Audacious Agency is having the nerve to push the envelope. It is the act of: speaking for one’s self; showing up and self liberation. Audacious agency is a continuum of the experience of people of color in America. We own our narrative. We are artists, using our creative voice to push through barriers and heal the world.
Five artists walk into brunch; artists bound by one common thread – the need to create art that makes a difference, activist art. Like generations of artists before us, we find ourselves on dangerous historical crossroads. Our country is divided, it’s leadership morally bankrupt, and our very identities – as people on the fringes – consistently in peril. There’s also sunshine; and beauty in our existence.We stand as monuments of possibility and our art also shines a light on the joy of our experiences. Audacious Agency stands up for our right to “be.” We create unencumbered, provoke thought, and design transformative pieces that seek to change the trajectory of our nation by bringing people of good will together. As we face the challenges of our day, we dare to exist, knowing that by doing so, we inspire others to do the same.
Audacious Agency is comprised of visual artists, storytellers, performing poets; healers; writers and photographers. Audacious Agency exists to create art that shifts thoughts and paradigms.
Andre Rochester is a native of Hartford, CT. He specializes in acrylic, charcoal, and pastel. He studied illustration at the University of Connecticut: School of Fine Arts and completed his BA in Studio Art at Charter Oak State College. Andre is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership at Quinnipiac University.
Andre lives a double life, working in Corporate America by day, moonlighting as a professional artist in his time away from his nine to five. Both sides of his professional life are uniquely connected as he channels the same creativity he uses for his artwork to invoke thought and implement new ideas in the office. Artists have an inherent need to close a gap between artistic skill and business knowledge. He uses his experience in the traditional workplace to help others by sharing lessons learned as his career progresses. He assists emerging artists with portfolio development, curating and consulting for art shows, providing mentorship reminiscent of what young professionals seek in the traditional workplace. Andre chooses to be accessible to his community by being an active mentor. He encourages young artists to develop their craft with a focus on professionalism and business acumen. With every step forward, Andre extends his hand backward to pull another artist ahead.
REV. DR. SHELLEY D. BEST
Rev. Dr. Shelley D. Best’s 30-year artistic sojourn began as a spiritual practice and preaching medium during her theological study at Hartford Seminary. Her artist portfolio includes acrylics; mixed media; up-cycling; and activist photography that emerges from her life of service inspired by meditation, prayer and community change making. A self-taught artist, her work is inspired by Hindu and Buddhist symbolism in mandala art and the abstracts of artist Piet Mondrian.
Dr. Best’s most significant installation is a 30,000 square-foot adaptive reuse art space in Hartford, CT called The 224 EcoSpace. The 224 is a 2.5 million dollar social enterprise “where change makers work create and lead.” Through her artistic and community organizing genius, a once abandoned taxi cab garage was purchased and transformed by everyday people into a vibrant platform for artists, activists, healers and entrepreneurs.
Dr. Best’s extensive travels to Israel, Palestine, South Africa, India and the Caribbean have informed her efforts as a human rights and interfaith ambassador. Rev. Best has a B.A. in communication from Central Connecticut State University; a master’s degree in religious leadership from Hartford Seminary; as well as a master’s in divinity from Yale University. She also earned a doctorate in ministry from Hartford Seminary.
PATRICK “RICO” WILLIAMS
Patrick creates healthy activists. Through writing, content creation, youth development, consultation, workshop facilitation, and much more, he helps people find the inherent value In their stories confronting the ever-present danger of silence. Propelled by the infinite sacrifices of the ancestors, he is meant to challenge paradigms. A perpetual way-maker, Patrick cultivated a habit of blazing new paths, crafting organizations and supports that follow one narrative; being the person he had always needed.
Patrick recently released his book “Jesus is Black”, a first-person account of Blackness in America. His left shoulder has also made an appearance on GQ.com.
“The perfect image can be defined by composition, lighting, exposure and tons of other terms. I think the perfect image makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It moves you.”
As a commercial, wedding and fine art photographer, Keith Claytor creates images that move the viewer and inspire them to think and act. A self-taught photographer and lover of light and shadow, his work has taken him around the globe and has been published in countless magazines and online outlets. In todays digital world he takes an analog approach to his images, relying on his camera as a tool to tell a story and capture the emotion of a moment. Each image speaks to his passion to make an impact and contribute to the art form that changed his life.
A native of Bloomfield CT, Keith began his career in the audio industry. Here, he discovered his love for the art of sight and sound, as he excelled in an 18 year corporate career. Keith used his formal career to develop further his technique and style as a photographer. In 2005, he felt a pull into the freelance world of photography, when he founded TimeFrozen Photography. By using the subject’s body, captured in action, Keith achieves art without artificiality. Keith’s work brings about a freshness and emotion, which has attracted many of his current clients.
Keith’s love for travel with his wife, Chinenye Claytor, has expanded his photographic perspective to bring the beauty out of each image. Images from his travels to Nigeria, Ghana, Paris, Lisbon and other excursions have been exhibited in various galleries and viewed by people all over the world.
A Chicago native raised in Hartford, CT., Zulynette is an alchemist. As a creative change agent, she uses art and poetry as social work tools to inspire others to heal and empower themselves. Her work communicates a narrative rooted in realness allowing viewers and listeners to conceptualize their own narrative and connect in a genuine, raw, and powerful way. After ten years in the non-profit world, Zulynette made the bold leap to work as a full-time artist and poet. She combines her academic (Master’s in Social Work, University of Connecticut) and research background with her artistry to create one-of-a-kind experiences.
Whether performing, speaking to groups, facilitating workshops, or creating in front of audiences, Zulynette seamlessly delves into topics from poverty to feminism, self- esteem to Latinx identity, privilege to LGBTQ identity, family issues to politics. Passionate, grounded and powerful, she engages a variety of audiences and has a longstanding history of working with groups of all backgrounds and ages.
Recognized as the first Hartford Iron Poet champion and a 100 Women of Color honoree, she has made a name for herself in the poetry and art circuit. Her aim is to spark minds, hearts, and conversations, encourage healing and a reclamation of power.