Artist talk with Kenyatta Forbes

Gaston Beltran, Phoenix Staff Writer

Kenyatta Forbes- guest speaker for Junior Seminar class 10-14-2020 

Funded by the College of Arts and Sciences Division of Arts and Letters.  


Kenyatta Forbes is a Chicago-based artisteducator and activist who works in various media from macramé to film to video game design, believes 2020 is the year of trash and accountability. “In the last five years I’d say, there are a lot more words that express things going on more in the world of art that weren’t talked about much likwhite privilege or intersectionality”. Forbes was a guest speaker for a Junior Seminar Art class. According to the press release prior to her appearance at GSU, she uses her own experiences as a Black woman to open a dialogue about the construction of “blackness”, and she uses humor, gamification, and her experience as an educator, to create a safe space for uncomfortable conversations.  


Focusing her concept of Blackness, Kenyatta explains what it means as an external force to her. But as part of the development of her career she spent eight years as a public-school teacher. Her experience learning about things I focused on when I was doing videogame work, taught her that her students could learn immensely through gamification.  

Kenyatta offered some great artistic advice if someone is not certain on how to decide what mediums they are trying to break into, “even if it’s not your primary vehicle or medium, do it anywayThe silver lining Kenyatta recommends is commitment to community or whatever medium anchors you to that practice. In terms of finding the right kind of artistic balance that meet the needs of income it took some time”, Kenyatta says finding her personal balance took around eight to ten years. It only reiterates that it takes perseverance and goal orientingIt can take time. You have to take risks often but be aware of your situations. Grow your practice, grow your skill setKenyatta reminds us all when we consider inclusivity in the world of artists todaywe do not forget that representation of many different voices is necessary. 

Kenyatta explains “representation is super important; in my educational career I didn’t see enough. A lot of the artists I gravitated towards I didn’t hear throughout my educational career. In the last five years I’d say, there are a lot more words that express things going on more in the world of art that weren’t talked about much likwhite privilege or intersectionality”. Another important idea Kenyatta talks about in her own words, “what’s the cost of your sauce in conceptualizing the price for your art? If you don’t know your worth you won’t know how to express your worth. And partnerships have to have reciprocity to be good partnerships. Because let’s face itgoing to expensive schools like the Art Institute, have good connections- but you can go to good schools and still produce trash, we still see that all the time. And as Kenyatta regards technology’s reach, she says “art honestly, is more accessible than it’s ever been within the last ten to fifteen years, especially when it comes to school”. This feels very true today in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, especially as we continue access our school classes and art online more than ever. And answering one student’s idea of how one continues to name themselves as ‘artists’ she says, “I don’t think you ever stop being an artist unless you stop practicing”. Kenyatta believes this year, 2020, is the year of trash and accountability. Better words haven’t been spoken about the name this year is leaning towards.