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Meet Trailblazer Felicia Holman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Felicia Holman.

Felicia, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Lifelong Chicagoan, Gemini, artist and Prince fan. I’m a co-founder of Honey Pot Performance (‘HPP’; c. 2001) and Communication Director at Chicago’s venerable Links Hall (currently celebrating our 40th anniversary season). I am also a freelance writer/facilitator/curator/producer. I create/ present and support original interdisciplinary performance which engages audience and inspires community. Fortunately, I grew up in a household where art/performance and intellectual pursuits were adamantly nurtured so shortly after my tenure in corporate America came to an end in 2008, I made the conscious decision to galvanize my artistic practices into my new career path.

Though I’m a veteran performing artist/arts admin, I consider myself an “emerging” artrepreneur. My dynamic arts practices are inherently collaborative & interdisciplinary. Some career highlights of the past 18 months include: presenting on Prince and Blackness at the University of Salford’s ‘Purple Reign Interdisciplinary Conference’ (“on the life and legacy of Prince Rogers Nelson”); contributing essayist to HPP’s debut artist book ‘Ma(s)king Her’ (published by Candor Arts); travelling with Links Hall to Japan & Haiti to support respective artistic exchanges; presented my first commissioned solo performance (“Wassup w/That YAC?!” @ MCA Chicago); co-writing and starring in ‘Hair Story’ — OpenTV’s latest original web tv pilot; facilitating a weekly performance workshop series in South Shore (the neighborhood I grew up in), as part of Free Street Theater’s “Papelitos Guardados” storytelling residency; guest blogging/ curating/ presenting.

As you can see,  I’m a passionate multi-hyphenate. I truly relish my dynamic “artrepreneurial” life and sum it up in 3 words—’Creator, Connector, Conduit’.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The journey towards my unapologetic Black Girl Magic and artrepreneurial autonomy has not been easy, by any means. #thestrugglecontinues #thestruggleisreal

However, despite the so-called strikes against me (race, gender, class, age, etc) what has helped me most on my arts career path has been my spiritual compass as well as the genuine love, support and role models I’ve been blessed with–fellow creatives of color (and a few select allies) with whom I make community by simply showing up as my most authentic self. My communities and networks continue to show me how valuable I am as a mentor/ collaborator/ curator/ facilitator. #mynetworkismynetworth #relationshipsareeverything

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
My lovely friend and fellow artist, SAIC’s Denenge Akpem, recently penned a letter of recommendation for me. In it she states, “Felicia Holman is a gifted wordsmith and cultural visionary, shaping new worlds with a trickster’s skill through essays, television scripts, and an intimate, highly original performance style that melds critical inquiry, audience interactivity, personal revelation, and a sense of humor so good it makes you pee your pants.  She is a leader and a mover-and-shaker within Chicago’s art community and internationally, never ceasing in efforts toward equity and the creation of links between communities and genres. From Prince to Honey Pot, Felicia’s nuanced, cross-disciplinary work is a vital and necessary contribution to contemporary art practice and institutional critique, illuminating every space so honored by her dynamic presence.”

The cornerstone of my arts career is “creating, presenting and supporting interdisciplinary performance”; the type of performance which engages audience and inspires community. The type of performance which extols nuanced stories of everyday people, most especially Black women. In this moment, I’m most proud that I’ve been able to witness my work — creatively & administratively — impact & inspire fellow marginalized makers to create more collaboratively, develop audience more strategically and do it all in ways most authentic to their unique/ project-based metrics of success.

What sets me apart from others in my field?…  Real Talk: my Chi-Town savvy & resourcefulness, emotional intelligence and holistic work ethic…also, my certified “Purple Army Soldier” status! #foreverinmylife

What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a young woman just starting her career?
I’ve got 3 primary bullet points for consideration:

1) Clarity PRECEDES Focus—To get laser sharp clarity on your projects & goals, start with “Why?”. Ask yourself “Why?” about every aspect of the endeavor you’re pursuing (just like a 5-year old) til you have satisfactorily answered each “Why?”. Then, you’ll literally have the nucleus of your values, which will allow you to prioritize and “cut the wheat from the chafe” much quicker.

2) Know your market worth AND your leverage—When you’ve clarified & defined your own success metrics, you can better articulate your non-negotiables. Remember: Only YOU can determine what’s an “opportunity”, for YOU!

3) Apply Felicia’s “R.E.A.R.” Method—“Research, Execute, Assess, Repeat” when approaching new projects/ processes and relationships.

Who are some other women who inspire you & why?
To name a few: Betty Holman (my mom), Dr. Margaret Burroughs, Honey Pot Performance, Grace Jones, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Giovanni, Ntozake Shange, Audre Lorde, Combahee River Collective, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt, Diahann Carroll, Katherine Dunham, Misty Copeland, MC Lyte, Janelle Monae, Janet Mock, Crissle West, Issa Rae, Samantha Irby, Kia LeBeija. Why?… Because in their unique ways, they each model Black women’s empowerment/ autonomy through unfettered & embodied creativity.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Sharmon Jarmon (personal pic), Tonika Lewis (Althea at Links, Althea at Pritzker), Matthew Hickey (Links To Japan), Matthew Avignone (Wassup w/That Yac?), Ally Almore (Crafting A Creative Career), Jackie Rivas (Hair Story BTS), Greg India/Gorilla Tango Burlesque (Rack Of Khan), Harold Pride (Purple Reign Conference)

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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