We had the good fortune of connecting with Katrina Brook Flores and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katrina Brook, as a parent, what have you done for you children that you feel has had the most significant impact?
I think the most important thing I’ve done as a parent impacting my child is placing health and wellness and the center of our lives. As a first time parent giving birth during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, my partner and I centered health and wellness. Physically health is so important to a full and happy life. However, mental health is so often overlooked as a key component to the equation. Creating space for healthy minds and spirits is a blessing and necessity. Intergenerational trauma is real in my family and centering community wellness is important to the healing process. As a Queer, Indigenous Xicanx person providing space for my child to grow in joy and self-love as inheritance is something I strive for. I believe fluidity, understanding and openness is so important to providing a thriving environment for mental health to flourish. Every day, I say positive affirmations with my child. My partner and I also use they/them/their pronouns with our child. We have conversations and encourage our family, friends, community and strangers to use these pronouns with our child. It seems like every day we are explaining pronouns to someone new. Sometimes these conversations are met with excitement and enthusiasm to know more, other times these conversations are very uncomfortable and filled with judgement. Either way, we take joy in knowing in a small way, we are creating space to break down these binaries and move beyond these boundaries. Along the way, we’ve learned that young people are amazing, so open and catch on quicker than adults. There are many gender identities our child may eventually choose and we are excited for them to tell us who they are. We are working to provide them expansive space to make those decisions while minimizing bias in our home. While we have yet to know the fullness of their future, we do know that even now, at 10 months old we see the positive impacts of not pushing a gender identity on our child and all the predisposed expectations that come along with that. Creating space for our child to make important choices in understanding their own spirit and affirming themselves as they grow is part of cultivating an intentional environment for mental health to be centered. I want my child to have an intimate relationship with self-care, love and joy. I am honored to hold space for them as they journey, learn and claim who they wish to be in this world.
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 think the heart of my artistic practice is storytelling. I try not to place limits on myself when it comes to the mediums I work through. I use dance and movement, painting, photography, film, instillation, poetry and beadwork to create my art. Through these mediums I tell stories of thriving and a future of flourishing. So much of my art is created in community and bringing others into the experience to be part of the storytelling. I address the meanings of boundary-spanning, border-crossing, and binary-breaking through interrogating the way colonial systems, hierarchical institutions, gendered constructs and conquer & divide tactics have hurt communities and natural ecosystems globally. My artistic work goes beyond interrogation and seeks to offer solutions, healings and hope in calling forward a (re)claimed and (re)imagined future rooted in joyful ways of being and ancestral teachings.
As a first-generation college student, my parents discouraged me from pursuing my own artistic practices as a career. Because of this, I spent much of my professional career in arts administration. Community is central to my artistic work and working in community requires a lot of authentic coordination and collaboration. That seed was cultivated into my process during my time as an arts administrator along my journey serving in a multitude of roles. While attending college at UW-Madison, I served as the Arts-In-Education Director of The Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives & First Wave Program and also co-directed Breakin’ The Law: International Festival of Urban Movement. After moving to Chicago, I served as the Community Programs Director for RedMoon Theater and was later hired as a consultant for The B-Series at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago where I also served as B-Series Internship Coordinator & Associate Curator. Before becoming a full-time artist, I worked as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of The Firehouse Community Arts Center in the Chicago neighborhood of North Lawndale to assist in building the capacities of the organization in their inaugural year of funding with the Chicago CRED Program under Arne Duncan to achieve a transformative reduction in Chicago gun violence with justice involved youth.
After working as an administrator in arts and community work, taking a leap of faith to invest in my own artistic practice seemed like a risk. It was certainly a risk worth taking and I believe if we are called to a path, and open ourselves up to the possibilities within us, we will eventually find our way to our full purpose. Leaning into my purpose seemed daunting. At times, I was my own worst enemy speaking doubt into my mind. I had to unlearn a lot of harmful patterns. I had to commit to and show up for myself each day. I had to honor my own gifts by believing in them and allowing myself the space to play. Play is an essential part of my artistic process, it’s a joyful process even when dealing with hurtful topics. I hope my artistic work has that same playful and joyful spirit for those who are featured in my work and those who experience my work as audience. As an artist, I’ve been blessed to work a lot with HIR Wellness, a Milwaukee-based wellness center and institute. They use an Intergenerational Healing Informed Approach (TM) to their wellness work. Lea Denny, the founder and CEO of HIR Wellness also coined the term Community Activated Medicine (TM). Working with Lea and HIR Wellness has increasingly informed my artistic process of centering and honoring healing through art as an intergenerational, communal and culturally rooted practice.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love having friends visit! Here’s an itinerary of activities and activations for joyful play and rooted community connection in Chicago that would make for a blessed up week-long visit. I think any visit to Chicago has to start with a sunset or sunrise at Lake Michigan to honor the water. Water is Life and Lake Michigan is part of the Great Lakes of Turtle Island (North America), the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth! Chicago is full of natural beauty such as The Garden of the Phoenix including Yoko Ono’s sculpture Skylanding, Chi-Nation Youth Council’s First Nations Garden and The Garfield Conservatory to name a few.
I love to dance and listen to music. Kingston Mines is a must for authentic Blues. Follow DJ Papa G for a reggae fix in the city and if you’re lucky you might just run into the exquisite Lady Sol who is always fiyah from the dance floor to the stage. Subterranean on Tuesdays is a longstanding Hip Hop Open Mic night in the city hosted by Shadow Master MC. I also love a good night dancing at Celeste to House music. Slippery Slope when the Superfriends are on the 1s & 2s is a great night. On the second floor there’s a secret bar within the bar featuring craft cocktails and vintage feels called the Heavy Feather and right next door is Emporium, a barcade featuring craft beers. To catch phenomenal and fun views of the Chicago skyline, it’s the rooftop experience at The Robey for me from both The Up Room and The Cabana Club with a rooftop pool on deck. For eats that make you feel great from healthy to comfort food beyond when I cook in my own kitchen (wink wink), my must visits are The Original Soul Vegetarian, B’Gabs Vegan Scratch Kitchen, Cumin for Indian food, Uncle Mike’s for Filipino dishes & Honey Butter Fried Chicken (vegan options available)! For an indulgent treat, Margie’s Candies is a super cute vintage spot for an ice cream sundae. The Wormhole Coffee is always providing the caffeinated fixes! Keeping the looks fresh and inspired is all part of a visit including a quick facial and fade at Rockstar Barber Shop and a stop in at Vintage Underground to score a unique vintage jewelry piece.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to dedicate this shoutout to Audre Lorde & Gloria Anzaldúa, two authors whose writing held space for me while I was finding my way through college as a queer Xicanx, first-generation college student. Their wisdom paved a path toward finding liberation in my own skin. I’d like to dedicate this shoutout to Bell Hooks, whose book, All About Love, inspires me to place radical love at the center of living.
Katrina Brook Flores Angelica Garcia Jonathan Woods Samuel Lewis II Ronnie Preston