From skyscrapers and custom homes, to product development and interior design solutions, the amazing talent of Black architects and designers is on full display everywhere, every day.
And yet they remain unfamiliar names and faces – almost completely absent from mainstream media.
Here, we’ll highlight the rich and complex careers of accomplished design professionals. A celebration of the unique voice, innovation, and inspiration they’re bringing to the design field.
Proof that careers in architecture and design are viable career options and direct routes to a life of success.
Meet The 5 Black Women Conquering the Design & Art World
1. Nina Chanel Abney, Narrative Figure Painter
It was Nina’s thesis show at Parsons School of Design that put her on the fast track to fame.
Titled “Class of 2007”, it depicted her white classmates as black prison inmates and in sharp contrast, Nina, the only black student, as a white prison guard. Owners of the prestigious Chelsea gallery took one look at the painting and signed Nina for her very own show.
Shortly thereafter, renowned collectors Don and Mera Rubell purchased Class of 2007 based solely on a photograph!
The large-scale painting and several other pieces were soon selected for the couple’s famous Miami exhibition, 30 Americans. Just like that, Nina’s work was included in a celebration of the most prolific African American artists of the last three decades.
With feats like this, it’s no wonder she’s been hailed as the next irascrible by Paper Magazine.
An artist in residence at the Gateway Project Gallery in Newark, New Jersey’s Gateway Center, the magnitude of having her work displayed alongside Kara Walker, Nick Cave, Robert Colescott, Kehinde Wiley, and Jean-Michel Basquiat – to whom Nina is frequently compared – does not escape her. Her childhood desire to become a famed artist continues to inspires her commitment to hard work.
Her first solo exhibition, Dealer’s Choice, an exploration of the paintings, watercolors and collages she has created over the last ten years, debuted at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art February 16 thru July 17, 2017.
2. Nikki Chu, Acclaimed Interior & Fashion Accessory Designer
Renowned interior, fashion, and product designer, Nikki Chu has a portfolio very few can contend with. A lifestyle and design expert for several TV networks including HGTV, Fine Living, Food Network and E!, her unique aesthetic is in constant popular demand.
Even the White House turned to her for design direction for the design of Sasha and Malia Obama’s bedrooms.
You probably have pieces from her Nikki Chu Home line propped up in your living room as we speak. If not, browsing Wayfair will guarantee access to her affordable luxuries.
A Toronto native, she landed a prestigious job in Miami as a creative director after graduating from the International Academy of Design in Toronto. Designing since she was a child, Nikki didn’t ignore her passion’s pull into the field. Nikki encourages women to aspire to greatness – hard work guarantees huge rewards.
3. Devanne Pena, Architect on the Rise
In September 2016, Devanne discovered that she was only the second Black female architect to become licensed in Austin, Texas.
Her licensing comes squarely on the heels of a completed intern development program she attended while working full-time at a commercial contracting firm. She earned her B.Arch of Architecture and Bachelors of Environmental Design in Architecture from North Carolina State University in 2012.
Devanne has paid her dues and is ready to make her mark in the world.
Committed to continuing her professional growth , she is astutely aware of the influence she can have on the communities she serves. She intends to use her career path in architecture to enhance the freedom of others and improve the representation of Black women in the field. “I am cultivating my knowledge & passion within the profession to become a model, resource, and philanthropist in the field”.
4. Neffi Walker, Award-winning Fashion Maven, Custom Furniture, Retail, and Interior Designer
Affectionately referred to as The Decor Goddess, this Black Women in Media award winner is a creative force to be reckoned with.
A cultural tastemaker, Neffi’s influence has left footprints across nearly every genre of design. A passionate woman in general, her online transparency about life and love is as powerful as the body of work she’s created.
Her accessibility via social media has created a legion of fans – for her work as much as her ‘girlfriend-in-our-heads’ status. She seems to take it all in fashion-forward style.
Her affinity for fade-to-black interiors has become a style moniker for her trend setting interior design aesthetic.
Her devotion to blackness may explain why she named her McGinley Square (Jersey City, NJ) boutique, Le Noir Home (The Black House). An eclectic array of carefully curated, luxe, and affordable art, custom furniture and home décor, Neffi has a created a gorgeous home away from home for her customers.
5. Delphine Diallo, Acclaimed Photographer & Visual Artist
This multicultural visionary creates fascinating portraiture and mixed media collages that give voice to the complexities of spirituality, sexuality, mythology, history, science, and race.
Her work has an unwavering focus on celebrating women and the unsung heroes of society.
Although she has lived in New York since 2008, her global travels remain the core of her work’s inspiration. Her commitment to globalism energizes her work and ultimately her growth as a creative entrepreneur – connecting her deeply to numerous human experiences.
Digital platforms are also one of her favorite playgrounds. Her Instagram game is strong.
She receives great satisfaction from sharing her journey with the world and appreciates the collaboration generated there. In addition to an ability to make new friendships, she is inspired by the freedom artists have in this digital space – it is independent curation at its best.
2016 was a busy exhibition year for Delphine. Her work was celebrated at The Unseen Photo Festival in Amsterdam, Swizz Beats’ No Commission Show in New York, and Subabiennale, The International Art Fair in Senegal. Her catalog of powerful imagery continues to grow as life’s adventures enrich her artistic development and reach.
Follow Delphine, Nina, Neffi, Devanne and Nikki on Instagram and other social media outlets for information about what’s next for these creatives.
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