Artists Sage Smith and Lauren Harris aren’t letting the social climate dictate their artistry: ‘Not everything has to be about Black trauma or a big statement.'

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Sage Smith, 20, just had her first solo show at Connect Gallery on the South Side earlier in August.

During the weeklong show, some of the artwork in her 16-piece collection sold out — work that she spent the entire summer creating in a corner of her Park Manor home. The daughter of poet/activist Lesle’ Honore’, Smith’s line and pattern work found in “The Barriers That Create Us” was composed of materials she could find during the pandemic. It was a mix of necessity and experimentation.

“I had so many different things that I wanted to say,” said the Maryland Institute and College of Arts (MICA) student. “The main thing I was thinking about was environment and space, how do these outside influences literally, shape you?”

Artists like Smith and Northwestern alumna Lauren “Lo” Harris, 24, continue to create in the current climate, but support, allyship, and protest doesn’t look the same (and they’re not alone). Smith’s subject matter, which is primarily devoid of race, challenges what society believes Black creatives should be making and Harris’ work embodies the things she values: “a sense of empowerment, joy, color and movement, and celebration.”