Workers at Norton Children’s Hospital with Stewart’s sidewalk mural
Interview by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2020 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Jaylin Stewart is an artist from West Louisville who has dedicated her talents to victims of violence & the community by creating therapeutic artwork. Through her non-profit company, Adah School of Art she provides visual art instruction to children. Although primarily a painter, her three-dimensional installation, God Rest America, was at Scheherezade Gallery in 2019. Since the stay-at-home quarantine, she has kept busy executing chalk sidewalk murals in tribute to health care workers.
1. Did you have a project lined up that was sidelined by the pandemic?
Yes I did have a project that I was working on prior to this pandemic that has been sidelined. I plan to continue to work on it and present it to the public when this passes.
2. You have gained a lot of attention for a series of chalk drawings you are doing right now. Talk about your motivation for these, how many you have completed and where they are?
The series of chalk art drawings was motivated by some of the same reasons I’ve always created my art. The love of human life. Since this pandemic I have not been teaching my students at the Westend Boys School because school is closed. I also teach at schools all over Kentucky through my Non-Profit Adah School of Art. So a lot of my programming has been canceled, I have been catching up on a lot of commission pieces but after about a week and a half, I needed to find a way to relieve some of the anxiety and stress that I was dealing with because of COVID-19. The days had become more sunny and much warmer. I am an outside kind of girl and spring is my favorite time of the year so I decided to go outside my studio in west Louisville and create some chalk art. I didn’t want to create just anything so I decided to draw something that was on my heart. I drew a portrait of a woman with a face mask. Representing healthcare and essential workers. With the quote “we will get through this together.” I created this to thank all of our superheroes that are on the front lines fighting the coronavirus. Also I created this because I know the influence that I have on my community, I knew that if people see me creating and trying to stay positive they would follow. During times like this we are reminded that The Power of Art is real! This is a great time for all creatives to tap in & make something that could not only change their life but others as well. A simple act of kindness can take you a long way! I use my gifts as a tool of communication, inspiration, and healing. I have been creating selfless work for the last few years and It’s only helped me grow as an Artist, Educator, and Young Woman. Showing love and uplifting people through this project has truly been an experience.
3. Are you exhibiting anywhere else right now?
No, I am currently looking for a gallery to showcase my next exhibition.
4. Do you have a job besides being an artist?
I teach part-time at the West End school, I also teach art programming through my non-profit Adah School of Art. Everything is art related so I don’t really consider it work. Just a full-time artist.
5. When did you first know you wanted to be an artist?
I knew I wanted to be an artist when I was a student at Wheatley Elementary School. I was in Kindergarten when I had my first art class.
6. You made a reputation for portraits of the victims of gun violence. Are these on hold right now?
No, my portraits of victims of violence are not on hold. A lot of the work that I have been commissioned to do is portraits. I am also always looking for ways to expand my work. I’m currently working on something that I will announce at a later date.
7. Have you been thinking that one of the silver linings of quarantine is a reduction in gun violence?
I do believe there has been a reduction in gun violence since we have been asked to quarantine. Simply because there is not as much activity as it usually is in the country. But it has certainly not put an end to gun violence. There have been some senseless homicides here in Louisville since the pandemic. There have been 3 police shootings in Louisville over the last month. One leaving a young woman dead and another one leaving a man dead. It seems that some cases that have happened since quarantine has not been able to get the attention they deserved because it’s overshadowed by coronavirus news. I pray that these victims get the justice that they deserve.
8. Almost all of your work is about connecting with the community. Is there any other inspiration at work in your art?
My work is inspired by my life experiences and everything that is around me. I believe my work is so connected to the community because I’m providing something that many artists have not offered to their community members. which is genuine love and compassion. A lot of artists’ goal is simply to make money, don’t get me wrong I want to make a lot of money and I know I will but I want my work to be able to impact generations of people after me. Also, music inspires my work a lot as well. I listen to music more than I watch T.V and that plays a big role in some of my art.
9. You executed an installation, “God Rest America” at Scheherezade several months back. Do you expect to do something like that again?
I plan to execute another show similar to “God Rest America” by the end of 2020 or sometime in 2021. God Rest America was one of my best shows and I worked really hard on that exhibition. The show is so powerful and informal that I can create it in so many different ways and display it in numerous places across the country and world. I’m working on some really big things at co-asides to “God Rest America”
10. What music have you been listening to?
I have been listening to a lot of slow R&B music. It keeps me very calm and relaxed. It allows me not to worry as much. I love old school R&B! Also, I have been listening to a lot of Nipsey Hussle, he always keeps me motivated and inspires me to push through during trying times. Even the times I feel like I’ve made some good progress, his lyrics always find a way to motivate me to work even harder. I also have been listening to a lot of gospel music. I love Kanye West’s album Jesus is King and also his Sunday Service Choir album Jesus is Born.
11. What book is on your bedside table?
I love reading so I actually have a few on my table.
- Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture
- Subway Art
- Yayoi Kusama
- Kehinde Wiley
12. What is the first thing you will do when the quarantine ends?
I really want to reward myself with a vacation. I’m always working, I’m always serving other people so I just want to do something for myself that I’ve never done before.I want to go to a beach, swim in the ocean, and watch the sunset. I want to lay in the sand and talk to God. I want to see and experience life on a totally different level. I owe myself that!
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.