Name: LaDara McKinnon
Location: Charlotte, NC
Bio: LaDara McKinnon is a published multimedia artist focusing in Ceramics and Painting in Charlotte, NC. She grew up in Japan and Hawaii, where her love for art began. LaDara uses abstract, texture, and mark-making as tools, with purpose and meaning, in her paintings and clay forms. Most recently, her adventure of studying abroad at Burren School of Art in Clare, Ireland has enriched her pottery and painting perspective and aesthetics.
LaDara graduated with a BA in Fine Arts with minors in Psychology and Women & Gender studies from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Fall 2017. Her work has been published in the 2016 and 2018 issues of Sanskrit Literary-Arts Magazine and invitational exhibited at The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts Museum in Charlotte, NC. Her work has been exhibited numerous times around Charlotte, NC and in Atlanta, GA. She is a Professional Artist, Assistant Fine Art Instructor at Holt School of Fine Art and Community Impact Instructor and Studio Assistant at Clayworks.
Describe your current role or experience as an time artist and active community member.
I am a Community Impact Ceramics Instructor at Clayworks in Charlotte, NC. Clayworks a non-profit, partners with Culture Blocks to provide arts to the Mecklenburg County. I go out to local libraries, parks, recreation centers, and food deserts. I teach hand building and wheel throwing to individuals from the youth to disable seniors. The programs are free and for everyone. I've also worked with the Art's For Life and National Alliance of Mental Illness by donating and auctioning off my paintings.
What prompted you to give back to the community in the form of art?
I was looking for an art position that worked with the community and that I could do what I'm passionate about, which is making art and teaching. Moving around a lot I've lived in many communities that was all about giving back and being not only a Community, but a family. That is why giving back is so important. Besides, that's another reason why I LOVE working at Clayworks.
How did your education/work experience prepared you for community involvement?
Growing up in Okinawa, Japan in grade school, we always had community involvement by learning the traditions, customs, gathering with the locals. We had translates, people are age range, and we did art together!!
In terms of mobilizing the arts in your community, what has been your biggest challenge/obstacle and most valuable accomplishment thus far?
My biggest obstacle is dealing with food desert areas because I get emotional and attached to the children I work with. For some programs i am with the children for ten weeks and then you move to a new area of children to work with. I don't think I've overcome this because this is what drives me to keep going. The most valuable accomplishment is seeing the kids light up when they get their pottery back after they have been glazed fired.
What is some advice or tips you would give to a fellow BGWP who is interested in cultivating the arts in her community?
First, sometimes you have to volunteer your time or art to the Community for free. Second, look for grants that will fund you for helping the community or start a non-profit organization that's dedicated to helping the Community.
What is your ultimate goal and/or vision with your work in the community?
I would love to start a non-profit that teaches fine art to underprivileged communities. Also, starting a program dedicated to helping food deserts.
What does being a "black girl who paints" mean to you?
The first thing that comes to mind is "diamond in the rough," because we all have a stigma attached, yet we are so much more! Being a black girl who paints also means that I can help expand the way others view us. I break down stereotypes about black women and what we are capable of. My art influences others to feel comfortable enough to explore their creativity and not be limited by the expectation of others. I love the feeling when people appreciate me for the artist that I am.