The Ames and Iowa State community came together for the very first Black Arts and Music Festival (BAMF) on Saturday and Sunday.
This event was hosted at the Ames Public Library and was put on by staff and volunteers. Tanvi Rastogi, teen librarian at the Ames Public Library, was the one to come up with the idea behind BAMF, in which she said it was important to amplify the voices of marginalized communities that often don’t have the voice to do so.
Rastogi said she came up with this idea while on the committee for Ames Pride Fest, which gave her inspiration to create an event that educates people but also celebrates culture.
“It's hard when so many of the stories one sees about their community are grim,” Rastogi said. “Everyone deserves the chance to revel in all of the amazing things their community is putting out into the world, and that's exactly what Pridefest does. I wanted to do something similar with the Black Arts and Music Festival.”
Rastogi said the festival was created to be a two-day family-friendly event to celebrate and promote greater awareness and appreciation of the artistic and cultural contributions of African and African American visual and performing artists in the community.
The festival kicked off at 9:30 a.m. Saturday when children were encouraged to go to the Storytime Room to hear cultural stories in order to set the mood for the rest of the festival.
Following story time, the first workshop that took place was on the art of printmaking held by Jamila Johnson. Johnson is a recent graduate from Iowa State who has many pieces of art displayed in the Memorial Union at Iowa State.
During her workshop, Johnson explained to a group of children, ranging from first to fifth grade, the process of printmaking with ink.
This process included drawing a design on a piece of foam paper with pens. Afterwards, children moved over to a different table to roll the ink on their piece of foam. Following putting ink on their designs, Johnson and volunteers helped the kids press their ink design onto a different piece of paper, where many designs turned out. They were then encouraged by Johnson to give their art piece a title and sign their names.
Johnson held her own artist talk on Sunday about her pieces that were displayed in the Ames Public Library.
During her talk, Johnson said racism helped form her identity at a young age and that her anger she gained from that aspect of her life translated into her art. She said this idea of being tokenized and how she didn’t seem to fit in or be accepted anywhere helped drive her to make the art that she did.
With inspiration from Elizabeth Catlett, Malcom X and Emory Douglas, Johnson created art ranging from printmaking using fabric dye or ink, using textiles or using watercolor.
Another workshop that was hosted Saturday was Juliana Jones’ workshop on how to create paper art. Jones is an artist based in Ankeny. She creates 3D art that involves many mediums, textures, genres and cultures.
During her workshop, she gave attendees a packet of paper, scissors, glue and a disassembled shadow box.
First, attendees created the shadow box, then used the colored paper packet to cut out waves, which the attendees outlined with a gold pen. Afterwards, Jones showed attendees how to glue the foam pieces and the paper into the shadow box, which gave the end product of the 3D art example.
Jones followed her workshop later in the day with the last Artist Talk on Saturday in The Studio.
During her artist talk, Jones explained the different phases in her life that impacted her artistry.
Jones is a daughter, student, career woman, wife, mother and artist.
Jones gave everyone a brief background of her career, consisting of going to art school, becoming a web designer and finally moving on to the art form she is producing now.
Jones said her inspiration to create came from her surroundings as well as her feelings at the time of making her art. She said this inspiration can come at any moment, early in the morning or late at night. She showed the attendees the differences in her art and how one piece may show combat, chaos and determination while another piece may show freedom and ease.
Jones also gave the audience a brief overview of her process of making art and the materials she uses. She explained that usually, she will sketch out an idea and leave it alone and then will come back and make adjustments as needed. Following, Jones explained how she will use paper, tissue paper, paint and even glitter as a “melting pot” of materials to make her different types of art.
Another artist that talked on Saturday was Jamie Malone, an artist and recent graduate of Iowa State with a degree in biological/pre-medical illustrations.
Throughout their artist talk, Malone explained their different influences of their art. They talked about how Baroque period and Romantic era art, as well as the music Malone listens to, were "heavy" influences on their art and how they create their art.
For the exhibit Malone made, they explained how they went out of their comfort zone to create what they did. Malone said they dumpster dove for textile pieces, used embroidery for the first time and used the art of just throwing stuff together and hoping for the best to create some of their pieces.
Malone also said they learned new things about themselves, such as what healthy boundaries are, a rediscovery of their sexuality and gender and learning to love messing around with art again.
Malone also told the audience that they are selling their pieces, but 40 percent of the proceeds will be going to three different charities. Malone said each piece described different parts of themselves, and that's how they decided on the charities. Two of the pieces' proceeds will go to Planned Parenthood, two will go to One Iowa and two will go to Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Another artist talk that took place on Saturday was Cameron Gray, a graduate student in art and visual culture, whose work was displayed in the Gallery. Gray uses art to identify social issues as well as the understanding of the black identity.
During his artist talk, Gray said throughout his life, he felt out of place because he was either in an all-white space or he wasn’t “black enough” in a black space. So through his art, Gray became a spokesperson for his own blackness.
He said he chose burlap sacks as the main focus of his pieces as it represents history of black culture as well as black labor. Gray said that he wanted to show attendees the way the fabric seems to breathe and how he related to how when in a safe space, he can just let everything go like the fabric.
Gray described the burlap as an embodiment of the black body, and how even though they are frayed and torn, they are still relaxed.
The youngest artist at the event was Amara Agba, a junior at Ames High School, who sees her future in graphic design and interaction design. On Sunday, she gave her artist talk about the pieces she had displayed at the Ames Public Library.
During Agba’s artist talk, she explained that her art is inspired by life as well as the people around her. She said she uses the unique features of people and structures and includes them in her art.
Specifically, Agba said she loves to draw minimalist line art because it gives her the opportunity to draw something simple but with meaning. She said she often will use references for her art but will also use what she knows and loves about the human body and use it in her art.
Agba said she has been doing art since the seventh grade, and she has only wanted to show the beauty in the world and make the world even more beautiful with her art.
Another form of art displayed at the library was performance art. Seven performers performed music, dance and poetry-style art.
The performers to kick off both Saturday and Sunday afternoon in the Farwell T. Brown Auditorium was the Ames Step Team.
Eight Ames High students took the stage and danced to different types of music, with different types of physical movement to create sound with their bodies.
The audience thoroughly enjoyed their performance, cheering and applauding, even yelling things such as “Get it girl!”
Another performer and workshop host was Slice the Celestial Sorcerer.
Slice the Celestial Sorcerer, otherwise known as Cameron Rayburn, an assistant teaching professor in aerospace engineering, was also at the festival to give a workshop titled, “Sorcery: The Path to Making Magical Hip-Hop,” in which Rayburn explained how he makes his songs out of random sounds and sample tracks.
At the beginning of his workshop, Rayburn told the audience about himself and how he got into music. He said he had written music in high school but never had the equipment to make the music he wanted to. Rayburn said eventually, he saved enough to get his own mixing station, and his music career began.
Rayburn said throughout college he would play gigs, and he even had his own radio segment as well, but he had stopped making music around 2011. However, three years ago, he picked up his passion in music again.
Rayburn then went on to explain throughout his workshop how he used different sample tracks and beats in order to make the final production of his songs. He uses his mixing station to mix the tracks to make jazz/funk-influenced hip-hop music. Rayburn described his music as “spaced-out, cosmic and magical,” with its heavy bass-lines, intricate wordplay and many different types of rhythms to make his music.
Later on Saturday, Rayburn performed in the Farwell T. Brown Auditorium, where Rayburn took on his persona of Slice the Celestial Sorcerer and performed with his registered “hype-man” Source.
Rayburn and Source got on stage and performed the music that had previously been demonstrated in the workshop that happened earlier that day. They performed music that embodied fun and serious topics that got the crowd dancing in their seats and cheering from the crowd.
They performed songs by the names of “The Magic,” “Secrets of the Kaleidoscope” and “I Am."
Rayburn explained how much each individual song meant something to him and that they all represented who he was. Throughout the performance, Slice and Source found time to joke with each other, igniting laughter and high energy from the crowd.
K.U.B. was one of the performing art performers on Saturday as well. K.U.B., otherwise known as Kaleb Stevens, is a poet who uses words and rhythms to express important topics to those who listen. Stevens said he dedicates himself to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Throughout his set, Stevens used different types of lyricism to tell a story to the audience. He started his set with spoken word poetry, which referenced Malcom X, Nipsey Hussle and others, while also speaking about racism in America.
Stevens also performed songs about love, not fitting in society and doing the things he loves, like music. Stevens even performed a freestyle piece. Throughout his whole set, the audience members, who ranged all ages, stayed engaged, applauded and cheered for Stevens.
Another young performer who performed their art was Theo Muhammad. Muhammad is a classically trained ballet dancer from Ames High School who has been dancing with the Ballet of Des Moines for three years and has been a part of many other classical dance academies and productions.
During his performance at the festival, Muhammad performed intricate dance movements to two different types of background music. For his first performance, he danced to spoken word poetry that talked about violence, in which his movements matched the aggression and tone in the speaker's voice. He also performed to a classical piece of music, where he expressed vulnerability throughout his dance.
One of the last events to happen Saturday was a performance by Colo Chanel. Chanel is a Des Moines-based musician who takes her lyricism from the poetry that she writes and performs.
Throughout her performance of hip-hop/R&B influenced music, Chanel sang about tough times, love and heartbreak. She sang songs called “Be Alright” and “Selfish,” and the audience was on its feet dancing to Chanel’s performance.
On Sunday, Jazzy Johnson, a sophomore in psychology as well as a Grand Slam champion in spoken word poetry, performed her spoken word poetry for the audience.
Johnson performed two pieces that involved topics such as racism and the history of black culture. She talked about black bodies, discrimination, black identities and the concept of fighting for the right to live.
Throughout Johnson’s performance, the crowd whooped and hollered, and when her poems were finished, she was given a standing ovation for the emotion she put into her poetry.
The last performer of the festival was The Reverend Doctor, otherwise known as Keith Rollins. Rollins is an Ames native who moved to L.A., where they are currently living.
Rollins explained their music is a mixture of the “weirdness” of growing up in Iowa and holding a black identity. With a looping machine and using different sounds via voice, rhythm through the looping machine and using their acoustic guitar, Rollins creates music that involves messages of how to deal with hard times and being true to who you are. Rollins also said music is a way to push positivity in a world of negativity, and they encouraged members of the audience to push positivity as well.
Rollins performed some of their own songs like “Dance Warrior,” “My Life” and “Build It Up.” However, they also performed covers of songs like “No Diggity” and “Shape of You.”
This event was sponsored by the Ames Branch of the NAACP, the College of Design, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Ames Community Arts Council, Ames Commission and the Ames Public Library.