Expression, Access, and Community with Philadelphia’s Three Guys that Paint
Expression, Access, and Community with Philadelphia’s Three Guys That Paint
By Brian Walker
I reached out to Tyera Martin, a local African American artist who uses the power of self expression to connect with her community. In this interview we discuss accessibility, the Philadelphia arts community, inclusion and surviving as an artist in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brian: So what is the meaning of your moniker “Three Guys That Paint?”
Tyera: Three Guys That Paint is my self expression. It’s everything that I wanted to represent myself as an artist, like even in the name itself. It’s not completely urban. It’s not completely mainstream itself. The name comes from the old school Leprechaun movie with Jennifer Aniston. In the movie there is a truck scene and in the back of the truck, it says “three guys that paint.” When I saw the scene I thought to myself, that would be the dopest art name in the world because I’m one girl. It’s a play on words because they would be expecting to see an art collective or like three people, but it’s just me.
Brian: Did you go to school for art or are you self-taught?
Tyera: I went to school for art, however art is something I’ve been doing all my life. I have an older brother, his name’s Michael Smith, and he’s also an artist. And when I was younger, I found his drawings in the house. I started copying his drawings and that’s kind of how I started which carried me to recently just finishing my BFA.
Brian: Do marginalized people in the Philadelphia area have the access to the resources needed to create art or not?
Tyera: I think they do. Yeah. There’s a lot of apprenticeships and internships that are available if you look. There’s still a lot of jobs you can get in art for example you can be a screen printer, or work for a giant printing corporation. The good thing is, as long as you have the skills you can get any opportunity. There are also art communities like Newports News which is a small art collective in Philly that throws events in various locations in the city.
Brian: Do you have any projects that are coming up?
Tyera: Yes, I have a showing on September 10th. I’m not sure about all the details yet, or the timing, but it’s definitely gonna happen. So stay tuned. I have a project that is based on relationships and interaction.The collection addresses how we, as individuals interact and impact each other. For example as we’re having this interaction I believe there is an impact that is happening. Like I feel like that’s going to linger with me and it’s going to linger with you and it could have a positive effect. It could have a negative effect, but the whole point is that we leave and influence everyone that we meet.
Brian: If you could improve the Philadelphia art scene, how would you make it better?
Tyera: I feel as though the Philadelphia art scene is like, a little secluded, it’s kind of like a club. I feel like it’s a little hard for people outside of our community to come in and be a part of it. I feel like art should be universal and everyone should be able to see it. I feel like I would want more Philly artists to branch out into the world so they can see like the art we create and not just like our subculture.
I think as big as Philly is when it comes to culture and art, it’s not as big as it should be to be honest, like all the bars that we have, like, if you can spend that much money on drinking, like you can spend that much money on a student’s artwork.
Brian: How have you been coping and managing, having to work digitally in the midst of COVID-19?
Tyera: It was rough at the beginning of COVID-19. I was still working my job and attending school. I would think sometimes I was dreaming. I’m like, okay, well this is actually happening. Like there is a virus and people are dying and I am not living in a movie. Some days it was really rough to deal with.
Brian: What has it been like to be an artist in the middle of the BLM Movement?
Tyera: When the protests started to happen, I only saw the news in Philly. It has not been easy for me to get to a protest because for me to get there, I have to take a bus and then I have to take a train. That’s a lot to go through right now to get there. It sucks, because like, when you want to be a part of this giant movement, but you don’t have access to get there.
I have friends that were out there marching and giving it their all. The best I can do is make art and post on social media. Sometimes I’m like, I don’t even know if this makes a difference, but like, it makes a difference to me.
There were some days I would just wake up like crying because it was so emotional because there was so much going on because I couldn’t physically do anything about it because like I’m in danger and the people I love are in danger and this country is in danger and it shouldn’t have to be this way. I’ve never thought I would live through a pandemic and a civil rights movement at the same time. Like, that’s something you read about, but nothing you would think you would live through.
Overall, this time has been something I’ve never experienced before. I don’t even know what to call it. I want to call it difficult. But at the same time, it’s kind of like a blessing. I don’t know when I’ll ever have this time in my life where I can just sit and create art and reflect on myself and truly decide like who I want to be and who I want in my life and what I want my art to represent and who I wanted to touch.
Brian: It was great talking to you, how can we at the Philadelphia Globe community help and support you?
Tyerah: . I’m going to say promote and raise awareness. That’s the most important thing to me.