Exclusive: Mashonda Tifrere Spotlights Underrepresented Artists In 'Art Seen' Campaign

In the world of art, there are a large amount of underrepresented artists. From race to culture to gender and more, there is a void that can only be filled by diversity. Mashonda Tifrere has been making the strides to fill that void. In her latest journey, the singer, art curator and collector has partnered with SunChips to bring underrepresented artists to the forefront in the brand’s latest “Art Seen” campaign.

In 2021, SunChips launched the initial “Art Seen” program to bring to life its “Be Your Own Wave” campaign. Its purpose was to help artists who lost traditional venues to showcase their work due to the pandemic. In this newest campaign, SunChips will spotlight 15 artists curated by Tifrere in a collection shown at House of Pods, the first multicultural podcast agency network. We were able to catch up with Tifrere to talk all about this partnership and her work.

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Zayna Allen: congratulations on your partnership with SunChips! How exactly did this come about between you and the brand?

Mashonda Tifrere: I got a call from Todd media to be specific. They told me that they were creating something really special with SunChips in Miami during art week and they needed my help in producing a group of diverse emerging artists. I said, well, that is my specialty.

I was really excited to learn about SunChip’s “Art Seen” program, which started in 2021 and it represents everything that I believe in which is advocacy, artists and giving them that platform to show their work.

We jumped on board and got things in motion over the past couple weeks. Now we have this incredible exhibition that’s happening in Miami.

ZA: I want to talk about your work. What you’ve been doing thus far in the art space has been remarkable. You are an advocate for Black women and overall representation in art. Let’s talk about ArtLeadHER and Art Genesis. What was your reasoning, especially being that you are in music, for starting these organizations?

MT: That was the reasoning; being a Black woman in the music industry and facing those challenges alone. Being under-represented, bring underserved, being disrespected and just really having to figure it out on my own. Being here today as a grown adult and understanding what it took to make it through those challenges and wanting to share that knowledge with other creatives is really, the founding purpose of starting Art Genesis and ArtLeadHER.

ArtLeadHER is really special to me because it focuses on women and I feel like women have a hard time managing career and passion and home. We’ve got all these different moving parts and when you get to a certain age, you look back and realize you never became the artist that you wanted to be or you never put that song out or you never went to that fashion design class. We take on so many roles that make us put our own passions and love, to the back burner.  I wanted to create a space where women can really focus on their work and be supported. That’s how ArtLeadHER came to mind because I am and I was that woman who felt that way. So I wanted to to create something that I needed.

Photo credit: Beau Gaines
Photo credit: Beau Gaines

ZA: In an interview with Artsy earlier this year, you did have a conversation about women in the art world. You said that you are happy that women in the art space are taking up space and that we are being appreciated and respected. I think that’s very profound because of the word “finally”.  I want to know if that’s something you didn’t experience first starting out in this industry. What do you wish that people would have given you when you first started out?

MT: I wish there were more programs like “Art Seen.” I wish there were more platforms with corporations and brands stepping up that know they have what it takes to create something really special for artists and creatives.

There weren’t any programs like that back then. I feel like this is something that I hope he continues. I hope that people who are able to create these platforms, will continue to do so and give artist emerging artists the opportunity to really display their work.

 

ZA: That says so much especially when it comes to what what you’re doing with the SunChips “Art Seen” collection because it is art week in Miami, so there is going to be more eyes.  I’m sure it was super tough to choose the artists to showcase. How did you go about picking? 

MT: I was not easy. We are showing 13 artists and I wanted to present artists that are creating work that feels good. I wanted to have the viewer imagine themselves like in a colorful vibrant outfit, being youthful and just having a good time because that’s what SunChips is to me. I wanted to envision that on the bag and be in the store and you see that and it just automatically makes you remember vacation or nature or dancing. You’ll notice once you see the work, that’s what all the pieces embody and make you feel.

ZA: I think it’s very interesting that you’re choosing pieces that that were happy. I don’t think it’s an issue but I do think that sometimes Black artists tend to also portray pain in their art. It’s really good to have that switch up sometimes because that’s not everything about the Black experience is painful or terrible. 

MT: It’s funny you say that because I do feel that, a lot of Black art represent us in really beautiful circumstances. I think sometimes people see it as pain because of their own experiences. But I do feel like if you look at that the gestures or the gaze in their eye, it’s not only pain that’s transferring but it’s also curiosity and all the different emotional intelligence. So I completely understand what you’re saying, but I do think that we also have to look a little deeper sometimes because there’s much more in there.

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ZA: The way that you discuss art is so beautiful and so passionate. Where did you get this inspiration from to get into this specific industry? You have been in music but what what guided you into the art space?

MT: I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I grew up around art and I grew up in a house with an artist. My uncle was a painter and witnessing him start on a blank canvas and just watching how his journey lead him to a complete, beautiful painting at the end really made me think of art as a way of, not only a release or an escape, but just somewhere where you can really be passionate about your own inner visions in and how you see the world.

So he had a lot to do with it and then my godmother who was also a collector, her house was filled with beautiful work. As a child I feel like when you’re exposed to these things that a young age becomes a part of who you are. I always had a respect for creators and painters and photographers and I didn’t know what I would do with it but I did know once I started making money that I wanted to buy art. So I started my own collection when I was 20 years old and from then it’s just been non-stop.

ZA: Going back to the music, you do have a new EP, “Note To Self,” and an upcoming tour! But first, why did you choose that name?

MT: “Note To Self” makes me so happy. it’s really my baby. I called it that because over the past 10 years that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been taking notes on my life and my journey and my transformation and I wanted to share that with the world. I wanted to do it in a really beautiful elegant way.

“Note To Self” is not a traditional album, it’s a body of work that takes you on this transformational journey from beginning to end. From love to pain to self love. People have been telling me that they listen to it from beginning to end and they can feel themselves healing and that’s exactly what I wanted to accomplish with this. It speaks on love & pain in the most beautiful way and they are all my experiences. There are five songs on there, each of them represent a different relationship that I’ve had in my life over the past 10 years. I’m such a private person that people would never expect for me to go that deep with my own stories, but I really thought that it would help people by sharing.

ZA: You never know who your story will affect or who can relate to your story. I do commend you for your vulnerability on that and we do need more feel good music. That makes listeners feel like the artist is on the same plane as them. 

MT: I definitely feel like “Note To Self” and the work that I do are so aligned and they’re so personal. Even with the art scene, this exhibition is also very personal because I chose works that I really imagined myself to be in, you know, so wait for the world to see it and hear the new EP as well.

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ZA: Back to “Art Seen,” when will consumers be able to view the collection, vote and visit the virtual gallery?

MT: We launch November 30th and I cannot wait to to open those doors and let people in. They can also get on the website now, it’ll be up until December 18th.

Consumers across the U.S. will also be able to view the collection by visiting a digital gallery through December 18 and cast their vote for their favorite “Art Seen” artist. The top three artists that receive the most votes will be commissioned by SunChips to create artwork that will appear on the SunChips bags and advertising.