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Alumna helps art grow at community garden

Georgie Nakima, who earned a bachelor's degree in biological sciences from WSSU, designed and worked with students in the Rams Fitness Academy to create the first mural at Simon's Green Acre community garden. 

Soon, the Simon’s Green Acre community garden at the Enterprise Center will be blossoming with more than just fresh produce. Recently, with the help of children from the Rams Fitness Academy summer camp, work began on the garden’s first art murals.

Muralist Georgie Nakima ’15 designed and worked with campers over two days in July to create two colorful murals. The murals – funded through the Health+Art (HeART) Studio at the Center for Design Innovation (CDI) – aim to educate about how native plants positively contribute to the environment.

Since earning a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from WSSU, Nakima has completed several murals in her hometown of Charlotte. Nakima also is one of the featured artists in “UKNOWHOWWEDU,” an exhibition at the Diggs Gallery that pays homage to the sixth track on Bahamadia’s 1996 debut album, “Kollage.” For the exhibition, she was commissioned to create an original mural on the gallery wall.

MORE: Photos of the "UKNOWHOWWEDU" exhibition at the Diggs Gallery

Here are eight questions with … Georgie Nakima.

What was the overall vision for the garden murals?
So, we have two murals. On one side, we wanted to represent S.G. Atkins CDC community garden, diving into the ecosystems that are supported there, the visiting animals, and crops that are growing. The other side, we have a "garden goddess" and she's here to represent the culture and the community around the garden. 

What was it like to work with the children to create the mural?
Working with the Rams Fitness Academy students was one of my favorite parts. Each child has their own perspective and relationship with painting, and you see that come alive with how they respond to it. For most, it was their first time painting a mural, and a select few were self-proclaimed artists. My approach was not to micro-manage their experience but to give them a safe space to create color. Working with children on a project like this becomes super insightful. Through the process of painting, you learn more about the younger generation and how they are learning about society. I like to use it as an opportunity to share encouragement foster more creativity to their day.

Muralist Georgie Nakima says the murals aim educate by showcasing plant and animal species that live at the community garden.

How would you describe your art?
My work explores Afrofuturism, which is an aesthetic and philosophy of art that responds to the dilemmas and setbacks of Black history with creative revolution and stories of resilience that pull from genres like science fiction, fantasy and adventure. Octavia Butler is one of my favorite authors and considered the mother of Afrofuturism. My direction as an artist is to create a visual representation to our stories and to highlight this essence in a dynamic way that ultimately connects with everyone.

How has your biology degree influenced your art?
In so many ways, my studies provided depth to what how I "see" as a creative. Learning about the undercurrent of life allowed me to witness how interconnected existence truly is down to the science of it. I incorporate a lot of geometric designs into my work which is reminiscent of the patterns of life and knowledge. When I worked in research, I had a constant desire to visualize my work, now that I work as an artist I'm making a conscious effort to bridge the world of art and science together. Most of the projects that I work on have intersectional framework that address community needs and restoration efforts. I'm most excited about lending visual art to translate science and research topics in a way that makes it enjoyable and understandable for the public.    

What do you like most about these types of community projects?
The impact. Public art is a visual channel for identity, belonging and community. Historically underdeveloped communities don't commonly have access to these types of creative outlets, so I make it an intention to relay what I do to serve real people.

What’s it like to be one of the exhibitors at the Diggs Gallery?
It’s totally a full-circle moment. Even seeing the Diggs Gallery evolve into the state it’s in today gives me so much pride to have graduated from WSSU. This is the first mural that has gone up at Diggs and also happens to be my first institutional exhibit, so adding to that I'm honored and thankful to have marked a stepping stone here.

You're known on Instagram as @GardenofJourney. Did the phrase “Garden of Journey” have an impact on the concept for the mural at the community garden?
Well, initially I did get a kick out of knowing I'd be painting a garden mural. I am a practicing gardener and super obsessed with botany and the power of plants. I'm sure this stance indirectly inspired the mural. Mostly, the concept was co-created with Dr. Kyle Luth who is the garden manager. We had a shared interest in designing a community-engaged piece of art that could simultaneously employ an educational spirit to the garden by showcasing plant and animal species that live there.

What's next for you?
Definitely rest! I have two programs that I've been piloting, Revitalize Earth is a site-specific public art program that extends the impact of art to teach communities about environmental justice. I make it a habit to emphasize site-specific so that this work is tailored to the needs and desires of the community especially in an era where climate change and environmental protection is so vital..

The other program, Kindred, is an interdisciplinary public art program that intentionally goes into communities that wish for beautification through a series of art workshops. I'm planning to carry out these two program this fall and winter. In between that, I'm hoping to create more murals in Winston. Stay tuned!

Georgie Nakima works with children who are part of the Rams Fitness Academy to create the first mural at the Simon's Green Acre community garden at WSSU's Enterprise Center.

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