ArtRat is excited to feature poet and artist Journeè Evans at both of our big holiday sales events:
- Journeè has sourced outstanding West Michigan artists and artisans for ArtRat’s Holiday ArtMart (Saturday, Dec. 3, from 11am to 8pm and Sunday, Dec. 4, from 12-6pm).
- And during our Third Thursday event Dec. 15 from 5-9pm, Journeè will host a poetry paint-and-pour at ArtRat as part of her new Sol’s Sessions performance series.
ArtRat Social Media Manager Maddy Visscher sat down with Journeè (aka Mama Sol’Ja) to learn more about her vision for downtown Grand Rapids.
Journeè Evans’ passion for Grand Rapids art, poetry and community gained new perspective in January 2022, when she relocated downtown from the city’s southeast side.
“I wanted to know my surroundings more, to expand,” she told ArtRat. “That’s why I love living in Grand Rapids: You're always going to run into a different crowd and new culture that you can explore and bring in knowledge and connections. We have something special, something a lot of people are searching for.”
Bringing communities and cultures together is central to Journeè’s work. In our neighborhood alone, Mama Sol’Ja has performed at 106 Gallery’s Thing to Do Thursdays, at GRNoir’s Vino & Verses reading series, and at The Hai-Cuu Experience and Saturday Musicians’ Co-op here at ArtRat. On Nov. 4, she co-hosted Pass the Mic GR at the Wealthy Theatre at the invitation of co-founder Shayna "Akanke" Marie.
“I met some of the most loving, caring and amazing people” at Pass the Mic, Journeè said. “It was one of those opportunities that you don't get unless you know that this is something you're supposed to bring to the world. There’s so many amazing things that come through Grand Rapids, and a lot of people don’t get to see them.”
Journeè has also become an ambassador for C4 (the Community Collaboration on Climate Change), a grassroots organization that is working to make Grand Rapids a model city for climate-change mitigation, adaptation and climate justice for its residents.
In her role with C4, Journeè will work closely with the residents of Grand Rapids to learn the specifics of what our community needs to move forward. (You can download more information on C4 here and here.)
Her experience at Grand Rapids’ art venues inspired Journeè’s latest project: Sol’s Sessions, a collaborative forum for the city’s emerging artists, poets, singers and dancers that she plans to host throughout the city. “The idea was actually born out of the idea for a dance group,” she said, “but I fell back in love with writing poetry. So it became a space for everything: You can come and speak, listen, cry, dance, even paint or sketch!
"Creativity doesn’t take from anything, or anyone — it simply gives. When you gain creativity, you gain freedom and independence. It gives you the courage to live on without fear.”
Mama Sol’Ja will host a “Sunflower World” edition of Sol’s Sessions on Nov. 18 at the Wealthy Theatre Community Media Center. The event begins at 6pm with performances by six West Michigan poets, leading into an open mic. “I want anybody who has a talent to come and show it so they can get their flowers and that love,” she said. “That's what the Sunflower World is about.” To keep the flame lit as we head into dark winter months, you’re invited to dress in yellow and join the celebration.
Bringing it all to ArtRat
In December, Journeè will apply her community-building talents to ArtRat, introducing new vendors to the gallery at the Holiday ArtMart, then hosting a Sol’s Session that features poetry alongside participatory painting. “I get to bring in this great community of people who became entrepreneurs in their own right,” she said. “They went out and they actually did something! It's so amazing to me to see that grit.
“COVID really just stopped a lot of things. Now that people are up and running, I want to really encourage us to gain as much as we can gain because we all went through so much. I was thrilled to be able to give people that opportunity, whether it's local artists, or younger people who want to pursue creative endeavors.
“I’m thrilled that I get to be able to bring people a new, positive way,” Journeè said, “just to show themselves and be able to express whatever thoughts they have on their mind. We're definitely going to change it over here. It’s important to give voice to change — and that’s what we’re doing here.”