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This year, for Black History Month, we kicked off the celebration by highlighting some of the amazing Black creators and business owners who are doing great things all over our city. Throughout this month, we spent time with a few of these creators to hear their stories and learn more about who they are and what they do. To photograph these stories, we enlisted the help of another talented Black artist and entrepreneur in St. Louis, Joe Martinez. He’s made portraits for countless publications, and you can find some of his photography across our social feeds.

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Meet Jayvn Solomon 

First up is Jayvn Solomon, an Interdisciplinary Creative and Founder of L.O.T.U.S. Labs. We met Jayvn in front of a mural he painted at TechArtista in University City, where he has served as Artist in Residence. Here’s Jayvn’s story in his own words: 

“I’m Jayvn. I’m from St. Louis and I ultimately want to make STL a better place to live for me, my family and everyone here. I’ve never been inclined to self-promote, maybe that’s just the shy kid in me. But how would I describe my work? I think a lot of my work is essentially visualizing what change could be like for all of us. How I do that is through different types of design-related projects. This is the Show-Me State. Sometimes if we can’t visualize something – physically or metaphorically – it’s not happening. 

Growing up, my Dad was in the Air Force which meant lots of moving. We also moved all over St. Louis, different areas with different social circles and different expectations for who I’m supposed to be. So I’ve always been in the mindset of adapting to change. But there are things I choose to keep, my values, my family and connection to my community. I stay true to who I am, there is no certain way I need to look or act – even though I think about those things. But when it comes to change, my attitude is ‘Why not?’ 

Right now, I think a lot about storytelling. Story has always been a huge part of human connection. When you talk to people, so often we ask ‘What are you watching? What are you listening to?’ I’m not big on museums and this formal setting of art: white walls, black frames. I like art with character, especially now in our attention economy. I look at graffiti and art that is around us. But I did go to a Marvel exhibit where they talked about why Stan Lee wrote his stories in New York – he lived there. So my story is St. Louis, I’m from here.  

You can still feel a certain way about things, about what we need to improve, but make it actionable. Let’s change things for the better, but let’s also make it fun.”