Erika is a creative with strategy, seeing the immediate difference art can make in the lives of the community. Erika joins a legacy of creatives leading meaningful engagement in the Glass Farm neighborhood. As a poet and spoken word artist, she brings a fresh, spicy, and thoughtful approach to the work.
From a very young age, Erika knew she had a gift for words and spent hours and lifetimes inside blank journals throughout her youth. Her creativity blossomed as she became aware of not only the power of words but the power of her own capacity to use words to create meaningful art in a way that others could feel her vision. She founded Velvet Poetry Productions as a very young woman in response to that empowerment and continues to produce independent and commissioned workshops and multi-sensory event experiences facilitated and infused by her voice, vision, vibrancy, and verse. Like blending spices for the perfect turmeric latte, Erika knows what extra ingredients are needed for her poetic recipes to work their magic in a performance space. Even though writing is a solitary act, Erika’s superpower is her skill as a collaborator. Her performance of Neighbors Rooted at Glass Street Live in 2019 brought in dancers and DJs to help create a performance around her words. As the lead artist for SWAY, she helped guide a new curriculum for community organizers and socially conscious artists. In addition to working in Glass Farm as the Creative Strategist for GHC’s work, Erika is currently an artist-in-residence with the City of Chattanooga, helping to shape an artistic vision and creative process of the city’s projects and systems as a City Artist. Erika is the recipient of the 2020 Chattanooga Business Elite’s Best in the Arts Black Excellence award. She performed her poem, Longitude Of The City, as the introduction to Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke’s 2020 State of the City Address, and is a frequent collaborator with The Chattery, Creative Mornings, and Hunter Museum’s Vision and Verse. Using the language of socially conscious art and her impact as a creative conduit, Erika’s approach to community work is gentle, steady, direct, and welcoming. She is inspired by love, life, brilliant laughing, and cooking. She believes resilience is a “woman wearing a high heel on 1 foot, combat boot on the other, eyelashes, and a helmet. She must be ready to bounce back. Women are resilient by nature. We birth people, projects and possibilities.”
“You can‘t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.”