Artist to Watch: C. Aliah James
Pulling Arts & Education Together to Shape Community
C. Aliah James was born in Houston, TX and attended Glassell School of Art (MFAH), High school for Performing and Visual Arts, Folber Pottery, & Community Artist’s Collective. She started creating art early on, and as soon as she could, her mother (the cellist) started taking advantage of community based art programs. She was fortunate to have direct conversation with these programs, not only through her mother, but also her Pulitzer prized nominated poetic grandmother, who subsequently started Houston’s first African American Museum of Art - Adept.
James’s work pays homage to those things that have influenced her creativity; cowboys, music, Louisiana living, religion, children, and intentional details. She’s inspired by antique photographs, Jazz, Christian Orthodox iconography, rural life, creole culture, personal struggles, and the history and lives of artists past.
When did you first take interest in visual art?
At the age of 7. I was enrolled in Glassell school of Art, Houston TX.
Who were your early influences?
My grandmother- she was the first African American to have an all-Black artists Gallery in Houston TX.
What medium to you find yourself particularly drawn to?
I love metal and clay formations. All mediums are up for grabs, and whatever is most accessible to work with, is the one I grab. At the moment, it happens to be acrylic paints.
How have your artistic inclinations changed over the years?
I’ve gone from being an artist, to becoming an artist that teaches. Learning how to teach learners has grown my skill set exponentially.
How do you feel about the opportunities in Baton Rouge?
Pickings are slim. My favorite work is conceptual saints, however, I have been limited to make more cliché work (musicians. They sell). No one seems to want a crying Jesus hanging on the wall. Lol
How did you decide to form Les Jeunes Artistes de Louisiane?
As an educator in the arts, I was always looking for creative places to display my student’s work. I found that Zoes Kitchen was a great avenue to explore. My Aunt Debbie Allen happened to be in town the weekend of our grand opening. She came to see the exhibit, was most impressed with the quality of work my students were creating. She called her sister, (my other Aunt,) Phylicia Rashad, and the together they convinced me to go further with community outreach. To make sure that the ball got rolling, they agreed to be on the board of the organization.
What does the organization offer?
Intensive summer workshops in photography, Painting and ceramics. The classes are small by design, for a more personal training, special needs and day-long trips across the southern triangle of Louisianan. No other workshops are as intentionally developed for the whole child than these.
What upcoming events do you have?
Open enrollment for summer workshops will be posted on the website April 1st (Debbie Allen DAY)-. Spaces are limited. (Lejeunesartistes.com) A showing of my Black Cowboys and Jazz musicians will be on display at the Funky Flee in Sunset, Louisiana. An auction of the work I have hanging in the rectory of the St. Charles Church of Grand Coteau will be sometime in April!