Eastern Michigan University Bachelor of Fine Arts student Nia Crutcher has been creating art since before she could speak. Looking forward, the artist has hopes to one day open her own gallery in New York City that showcases people of color.
While some college students are still unsure of what career to pursue, Crutcher said she has known she wanted to be an artist since early elementary school art classes.
Creating her own work, Crutcher does a lot of portraiture art; recently, she has been focusing her work on Black women and their hair journey.
“I am originally from Detroit, but then my parents moved me out of Detroit in to Grosse Pointe, and there was a lot of white people, and so my hair been definitely a journey for me, I guess,“ Crutcher said. "I just want to recognize, I guess, the struggles that we might have as Black women with our hair and also how beautiful it is despite all of that.”
A recent favorite piece of Crutcher’s titled “Duality” showcases that theme, depicting a woman with an afro in two different lights. One blue, who appears to be down, and another golden and extremely happy.
The art was created with oil pastels, bleach, gold leaf and paint marker on mulberry paper, she said. Colored papers are taped underneath the medium to show the colors in the hair through holes, which were cut out with an x-acto knife and incense stick burning, Crutcher said.
“I kind of wanted to show the idea of how I might be confident, or Black women might be confident one minute with their hair versus sometimes you aren’t always as confident. It might be like ‘Oh, I hate how I look, I look like a boy’ or things like this, but you’re still beautiful through all that, and that’s not the case,“ Crutcher said. “You just kind of have to, you know, keep pushing.”
Another one of Crutcher’s favorite pieces is called “Can’t Touch My Soul," an oil painting that will be featured in the Annual Juried Student Show in EMU’s Ford Gallery beginning on March 8.
“This woman is beautiful through everything despite white people maybe overstepping and touching her hair. She’s still peaceful and calm despite the overstepping that people might be doing or like dehumanizing, treating her like a pet, kind of petting her hair and stuff like that,“ Crutcher said.
Similar to her current theme, Crutcher focused a lot on social justice in her art back in high school, and is currently working on a piece in an EMU class that will be surrounding gentrification in Detroit.
Crutcher feels that she has really just recently gotten the right guidance for her art journey at EMU. Since there is not an overabundance of art students at the university, she said that the ones there are are really able to connect with each other and the professors.
“[The art program at EMU] feels very personal," Crutcher said. “I just love how kind and driven, and I guess they really push you, they’re very encouraging, and so it makes me feel like I can do anything as an artist.”
Apart from being featured in Ford Gallery, Crutcher currently has a piece in the children’s museum in Detroit at the Live Coal gallery at 80 Clairmount, both of which are great accomplishments for the artist, she said.
While she isn't completely sure about the future just yet, Crutcher has thought about going to graduate school to become an art professor at a university.
Ultimately though, her main goal is to have her own gallery in New York for people of color that allows her to show others' work and help young artists with networking and resources.
“I wanna have a gallery hopefully in New York, maybe even have like a chain and have one in Detroit or Chicago or something like that because I don’t necessarily want to leave my city behind, but the end goal is definitely to be in New York, and I would love to teach children," Crutcher said. "I want it to be a safe space for people of color, especially Black people, to be able to show their art without limits on what they want to speak about through their art and also to sort of give them those connections that maybe I don’t have or haven’t had so young.”
Apart from being a visual artist, Crutcher is an “artist in other ways” as well, and has been playing the cello for over 10 years.
“Before COVID, I was in the civic creative jazz ensemble set in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and it was nice because I got to be around like-minded people, people who look like me playing music, that was different," she said.
Crutcher’s advice to young artists is to not compare yourself to other people as everyone’s work is unique in different ways.
“Art can be anything almost nowadays," Crutcher said. "Just don’t limit yourself and just create.”