I won a golden ticket to tap Shawana Brooks’s otherworldly mind, best described as a whimsical idea factory. She is passion personified. According to cliché, artists need muses. In Shawana, they have a fighter, or as artist Overstreet Ducasse has said, a muisance. She sweetly tells it how it is with tang. As Arts and Culture Developer of the downtown Jacksonville Public Library’s Jax Makerspace, she spends her day working to provide access to tools and opportunities to anyone who wants to create. We asked her to share her thoughts on the Jax Makerspace, what challenges local artists face and tips for creating a personal style that screams mother-earth-meets-futuristic-fly.
jack: What do you love about our local artist community?
Shawana Brooks: It’s evolving! Jacksonville has changed so much in the last five years, since my husband and I returned from Savannah. Our artists have always pushed themselves, loud and proud. They create on-par with some of the greatest. Eyes will soon turn to us.
jack: What are some of the challenges local artists face?
SB: They truly lack advocacy, resources, gallery systems and agents. Jacksonville must invest in its artists, because ‘exposure’ [offering publicity as a form of payment] doesn’t put gas in the tank. We don’t expect other businesses to operate that way. When we invest in artists, their profits cycle within the city we love.
jack: What is Makerspace?
SB: The Jacksonville Public Library Makerspace is a place to create everything from movies to music, visual art to apps, robots to radios and novels to needlepoint. Whether you are a novice, expert, student, hobbyist, inventor, entrepreneur or artist, it’s a place for hands-on opportunities to explore, collaborate and create. Visit and you’ll be surprised at all we offer. As the Art and Culture Developer for the Jax Makerspace, I want to place-mark our library as a premier cultural institution. We’re simply waiting for the community to come downtown to take full advantage of its resources.
jack: Speaking of art, your makeup is on point. Secrets?
SB: I spent 14 years working for MAC as a makeup artist. This was before the YouTube tutorial invasion, so the secret is this: If you want to master an art form, it takes time and practice.
jack: Your personal style shouts glory! Where do you shop?
SB: I stalk the clothes I treasure! Vintage-meets-modern speaks to my eclecticism, which is how I express my personality. Looking like a million bucks doesn’t mean spending it. Locally, I love Ashley Tamarra of Love Doll Shoppe, which is based out of Jacksonville at lovedollshoppe.com. She doesn’t have a storefront, but we have Vagabond Flea Market, in Murray Hill, where she often pops up. I also love Wolf & Cub on Laura Street.
Shawana Brooks is also the founder of the Musiance Artist Alliance (MAA), an organization designed to support minority artists in our community.