- Photos by Keith Borgmeyer
Candice Malveaux discusses how Orr Street Studios is giving artists opportunities through the Black Artist in Residence Program.
It seems unbelievable now, but a life of creative passions was not always something artist Candice Malveaux saw in her cards. However, after spending the past year as a working artist through Orr Street Studios’ Black Artist in Residence Program, Candice can say that she is never looking back.
“It’s kind of a crazy story, but I feel like it was destiny,” Candice says.
The day after George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, an unknown person spraypainted the simple message “BLACK LIVES MATTER” on Orr Street Studios’ iconic teal brick wall. The directors of the gallery had little time to respond before the original statement was defaced with a distortion of the original message, adding the words “RED, YELLOW, WHITE, ALL.” After covering the later additions multiple times, the vandals continued a back-and-forth with the directors of the art studio.
Finally, Orr Street Studios released the notice that they had left for the vandals, saying: “The message ‘Black Lives Matter’ will remain on our wall as we mourn recent acts of violence against Black Americans and protesters and consider how to use this space to help heal our community. Please leave it alone.”
“I thought that was pretty impactful,” says Candice, who had watched the whole saga play out on Facebook. “I made a comment [on the post] and said something like, ‘That’s all great and dandy, it would be awesome to see Orr Street find a way to support Black artists.’”
Orr Street Studios took that comment to heart, and the Black Artist in Residence Program was born. Candice was interested, but she wasn’t too sure at first. “There was a constant flow of people on social media urging me to apply,” she said. “But where I was in my art journey — I’m a self-taught artist, so I still kind of struggled with calling myself an artist — I didn’t immediately apply.”
Candice eventually sent in her application a week before it was due, not thinking she’d make the cut. However, she did, and Candice became a part of the program’s inaugural class, along with fellow artist Askia Bilal.
Candice says she always had a love for art, remembering how her grandmother had sacrificed a lot to invest in her dreams by enrolling her in local art classes. Unfortunately, as Candice got older, those dreams fell to the wayside.
“The belief is that artists starve,” she laughs. She eventually became a special education teacher. “I needed to make sure, as a first-generation college student, that I became something that would be able to sustain me and my family for the future.”
But Candice’s passion for art never went away, and she often sketched and journaled as an emotional outlet. She received lots of support via social media, but never considered herself an artist until her lifelong friend, Nicole Wells, went out of her way. Nicole encouraged her to chase her dreams and redefine her life, even going so far as to create professional business cards, pins, cups, and notebooks with Candice’s artist name on them so she could envision herself as an artist. Candice says that this was a defining moment for her career, and she hasn’t looked back since.
“I never pursued art as a way to make money,” Candice says. “It was always a way to help me and to help others heal.”
Candice is grateful to have the opportunity to live her dreams and hopes that she inspires others to do the same. She says: “I am just on such a high from it all. I hope that I can show kids — Black kids that look like me, that grew up the way that I did — that anything is possible.”
See Candice Malveaux’s art on Instagram @artbycandicenicole