Graduating senior puts life, creativity and purpose into art

Graduating mixed-media artist and arts administration major Kaiyla Thompson puts life, creativity and purpose into art
Photo courtesy of Kaiyla Thompson

As the spring semester comes to an end on Florida A&M University, graduating students have begun to reflect on their time here on campus. While many students contemplate what legacy they were able to leave behind, art administration major Kaiyla Thompson was able to showcase her trials and triumphs through her art.

A mixed-media artist, Thompson’s “In God’s Name” series is on display until Friday, May 3 at The Foster Tanner Arts Gallery as a part of the “Visions: Graduating Senior Exhibition”. The title of the series not only reflects Thompson’s love for God but also her love for creating which is what she said brought her closer to God.  The Raleigh native explained what inspires her to create.

“Of course God. He’s the one who gave me the gift, the inspiration, the experiences,” Thompson said. “He’s in all things hence my show is about him. Besides God, nature, music, my emotions on how I feel about a color or song or just the way the wind brushed up against me one day that can spark something.

To the outside world, Thompson admitted it seemed as if she had everything since she grew up in a comfortable North Carolina suburb. However, many were unaware of the dysfunction that took place inside the home. This conflict caused Thompson to develop unhealthy habits such as bottling emotions, walking away from unsolved problems, and not communicating effectively.

It was not until she arrived at FAMU Thompson began to unlearn all of these defensive behaviors. Joining Voices Poetry Group is what she said made a big impact on how she expressed herself vocally. Having battled depression, anxiety, self-harming and suicidal thoughts, Thompson enjoyed how accepting the organization was of her.

“Joining Voices was a huge step for me already, having to speak to other people and talk about your feelings,” Thompson said. “I didn’t want to perform whole suicidal poems and people look at me like ‘What is wrong with this chick’ but, Voices helped me understand there are more people out there like me that deal with stuff like this.”

College itself can be difficult enough to get through, let alone dealing with a mental condition. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience mental health problems than the general population.

Having experienced mental health issues, Thompson has had her fair share of dark days. Among the darkness, however, were pieces of joy which helped her continue in spite of the things she was going through during those moments. These pieces of joy were the primary colors of red, blue, and yellow which are not only Thompson’s favorite colors but represent to her the blood of Christ, light, and learning about life.  These colors also represent Thompson’s child at heart nature and are featured “In God’s Name."

Though originally a student in The School of Business and Industry, Thompson switched to art administration to work on her craft while learning the administrative aspects of what it takes to run a business. These skills were also honed at the Meek-Eaton Black Archives Research Center and Museum. It was there Thompson developed abilities like how to correctly preserve art, set up exhibits, curating and the various other daily tasks it takes to maintain a museum.

Director Nashid Madyun has worked closely with Thompson and explained how the museum works to cultivate talent within the students.

“Generally we have students that take the extra step to come by and they volunteer. That dedication shows the type of merit they have,” Madyun said.

“From that, when opportunities come up and we see their talents, we give them the opportunity to show that talent. Once they deliver, we give them more opportunity and that was how Kaiyla was,” Madyun added.

Thompson noted she considers herself a renaissance woman since she enjoys creating everything from ceramics, drawing, sculptures and everything in between. Thompson’s ultimate dream is to own an art gallery where she can have multiple rooms so she can create.

After graduation, she is most excited about being able create, relax and plan her next steps. Aware of the stigma that comes along being an art’s major, she advised creatives to be true to themselves.

“If you are passionate in the arts don’t let what anybody says stop you from creating,” Thompson said. “If that’s what you want to do don’t let someone say ‘starving artist’ or “artists don’t get paid… It’s not about the money. It’s about if you’re happy, if you’re happy with creating then that’s all that matters.”

To learn more about Thompson’s work, visit Infinitek_artistme on Instagram and InfiniteKs_Art on Twitter