Photos by Jessi Grant
This is the first in a series of two pieces by Contributing Writer Jessi Grant exploring No Color, a new campaign dedicated to creating a foundation of diversity and positivity within the Chicago arts and creative scene.
After a tiring night of waiting tables, I made my way to Bronzeville to cover No Color’s pioneering event. Upon entering Insit Studios sometime after 11pm, I was greeted by the beats of DJ Al Cheeks and the poetic words of one of the event’s attendees. The crowd stood close and attentive, some waiting eagerly to step up to the mic. I became quickly enchanted by the contagious energy of the room, leaving behind my post-work fatigue.
Established by long-time friends Vee Miyagi and Steven Reaves, No Color is a campaign with the ultimate goal to unite artists from diverse backgrounds to do positive work for the community while reducing racial tensions within the arts. In order to meet their ambitions, the campaign plans to maneuver throughout various communities of Chicago using all forms of art and creativity as its driving force. Miyagi decided to house their first event at Insit Studios after gaining the support of owner Koto and learning about the charitable work his establishment has done for the Bronzeville neighborhood.
Koto hosted the June 21 event alongside Frankie Robinson of Power 92.3. The event opened by engaging attendants in the filming of a TV pilot In The Loop, a production of Chicago’s 2 Guys on the Reel. Shortly after, musical performers took to the mic including Ace League, Freaky Dray, and event organizers Vee Miyagi, Reggie Ruler, Illiad, and Steven Reaves (going by his stage name King Reaves). Featured Jamla Records artist Add-2 performed the longest set of the evening with drummer Donte Webb aka Tay Sticks. The performance portion of the evening also allowed time for an impromptu cypher led by artists in attendance.
After the performances, the space remained open for attendees to connect with one another and view the artwork adorning the walls. Osei Agyeman-Badu, a featured artist in the gallery space, conducted a live example of Pyrography, a practice in which the artist uses a small torch and other various instruments to burn wood in order to create portraits. Throughout the duration of the evening, Badu worked on a piece depicting Malcom X. Additional depictions of other leaders and well-known artists in the Black community, including Erykah Badu and Nelson Mandela, sparked admiration and discussion among No Color’s guests.
Originally intending to exist in the event as a spectator, I ended up having several engaging conversations with both the event organizers and attendees. I felt part of both the space and community of artists and inspired minds within. From my own experiences and those I observed in my surroundings, it was clear that No Color succeeded in building a community based on honest, meaningful, and supportive connections. A portion of the event’s proceeds will go to The Center for New Horizons, a non-profit organization assisting children, youth, and families in Bronzeville and Riverdale.