A’Driane Nieves, 36, Founder of Tessera Arts Collective
By Tiffany Curtis
I had given birth to my second son and was fighting my way through postpartum depression and anxiety during that time.
Karen Walrond is a coach, speaker, author, and photographer from Trinidad, living in Houston, Texas.
She’s keenly focused on helping people understand their worth, power and potential, and ability to thrive even in the face of some incredibly difficult life situations.
Her incredible photography and insights into how to find beauty, light and how to hold onto your sense of self even while dealing with difficult life circumstances deeply resonated with me. It was the kind of grounded, non-hippy-dippy positivity I needed during what was a significantly dark season in my life. I purchased her first book, The Beauty of Different: Observations of a Confident Misfit and started following her on social media. I looked forward especially to her weekly “This Was a Good Week” posts, because the examples of humanity, creativity and nature that she shared each week helped me focus less on what I felt was going wrong in my life or the world around me and helped me take note of what was going well. I’m not sure I’ve ever told her this, but those posts back then helped me significantly as I recovered from postpartum depression and navigated my new diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
She writes about travel, “quiet activism,” living with intention, how to thrive in your personal and professional life.
Over the last 9 years, she’s also become one of my dearest friends, which honestly I would have never unexpected, and I feel fortunate that I get to learn from her and watch her help other people live as their best, whole, selves.
In October 2014, I had just given birth to my third child nearly a year prior, and was completely unsure about how to pair my passion for serving others/activism with my writing and painting practice to build a viable second career from them. I remember even being hesitant to embrace the identities of activist and visual artist, because at the time, I’d only ever identified as a writer and had very narrow perceptions of what activism and being an “artist” looked like.
Karen’s coaching during and following her retreat enabled me to break through that limitation, embrace my voice as an activist and artist, identify my values, and lay the groundwork for what would eventually become what is now a thriving second career.
She had us write down a list of words about ourselves and what we are passionate about, what lights us up. Then out of that list of words we had to group them into categories and come up with just 3 words that summarized the categories and described ourselves and our passions.
I remember being hesitant to write down the words “artist” and “activist.” I had written down “writer” because it was a label, an identity I’d embraced in my teens. But I was so afraid to embrace these two new ones out of fear -- mostly of being a fraud. And when Karen saw me struggling with Imposter Syndrome, she said, “Oh, well when I read your writing or hear you speak, I immediately think of how your words cause people to take tangible action. And when I look at you, and I see your paintings, it’s very clear to me that you’re an artist. You LIVE art. You ARE art. You ARE an activist. Who’s going to actually say you aren’t? And if they are, does how they see you even matter? How do you see yourself? Who do YOU say you are? That’s what matters. If anyone has the audacity to say otherwise, fuck ‘em.”
So I gave myself permission to write those words and say them out loud. When I created my new website two months later, “Writer. Artist. Activist” was my tag line. It was the first big step I took toward no longer shrinking who I was and playing it small out of fear of being seen.
When I’m asked why I focus on Black (and Brown) women, my first response is always, “White women have more than enough champions and thanks to whiteness, always will. On the other hand, we can never have too many.” I wholeheartedly believe this. I first learned it in my work as a mental health advocate, and even though women have been erased from art history and the art world is predominantly male, I’ve definitely seen it as an artist too. So when I spot gaps in access, resources, or outreach, I make it a point to do what I can to center and meet our needs in whatever spaces I occupy. We have to be the points of access where we can. We have to be each other’s “Karen” as much as we can.
A’Driane’s Revoluntionary Picks:
“Karen Walrond is a coach, speaker, author, and photographer from Trinidad, living in Houston, Texas.
She’s keenly focused on helping people understand their worth, power and potential, and ability to thrive even in the face of some incredibly difficult life situations.”