Artist In Focus: Jennifer Tamayo (JT)

Jennifer Tamayo (they/them), often referred to as JT, is a multifaceted and dynamic artist whose creative journey has been deeply influenced by their personal experiences and the exploration of identity, language, and culture. Their artistic philosophy centers around valuing the process of creation over the final product, and this perspective has led them to delve into profound insights and new creative avenues.

JT’s background as an undocumented migrant crossing borders has played a significant role in shaping their artistic practice. The experience of trying to encapsulate their life story within the confines of legal forms and tiny boxes left a lasting impact on them. Through their various creative endeavors — including poetry, writing, performance art, and social justice organizing — JT challenges the limitations imposed on them and explores the complexities of identity, particularly in relation to questions of belonging and home.

Their current project, the experimental novel “Ata Chia Fucha or, In the Meadow of My Ancestors,” highlights the importance of ancestral connections, language, and culture. As a 2023 Artist Support Grantee, JT had the opportunity to return to their native country, Colombia, to engage with elders and ancestors as primary sources for research, demonstrating their commitment to authentically representing their heritage.

The grant they received as an Artist Support Grantee has empowered JT not only to carry out primary research and develop the novel but also to lay the groundwork for its future publication.

As a professor of writing at North Carolina A&T, JT’s influence extends to their students, inspiring them to break creative barriers and explore experimental forms of writing. JT is also deeply connected to the Greater Greensboro community, hosting Wayward artists in residence and fostering a sense of belonging and community among fellow artists.

JT’s story is one of resilience, self-discovery, and the power of art to bridge gaps, create connections, and challenge societal norms. Their exploration of identity, language, and culture underscores the importance of embracing one’s roots and personal history while also pushing creative boundaries to create new narratives and possibilities.

The ACGG’s Artist Support Grant program is supported by the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The Artist Support Grant will be open for applications until September 24, 2023.