Today we’d like to introduce you to Amani Washington.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’ve always been artistic. At a very young age, I started to make art. I grew up in a family of artists and musicians. My dad was a music teacher and my brother Kamasi is Saxophone player. I spent a lot of my time watching them create and practice with their instruments. My journey began living on the East coast during the school year. While visiting the West Coast for the holidays and in the summer. I experienced the coastal differences in art, fashion, and music. Living in Maryland influenced me a lot. DC and some parts Maryland were called chocolate city at that time before gentrification. I was amazed at how innovative and creative my peers were. I always found inspiration from people or visionary concepts. The summers I would visit in LA, my dad would play at the World Stage for Jam night in Leimert Park. The jam session would start around eight at night and wouldn’t end until twelve in the morning or later. Me and my sister would struggle to stay awake; dosing off in the white plastic chairs. Though it was hard to appreciate then I grew an appreciation for jazz instrumentalist and the power of music.
In the summer, my dad would take me and my sister to art museums like the Getty and LACMA. I grew up around creatively talented peers. I always strived to bring something different and clever to the art and music realm. Music and art always went hand and hand. I was never separated from the two growing up and even now. Another form of art that inspired me was dance. Every summer, I would dance at my aunt and uncle’s dance studio at the (Lula Washington Dance Theatre). I spent most of my summers learning multiple styles of dance in their summer dance intensive program. And might I say it was intensive! Intensive with love, black culture, discipline and creativity. Some of the styles of dance I learned were Jazz, African, Ballet, Afro Caribbean, and Horton modern technique. A huge roll in the arts community are the opportunities that represent themselves during the learning process. In 2011, me and couple of Lula’s dancers landed an audition for Nike to dance at their headcounters in Beaverton, Oregon for a show.
After the first show I got called back two weeks later to complete the second show with their Nike dancers. I was seventeen at the time and was blessed to have gotten that opportunity. More importantly, that journey started from a humble place in the dance studio. My art journey first started when I auditioned an artwork piece for the NAACP arts contest at Hamilton High school in 2008. It was the first time my work had been judged by actual judges instead of family members and friends. I won third place and was happy that I took the initiative to try. I had commissioned artwork pieces throughout my journey. In 2016 My brother Kamasi Washington started his Epic tour and asked if I would create some posters and sticker designs for their merchandise. We didn’t even have time for a test run to see if the merchandise would sell or not. I was nervous that my designs wouldn’t appeal to his audience. My brother let me know that they sold out of my stickers and posters almost every show.
From that moment forward, I felt more confident in my ability to make relatable art and be able to preserver under pressure. Every now and then, I would make and do small projects for my brother whenever he got an idea for something cool. In 2017 my brother got a call from the Whitney museum to be apart of the Whitney Biennial in New York. He asked me if I would collaborate with him on the project. I had six weeks to complete and cultivate six oil paintings for which are known as the Harmony of Difference. The only reference I had to creating the body of work was my brother’s idea of the project, the Harmony of Difference music and the titles of its songs. I listened to the music to find my vision for the paintings. Each painting represented one out of the six songs on the EP. I was nervous but determined to make it artwork. I wanted to create something legendary. It’s hard to figure out whether you’re art is amazing or not until you see the look on people’s faces. I wanted the art to match the height of my brother’s music. I was more than proud of the finished product.
After this collaboration, I knew that I could tap into a totally different level when pushed past my limits. June 2020, I collaborated with Terrace Martin. I created the artwork for his “Dinner Party” Album. The album featured my brother Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper, and 9th Wonder. I was especially grateful for this opportunity that happened during COVID-19. Working with Terrace Martin was very exciting. He wanted art with unique characterization referencing music. The original character was conceived in 2016. This character was made specifically for t-shirt and merchandise designs. I designed different versions of each member of the group that complemented their music and music personality. I loved the end result. Not to mention how well the music and the album art meshed well together as a whole project. Overall I am humbled to have worked with these amazingly talented group of musicians.
Has it been a smooth road?
No. Lol. Walking by faith is never easy, although some of us make it look easy. The finished product will always seem more possible than the process. I’ve definitely had my share of learning experiences both in business and my personal life. I’m still learning and growing in the art industry. But I’m proud of my accomplishments despite the trials, tribulations and naysayers. I’ve become a product of creating something from nothing and inspired others.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m known for Collaborating and creating merchandise. I have been experimenting with different themes during quarantine. My main focus right now is to step outside of my comfort zone and discover something new. I’m creating a new body of work and I hope to have a show either during or after COVID-19 ends. I’m proud of being who I am as a person and artist. What sets me apart from others is my story.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
It depends. But if you’re a creative you are in the right place. The only difference is how concentrated and like-minded a lot of creatives are. Sometimes you think you’re the only one doing something until you find more people in your local area doing the same thing. Living in LA pushes you to think outside of the box. In many cases way too outside of the box. It doesn’t matter where you start when you have a God-given talent. But from my experience, I have learned that focusing on your craft, working hard, treating people the way you want to be treated and networking is a great start to make it. Also, making sure you’re engaging yourself with people who are succeeding in what you’re doing or want to do in the future. Most of all allowing yourself to be exposed to the possibilities. The LA art scene can improve by providing more opportunities for black male and female artists to collaborate in the corporate realm of art.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: amanixwashington