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The Creative Voice with Dea Jenkins | Everyday Spirituality | connect.faith

by , | Aug 2, 2022 | connect.faith, everyday spirituality

This week on Everyday Spirituality, Debbie speaks with Dea Jenkins about how she found her creative voice, how she formed the creative community, the Inbreak Collective, and how she balances the growth of simultaneous creative endeavors.

Learn more about Dea and her work at https://www.deastudios.com.

Learn more about the Inbreak Collective at https://www.inbreak.co


Everyday Spirituality with Dea Jenkins

[00:00:00] This is Everyday Spirituality,

[00:00:03] a podcast where we explore the stories of people whose spiritual practices fill them up for the journey of everyday life. I’m pastor Debbie Bronkema, leader of an online community called connect.faith

[00:00:17] where creativity, spirituality, and justice meet. Music and production by Evan Closser.

[00:00:27] Debbie Bronkema: This is Everyday Spirituality with connect.faith. I am Debbie Bronkema and I’m here today with Dea Jenkins. Dea is an interdisciplinary artist and the CEO of Dea Studios, which works at the intersection points of creativity, social healing, and faith. Dea also serves as the director of Inbreak, which is an organization dedicated to bringing together artists of any medium and any race to promote social healing and transform individuals and communities.

[00:00:59] I’m so glad that you’re here with us today! Welcome.

[00:01:02] Dea Jenkins: Thank you for having me! I’m so excited to be here.

[00:01:06] Debbie Bronkema: So I just thought we’d get started by asking you where you began as an artist. Where did that voice begin with you?

[00:01:15] Dea Jenkins: I have a bit of an unusual story. Like sometimes you’ll hear of artists who started painting or drawing or dancing since they were like two years old or something like that.

[00:01:26] I didn’t really begin my creative journey until I was in my early twenties. So it’s a little bit different for me.

[00:01:34] Debbie Bronkema: So what got you started? What got you excited about art?

[00:01:40] Dea Jenkins: I was definitely in a period of life where I was trying to figure out what on earth I was here for. I had a dream of being a professional athlete, and I was pursuing that track for a while all the way up until college.

[00:01:54] And my freshman year in college things weren’t really clicking, and I was having a difficult time just trying to feel like I was in the right place. And I dropped out of college and spent some time with my family. And over the summer, I just did a little bit of nothing and just gave myself a lot of room to breathe.

[00:02:12] God bless my parents for allowing me to take that time to really just kind of be and exist. But I remember during that time also going to visit a family member, a cousin of mine, and I was just kind of telling her, you know, I wasn’t really feeling, I was in the right space and it just seemed like things weren’t really flowing. And she turned to me and said words I will never ever forget. She said, "Dea, what is your purpose?" And as soon as she said that, I was like, "What do you mean purpose?" No one ever told me that such a thing exists. I had never really lived with the concept of being here for a reason. And so as soon as she asked that question, I just kind of went on this journey of trying to discover what my purpose was.

[00:02:51] And I remember thinking, "Well, if anyone knows it would be God, like, who else would be able to tell me, but God, right?" And so I prayed to God about it. And I said, "If I have a purpose, show it to me." And from that prayer on so many things started to unfold. And I still remember being in my parents’ house one evening just kind of bored. Again, I wasn’t really doing much. And I just saw this little ad on the side of my computer screen for the Art Institute of Houston. And, to this day, don’t know why I clicked on it, but I knew that I was hungry for something different. And so I called the admissions office and just spoke with them. And I don’t quite know how they decided to accept me.

[00:03:24] I didn’t really have like a professional portfolio or anything like that. But once I got accepted, I started some basic kind of general classes, you know, like you’re learning perspective, or you’re learning color theory, that kind of thing. And in those early classes, that is when I began to discover that I had so many creative gifts that I wasn’t aware of. I didn’t know I could paint or draw. I had doodled before, but like just in class, you know, if I was bored, taking notes, that kind of thing. So I didn’t really have a background on the arts and it was really those classes that allowed me to discover gifts that were really latent.

[00:03:55] And so from there I began to pursue the arts trying to discover what my capacities were.

[00:04:03] Debbie Bronkema: That’s fantastic. I love that your story is so different and that you had those gifts and hadn’t even discovered them yet. That’s really fun. So then how did you come to put art and faith together? Is it around the question of purpose?

[00:04:18] Is that where you kind of went with that? Can you tell us about that?

[00:04:22] Dea Jenkins: For sure, because for me, the two were never separated. And I think, had I never prayed to God about what is my purpose, I don’t know that I ever would’ve discovered the creative gifts? Because in my family, I don’t come from a family of artists.

[00:04:36] People are creative in their own right, you know, but no one paints or draws or anything like that. And so I didn’t come from that background and I didn’t even really understand that "Artist" was a career path. I didn’t even understand it. I didn’t have the framework or the concept. And so it really was God showing me the possibilities and showing me what was inside of me. And so they’ve never been separated for me. They’ve always been joined together.

[00:05:02] Debbie Bronkema: Hmm. That’s beautiful.

[00:05:04] So then what kind of work are you doing today?

[00:05:08] Dea Jenkins: Uh, a little bit of everything, except for maybe sculpture. I do a lot of painting, drawings, so visual art, but also I have a performance art group.

[00:05:17] My undergrad degrees in filmmaking. So I’ve been eager to get back into that medium. Just sometimes with films, it takes such a long time to go through the process, you know? So in between those long stages of like writing and pre-production, production, post, I’ll do like the visual art, because I can do that every day.

[00:05:34] So I really run the gamut when it comes to creative mediums. I just love the act of making things.

[00:05:42] Debbie Bronkema: So what does it look like? You said you can do visual art every day. What does it look like when you do visual art?

[00:05:48] Dea Jenkins: Right now I’m working a lot with water colors and ink. I’m working relatively small in square format at the time.

[00:05:56] Like so 16" by 16". Normally I like to go a little bit bigger, but I’ve been trying to tap back into sort of the basics if you will. So I’m reviewing my own take on color and mind and shape and form, and I wanted to do it in a very controlled way. Whereas before, sometimes I like to work on really large canvases and I don’t paint on an easel. I paint on the ground. And so I’ll spread out these huge sprawling pieces of canvas, and I kind of move around them, you know? And it’s like big gesture, bodily gesture kind of work. So I wanted to do something that was much more contained. Something that was more focused.

[00:06:33] I’m a little bit less emotive and I’m slightly more, I won’t say controlled because there’s still a lot of freeform creation happening, but I just wanted a chance to kind of hone back and get back to the basics. And then I definitely had plans to continue to get back into the larger works. It just was important for me to start this year off working in a smaller format for now. But I’m slightly eager to get back.

[00:06:57] Debbie Bronkema: Interesting!

[00:06:57] Dea Jenkins: I love painting big for sure.

[00:07:00] Debbie Bronkema: I like what you describe about the bodily aspect of painting. That’s really cool. I don’t hear people talk about that much.

[00:07:07] Dea Jenkins: I love it. It’s like dancing on a canvas, you know, because it’s not like you’re able to really see everything.

[00:07:12] Like if you’re standing in the middle of a canvas, you can’t… like on a painting that’s on an easel, you could kind of step back and see what you’re doing. But it’s very difficult to do that when the canvas is like super long and spreading across the room. And I like that. I like being immersed in it and not fully knowing until, you know, it’s time to stretch the canvas and like, hang it somewhere.

[00:07:30] You know, so I love that element of surprise. I love that. It’s almost as if there’s an opportunity to collaborate with the work that’s being made, you know? And so there it’s slightly less controlled on my end. I love that flow.

[00:07:43] Debbie Bronkema: That’s really wonderful. So what kind of projects are you doing at Dea Studios these days?

[00:07:49] Dea Jenkins: For sure, yes! So we are doing a lot of, well, I’ll say I am working a lot with workshop facilitation, speaking engagements this year, like that’s been a big thing this year. Still doing design services as well, like graphic and web design. But primarily I would say the invitations have been around facilitating conversations around creative gatherings or helping people to free their creative flow.

[00:08:15] But also, conversations around merging spirituality and arts. And also doing work with kids. That was a big thing that came up towards the end of last year. I’ve loved working with kids for like, almost probably over 10 years by now. And so I knew I always wanted it to be part of the creative agency, and opportunities started opening up at the end of last year just to begin working with kids one on one.

[00:08:38] And so I love that, but I also want to get back into doing productions with kids as well. Cause that’s kind of where I started. So like film productions, but also performances with them as well. Like teaching dance, things like that. But we have to do things incrementally. You can only do so much at one time.

[00:08:54] But all of that is happening though. It’s like in different pieces and in different waves at different times.

[00:08:59] Debbie Bronkema: That’s really fun. So you figure out how to be whole by looking at the big picture and, you know, "I’ll do this a whole lot for a while and then this for a while then…"

[00:09:09] Dea Jenkins: Yes. I love that. The ultimate aim is to be able to do all of these things simultaneously, but, not having me be at the center of all of them, you know, so expanding our team basically.

[00:09:19] But again, we’re super new. I think we’ll be two years in August. We’re like a little baby organization, you know, so I’m not in a hurry to try to become something if it’s not yet time for that to be. And so we’re just finding our flow basically. And figuring out what our voice is and figuring out how best we can serve clients and how best we can serve communities.

[00:09:40] And so it’s fine for me that we dabble a little bit here and there right now, but the ultimate goal is to be able to do all these different types of program throughout the year.

[00:09:48] Debbie Bronkema: So how does Inbreak fit into your story?

[00:09:53] Dea Jenkins: Yes, I always love talking about Inbreak.

[00:09:56] I was joking with someone the other day. In 2020 I feel like I gave birth to twins and I didn’t realize what was happening. When I started Dea Studios, I knew I wanted there to be some kind of community element. I didn’t know quite exactly what form I would take. I just knew that I didn’t want to only have a business that didn’t also develop a community around the same things that we’re exploring, so our social healing and faith. I didn’t know the form, but I went to a friend of mine and I was like, "You know, I have this idea where I want to gather artists and creatives, around these three intersections of art, race and faith. Just cause as a black woman, this concept of race is always present in varying degrees. But then also, 2020 was just such a wake up call for so many people, you know, with George Floyd’s death.

[00:10:48] And I just, I think that moment was so intense for so many people that it felt like the right time to just deepen the work that had already been happening, you know? And so I brought that to her and I said, "I want to do this kind of gathering." And we were just sort of brainstorming. And she said, "Well, what about our residency program?"

[00:11:04] And I love the idea because it meant that there was a container or a parameter around the time that we would gather. It meant that we could really structure our program and the flow of what we were doing. And so we started Inbreak as a residency program with the intention of it evolving into a full blown community with multiple offerings over time.

[00:11:26] And I’m so glad that we started in such a concentrated manner because it gave us chance to like really test out so many different things. And to really see what can happen when you’re talking about these three very diverse and broad themes. Like, I mean, you could spend time on just one of them, right? Like just art or just race or just faith, but to put them all together, what happens, you know?

[00:11:46] And so it gave us space to do that. And I’ve been so grateful for the response. I’ve been so grateful for the impact that it’s been having. It’s far more than I even anticipated or dreamt about. It didn’t start in 2020, like the idea for it, but it’s far more than I even could have really wrapped my head around, you know?

[00:12:05] And it’s still evolving like again, less than two years old. So it’s still finding its feet, which is exciting.

[00:12:13] Debbie Bronkema: So how many residents do you have in the program? Does it vary? Do you have a year long thing? How does that work? How does the residency work?

[00:12:21] Dea Jenkins: For sure. So we’ve done well with having four residents per season.

[00:12:24] And so we just wrapped our second iteration of the residency in like April/May. And so basically, the application process starts towards the end of the year. And then we begin the residency from January to March and we meet for 12 weeks once a week. And during those 12 weeks we have our kind of internal gatherings, but then also part of the residency is that each person is required to do something community based.

[00:12:51] And so we really move away from the idea of the artist as the individual, you know, traditional residency is an artist alone or maybe with a creative partner and just kind of focusing on one project. Dedicated time to kind of dive into one particular thing that you wanted to explore. And it’s like your practice, right?

[00:13:06] And you may have opportunities to engage with the community through like workshops or seminars, things like that. But we really wanted to emphasize community throughout the entirety of the residency. And so part of what they’re asked to do is to take their creative processes and translate them into their context. Around, of course, the themes of art, race, and faith.

[00:13:25] And so what I have found is this has been the most impactful form of creative expression, if you will, for Inbreak so far. I love what we do internally. I love our gatherings week to week, but I also love hearing stories from people that are not the artists themselves that have been impacted by the work that they’re doing.

[00:13:47] You know, it’s been so powerful to hear that. So at the end of our 12 weeks of gathering, there’s a one month break where the artists are working on their projects. So finishing up anything that they didn’t get to complete during the 12 weeks and then May to June they’re having their exhibitions.

[00:14:04] And so this past cohort’s is up now during the end of June.

[00:14:08] So it’s a pretty lengthy process but it gives us time to really get to know one another and really do in depth work.

[00:14:15] Debbie Bronkema: That sounds exciting! And I know you’re excited about doing something this summer?

[00:14:20] Dea Jenkins: Yes. The Summer Art Group. This is Inbreak’s first offering of this type, you know, so we’re also kind of seeing how other artists that are not just participating in the residency can interact with Inbreak as well. And so, same thing where we’re offering a very safe, very dynamic community, but just doing it through "The Artist’s Way," by Julia Cameron, and also just time for making space. People will be able to be on camera if they want to, or off.

[00:14:46] And we’ll just have space to create together and to share together throughout the summer.

[00:14:51] Debbie Bronkema: Fun, fun. So with all of that, that you’re doing, how do you get filled up spiritually?

[00:14:58] Dea Jenkins: I love this question. I always love this question. This was a hard one for me to answer. I would say even at the start of this year, because one of my prayers going into this year was like, "God, help me find balance."

[00:15:14] You know, it’s very easy to get locked into the rhythms of doing, the rhythms of work or ministry, depending on your context. And for someone like me who loves the work, there’s not always an incentive to turn it off at times, but I also love my family. You know, I also love my friends, you know?

[00:15:33] And so I was like, "Ugh, you have to find a balance." It’s also tricky when you’re at the beginnings of things. If you have a startup in the business world, or if you’re starting a new ministry, planting a church, anything like that takes a lot of work. You know, you’re doing a lot of heavy lifting in the beginning.

[00:15:47] And then over time as momentum bills, there’s a little bit less of that push, but again, I felt like I gave birth to twins without realizing what was happening, you know? So finding that balance finding spaces that fill me up has been a prayer. But what I’ve been doing now, this year I’ve been spending way more time with my family.

[00:16:06] So I’ve been in Houston, Texas. I have my parents here. Both my brothers are here. My niece and nephew are here. I have aunts, uncles, cousins. So many family members down in Texas. And so that has been amazing just because In 2020, even 2021, I didn’t really get to see my family, maybe like two or three times out of that entire period.

[00:16:25] And so it was weird for me because we have a very close family and so I’ve just been trying to soak up their energy as much as I can. That’s been very helpful. I also love just going to art galleries, art museums, art events. Cause I find them fun, but also that can kind of be like work.

[00:16:41] So I try to find other things to do too, but I do love it.

[00:16:45] Debbie Bronkema: Yeah that’s true. You can enjoy what you do for a living as long as you can, you know, not take out your notebook and write down everything. Just look at it.

[00:16:55] Dea Jenkins: "Don’t do anything else!"

[00:16:56] It’s hard to turn it off. Like, "Oh, here’s an idea and I just wanna capture it."

[00:17:03] Debbie Bronkema: Exactly, exactly. So what else would you like to tell people today?

[00:17:10] Dea Jenkins: I think this year is a little different from the past couple of years. And I would say what I’ve been so grateful to learn is that balance is possible. You know? We have this ingrained grind culture that’s been very prevalent for so many people but I think since the pandemic, a lot of people have been waking up to the reality that just because you’re grinding doesn’t mean that there’s forward momentum, you know? And sometimes you can go further when you have periodic moments of rest built into your rhythms. And when you have a more structured and more balanced reality present for you, there’s so much more that you can do because you yourself are not running on empty all the time. I love the scripture about being overflowed to the brim. Like that idea of giving out of overflow. That has been a big thing for me. It’s not like an instantaneous process for somebody like me cause I love working. Like, I can work. Okay? You talk to people who know me. Work ethic is not a thing that you would have to question me about. But I also am really learning to value pacing myself. And that requires forming new habits.

[00:18:21] And so it’s not like it’s happening overnight. But being around people who operate in a different rhythm and being in spaces that don’t run on grind culture all the time is very helpful. So it’s a matter of internal desire to seek rest, but also, changing the environment every once in a while, you know?

[00:18:37] Because I am a big believer in that. I’m a big believer that our environments really impact what we do.

[00:18:43] Debbie Bronkema: Wow. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that idea. I going to think about that.

[00:18:50] So where can people find out more about you and your work?

[00:18:55] Dea Jenkins: For sure! Social media, mainly on Instagram. So Dea Studios is "dea.studios" Inbreak is at "inbreak.co"

[00:19:04] and if you just wanna follow me and my artwork it’s "dea.artist". So we have many accounts, I know. And then our websites: DeaStudios.com and then Inbreak.co

[00:19:14] Debbie Bronkema: Oh, okay! Terrific. Terrific. Well, thank you so much! I really enjoyed talking with you and hearing your stories and hearing about the twins. They sound like you’re both thriving, so that’s good!

[00:19:26] That’s good. This has been Everyday Spirituality with connect.faith. You can find us at all the places you regularly subscribe to podcasts. And if there’s someone you know, who might like to hear what you heard today, please share it with them. Thanks again!