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Earthtones club celebrates student artists of color at UNC

UNC sophomore and member of Earthtones, Kennedy Hall, is pictured with art she painted for the club on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in the Student Union.

Every two weeks, a coalition of creatives with a variety of academic interests gather in Campus Y’s Anne Queen Faculty Commons. 

While they do not share the same field of study, they share the same passion — a passion for art. 

Regardless of an artist’s skill level or creative medium, the UNC club Earthtones fosters a safe haven on campus to find community and express themselves through their art. 

“I think the idea of Earthtones is just to celebrate the brown people in our community and just pay homage to the beautiful color spectrum we create,” Eliyambuya Baker, the club’s head of two-dimensional art and design, said. 

The all-BIPOC art collective, which officially started last fall, hosts biweekly community meetings and “paint-and-sips,” during which members can meet to experiment with a new art form together. 

“We like to do a different medium for each meeting. So maybe it's oil pastel, it’s watercolor, maybe it's drawing,” Baker said. “It just gave people a chance to try something new and give an access to materials they maybe wouldn't have had before.”      

Lokumo Eteni, a junior transfer student and member of the collective, finds that being around other like-minded creatives helps improve their own art and motivates them to do better.  

“When I came to UNC, I was really trying to look for my people, specific people that enjoy the stuff that I do,” Eteni, a musician, said. “Earthtones has really helped me find people that are like me, that really like expressing themselves through art, connecting with each other in art, talking about it and using it to grow or to help ourselves or whatever it is that we use art to do.”             

While the coalition helps artists of color build connections, it also gives back to the community by amplifying local artists of color in the Triangle area. As a part of their community outreach roles, executive team members Ye-Bon Hong and Lucien Boileve have been interviewing local artists, such as Tina Louise Vasquez, about the process and motivation behind their art.                  

“We'll also post (the artists) on our Instagram or support different artists' social media pages,” Baker said. “That way, they can just get more traffic coming to their art and just put them out there for the world.”                   

Earthtones also works on zines — self-published collections that feature the work of the coalition of creatives that make up the organization. The club hosted a zine launch party at Peel Gallery in Carrboro in September. 

While the organization is one of several art-centric clubs at UNC, Boileve said that it is difficult to express oneself as a person of color in other clubs or spaces that are predominantly white.   

“Art is like self-expression,” Boileve said. “Depending on how much you want to open up in your art, that can be very personal.”

He said that Earthtones is unique in the way that it provides artists of color with a safe space and a shared feeling of understanding.     

“(Earthtones) also gives us all an opportunity to know that we aren't alone, that we have other creatives that we can talk to, that we can create with," Hong said. 

Inspired by the organization, Hong, a dramatic arts major, eventually wants to start her own theater company consisting entirely of people of color. 

“When you know that you have people backing you up, and you have people who want to see you succeed and want to create with you, that's a very confidence-boosting thing,” Hong said. 

Earthtones is working on hosting more events over the coming months, such as an art showcase and an event that celebrates intersectionality in the community of artists of color. The organization is also looking to expand its leadership team and welcome more members, including those who do not necessarily consider themselves to be artistic.     

“Most people who become artists aren't even interested until they are,” Hong said. “So it's like, why not try? Why not see what we're about?”


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CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the name of Lucien Boileve. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.