For this year’s Juneteenth celebration, this sneaker retailer is taking it to the streets – and not by the means of kicks. In celebration of Juneteenth, sneaker retailer SNIPES gave a well-deserved spotlight to African-American artists across New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Texas by commissioning them to create a piece themed around Juneteenth that incorporates one (or all) of the brand’s pillars: support, empower, celebrate.

On the eve of Juneteenth, the completed artwork of the four artists – Nazeer Sabree, Desiree Vaniecia, Kendall Bessent, and Yolanda Hoskey – was revealed during a two-part event in Brooklyn at The Annex. During the first half of the event, each artist was invited to participate in a workshop curated and co-facilitated by SNIPES. The second half of the event featured a panel discussion with the aforementioned artists where their work was finally unveiled to the world to behold. 

“The thread between art, fashion, and sneaker culture is self-expression and creativity. The beauty in that is that anyone can participate because it is deeply personal and unique to the individual,” photographer Yolanda Hoskey told ESSENCE. Because Hoskey was already familiar with the SNIPES brand via social media, the decision to be part of a Juneteenth exhibit amplifying Black creators and the larger scope of the Black community was a “no-brainer,” she said.

“I love the work SNIPES does in the community; their mission goes beyond a point of sale, which I can appreciate. They continuously find tangible ways to impact, uplift, empower and support communities of color that don’t feel exploitative or performative,” Hoskey continued. “SNIPES serves many communities that house people that look like me and it’s important for them to take time and give back to those who support them in a meaningful way.”

Similarly, contemporary painter Desiree Vaniecia would love the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with major fashion brands as an artist in an effort to “create artworks and products that speak to the culture” as well as Black history. “It’s important for brands such as SNIPES to highlight Black art and Black culture because it allows people to be seen in different parts of their lives,” Vaniecia told ESSENCE. “It is also important to see themselves being [represented] at any time of the year or in their life and that’s just an amazing thing to put out into the world.”

Vaniecia was first approached by SNIPES to be part of their campaign via Instagram and was admittedly hesitant but because of her continuous work as an artist, she fell in love with the idea of creating pieces in celebration of the momentous occasion that is a Juneteenth celebration. When asked by ESSENCE about how art, fashion, and sneaker culture work together, Vaniecia openly responded by reflecting on what would’ve been her answer in the past as opposed to where she is as an artist today. “If you would have asked me this question a few years ago, I would honestly tell you I have no idea,” she added.

“Now as a working artist, a teacher to teenagers, a mother, and all the things under my wheelhouse; fashion, sneaker culture, and art all tie really well together because it allows people to really have an identity and continue that identity from the clothes that they wear to the shoes they put on their feet to the artwork they have in their home. You can definitely see who people are in every form and facet of their lives and it’s insane to see.”

Prior to the event, ESSENCE caught up with Hoskey and Vaniecia about partnering with SNIPES, the importance of amplifying Black artists beyond Juneteenth, and why fashion retailers should continue to partner with artists.

ESSENCE: Why is art your chosen medium of self-expression, and how does your art make Black culture and Black folks feel seen?

Desiree Vaniecia: For me, it’s just easier to get my ideas out that way. It works well with my writing to be able to write down the ideas that I have in my head or the feelings I’m going through and then conceptualize a painting with it. That’s why I chose to paint and to do large forms of painting, at that. I create pieces that resemble me and I know that that sounds very vain, but I have to see myself in my work or somebody I know. I draw inspiration from my family members, my little cousins, and my sons and that translates so people are able to see themselves but also what the Black culture is for me and how I see the culture. 

Yolanda Hoskey: People may not remember what you say, but they will definitely remember how you made them feel. I like to think of art as a universal connector because it is inherently tied to your feelings. In regards to image-making, photos have the unique ability to express the words of our hearts and to challenge our perceptions. My photography is rooted in showcasing Black people and the Black experience as non-monolithic. So much of our existence is defined by the false perceptions of what people think we are. The purpose of my work is to debunk negative stigmas about Black people while uplifting and celebrating my community as a whole.

ESSENCE: How have you seen Juneteenth continue to be celebrated by major fashion retailers and fashion brands?

Hoskey: Juneteenth is an opportunity for major fashion retailers and brands to empower the communities that fuel them. More brands are putting their resources into the community and highlighting local heroes, talent, and organizations as a means of empowerment and celebration. Doing this is crucial because it adds a level of humanity that shows Black people that they have value to these brands beyond a point of sale. 

To see more of Desiree and Yolanda’s work presented by SNIPES USA, check out the photos below:

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