We were lucky to catch up with Adri Norris recently and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Adri, thanks for joining us today. Are you happier as a creative? Do you sometimes think about what it would be like to just have a regular job? Can you talk to us about how you think through these emotions?
I’m definitely happier as an independent artist. I’ve had jobs before, and for me, they have all been traps, hinderances to my life goals. While working for other people, I realized quickly that there would always be a ceiling on both my earning potential and on my professional growth. I once worked in an office for three years under a boss who thought it was ok to regularly yell at and belittle his employees. After three years, I capped my earnings out at $15 per hour. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I left that job and ventured out on my own. I had no idea what I was doing. Didn’t know how to track inventory, how to set income goals, charge enough for my services, any of that. Life was difficult and bills were frequently overdue, but at least I had my dignity. I took some business courses to make up for my lack of savvy, but eventually had to get a job again to dig myself out of the financial hole I’d gotten my self into. In fact, I got two jobs. The conditions were better, but it wasn’t long before once again, I hit the ceiling. $20 per hour for one and $13.50 for the other. I asked for a raise and was denied, so it was time to go.
These days, I earn more than I did when I had two jobs at once. These days, I am regularly challenged by the projects I take on and am fulfilled in ways I never thought imaginable. Every year, I exceed my own expectations and make more connections with amazing members of the community. So, am I happier as an artist? Absolutely!
Adri, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
My name is Adri Norris and I am somewhat of a quadruple threat. As a Black, female, lesbian immigrant, I have a perspective which has become an asset in recent times. I create artwork about women in history with a focus on those from marginalized groups. My experience has taught me of the importance of representation. Young people need to see themselves in their heroes and hear their experiences in the stories they learn about the past. We adults need to look at how we got where we are today in order to imagine a new, better future for ourselves and for our children. My paintings, my murals, art prints and jewelry all contribute to furthering the education of those who engage with them. I get to work with members of the community to elevate their stories. I get to read through archives in local libraries. I get to hear viewers of my work reminisce as memories come flooding back, triggered by my paintings. I am incredibly proud of these moments.
I put a lot of research into each work of art, striving for accuracy as well as inspiration. Judging from the feedback I’ve received, so far so good.
How can we best help foster a strong, supportive environment for artists and creatives?
First and foremost, more people need to value what it is artists do and how much work it takes for us to do it. We are the documentarians of our collective culture. We create mirrors to hold up to society. We create the blueprints for a potential future. We can literally show you what is possible before it happens. We are frequently underpaid or asked to work for free or donate products for some cause or other, with the view that exposure will help our careers along. We need to be respected for what we bring to the table. We need our rates to not be questioned when we give our quotes. We need time to envision and to execute our visions. Without these things, we have to take on jobs in order to live, and that keeps us from doing the thing we, and only we can do well, create.
Are there any resources you wish you knew about earlier in your creative journey?
I wish I had known how to actually run a business. All school did was teach us the skills of being an artist and how to get jobs, but entrepreneurship is a whole different matter. I had to take business courses, learn about mindset shifts and get a coach in order to get to the point where I earn enough to support myself with my art.
- Website: afrotriangledesigns.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/afrotriangle
- Facebook: facebook.com/afrotriangle
Denver Art Museum Photographer (I didn’t get his name) Lisa Rundall Photography Wes Magyar Adri Norris