Internationally acclaimed visual artist and Lansing native Mila Lynn will be presenting her most recent artistic project titled 'Black is King' throughout the month of February, which is observed as Black History Month.
The project includes a collection of eight impactful figures in the Black community and will be displayed at REACH Studio Art Center in Lansing as well as at multiple Black-owned businesses in Lansing, Grand Rapids and Detroit.
“This is something that I started a couple years ago," Lynn said. "That was right around the time that my godson was born, and I just wanted to increase positive representation amongst black children."
Lynn's newest project is a continuation of her idea to increase Black Representation as Royalty and to normalize the society by seeing her godson and other Black members of the community as something other than victims.
“Growing up I didn’t feel like I read any books where there were Black protagonists who the stories were about, and they were just normal stories,” Lynn said.
'Black is King' features a range of portraits of prominent Black figures such as Michelle and Barack Obama, Kamala Harris, Kobe Bryant, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Rosa Parks and Malcolm X. Lynn hopes her project will uplift and empower the Black community, and instill confidence in them by celebrating the mentioned figures.
“If you have confidence in your appearance, or in who you are as a person, or where you come from, or your background, or your family, then you can play a meaningful part in the community,” Lynn said.
The pieces that aren’t featured in her studio will be displayed in affluent Black businesses in Lansing, Detroit and Grand Rapids. Meanwhile, the originals will eventually go on sale. Prints of each piece will also be available for purchase.
In addition to presenting her project, Lynn has also been named the first ‘Artist in Residence’ in REACH’s newly launched Arts Residency Program. Lynn, who took classes at REACH as a child, has since traveled around the world, showing her art.
“I just always liked creating, I used to sit for hours in my basement and just draw random things from a very young age," Lynn said. “So when REACH opened up, it was just the perfect place.”
At the age of eight, Lynn began taking youth classes at REACH for Saturday schools and workshops. So when she began her search for a studio this, REACH seemed to be the perfect fit, especially as the studio was recently redone.
“But to have this great place expanded over six years, and then the minute it's open, we’re hit with a global pandemic," Lynn said. "I wanted to figure out how I could not only as an artist benefit from having it as a studio but also benefit the center, because I don’t want, that place to not be there. (It) has been super influential to my life.”
Through her time at the studio, Lynn said she hopes to show other young artists that they are capable of pursuing art as a career.
“I think a lot of time, (when) arts are focused on, everybody always makes it out to be a hobbyist thing, but that’s not the case," she said. "Anything you want to take seriously can be a career."
Mike Marriott, who has worked with Lynn as her promoter and mentor, said this is just the beginning for Lynn.
“I truly believe that (she) will be one of the biggest names in the arts in the world over the next few decades," Marriott said. “She has that kind of fire and tenacity.”
Marriott reflected that Lynn balances her professional and personal life by giving back to the community.
“She epitomizes what a professional artist should be like,” Marriott said. “From deciding this is a project I’m going to do, this is my goal for how much I want to make doing this project, this is where I want to put the proceeds for this project ... (she’s) just the total— I call it ‘artispreneur’ because she very much blends the two.”
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To promote the ‘Black is King’ project, Lynn has planned multiple evening shows throughout the month of February in her studio at REACH which will feature Michigan-based Black musicians. The shows will be on Facebook and Instagram live on Thursdays at 7 p.m.
20% of all proceeds from this project will go to purchasing Black Children’s Books from We Are Lit, a Black-owned bookstore in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The books will then be given away in a book-drive event that Lynn will be co-hosting on Feb. 28. More details will be coming shortly.
Donations directly to the book drive can be made here.
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