue to serve as a platform for creatives of color.