Many know Northside resident Ed Genesis as a rapper, performance poet, and social activist, but fewer people may know him as a visual artist, which happens to be his first art form.
As the first featured Northside Art Hop artist, Genesis’ drawings will be on display this Friday at the Northside Association for Community Development. In 2019, the NACD plans to host monthly Art Hops. They will feature neighborhood artists, a Talent Showcase for performing artists, and neighborhood vendors, says Genesis, who is collaborating with NACD Executive Director Mattie Jordan-Woods to organize the events.
“We just really want to inspire and show that creativity is not just dreaming all the time,” says Genesis. “Especially with young blacks on the Northside, it’s imperative that they be able to see that we can create, that there’s power in creating, that people are interested in what we’re creating, that we can actually express ourselves through art.”
Genesis, who will be present at the Art Hop to discuss his work, has been drawing since elementary school. “I never passed art in school,” he says. “I wanted to express myself, but art in school was more about doing what they’re telling you within these lines. No one told me to how to develop the natural gifts that I have.”
Unlike rapping, Genesis says, drawing gives him the chance to “share some of the pictures in my mind,” he says. “I am happy I can draw because some of the things I think, if I have to describe them, I don’t know that people would understand them.”
Genesis believes strongly in the power of art to offer hope and promote confidence, especially in youth who may be struggling with difficult circumstances.
“Kids are told to focus on books, go to school. They’re told, ‘If you have a dream, make a backup plan.’ I believe, and Mattie Jordan-Woods believes, give them the tools,” says Genesis.
The monthly art hops will celebrate established Northside artists, but will also give youth a chance to showcase their work. One of the scheduled January artists, in fact, is a student at Kalamazoo Central High School who Genesis says “can draw circles around me.”
As the neighborhood launches the Northside Cultural Business District, a plan passed by the city commission in November, the focus on art is in alignment with one of the district's key strategies to promote cultural identity within the community.
In addition to the monthly Art Hops, the NACD also has plans to build a recording studio to support the many young rappers and hip-hop artists in the neighborhood.
“Shout out to Ms. Mattie Jordan-Woods for not just being part of the community, but for opening up her doors and allowing the opportunity for the next generation,” says Genesis. “I hug her every time I see her. Not just a welcoming hug. Sometimes I just hold on to her a little while. I think it’s so awesome she’s opened up the door to art and to youth.
“Who knows. The next Picasso might be coming right around the corner.”
The Northside Art Hop will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7 at the NACD, 612 N. Park Street. On the Ground Northside will also be present to celebrate its neighborhood coverage with a display of Northside stories. For more information about becoming a featured artist or vendor, please contact Genesis at firstname.lastname@example.org.