Beautification of the city through public art and creative place making has become the backdrop for mixed-use developments. However, those who appreciate the cultural aspect of creativity push for substance.
Jessica Solomon, executive director of Art in Praxis. (Photo by Les Talusan)
“I want people to actually imagine what it would look like if D.C. was reflective of all the amazing art and culture that’s already happening in the city. And if that art and culture got funded in a real way, and was valued and appreciated beyond it being an economic driver –beyond it being something that would encourage people to come in and buy a condo,” Jessica Solomon told the AFRO, March 24.
In 2012, Solomon founded Art in Praxis, a social enterprise that embeds creative practices into capacity building and growth for community organizations, groups and individuals.
Growing up in West Baltimore, Solomon has always been inspired by the non-conventional. “I come from a community and a home where we were always being creative about stuff,” she says. “I come from a family of magicians, shape shifters, and cultural organizers, and that was something that I was always interested in – this idea of doing things creatively and collaboratively.”
While she was a master’s in organizational development student at American University, Solomon founded a theater company to fill a void in what she did not see on stage. As an outlet for creative expression, she curated an experience that allowed her and others to become storytellers, performers, and artists who toured across the country.
From conducting meetings to strategic planning, creativity was always at the forefront of her business management; and the practices she adopted running the theater company have informed the work she does today.
Through Art in Praxis, Solomon works with clients who engage in community development, social justice, and activism. She acts as agent to spur large-scale change. She specializes in constructing tailored consulting projects, workshops, and trainings based on a collaborative, creative, and culturally relevant approach. “Lately, I’ve been hosting these experiential activities called the Brown Bag Lunch Lab where I’ll work with leadership who may have some question, theme, or topic area they want to cover with their staff. And together we’ll co-create a two-hour meeting where I’ll facilitate and they’ll walk away with skillsets for some new way or approach to dealing with that issue,” she says.
She is also working to make sure that companies thrive even without the presence of an outside coordinator. “A well-facilitated meeting can make or break a project and I feel like that is one thing that I see time and time again with organizations – just having run of the mill, unproductive, uninspired meetings. And so I’m really interested in developing products that people can purchase to help them facilitate really impactful, creative meetings,” she says.
As the newly announced resident collaborator at the Potter’s House, Art in Praxis is also working to bring programming and work from local artists into the Adam’s Morgan coffee shop and performance space.
As the company grows, Solomon continues to use her personal and professional experiences to shift culture. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity. I’m really excited about emerging practitioners who are looking to me or wanting to know how I do what I do. I’m really grateful I get to make stuff up,” she says. “It’s always rooted in some kind of methodology, but it really comes from just imagining how can I support organizations and people in being better at what they do.”
For more information, Jess can be reached at email@example.com.