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Morning Person of the Day: Denise Brown

Meet Denise Shanté Brown (@denise.om.shanti), designer + mental health advocate and social design MA Candidate, 2017 at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and CreativeMornings/Baltimore attendee.


What is your first and/or most meaningful CreativeMornings experience?

My most meaningful CreativeMornings experience happened when I was still living in Atlanta and the theme for that month was, to my surprise, “Ugly.” There were folks at tables drawing ugly caricatures (I still have mine!) and we even opened up the session with a real ugly exercise - drawing a portrait of the person next to us without looking at the paper. I did not keep that one. But the most meaning came from the talk by Eryn Erickson, creator of So Worth Loving. I can still remember her enthusiasm, awesome sleeve tattoos, and radiating joy for empowering others to believe in their personal worth. As someone advocating for mental + emotional wellbeing, I left appreciating a conversation around self-love in a room filled with creatives. I can personally speak to the destructive inner critic that creeps up, shouting it’s profane lies about everything I don’t have or cannot achieve as a black queer woman. This has a tendency to seep into my creative process, so writing affirmations and reminders of my worth and capabilities is literally life-saving. I was overflowing with gratitude for Eryn and CM for bringing that conversation into the creative space, as I know others struggle with believing in their capacity to do amazing things for themselves and therefore, our world.

Describe the work that you do and the impact you are trying to make.

Work has evolved for me, from a traditional graphic design background into an experiential practice of designing and facilitating empathic experiences in public spaces. I truly believe in the power of co-creation and have collaborated with some of the most imaginative changemakers in the south. This has given me the opportunity to hold reflective space for interventions around integrated inclusivity, creative power, personal storytelling, human rights awareness, and radical self-acceptance. Through the practice of conscious, compassionate activism, I will continue disrupting societal pressures and exploring how art and design can be realized as transformative tools for healing, with the capacity to mobilize people-powered impact.

In your work and life experiences, what have you learned about people?

Through lived experiences, involving much trauma and health challenges as a type 1 diabetic and anemic, I’ve learned that intentional relationships with people who value support systems and know what it means to show up, still exist. For me, this often begins with creating something together and building trust throughout that process. Actively seeing people in this light of creation and vulnerability has shifted my once disheartened perspectives about humanity into flourishing friendships that expand the heart.

What changes are you noticing in your community or industry that deserves more attention?

In the realm of design, I’m noticing how having a practicing curiosity about various disciplines can actually enlighten the role of a designer—art, sociology, poetry, psychology, architecture, and beyond—and how this curiosity can create more compassionate, open-minded perspectives as we embrace, and work through, challenges impacting our society. I’m accepting that it’s perfectly OK and actually a gift of innovation to have multiple loves and interests.

Tell me about the happiest moment in your career. Describe the feeling, the moment - bring us there.

The happiest moment in my career to date is, without a doubt, the opening participatory performance that took place at a US Department of Arts & Culture Imagining, “Amplifying our Creative Power for Community Transformation.” I had the privilege of co-designing this experience with a dear friend and mentor, Mattice Haynes, June of 2015. She invited artist, Mike Molina, who created a piece that called in ancestors and other folks who influence, support, and inspire our continuing creative power. We gathered in a circle. You could see the colorful faces of youth, caregivers, activists, and teachers. Our bodies moved in rhythm. We made beats. We sang. Our energy was on fire and the flow being released between each of our bodies was undeniable. There was laughter and lightness, and I was so emotionally moved! You could feel the unveiling of collective potential and the hearts of those making a conscious decision to participate in the visioning of what can be.

Tell us something about yourself that we can’t find on Google.

So, a weird thing about myself you definitely won’t find on Google is that I like tiny objects. Tiny feathers, pinecones, bottles, whatever. Something about it gives me a rush of adoration and I want to keep it. If you’re a guest at my house, be prepared to drink out of an 8oz mason jar because that’s the only glassware I have.

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