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Ayana Mack on Self-Care and the Art of Keeping Busy During a Pandemic
Recently, we were able to catch up with Ayana Mack (CEF ’16), a visual artist, designer, and UX/UI strategist based in Boston. She has designed pieces for Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley’s 2018 campaign, BAMS Fest, and other local organizations. She also works for Greater Boston Real Estate as their Senior Graphic Designer and Boston While Black’s Social Media Strategist & Manager. Self-care and the intersection of work and art have been a top priority for Ayana throughout the pandemic. As a working graphic designer, artist, and UX/UI Strategist, Ayana values the importance of finding joy in everything she creates and designs.
As a 2016 Creative Entrepreneur Fellow, Ayana embraced the opportunity to get a head start on the business and financial side of art with the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston: “The fellowship was great because it really gave me a foundation in connecting me with other artists in the community and different ways to add more of a business background into an art background… [It] definitely set the foundation of selling artwork and in my artist career.”
While Ayana works as a full-time graphic designer for Greater Boston Real Estate, she’s proud to have started hosting virtual paint parties and other artistic workshops during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of her earlier, in-person contracts were canceled at the beginning of the health crisis in April of 2020. Ayana was able to shift to digital work instead — something particularly challenging for her because of her aversion to being on camera. Finding joy during these uncertain times became a priority, something which she was able to expand upon in her own artistry and virtual events shared with students and other artists.
“I personally decided I wanted to use my art as a tool and create a joy workshop, so the workshops were basically using art as a tool to help people find joy in uncertain times… I took it upon myself to pivot quickly and, you know, try to make some money but also help people at the same time.”
Even though Ayana did not originally see her own joy in her creations, her friends definitely did. When a friend pointed out that much of her work was centered around self-care, she began to realize the importance of putting her own wellness above all else shown in her paintings and design. Anything she creates comes from a deeply personal level and illuminates her inner self.
“I can remember a piece I did a few years ago [when] I was struggling with some health issues… [It] was this yoga piece that presented your chakras and your wellness. At the time there was something I needed from it, so it was a direct reflection of what I was going through,” Ayana clarifies. She says this line of thought has become increasingly relevant during the pandemic as well, with many artists recognizing the value of self-care and expressing that through creativity and space. Ayana also spoke about how the pandemic has made not only the community realize just how important art is to the world at large, but also her fellow artists and students. With art as a whole being phased out of schools, and a significant lack of resources to teach students art, Ayana plans to fill that void with online classes and workshops with Cambridge Art Association and the Harvard Ed Portal starting this spring.
Though she has many projects and plans to keep her time occupied (with everything from leading virtual paint parties, teaching workshops on monetizing creativity, and working as the newly-founded Boston While Black’s Social Media Strategist), Ayana says that staying busy is part of who she is. She and former fellow Jacqueline Johnson (CEF ‘17) have recently partnered together on multiple projects, including collaborating on the logo and design for HubSpot’s Black Employee Resource Group. Ayana was also recently featured in the Boston Art Review magazine highlighting how she creates her pieces and showcasing her work over the last ten years of designing and making art.
Ayana plans on finding time to rest and reconvene in the future, but for now, she embraces the workaholic energy she’s been utilizing throughout the year. As for any advice she has for future graphic designers and UX/UI strategists?
“At this time more than ever, you want to be open. You have to work on not being afraid, and being open to trying new things, and paying attention to what people are interested in or responding to.”
Ayana Mack’s personal drive and desire to find joy in an upturned world shines through everything she creates, and it’s clear that even staying busy while recognizing the value of self-care can be a gift for everyone. You can find out more about Ayana and her work on her website, https://www.ayanamack.co/ and visit her on Instagram at ayanamack.co.