We had the good fortune of connecting with Zuri Ali-Cole and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Zuri, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
The concept of balance has constantly evolved for me. I went from being a full-time art student and mother back in 2015 to now an entreprenuer and mom of two. Over the years I’ve had to shift gears when needed and adjust to what made sense for my family and my mental health. At one point early into my first job postgrad, I would often equate working crazy hours and being financially independent as success, but I was extremely unhappy. I had to make a choice, would I rather do something I love and become more strategic with my streams of income, or remain unhappy in a corporate space that no longer served me? That’s when I knew I needed to regain full autonomy over my day to day life.
I believe that balance is not monolithic. Its important to understand what’s most important to you and what you truly need in order to show up for yourself daily; that’s my idea of balance. In this moment, being able to wake up each morning and make breakfast for my children, drive my daughter to school and return home to spend the day with the baby, creating, is a lifestyle that seemed intangible, but has become my reality.
I shared with my husband what balance meant for me, what would allow me to be the best artist, wife and mother. I jokingly say that I work third shift now as majority of my grittier paint sessions happen after the kids are in bed, but it works! Everyone seems happier and I’m able to pour more of myself into my craft knowing that I’m not stretched too thin.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My art is authentic, my goal is to create with the purpose to connect. I enjoy sharing intimate stories and discussing topics that may have been seen as taboo at one point. Due to the personal nature of my concepts, a lot of my work is centered around my experience of black womanhood, motherhood, healing, and discovery.
I consider myself an abstract figure painter. Acrylic is my most used medium of choice but I enjoy exploring with water color, pastels, and gouache. My interest with texture is why I’ve always enjoyed working directly with canvas and wood, truly getting my hands dirty utilizing various mediums while creating.
I’m most proud of the growth I’ve seen in my work. I can look back at previous paintings and identify how my style has developed and matured. You can still see ‘Zuri’ in my work, but you also know that I’m not the same artist I was three or four years ago. I’ve been told that my paintings have the ability to evoke emotion; tears, either of sadness or joy depending on the context of the work. I love hearing that because I often cry, sing, and dance while painting. I’m glad that the energy is transferring.
I believe that this year will be one of those years that is extremely pivotal for my career. I’ve been inspired and I’m taking the time to be still and evaluate how I would like to grow in my career as an artist. I have a couple of exciting opportunities and partnerships that I look forward to working on and sharing in the near future. I’m being pushed outside of my comfort zone, which is necessary.
I’m in the early stages of my career but I’m thankful for the support I have received thus far. Staying engaged with those who have an interest in my development and my art have played a major role in my success. Lately, my work is reaching those beyond my direct network and it’s an amazing feeling.
There were times where self-doubt would set in, this is something that I consistently work on, even in therapy, I’m a huge advocate for mental health. But I’ve learned techniques to work through it and I no longer let the negative thoughts paralyze my progress. I remind myself almost daily that comparison is the thief of joy, so its more beneficial for me to set goals that align with my personal growth and not mimicking anyone else’s journey.
If there’s something I would share with the world, it’s that what’s meant to be will be. I’ve experienced great tragedy and loss, but I’ve also basked in the warmth of true love and joy, one of the greatest gifts. I use all of this when creating art, it’s what makes me who I am and has given me the ability to relate to others by the stories told within my work. Transparency is what has led me to cultivate such an organic support system over the years. You never know how your story could give someone else the inspiration to plant that mustard seed of faith that they needed to keep pressing.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I currently reside in Cincinnati, OH and here are a few of my favorite places; Queen City Radio, for really good burgers, drinks, and live music. If we head into Over The Rine (OTR) then I’m definitely ordering smoked wings from Pontiac. There’s a ton of awesome museums, but my top picks are the Cincinnati Art Museum and Krohn Conservatory. There’s awesome people pretty much everywhere, so be prepared to randomly make a new friend just about everywhere you go.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’ve been fortunate enough to receive an outpouring of support from family, friends, and former educators over the years. My parents have always provided me the opportunity to be in spaces that aligned with my interest, I proudly attended art camp in the summer along with attending school for the performing arts throughout middle and high school.
I vividly remember finding out that I was expecting my first child while in my 4th year of college and my professors within DAAP (The school of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning at the University of Cincinnati) were incredibly supportive, they didn’t allow me to doubt myself for a second. Presently, my husband always asks what supplies needs to be replenished and knows that quality art materials are my true love language. I’m so thankful for my village.
Linkedin: Zuri Ali-Cole
Facebook: Zuri Ali Art