#WeAllDeserveArts: Kayla Harley – Independent Artist & Dance Our Legacy Founder

February 19, 2021

It’s often said, many times by Artists, that Art brings life and meaning—acts as language and a bridge of connection to their lives. Where individuals are not able to express themselves completely, it is Art that gives voice and to speak for and through them. Deserving, Capable, Able, Worthy–we are all deserving of anything that edifies humankind–this in exchange for the beauty and inspiration that Art offers us. Art places context into our lives, it creates paradigms that help us adopt new schools of thinking and provides a conduit to which we can move through; constantly to define and redefine narratives from different perspectives. It’s a safe space where we can explore the infinite, spark new dialogue, ignite old conversations and/or simply to just be a witness to it. 

Art (Creation) is a pure form of expression, with or without formal training this is a gift that inherently we all possess. There is something so powerful about walking by a jaw dropping painting along the sidewalk only to discover that it was created by an anonymous self-taught painter. Access to art brings us closer to our Spirit and heightens our awareness in the world. Much like medicine, an Artist needs this to be free; it enables them to perform within their element and to navigate in the larger world. I refer to this concept in the first chapter of my book “ A Broke Dancer’s Guide to Success”, the concept of Creative Translation, which refers to how learned skills can be applied with the right attitude and little guidance, towards anything. The performative and presentational nature of an Artist makes for an experience like none other.

Kehinde Wiley, who recontextualized urban culture, placing Black public figures, musicians and rappers into a royal court setting in portraits, is an example of this Black Excellence. After all, Art is necessary, it is the bread and water that nourishes us–it is the pulse of the people. In works like this and like Sarafina! featuring Whoopi Goldberg, a musical film which depicts the revolt led by high-school students against the oppression and brutality of the South African Apartheid, brings audiences into the reality of global communities. And while the highlights of the story, focus on its set, the actors and lines– there are aspects including “the makings of” a work that are just as vital to the edification of humankind. Being in the process of a work is rewarding–it demonstrates the level of integrity that’s required to manifest an idea and put it into form. 

The caliber and craftsmanship that it takes to shape-shift in the way that Wiley and like other conscious Artists’ do today is from the passion and deep rooted connection to Ancestry that’s needed to be both relevant and captivating to their viewers. Art is a learning experience, specifically as it pertains to Black and Brown peoples, the resilience that Africans displayed during the time of entrapment and throughout the Trans-Atlantic Trade route, to enslavement well into the period of indoctrination remains as part of our Black/African-American bloodline and history. While U.S. American archivists present polished and curated versions of artifacts that carefully remind us of what “once was,” remnants of this oppression in for example the Diasporic regions of the Caribbean and South America are still very alive and visible today. It is through Art, the folkloric stories that show forth in song, dance, film, graphics, textile materials and even the food that bear “….these truths, to be self-evident that all men are….” indeed not equal. So when asked the question, why are we all deserving of the Arts? Whether for healing, hope or help, we are deserving to know the truth– Art does that, it reveals it.

Kayla L. Harley–a native and resident of the Washington DC Metropolitan Area, is an international dance scholar, artrepreneur, curator, director and self-published writer who is dedicated to being a gateway for positive change and impact in the Arts Community. She has performed with dance collectives, projects and companies as an ensemble member and soloist as well as on Broadway and Television. She is a member of the Next GEN Leadership Committee for: NAACP, IABD, and TAMA and founded the Inaugural Prince George’s County Merit-based Dance Scholarship entitled Dance Our Legacy. 

Website: www.ceocreative.org Instagram: @ceoincarts

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