We had the good fortune of connecting with LaShonda Cooks and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi LaShonda, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
The naysayers and gatekeepers will always exist in the art industry. But only I can decide their power over me and my work. I thought they would disappear once I showed longevity and had some shows and more skill under my belt. But six years into my art career, they are still there. The important thing is maintain touch with self and make sure your compass is intact. That way, naysayers and gatekeepers can’t deter you or lead you down a different path in pursuit of success and acceptance. Know what you want, why you want it and set boundaries.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I studied business in school but I’ve always been an artist at heart. My parents are creatives. My dad is a retired art teacher. My mom plays piano. My art story officially starts after I graduated and had to decide what to do with the rest of my life. Art was what I did to combat anxiety and was always in the background. But thanks to gentle pushes from my village, I made it a business in 2014. I started off selling pieces at church and outdoor festivals, then pop-up art shows. This year, thanks to my network, my work has been shown in three galleries. I’ll be in a museum this fall. I’m incredibly grateful. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to connect with fellow creatives in various stages of their careers. You need people who are starting off with you, those who have already made names for themselves and everything in between. It helps with perspective and creates a priceless network of knowledge, opportunity and inspiration.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
In Dallas, I love the Arboreteum. It’s outdoors, beautiful, huge and social distance friendly. I love to sketch the plants and scenes there. I really like pho. There’s a good spot in Bishop Arts for pho and pad thai. I haven’t really been out much since COVID 19 took over our lives, but Trinity Groves area is pretty cool and provides a great skyline view.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Shoutout to my parents for giving me a safe space to explore my passions without pressure. Shoutout to my sister, Candace, for always being willing to come and help at my shows, even if it means a flight across the country. Shoutout to Tavie and Kim for making me let my hair down every blue moon. Shoutout to Mimi and Danielle for being art goddesses of support and inspiration. Shoutout to Jamaal for encouraging me to dream as big as possible. Shoutout to Chris for believing in me and my work and pushing me to be my best.