We had the good fortune of connecting with Tiffany Petty Gilliam and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Tiffany, why did you pursue a creative career?
Art has been the most, if not the only, predictable pattern in a veritably wonky life trajectory.

I have created art as long as I can remember, but then when the refrigerator drawings are no longer enough, I was coerced into growing up (kind of.) Adult creatives are tasked with the challenge of finding a grown-up role in a professional setting that does not sacrifice individual artistry for the collective homogeny our society has normalized. From my perspective, individual cognitive creativity leaves nothing untouched, unaffected. It’s worth every effort. Every ask.

Professionally, there seems to be a pattern of filling this “creative perspective” role at meetings or projects I have been a part of. I am happy to take that seat at any table, as the rest of the seats are a little uncomfortable to me – they just don’t feel right.

Artists can’t not. Creative expression is a valuable contribution to any conversation or program or day or moment, and I’m so pumped to both thank and celebrate those who prioritize and value creative perspectives that recognize the vibrant life that creative participation allows.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Art is communication. I know now that everything is communication, art is just one powerful, potent iteration of the constant communication that we experience on a daily basis.

Mixed media/found object art is usually where I land. It’s always bright, always expressive, and never taken too seriously. My intentions are more about the relationships that potentially build toward commissions. Each one carries a personal weight, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My freelance art commissions are sprinkles on top of an already full life of commitment to my local community. I love expressing intentional communication in that way and I love the positive community contribution that comes with it.

I am glad to now walk to lovely tightrope between the fine art world and the academic communication world. They need each other and are better with each other. It’s been suggested in Media Ecological studies that artists are the antennae of the race, seeing society specifics before others, paying attention and creating works based on those insights. In my wildly biased opinion, I would agree. My only hesitance would be in how media seems to be sneakily homogenizing the individual perspectives of creatives – but that’s just all the more reason to for creatives to pay attention and confidently offer their own, completely individual perspectives in an effort to break through and make change.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Downtown Tyler, TX is a walkable little diamond in the rough of East Texas where people can live, and work, and play. There is a large but comfortable community with everything you need. Food? Try Culture ETX owned by Lance McWhorter, an award-wining chef who was on Food Networks Chopped. He even has a hidden speakeasy behind Culture – Plaid Rabbit! There is also a lovely restaurant build out of a restored 1930’s bank that is just as delicious as it is glamorous – Prime 102. They have a bar as well, with great views of downtown. Seeing a pattern here? Lastly and the only suggestion I have not that is a little bit further away is Nourish ETX. Chef Sami does a fantastic job with great daily lunch specials. I always defer to his expertise instead of ordering of the menu. He knows what’s good!

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Turns out artists can think any thoughts they want to think. After spending my early 20’s in downtown Nashville TN as a tattoo artist, I move back to Texas and immediately was branded as they “nice but strange tattooed girl with an obvious past, bless her heart.”

That was frustrating, so I went back to college hoping that some formal paperwork would help cut through whatever red tape finish line I was trying to get to.I wanted to communicate with anyone, everyone. Even if they don’t have tattoos! So I switched my major to Mass Communication, keeping fine art as a minor. Then, a professor let me know my thoughts were important, and that I should keep thinking them via a Masters degree. Dr. Dennis Cali should get credit for paying attention, confirming the value of thoughts from a young, tattooed artist.

From there there is not enough screen space to thank the friends, family and strangers who have intermittently hired me for painting commissions and writing contracts that have sprinkled themselves throughout my professional trajectory.

Since then, I have been nominated and now sit on the board of both the international Media Ecology Association and the Heart of Tyler nonprofit based in Tyler, Texas. That paperwork might have helped, might have mattered. But, I have to add that based on my experiences, an intentional human that pays attention to the the lives of the other humans around them is the fulcrum of purposeful impact.

Instagram: @art.tif

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutDFW is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.