Highly melanated and culturally opinionated, Shaheed Rucker is the perfect example of a change maker. His agency, Changemakers, is an umbrella brand whose mission is deeply rooted in social awareness, fashion and philanthropy as well as fine arts; the latter has made him an in-demand rising talent with no promises of slowing down. With a deep appreciation of black pop culture, his repurposing vintage JET and Ebony Magazine covers with past and current iconoclasts is reminiscent of Warhol’s Commissions Portraits series from the 1960s and 1970s, bridging a gap between celebrity and consumers alike and introducing a new demographic to the art world.
Breaking the mold of what a young creative should look like we spoke with Rucker about inspiration, the art of his art, dinner parties and why the future is hella black and filled with like-minded individuals.
Bleu: When did you first realize you were an artist?
Shaheed Rucker: Interesting question. When someone asks my occupation, I’m still in the habit of answering “Marketing & Advertising.” It still hasn’t dawned that I’m an artist. I guess I’m still navigating that terrain. I find myself creating and let the work take on its own form.
B: How important is it for you to create art for and about black people and people of color?
SR: I create my experiences, my reality and things that pretty much influences me. It’s important for my work to reflect the building blocks that wire who I am, what I’ve seen and where I’ve been. The influence of POC and our legacy can’t be denied; it’s pretty much everywhere. I think my focus is being an added influence, maintaining a level of integrity in my work and its process, being an example myself, as a POC, as opposed to the body of work itself.
B: Your re-imagining of Ebony & JET covers from the 50’s & 60’s has caught the attention of a few art enthusiasts. Explain your desire to update these iconic images.
SR: My technique is minimal and relies on color theory and typography. The combination of shapes and colors inspired me, so I was intrigued with manipulating and building on Herbert Temple’s design. The art of photography plays a fundamental role in these designs. The images are carefully selected, and manipulated to mirror the older designs. My desire stemmed from the artist and change-makers that influence me. I felt the need to highlight both those individuals as well as the publication that chronicled the normal success of POC.
B: Who inspires you?
SR: Everyone and everything. I am inspired by everything around me. I’ve always done a fine job in paying attention to the positives even in a negative situation.
B: Your agency, Changemakers, focuses on making a positive impact on society. Could you elaborate more on this movement?
SR: When you come from a place where resources are scarce it breeds an organic sense of care for the people and things around you. So we’re passionate about helping people, whether it’s through health and wellness, arts & crafts or education. I use background in all of these things to change behavior in at risk communities. For example, we’d use basketball as a foot in the door technique to educate on financial responsibility, or professionalism. We’d take a vacant lot and transform it into a community garden, an abandoned building into a mural; these projects encourages beautifying the community as well as learning trade and business practice.
B: What projects can we expect from you in the future?
SR: I’m working on a mural for a friend who passed from an enlarged heart while playing basketball. I’d like to collaborate with a brand that stresses heart health as well as community beautification. In addition to taking the art show to a number of cities, we’re set to showcase our exhibition in May 26th, in ATL at Buckhead Art & Co from 6pm-10pm.
B: If you could have a dinner party with a few of your favorite people, who would they be and why?
SR: It’ll be anyone who is passionate about the same things I’m passionate about. I think being in a room full of ambitious individuals with similar ideas will help produce projects at a faster pace. I’m not really one who desires to be around “celebs..I’m glued to like minds.
B: Which artists or other creatives are you inspired by?
SR: There’s so many. I come across new inspirations daily. I’m inspired by my friends. Everyone in my circle of friends inspire me in some fashion. Also Romare Bearden, Henri Mattise, Gordon Parks, Paul Rand, Saul Bass, Deborah Roberts to name a few.
B: If you could have your art to reside in a specific collection who would it be and why?
SR: To have my work acknowledged is a great honor by anyone such as you guys. It means a great deal, whether it’s the MOMA or an individual gallery, it’s humbling. Ultimately, I’d love to have my work reside at a space that genuinely respects my work like the National Museum of African American History & Culture. To reside where the rest of our treats reside would be very humbling.
B: What would you like your legacy to be?
SR: I just want to create, inspire and change people and places. I’d love to be remembered as the person that instigated a change in someone’s lifestyle. That means a great deal.