ESSENCE Creator’s Class: Young, Gifted And Black
Black creativity is everywhere, and no matter the moment, Black artists continue to document our history and manifest abundant visions of the future. Inspired by the artistic legacies of Lorraine Hansberry and Nina Simone, these 10 creative leaders under 30 are working to deepen the impact of Black cultural production across visual art, film, and beyond.
Writer and Critic
Bacon is pushing the boundaries of transitional arts criticism. The Chicago native’s unflinching voice has helped record, for posterity, conversations around Black abstraction and the avant-garde. Her thoughts have appeared in Frieze, Cultured magazine, Studio magazine, and more.
Curator, and Founder of Cierra Britton Gallery
Maryland-born curator Britton made history when she opened New York’s first-ever art gallery dedicated to BIPOC womxn artists. After a successful three-month run on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Britton has big plans for establishing the gallery’s nomadic model. Her work as a gallerist is informed by an innate desire to tell stories and work alongside young and emerging artists.
Maya S. Cade
Film Scholar, Founder of the Black Film Archive
Hometown: New Orleans
Through her archival practice, Cade is thinking critically about the Internet and working to change the conversation about Black films online. As an act of love for Black people and a desire to deepen public knowledge about our cinematic impact, the Howard alum built and launched the Black Film Archive in August 2021. The collection spans films from the late 1800s to the 1980s and is home to more than 300 works, accompanied by trailers and deeply researched descriptions written by Cade.
Denise Stephanie Hewitt
Hometown: New York City
At 17, Hewitt made history when she shot a cover for Marie Claire magazine. That accomplishment set a precedent for the Brooklyn-born creative producer and artist, as she continues to make serious waves in editorial photography and visual art.
Artist and musician, Creator of SON.
Hometown: Los Angeles
Sound, cinema and soul collide in LeRoy’s multidisciplinary practice. Before making his mark as a contemporary artist, the native of L.A.’s Crenshaw neighborhood was integral to the Underground Museum’s success. LeRoy is also the mind behind SON., a platform to showcase the beauty and complexity of Black male identity.
Creative Director, Co-Founder of SANMAN Company
“See a need. Meet a need” is the guiding principle for Rogers, director and co-founder of Houston’s creative hub SANMAN. The company, which takes its name and mission from a youth-mentorship program founded by the leader’s father in the late 1990s, is strengthening the creative infrastructure by providing space and opportunities to emerging artists.
Art Adviser, Founder of the Black Art Experience and Atlanta Art Week
Hometown: Warner Robins, GA
Walker is the young art adviser working to connect Black artists with Black collectors. In 2022, the Warner Robins native filled a massive gap in Georgia’s capital with the first-ever Atlanta Art Week, which included four full days of artist takeovers, exhibition openings, museum tours, and more.
Art Librarian, Founder of the Black Art Library
Walton is the founder and head librarian of the Black Art Library, an archive of Black art history that she launched in February 2020. What started as a small selection of holy grail Black art history texts—and a popular Instagram account—blossomed into a collection of more than 600 books. Formally trained as an art educator, Walton is working on expanding the library’s mission with more exhibitions and “mini branches” throughout the Detroit area.
Curator, Co-Executive Director of Rhizome at the New Museum
Hometown: Los Angeles
From her undergraduate days at UCLA to her early career strides at institutions like LAXART, MoMA, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, Bailey has been a champion for marginalized histories. As the recently appointed co-executive director for Rhizome, the New Museum–affiliated vessel providing infrastructure for working artists, she’s establishing a more equitable perspective on how digital culture is discussed and archived, especially for Black and Brown creators. As an extension of her curatorial and anthropological interests, Bailey is developing a major TV comedy, alongside artist Aria Dean and curator Hanna Girma.
Assistant Curator, the Studio Museum in Harlem
In the past three years, Keller has shepherded three cohorts of artists—and she’s currently working with her fourth in the Studio Museum in Harlem’s prestigious Artist-in-Residence program. The program, whose alumni include some of the art world’s most notable talents, was founded in 1969 to promote the work of artists from the African diaspora. Under the 22-year leadership of Thelma Golden, Keller is moving the Museum’s mission into the future by exemplifying care as the central ethos of curatorial work.