The Black Artists + Designers Guild On Taking Creative Action
This feature is in the March/April Next Wave Issue. Click here to subscribe.
The Black Artists + Designers Guild (BADG) commits itself to centering ancestral futures by reclaiming narrative and joy for artists. Through creative action, BADG not only serves as a mutual aid community but as a collective voice that insists on liberation.
The Pottery Barn collaboration designers, including mother-daughter duo Penny Francis and Casi St. Julian, Malene Barnett and Lisa Turner. PHOTO BY KELLY MARSHALL
BADG fosters collaborations that celebrate creativity and culture through design. Its major collaborations, including January’s partnership with Pottery Barn, exemplify the decadence born through its members.
BADG’s Obsidian Virtual Concept House, The Mancala Lounge by Nikki Klugh Design COURTESY OF BADG
“It has been a huge shift in knowing there are other designers who are just like me, and all so different,” Danielle Fennoy, BADG member and founder of Revamp Interior Design, tells EDITION. “Knowing we can support each other through shared ventures and resources has been a wealth of information and opportunity. Its impact has been immeasurable in that way.”
Artist and activist Malene Barnett founded BADG in 2018 as a call to action against the historical inequities maintained in the art sphere. Black artists are continuously having the same conversations regarding the oppression imposed on them in the field. After connecting with various artists, Barnett had to respond to the vital need for a space of dialogue, passionate collaboration and family within the industry she loves.
BADG’s Blackouflage’s under creative direction of BADG Makers Leyden Lewis and Danielle Fennoy at Design Miami 2021 PHOTO BY AISHA ALI
“I feel our biggest accomplishment is that our members are empowered and they can show up as they are. I think that isn’t something an institution could give; that confidence can’t be bought,” says Barnett. “I see everyone working in a different way, the way that they are taking ownership and expressing themselves in their art, regardless of all the challenges we face.”
The guild’s collaboration with Pottery Barn PHOTO BY KELLY MARSHALL
Through its creative futures grant—a total of four $5,000 awards—Black undergraduate and graduate art and design students receive support for projects that, according to the guild, explore how “cultural traditions can transform to meet the demands of the futures we are building.” Along with the grant, recipients receive mentorship from BADG members, one-on-one network meetings and inclusion in its online proposal archive.
Inside the Obsidian Virtual Concept House. Moon House by Me and General Design COURTESY OF BADG
BADG is taking meaningful action that pushes far beyond the “diversity and inclusion” we see corporations fill with quotas. Founding BADG member Leyden Lewis, of Leyden Lewis Design Studio, emphasized how critical building the understanding and confidence through demand is: “What I learned to do through the guild is to ask myself, ‘What do my numbers look like?’ and ‘What do I want my numbers to look like?’”
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the guild relies on active membership and patron support to continue shifting the shape of success for artists. It believes that action builds equity, and equity changes systems.