A Year of Creatives in Conversation

I love people. I love hearing about their day, their motivations, their fears and their frustrations. And I love art. I love how it reflects our humanity, how it makes us understand ourselves and the world better, how it provides joy and the opportunity to give something beautiful (or strange, or mysterious, or fanciful, or confusing) into the world. Creatives in Conversation is the best mix of my two passions and I am so thankful for the fabulous 12 artists who kicked off the first year of this series.

I learned a lot during this year of conducting interviews. I didn’t need this interview series to convince me that art is our greatest gift and deeply necessary as our world grows more divided.

But these interviews reinforced one of my other long-held beliefs: art is also work.

It is deep thinking and communal engagement with the world. It is managing self-doubt. It is refining your vision. It is grappling with uncertainty. But it is also a kind of magic, a kind of hope.

As the conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas said better than I could: “I believe that every artist is inherently an optimist, because you are making something the world is not asking you to make, with the belief that someone, somewhere will care about it.

I created this series to be a resource and a learning opportunity for my students and clients. And it became even more than that. When I was preparing this series last year I drafted a list of questions – questions that – if we live intentionally – I hope we are all asking, no matter what we do.

What are our challenges?

What are our joys?

What are we bringing to the world?

What have we learned?

With every answer from my interview subjects I have come closer to refining my own answers.

I believe that every artist is inherently an optimist, because you are making something the world is not asking you to make, with the belief that someone, somewhere will care about it
— Hank Willis Thomas

A few things have surprised me about this series. First of all, I thought that eventually the interviews would start to sound the same. I ask the same few questions ... Eventually the interviews are going to start blending together right? But no, each one is as unique as a fingerprint.

Each interview surprises me in a different way. With every recording, I latched onto some gem I needed to hear that day. When it happened the first time I was surprised. But when it began happening in each interview I began to take it as a given.

This was unintentional, but every single one of the 12 artists I featured in my series lives in Durham. All hail the Bull City.

I also thought that after a year I’d get tired of writing these interviews. They take a lot of behind-the-scenes work, most notably the transcription, which never gets easier. But these artists inspire me every day. These artists make me proud to be a part of the North Carolina community. And we still have more to learn from them.

These artists continue to make great strides in this community and beyond.

Eric Oberstein just won his 4th GRAMMY Award (Best Latin Jazz Album) for his production work on ‘Back to the Sunset’ by the Dafnis Prieto Big Band.

Monét Marshall was named Indy Artist of the Year (read more about that here). Stay tuned for the conclusion of her Buy It, Call it Trilogy (which was, unfortunately, postponed in December due to the unexpected snow storm) in April.

William Paul Thomas’ show Disrupting Homogeny is currently on display in the vault of the 21C hotel in Durham until July 2019.

Thank you to all the artists who gave an hour of their time this past year to enlighten us on the importance of what they are doing, and how we can enrich our lives through art


Thank you for reading, for being a part of this communal experience, celebrating the artists of this city and state, being gifted with their hard-won wisdom and excellence. I look forward to sharing more interviews with you in 2019.




Allison Kirkland