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Planning to Buy Art at the ESSENCE Festival? Read This

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Akwaaba Inn
"In the bathroom of the Ashante suite at my Akwaaba inn, I created recessed boxes that showcase African wood sculptures. It almost looks like you are in a museum or gallery," says Greenwood (inset).
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Akwaaba Inn

Former ESSENCE Editor in Chief Monique Greenwood is an established entrepreneur who manages a collection of upscale bed-and-breakfast inns: Akwaaba (Brooklyn, NY); Buttonwood Manor (Cape May, NJ); and The Mansion at Noble Lane (Bethany, PA).

As the ESSENCE Festival will give attendees the chance to purchase work from various African-American artists, ESSENCE.com checked in with Greenwood for pointers on choosing art for a home and how she uses it to bring her inns to life.

ESSENCE.com: What do you love about the ESSENCE Festival?

Monique Greenwood: I’ve been at every Festival since I left the magazine. It’s been 12 years now and I’ve presented at each of them. It’s incredible to see the entire city come together at the Festival. I not only enjoy the great music, but I especially look forward to the Empowerment sessions. It’s where you can learn from some of our brightest minds at absolutely no cost.

ESSENCE.com: What’s your approach to choosing art for your inns?

Greenwood: What I do as an owner of bed-and-breakfast inns is really about the art of living. Anything that enhances the beauty of life inspires me. I have lots of different art in my bed-and-breakfasts. I had to acquire my own appreciation for art, because I used to choose art the same way I chose furnishings. I felt like everything had to be color-coordinated, but I’ve learned that you choose art based on what speaks to you. It doesn’t have to go with anything else in the room. It just goes with your soul.

My Cape May property is on the beach, so I work with a lot of found objects and natural textures. I also like black-and-white photography, and groupings of art or one big piece as the focal point of a room.

ESSENCE.com: How can art enhance a room and even one’s life?

Greenwood: Art can transport you, depending on what the piece is. It can brighten your day. It can pop color into a room. I like to go with neutral colors on my walls and use art or other accessories to add oomph.

ESSENCE.com: Are there any other shopping tips you can share relating to art?

Greenwood: I love it if I can actually meet the artist. I like street festivals and small art galleries that may feature emerging artists. And for the ESSENCE Festival, there’s also a lot of wearable art like hat, jewelry and garment makers.

ESSENCE.com: Can you share about a special piece of art you purchased at an ESSENCE Festival?

Greenwood: I bought my very first piece of art at an ESSENCE Festival. It was a piece by Frank Frazier, who was pretty unknown at the time. It’s in the living room of my Akwaaba inn and features about eight women in African garb. It’s somewhat abstract and almost looks like a watercolor. It’s a large, beautiful piece.

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