We had the good fortune of connecting with Autumn Breon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Autumn, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Although I’m no longer an engineer by trade, I still practice the principles that I learned as an engineer. In fluid dynamics, a conduit facilitates the passage of a gas or liquid between entities within a system. I facilitate the passage of ideas by intentionally collaborating both locally and globally through arts and culture. I consider it my responsibility to serve as a conduit between the multiple communities that I represent, so I’m constantly sharing all of my learnings with the multiple networks that I connect with. I see the act of building community as what grounds my creative values, my personal values, and my political values; as a result, I see community-building as woven into my practice and not separate. I’m reminded of the role community-oriented and participatory thinking plays in my practice when I think of an action I co-organized during the summer of 2020 at Bruce’s Beach. Bruce’s Beach is known to most as Manhattan Beach, but it was formerly a flourishing Black resort community that was created by a Black woman named Willa Bruce in the early 20th century. I learned about Bruce’s Beach when I read a Los Angeles Times article that described the atrocities that the Bruce family faced until the city of Manhattan Beach ultimately used eminent domain and intimidation to seize the land from the Bruces and other Black landowners. I cried as I read about the descendants of the Bruce family that were fighting for what was rightfully theirs and as I thought about the children I grew up with and taught in my afterschool program that literally live in Los Angeles and have never seen or touched the Pacific ocean. I reached out to friends and fellow organizers and we got in touch with the organizers leading the fight for reparations and restitution for the Bruce descendants. When I asked what their community needed, they said they wanted people to know the accurate story of Bruce’s Beach. I imagined what Bruce’s Beach would be like if what Willa had built still existed and used that to build a performance piece to tell the Bruces’ story. My comrades and I told the real history of Bruce’s Beach and celebrated Black leisure. Chris Johnson and his brass band were a reimagined Greek chorus that played music to punctuate the timeline of events that I recited with my creative partner and I recited with a megaphone at the original location of Willa Bruce’s first property. We serenaded fellow organizers and Manhattan Beach residents with melodic truths. After, we marched to the beach where we led a ritual to honor our ancestors and Yemaya with flowers. Manhattan Beach may have expected a typical Saturday, but reclamation can be disruptive. This project truly embodies how collaboration sharpens my intellectual curiosity and is my most intuitive approach to working. I love connecting networks so that everyone is reminded of their role in the collective and feels activated in their role. I also just think that working collaboratively is more efficient than working in silos when we have massive issues to tackle that are complex and multifaceted. The more input and lived experience we can learn from others, the better we can make decisions.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I work to reimagine global narratives through the lenses of art and creativity. I graduated with a degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics and researched aeronautical astrobiology applications for NASA. As the only woman of color in my cohort and dissatisfied with the lack of representation in my field, I founded a STEAM-focused after school, tutoring, and summer program based in Watts, CA that encourages students’ intellectual curiosity in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics through project-based learning. My work to further the dialogue on educational equity led to my role leading the expansion of a network of independent schools in South Africa as I continued my work in promoting educational equity and examining how education fits into the bigger picture of global human rights. While living and working in different parts of the African Continent, I started attending contemporary art fairs throughout the region. I examined contemporary African art throughout the Diaspora and its impact. I learned so much about contemporary African art and the ecosystem of the international art world. Art has always played an important role in my life in different ways. I enjoyed museums with my family from an early age, I practiced ballet and modern dance for years and made it a point to advocate for the arts as equally important as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. As I was traveling and developing a more intimate relationship with art and collecting art, I started buying artwork for people. Buying art evolved into me giving advice about other artwork to buy and sharing the stories of new artists that excited me. I founded Autumn Breon Projects, a full-service art advisory and creative firm that offers bespoke solutions for private collectors, brands, corporations, institutions, TV, and film. We work with individuals, corporations, and institutions to curate art and art programming that encourage impactful and significant cultural conversation. Our services include sourcing and acquiring art for both private collections and public spaces, managing collaborations between artists and brands, implementing creative direction, producing art-based programming and dialogues, and curating dynamic exhibitions and experiences that are visually and culturally significant. My next goal is to continue building communities that foster creativity, specifically by housing and incubating artists. I hope to scale the knowledge I’ve learned from multiple industries by developing leadership through an artist development pipeline in South Central, CA. My long-term goal is to build a network of artist studio incubators that culturally and economically strengthen and establish emerging creatives throughout the African diaspora.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love starting my day with a turmeric latte from Sip & Sonder. I’m a lead faculty member at ZEAL Co-op and our studios are near Sip & Sonder in Inglewood. We always have their coffee beans in our kitchens, but sometimes I love stopping by Sip & Sonder’s storefront for a beverage and a matcha donut. Shanita Nicholas, Amanda-Jane Thomas, and Ashley Newby have created such a welcoming environment at their location on Market Street. When I have time to shop, one of my favorite boutiques is Runway Boutique on Adams. Fatima Dodson is the founder and she’s an inspiring entrepreneur. Her concierge shopping service keeps clients safe and stylish! I love her vintage pieces that are super colorful. I’m most productive and creative when I’m feeling healthy, so wellness is extremely important to me. I love to keep fresh eucalyptus Liberate Botanica in my bathrooms (at home and in my studio) to keep the air around me fresh and clean. I bought my first eucalyptus bouquet from Liberate Botanica’s founder Naté Jones at Blackbird House. Blackbird House is a physical and digital workspace for women of color and allies. I’ve really enjoyed their digital programming during the pandemic. I just did a talk with Blackbird’s founder and CEO Bridgid Coulter for World Art Day. I can’t wait to visit Blackbird House in person again!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I owe a huge shoutout to my team. The creative projects that I work on require the synchronicity of many moving parts. We’re responsible for everything from building and fabrication to framing artwork and installing pieces. I’m grateful to have a nimble team full of leaders that think creatively and innovatively. Shoutout to my team that makes the work fun!
Baudelio Gutierrez, Jr. Ashley Nguyen Gio Solis Talia Shipman Zorrie Petrus J. Countess