Alum’s Online Art Gallery Empowers Emerging Artists of Color
Andrea Lewis BA ’20 graduated with her degree in art history and world languages and literatures at a time of critical change around the country and the globe. The coronavirus pandemic was in its early months of spread, and America was beginning to reevaluate its relationship with race and justice following the murder of George Floyd. It was around this time that the idea for Plural took shape: an online art gallery representing emerging artists of color across a wide range of mediums, from digital illustration to painting to performance art.
Lewis spoke to Lewis & Clark about the development of Plural, the evolution of the mainstream art world, and support for artists in the L&C community.
How did Plural come to be?
In late 2020, cofounder Habiba Hopson and I were both recent graduates who had held several internships in the art world during college. We both felt discouraged about entering the workforce since art practitioners are often overworked and underpaid. We also experienced that, as women of color, we often felt institutions limited our potential and capacity to only “diversity work.” In early January 2021, we both moved to Tulum, Mexico, where we spent several months asking ourselves questions: What’s wrong in the art world? How can we fix it? What are our dreams? What do we want our impact to be? Through this ideation and research, we birthed Plural, an online gallery that seeks to empower emerging artists of color and the everyday collector.
How did the art community at Lewis & Clark impact your development as an artist and curator?
Lewis & Clark played a huge role, both in my decision to pursue the arts and in providing me with the resources and experiences to do so. Thanks to my amazing professors, I felt equipped to think critically and apply—and ultimately secure—several competitive positions within the art world. Without the help of language assistants in the Keck Interactive Learning Center, advisors in the Career Center, and support from faculty, I would not be where I am today.
Is there a piece of work in Plural’s gallery that you find particularly impactful?
I met Kikesa Kimbwala DeRobles in Paris during my overseas study program, and we immediately connected over our California roots and our Afro-Latina identity. Now, as a gallerist, I am extremely honored to be working with her and to have the opportunity to grow with her professionally, creatively, and spiritually. I posted her painting You washed me and I was your son on Instagram years ago and it is now a great privilege to be supporting my friend Kikesa and growing with her through Plural!
Do you have any advice for young artists who want to pursue art in a professional capacity?
Find your community, and if it doesn’t exist, cultivate your own. It’s so important for artists to have mentors, co-conspirators, and a general community that celebrates them. I found platforms on social media to be extremely good resources for sharing grants, residencies, and other professional opportunities in the art sector. The art world, as a whole, can be intimidating and seemingly hard to penetrate, but many art communities are open to connecting. The network I’ve cultivated has often come from simply messaging people on Instagram—and this leads to organic conversations, Zoom calls, and friendships.
What do you see for the future of Plural?
Habiba Hopson and I intended for Plural to be a reflection of who we are and the artists we represent. We are both children of immigrants and believe that homes exist in many different places and cultures; therefore, I envision Plural existing nomadically and evolving as the gallery connects with new artists and art communities internationally. Plural, in the future, may include a marketplace for artisans from around the world to display their work, as well as pop-up shows, an immersive presence in the virtual world and collaborations with organizations and initiatives that align with our founding mission.